Do you remember the first time you played a PlayStation? I was lucky enough to have parents that supported my love of gaming. I was a fiend when it came to the NES and Genesis, but two of my most memorable experiences in gaming come from upgrading from 16-bit consoles to the Nintendo 64 and then eventually buying a PlayStation. These were such breakthroughs in console gaming capabilities that it was like exploring an entire new world right in front of my television. In my opinion, this was when console gaming was at its peak and I feel privileged to have experienced that.
Putting in hundreds of hours in front of my favorite gaming console of all-time, the PlayStation, I learned a lot about gaming. There are three specific games that come to my mind that don’t particularly define the original PlayStation, but they introduced me to concepts and gameplay mechanics that I thought were extremely clever, creative, and game-changing.
Monster Rancher 1 & 2
For those who never had a chance to play these two games, both followed the same gameplay concept. Similar to Pokémon, Monster Rancher was all about training, fighting, and breeding monsters.
It doesn’t sound original at all, right? The catch is how the Monster Rancher games allow you to intially acquire these monsters. In Monster Rancher 2, you go to a shrine that is able to spawn these monsters through slate stones. They are often referred to as disc stones. Why? A slate stone isn’t actually anything that you acquire inside of this game. Slate stones are physical CDs. Music, PC software, and even other PlayStation games are slate stones. You enter the shrine and the game tells you that it’s fine for you to open your PlayStation and swap discs. You remove the Monster Rancher CD, put in a new CD, press a button, then re-enter the Monster Rancher CD. The game then spawns a monster that is unique to the CD that you’ve used.
It is such a strange and awesome game mechanic, and I had never experienced anything like that. It had me running through my home and begging my parents for every CD that they had lying around. You could spend hours just swapping discs and seeing if you’d get lucky and be able to spawn a monster that looked really cool or had some sort of unordinary stats that you could benefit from.
Reflecting back on it today makes me wonder what could have happened if a game like Monster Rancher exploded in popularity like any game in the Pokémon series did. Naturally, there were slate stones that were superior to others and spawned very unique and powerful monsters. Therefore, these discs were really sought after by people who played Monster Rancher. If enough popularity followed the game, could Tecmo actually have taken advantage of this mechanic and started selling the rights to spawn certain monsters? It’s an interesting thought.
Metal Gear Solid
Let me start by saying that this is not only one of the best games to ever hit the PlayStation, but arguably one of the best games of all-time. This is one of those games that defined an entire console and some of the things you experience while playing this game make you ask yourself, “How in the world did they even think of that?”
We’ll start with Psycho Mantis. Psycho Mantis is one of the most awesome video game villains and bosses, and the way Solid Snake interacts with him in this game is just incredible. Psycho Mantis is a gasmask-wearing creep that is capable of reading the minds of others and even controlling them with telekentic powers.
In your first encounter with this guy, several things will happen that will honestly make you a little uncomfortable (at least if you were young like I was, playing alone, and in the dark). First, Psycho Mantis will actually read your memory card. If you’ve played any other games by Konami, he will remind you that you’ve played and saved these games. He will even mention games like Castlevania by name, going on to tell you how much time you’ve spent playing.
An adult in the year 2014 can probably piece together how he manages to do that, it was extremely eerie at the time. You didn’t consider (especially if you’re a kid) that an in-game character was going to stop mid-cutscene and recall games that you, the player, have played. He’s making this personal, and that’s something many of us have never experienced.
Next, Mantis begins to speak to the player directly. He requests that the player puts the controller on the floor so he can show you his powers. Should you choose to follow his instructions, your controller will either be on carpet or hardwood (probably). Maybe you’ve even chosen to place it on a table. Psycho Mantis puts his hands on his head and then the controller, using DualShock, begins to shake harder than you’ve probably ever experienced. If the controller is on a hard surface, it will definitely move around and it’s actually quite starting. The shaking is uncontrollable and seems very unusual.
A less creepy part of the scenes comes to realization probably through a strategy guide. When the actual fight begins, you can’t beat Psycho Mantis. How do you defeat someone who knows your every move? To defeat him, you have to physically remove your controller from port #1 and enter it into port #2. Psycho Mantis will comment on how he can no longer read your mind, and beating him is now actually possible. It’s so creative, innovative, and special. You will never forget a boss fight like this.
Another part of this game that requires the player to physically do something is when you’re trying to find Meryl’s radio frequency. You aren’t told her frequency and you are given subtle hints. What you have to do is look at the back of the game’s case. There is a screenshot that shows it.
It’s yet another brilliant quirk that makes this game so special. Never before Metal Gear Solid were players so involved in progressing the game.
Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring
Ehrgeiz is a game that many people have probably never heard of. However, I bet you’ve heard of Final Fantasy VII.
A lot of people can agree that Final Fantasy VII is the defining RPG of the PlayStation. We beg for a sequel and we’re sick of adaptations like Dirge of Cerberus. You’ve probably heard of Kingdom Hearts, but Ehrgeiz follows a similar path in a very unordinary way. Ehrgeiz is one of the first times that we’ve ever seen characters from one video game genre, an RPG, be taken and transplanted into a completely different game, which in Ehrgeiz’s case is a fighting game.
Cloud, Tifa, Sephiroth, Yuffie, Vincent, and Zack are all Final Fantasy VII characters and all of them are present in this game. However, they aren’t the only characters. Ehrgeiz provides many original characters like Django, Koji, and Sasuke. No one can argue that the appeal towards this game was the fact that the classic RPG’s characters could be found and were playable.
Ehrgeiz’s battle system was very original and unlike things that we’ve seen before. It allows for full 360-degree movement and you don’t have to be facing your opponent at all times. The fighting is very fast-paced and the free movement allows players to incorporate many interactive objects in the stage and jump on top of obstacles when fighting an opponent. The game also includes Quest Mode, which turns Ehrgeiz into a dungeon crawler much similar to the likes of a Diablo game.
Ehrgeiz was not a huge seller in the US, yet it stands as an example for how beloved Final Fantasy VII is and how characters alone can attract us from one genre to another. Without the inclusion of these characters, Ehrgeiz probably wouldn’t even exist.
As a final note, the arcade version of Ehrgeiz included a very interesting feature. Cloud, Tifa, and Django are not immediately available. Instead, they are revealed 30, 60, and 90 days after the first time the game is installed and booted. How weird is that? It’s one of those touches that makes the game memorable.
Here we have one of the best games ever, a fairly unoriginal series with such an original twist, and a relatively unknown 3D fighter that includes some of the most storied and beloved RPG characters of all-time. Tell me what you think about these three games above, and share with me what games (PlayStation or otherwise) turn the gears in your brain and gave you a whole different outlook about what gaming is capable of or is. Leave me a comment and I’d love to chat with you about it!