Review by Joe the Destroyer
"...And to believe that I used to flip off the screen when I saw a Sony commercial on TV."
Okay, so I was a naive, beligerent child. I was maybe 13-14 when PlayStation (PSX) came out. The very sight of Crash Bandicoot used to annoy the living hell out of me. In my Nintendo fanboyish hatred, I flipped the screen off and cussed out the guy inside the harmless bandicoot suit, saying N64 would be much better and that Super Mario 64 would whoop Crash in a heartbeat. How wrong I felt after playing Super Mario 64 (although N64 is not a bad system, do not get me wrong). While not to say it was completely terrible, I found it rather disappointing. Years after my immature demeanor towards PlayStation, I got a job and saved up some money. What finally coaxed me into getting a PlayStation? Yep, you guessed it: Final Fantasy 7. I'll admit. I was one of the many who flocked like a sheep towards PSX for the FF franchise. Along the way, however, I found that there were much better games coming to the system than just that, and most of them weren't even Square titles. With my new job came more money, and with more money came more games. You'll probably think I'm pretty pathetic, but I own over 80 PSX games. I don't even own half that for most of my systems. I expected to get the next RPG machine. What I got was much more. Great graphical capabilities, beautiful sounds, many incredible games, and much more. All to tide me over until the advent of PS2 and GameCube.
PlayStation may not have been top notch in regular graphics when compared to the later coming system, N64, but it does display (for its time) wonderful graphics. The best part about the graphical capability was the evolution over time. I remember one site making a comparison of graphical evolution between PSX and N64. They said compare Zelda: Ocarina of Time to Zelda: Majora's Mask, then compare Final Fantasy 7 to Final Fantasy 8. As companies became more used to PlayStation's graphical capabilities, they began to learn more just what they could do with it. Eventually, polygonal forms went from rather blocky (Battle Arena Toshinden) to very well composed (WWF Smackdown!). Later games like Legend of Dragoon and Final Fantasy 9 show off just what the PlayStation had. Graphics were also not bound to a particular dimensional look. You had your share of graphically powerful 3D titles (Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver) and gorgeous 2D'ers as well (Suikoden 2).
PlayStation's games all came with their own distinct sounds, soundtracks, and sound effects that not only set good atmosphere in many games, but almost seemed to give many of them authenticity never before seen. A great example of just what can be done in terms of sound with the PlayStation definitely has to be Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The music in that game was not only well composed and written, but all around well recorded. Final Fantasy 7 was another to garner a lot of attention for such sound capabilities. The audio you got was also very clear. Not too many distorted sounds or whistles, just really well put together pieces of composition.
Voice acting was starting to become a big thing. A double-edged sword, no doubt. While we had the benefit of hearing voices finally, some of the voices we heard were not the best. Sure, you have your games with awesome voice acting (Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete), going further down you had mediocrity (Koudelka), and even further you had lines and acting that just made you want to open your head and poke your eardrums out (Tenchu: Stealth Assassins, Clock Tower). Well done voice acting made emotional scenes seem even more emotional, while others that were undercooked made you almost embarassed to play game. Another downside to voice acting was that the medium for PlayStation is CD. CD's don't hold an incredible amount of information in comparison to DVD, and voice acting actually takes up a lot of the disc's memory. So, you noticed that a lot of games with abundant voice acting were either very short or consisted of multiple discs.
Many criticize the controls as being a rip-off of SNES. Let's not forget, PlayStation was originally supposed to be a complement to the SNES, hence the controls. I have a good question: Would you rather have an original control that's ineffective or a rip-off of an effective control that's just as effective? Personally, I chose the latter. PlayStation originally started out a lot like the SNES control. On the left side, you have D-pads, in the middle are Start and Select, and on the right you have the action buttons (which are four buttons represented with a different shape on each). On the top, just like SNES, you have shoulder buttons. The only difference here is that there are four, two on each side (denoted as R1, R2, L1, and L2). As time went by, Sony created a new control for PlayStation made to rival Nintendo's Rumble Pack. This one not only had two new analog sticks on each side, it also had a built in motor that vibrated with different games. This was called the Dual Shock. Some prefered the original control, others like me actually liked having the Dual Shock.
While Sony's design isn't particularly original for control, it is effective. At first, we had to adjust to the new complexities of having so many buttons. However, you seem to adjust very fast. Not every game utilized every button, which in a way made it more relaxing. You didn't have to struggle with remember which button did what. Most games also seemed to carry the same menu configurations for each button. Once you got in the groove of knowing which buttons to push at certain times, you didn't even notice the complexity anymore.
Sony has a very expansive and powerful library. Final Fantasy may have gotten them initial fans, however, I believe that the great library attracted more in the later years and even kept a lot of old fans from losing interest. Sony at first seemed like an RPG machine (Final Fantasy saga, Legend of Dragoon, Suikoden, Wild Arms, Breath of Fire 3 and 4). Eventually, they gained some great action games (Metal Gear Solid, Soul Reaver, Tenchu series) and even sports (don't ask me, don't play sports games). PlayStation, for me, turned out a lot of great titles, some good quirky stuff, but also had its share of just terrible stuff (see below).
Final Fantasy (7-8), Final Fantasy Tactics, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Metal Gear Solid, Lunar (Silver Star Story and Eternal Blue), Arc the Lad Collection, Legacy of Kain (Soul Reaver and Blood Omen), WWF Smackdown! (both titles), Wild Arms (both titles), Resident Evil series, Clock Tower, Silent Hill, Alundra, Bushido Blade 2, Soul Blade, Spyro series, Kagero: Deception 2, Parasite Eve.
Mediocre or Just Plain Bad Titles
Alundra 2, Beyond the Beyond, Rampage: World Tour, Hexen, Machine Head, Soul of the Samurai, Silverload, WWF: In Your House, Battle Arena Toshinden, Tomb Raider, Contra: Legacy of War, SaGa Frontier 2, Dragonball GT: Final Bout (not bad, but certainly mediocre).
Quirky or Unique Titles
Deception, Incredible Crisis, Crash Bash (not unique, but definitely quirky), Azure Dreams, Jade Cocoon, Pocket Fighter, Xevious 3D/G+.
PlayStation was one of the few systems to really prove me wrong. Like Dreamcast later, it definitely proved its worth. Unfortunately, I waited until after Dreamcast had lost its support before buying one. Thankfully, I got PSX just as it was getting incredibly good. My brother tried to talk me out of it, saying that PlayStation was going to die. However, after finally getting one, I don't regret ever pumping out over $200 for it (that was before the $150 price drop; In fact, a week before the damned price drop!). Although I started off with mediocre to lame titles (Beyond the Beyond, Tobal No. 1, Contra: Legacy of War, and WWF: In Your House), I eventually got much better games as they arrived. All in all, I'm very pleased with the way Sony's first system turned out.
Graphical Capability: Started out just below Saturn, evolved nicely and turned out very beautiful 9/10
Sounds: Very good quality and clarity. Voice acting was iffy, but has improved greatly over time (sorta). 9/10
Control Design: Originality? Pah! It's effective, and that's all that matters. 10/10
Games: Many of my favorite games reside here... 9/10
Worth: Definitely worth owning! 10/10
All Together: 10/10
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 05/31/02, Updated 05/31/02
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