Review by YSF

"State Of The Art In 32-Bit Game Systems!!!"

Date

This review is written on 8th of April 2000.

Source

Information found on the History and Technical Specifications sections are taken from 1998 Video Game Buyer's Guide by EGM.

History

Sony's own first generation game console is somehow a second generation machine. Back in 1988, Sony had a deal with Nintendo to jointly develop a Super Nintendo CD-ROM game console. However, the deal went backfired for some reasons. With Sony entering the picture, Nintendo's stronghold on game software looked in jeopardy with Sony demanding to manufacture their own CDs.

At the Summer Consumer Electronic Show held in 1991, unbeknownst to Sony, Nintendo announced that the deal was cancelled. As a result of that, Sony decided to go it alone and design a killer game system on their own. On December 3, 1994, that killer machine, now known as the PlayStation was released to a rabid Japanese game market and set sales record. It was then later released in the US on September 9, 1995.

Technical Specifications

CPU : 32-bit RISC [R3000A], running at 33 MHz.
Ram : 2 MB [Main] 1 MB [Video] 512K [Audio].
Speed : Double speed CD Rom.
Sound : 24 channel, ADPCM audio.
Graphics Processor : GPU-180,000 texture mapped, Gouraud-shaded polygons per second.
Screen Resolution : 256 x 224 up to 640 x 480.

The system was designed by Ken Kutaragi, Sony's top hardware guru, designer of the Super Nintendo sound chip and the current CEO of SCE of America. The system also has a MDEC Video Data Compression Engine, running at 80 MIPS, which meakes full-screen video playback possible on the PS and can also decompress Jpeg graphics into RAM.

If you are observant enough, you may have noticed that there is a lack of dedicated 2-D processor in the PlayStation, unlike the Saturn. All the 2-D sprites are calculated as polygons and then processed and displayed on screen by the Graphics Processing Unit.

The Sound Processor Unit can generate a maximum of 24 digital sound samples and has a built-in two-to-one sound compression engine, which explains why the sound samples in SF Alpha 2 sound better on the PS than the Saturn.

Game Library

Everyone knows that the PlayStation has the largest and widest variety of games. Most of the earlier PlayStation games do stink, particularly the first generation games, and maybe the second generation games too. Stinkers like Batman Forever, Impact Racing, Contra: Legacy Of War etc are some perfect examples of the first and second generation games. Before Square jumped into bed with Sony, the system has this so-called 'no 2-D and no RPGs' policy. That seriously upsets the balance of the game library, with overloading of 3-D games, and a lack of 2-D and RPG games. Still, i can't deny that there are some real gems in the first generation titles. Examples are the original Wipeout and Formula One.

PlayStation's first English RPG, Beyond the Beyond was released in 1996. Though an average game with a very traditional RPG setting, it was a good start to open up the RPG genre on the PlayStation. Later on, came the excellent [but, very disappointing to me] Suikoden, followed by an excellent turn-based strategy-RPG game, Vandal Hearts by Konami. Just before the release of Final Fantasy VII, came an underdog RPG, Wild Arms.

In 1997, Square released her first fighting and first PS game, Tobal No. 1, along with a highly-anticipated Final Fantasy VII demo disc with it. The demo was a big hit as everyone was amazed by the 3-D polygonal battle graphics and beautifully drawn prerendered backgrounds. Obviously, Final Fantasy VII sold millions of copies. There is one thing that we can be sure of. After the release of Final Fantasy VII, many excellent RPGs are being made on the PS and the system soon changed from a 'no RPG' to 'RPG aplenty' system.

What about 2-D games? While Final Fantasy VII was the centre of attraction in 1997, one couldn't forget Konami's long running Castlevania series and Capcom's famous Blue Bomber. Castlevania: SotN and Megaman X4 showed that the PlayStation has finally gotten over its fear of 2-D.

And, in 1998, konami released the highly-anticipated Metal Gear Solid. Though many were disappointed because of its short hours of gameplay, noone could deny that it was the most ORIGINAL product of the 32-bit era that its reputation was practially unassailable.

The PlayStation does face tremendous great pressure from external factors, especially during the launch of the Nintendo 64 in 1996 when Nintendo President, Hiroshi Yamauchi criticised about the software market with a flood of unimportant, boring videogames and promised to bring quality games and not quantity games.

However, this isn't true as titles like Resident Evil 2, Final Fantasy VII etc are far better than most N64 titles. [in 1997] Unique titles like Parappa the Rapper proves that the PlayStation is far better than the Nintendo 64, when it comes to innovations and audio capabilities. To attack ruthlessly on the Nintendo 64's expensive cartridge format, a Final Fantasy VII print ad was made, with a line saying, ''If [FFVII] were available on a cartridge, it would retail for around $1,200.'' Cruel, right?

Peripherals

The PlayStation has plenty of cool peripherals. Talk about ASCII controllers, the dual shock controller etc. If you want a cool light gun, you have Namco Guncon or Konami green lime light gun. Want a cheap memory card? A cool steering wheel? A mouse to play strategy game? You name it and the PlayStation has it. There's one thing which i want to talk about and that is the PocketStation. Though currently not sold outside Japan, i have to admit that it is one of the coolest peripherals, if not the coolest. With the PocketStation, you are treated to many exclusive features in a game like Final Fantasy VIII's Choco World. Furthermore, PlayStation 2 is compatible with all existing PlayStation's peripherals, making sure that your money is not wasted on these peripherals as you can still use them on the PlayStation 2 as well. All in one, it's a good investment.

Policy

One reason owing to PlayStation's success is because most of the games are being offered at a very low price, when compared to other competitors. Most people are not able to afford the expensive cartridges and that's why the N64 suffers. Besides, many classic PlayStation games are being sold at a ridiculous low price. Talk about Sony's Greatest Hit games. Besides that, Sony also lowers its licencing fees charged to third-party developers. What does that mean? Expect plenty of third-party games.

Coolness

Talk about coolness... well, many already have a PlayStation at home. So, it's very hard to 'brag' your PlayStation games to your friends. Since it's so common for a gamer to have a PlayStation, there's nothing much to talk about its coolness. Perhaps, two to four years back. Then, it does show 'coolness'. Besides, many people are looking forward to superconsoles like the PlayStation 2, Dreamcast and Dolphin.

Staying Power

Note that everything below is just based on my speculation. Who knows? Any unpredictable things might happen.

In my personal opinion, PlayStation will continue to sell for a year or more, but definitely not for another two or three more years. Why? Ever since the PlayStation 2 was released on 4th of March 2000 in Japan, it set sales record. Most people are saving their money for a PlayStation 2 and therefore, sales of the PlayStation is likely to decline from this year onwards.

Furthermore, recent games have pushed the envelope of technology to the limit. Games like Gran Turismo 2, Final Fantasy VIII, Metal Gear Solid, Tekken 3 etc have demonstrated the power of the PlayStation. Furthermore, first and second generation games from the Dreamcast like Sonic Adventure, Soul Calibur, Virtua Fighter 3 etc put extra external pressure on the PlayStation, as if that the graphics on the PlayStation are about to be outdated.

Despite that, we can still expect many great games coming out on the PlayStation this year. Final Fantasy IX is coming to Japan this year, so is Dragon Quest VII. Square's Chrono Cross, the sequel to the popular SNES RPG is already out in Japan. And, don't forget about games like Legend Of Mana, Legend Of Dragoon, Vagrant Story, Front Mission 3 etc.

There's probably only one drawback about the PlayStation's game library. However, i won't consider it as a real major dropback. Even though there is a PS multitap, there aren't many cool multi-player games around, when compared to the N64. However, with cool games like Crash Team Racing, PlayStation owners should be satisfied.

However, there is one thing that we can be sure of- though sales of the PlayStation console is very likely to decline this year, PlayStation games are still able to sell well. One reason is because of the huge existing installed base available. Millions of PlayStation consoles have been sold worldwide. The second reason is because the PlayStation 2 is compatible with all the existing PlayStation games, provided that there isn't any technical faults. What does that mean? Any PlayStation 2 owner who doesn't have PlayStation can still play PLayStation games. Okay, even though you may already have owned a PlayStation 2 and you know that the game will not be enhanced by playing on a PlayStation 2, think about a slower loading time. Top-selling RPGs like Final Fantasy IX and Dragon Quest VII are no doubt going to be a big hit. Besides, the PlayStation games are selling at a low price.

Many considered the Super Nintendo to be the state of the art in the 16-bit game systems as countless top quality games were produced on the SNES. If that so, then the PlayStation is considered the state of the art in 32-bit game systems. The number of must-own titles keep on increasing every year. If you love RPGs, there's no doubt that the PlayStation will be able to satisfy you fully.

However, if you are saving money to buy a system, i suggest you wait for PlayStation 2. It is not the time to buy a PlayStation now. Sink your money into the PlayStation 2 instead as this makes a better investment.

Graphics : 7.0/10.0
Audio : 7.5/10.0
Library : 9.0/10.0
Peripherals : 8.0/10.0
Coolness : 7.5/10.0
Staying Power : 7.0/10.0
Overall : 9.0/10.0


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 05/05/00, Updated 12/16/02


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