You can keep your Xbox One, PS4 and Wii U; the original PlayStation will always hold a special place in a generation’s hearts.
Some now call it the PS1 or the PSX – but for many, it remains simply the PlayStation. The definitive article. It was hugely successful, launching in Japan late 1994 and spreading throughout the world the following year. Games were widely sold until Sony discontinued the console in 2006.
Gaming hasn’t been the same since. It might just be the nostalgia talking, but these games really were exceptional.
Spyro: Ripto’s Rage!/ The Gateway to Glimmer
The second game in the Spyro the Dragon series shipped with two titles: Ripto’s Rage! has a certain ring to it, but, at least for UK fans, Gateway to Glimmer alludes to something a little bit magical. And that’s this 1999-2000 sequel in a nutshell.
The quality of the franchise is so good, gamers still argue which of the three games is best. The original was a bold, beautiful statement; and Year of the Dragon, coming soon after Ripto’s Rage!, introduced us to loads of new, playable characters. But Spyro 2, as we’re calling it for the sake of argument, is exactly what the franchise should be.
It was bright, colourful and clever. At times, it was even scary.
You play as a loveable, cheeky purple dragon, and one of the game’s charms is that you never feel on-your-own, thanks to Sparx the dragonfly. The gameplay is straight-forward but deceptively difficult. You can see why we’re still in love with Spyro 2.
When news of a dragon masquerading as Spyro in Skylanders reached the Dragon Realms, all hell reportedly broke loose and all that’s left is a smouldering wasteland.
Personal Memory: I was so addicted to this game, I was playing it on Millennium’s Eve – though not actually at Midnight. As far as I can recall, I was on a Romeo and Juliet parody when I had to turn the PlayStation off, progress left unsaved, to go to a New Year’s party. It’s a hard life. Thankfully, I still finished it.
This divisive multiplayer experience was unlike previous Crash Bandicoot games as the first not developed by Naughty Dog. Even if you knew nothing of Crash (and back then, I didn’t), it still worked in a similar way to that of Mario Party.
While there was adventure, it wasn’t platform; instead, it was a series of minigames which started out very fun, then got a bit annoying, then fun again, then annoying, but however many times something would infuriate you, it remained addictive.
Pogo Pandemonium could easily turn against you (and was pretty hard for colour-blind people), and Crash Dash was deceptively difficult. Polar Push was always a huge amount of fun – especially risking your luck with power-ups from a random beam of light – as was Ballistix, a sort of four-player air hockey.
Personal Memory: Playing with friends was always the highlight of this game, so naturally enough, a cherished memory is battling it out on Ballistix with three mates. Everyone brought their own games but Crash Bash, I’m pleased to say, was the group’s favourite.
This is how you make a superhero game.
No other Spidey has quite been the same; the first PS1 game was exactly what comic fans were hoping for – and then some. Without a doubt, everyone wants to be Spider-Man so you could swing through the city on webs and beat up bad guys. That’s what you got, except Activision also delivered a who’s who rogues gallery.
And they were all very difficult to beat.
There was a proper plot involving heists; an unlikely team-up; J. Jonah Jameson getting attacked; and a surprisingly camp Mysterio. It was symbiotes galore with some of the coolest villains around. There was a great balance of humour and scares (the PSX didn’t have the monopoly on nightmare-inducing visuals: the PS2 had its fair share too). And you got to trick the Rhino into repeatedly running into giant electrical containers.
The sequel, Enter Electro, retained the best parts of this first game, but you just can’t beat the original, can you?
Personal Memory: The final fight scenes just kept getting harder and harder as you had to fight off Doctor Octopus and then Carnage (man, his laugh was the creepiest thing). Next came the most chilling enemy ever witnessed by a 9-year-old. Fight or flight? There really was never an option.
Speed Freaks/ Speed Punks
This was essentially Mario Kart for The Simpsons generation, with a ton of original players capable of throwing bombs and missiles at each other. Its US title, Speed Punks, gave a good indication of the game’s attitude.
All sections of youthful society were represented, from the beef-headed bullies (Buster and Wedgie) to nerds (Brains), spoilt brats (Tabitha) to your Average Joe (Tempest). Even dogs. And then there were the gamers, the most likely section of the audience to appeal to, portrayed by Monty.
It was all bright lights and tight turns, coupled with challenging handling and – what else? – speed, speed, speed.
No wonder Speed Freaks got rave reviews.
Personal Memory: Everyone thought the highpoint of the game was unlocking Tetsuo. But kids these days don’t know the meaning of the word “awesome” like those of us who completed the game and had a race against Beemer. Forget exams and puberty: it was the hardest ordeal any teen had to go through.
Okay, So What Can Be Done?
You’ve only just started on this nostalgia tour. There were so many cool games on the PS1, playing on any further consoles can seem a futile experience. But, if you don’t have the original PlayStation anymore, what can you do to relive these games?
You could try picking up an old PS1 from eBay (US or UK). Both the PS2 and PS3 have backward capability, meaning they’ll play older games. You could try getting one of those consoles as the PS4 doesn’t allow you to do this – yet. (In fact, it seems the next-gen consoles didn’t live up to expectations.)
You could also discover the world of emulators (though we don’t advocate piracy of video games; do so at your own risk). It’s really easy to play PSX games on the PC. Alternatively, if all this talk of classic games has got you in the mood to revisit the SNES or GameBoy Advance, you can do this through the Wii. Further consoles can be emulated on your PC including the N64 and GameCube.
Really, this doesn’t have to be the end of your nostalgia trip. It’s just the beginning.
What PS1 games do you miss playing? Or do you still play them? Anyone here actually beat Beemer in that final Speed Freaks race…?