Turns out devising a game library for one of the most iconic game consoles is quite difficult.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. I thought I’d do something a little different and write about one of my new holiday toys: the PlayStation Classic. Fittingly, the original PlayStation was my primary present during Christmas 1997, so it’s fun to revisit this console 22 years later. I did not pay full price for this mini console and only spent $30. Even though it’s considered a disappointment, $30 is a steal no matter what games are on here. I’m not going to go into detail about this console’s issues as most reviewers already did that when it first came out. However, to add my two cents, Sony was in a great position to make one of the best mini consoles due to the PlayStation’s amazing library. However, the original PSX’s blessing is also its curse because with a stellar lineup comes licensing hurdles that even Edwin Moses might have trouble jumping over (these licensing hurdles have also become more difficult as video game companies have progressively become larger). Nevertheless, Sony seemed to be in a position to make two separate mini consoles: one that showcased a legitimate short list of universal hits, and the other that featured some of the original PlayStation’s niche titles. It seemed that Sony tried to blend both approaches and upset their fan base in the process. Still, it should be noted that most PlayStation fans have already played many games from Sony’s massive library, and everyone undoubtedly has their own preferences. In sum, no one was going to be pleased.
While I also have my own preferences (which I will get to later), my blog isn’t about reviewing games or products in the traditional sense, but rather how games (specifically the genre-melders) spark joy in my life. I’ve gone through all the games in the list and will give some brief thoughts.
Battle Arena Toshinden
Ah, yes. 1995-1996. I didn’t get my own PlayStation until Christmas 1997 as I previously said, but one of my friends owned one. One of the games that he owned was Toshinden. While I had fun with it back in the day, fighting games, like sports games, generally do not age well. On one hand, Toshinden paints a picture of what polygon fighting games looked like in 1995, and the game is notable for defining the weapon fighter subgenre (see Soul Calibur). On the other hand, while they were usually generally well received at the time, these games are just dreadful now. Chances are this game was included because it was cheap. This is a tough one to return to.
In the late-90’s, it was common for middle schoolers to be posers thanks to a surfeit of extreme sports. I must admit that I was a snowboarding poser. I couldn’t even stand up properly on the damn board, but I sure thought it would have been sweet to be a boarder. My story was common, but snowboarding video games were a nice way to channel some of that misguided energy. N64 fans had 1080 Snowboarding. PlayStation fans had Coolboarders. Some people questioned why this game was on the mini console. Personally, I like the inclusion, and I even fire it up on occasion (I downloaded it on PS3 several years ago). The “racing” aspect was subpar when the game was released. However, what saves this game are the trick modes, including the half pipe and big air events. The game also had some pretty fun secrets for gamers willing to give it a couple looks. You also can’t go wrong with the soundtrack, which featured some solid electronica alongside the generic rock:
Based on the name alone, I thought I was getting another Twisted Metal. Although it is a racing game, I won’t be returning to this one again. I know Gran Turismo and Need for Speed III were probably expensive due to licensing, but surely Sony could have done better than this. Either one of those two games could have complemented Ridge Racer 4, or Ridge Racer 4 could have been the PlayStation Classic’s only racing game. Destruction Derby feels like it’s taking up a better game’s position on the PlayStation Classic.
Final Fantasy VII
Care to guess what game my grandma bought for my new PlayStation? Boom. Now we’re talking. So many great memories here. If you haven’t done so yet, play this game before the remake comes out. This game sparked a lot of joy in my life and it still managed to do so when I replayed it in 2014. While I beat Ruby and Emerald Weapons during my last playthrough, it’s worth mentioning that the official strategy guide was released before the game, so the strategies for fighting them were quite useless. Somehow, I look back on these frustrating endeavors fondly.
Grand Theft Auto
Dear God. Did they make the characters in this game with an Atari 2600? This is almost an unplayable game now. I think I played the second installment back in the day, but this is an atrocious game by any metric. Still, the open world aspect of it must have been appealing because we know what happened to this series once 3 was released on the PS2.
I never played this game, but I was curious because it was advertised on TV around the same time as Final Fantasy VII. As far as puzzle games go, this actually holds up pretty well. It’s hard, but there’s something endearing about it that makes it a nice addition to this list.
I knew nothing about this game before playing it except for that it was one of the first attempts of a platformer in 3-D. It has many flaws and has certainly aged, but it looks and plays better than I expected. It’s actually a pretty good addition in my mind.
Metal Gear Solid
Yeah, I’m pretty sure gamers would have rioted if this game weren’t on this thing. The weird thing is that in 1998, I knew all about this game’s hype. However, when I first played it, I wasn’t that impressed; I was getting most of my stealth fun from the Activision game Tenchu, which came out shortly before MGS. Still, I slowly started to enjoy it. It holds up well, so if you’ve never played it, here’s your chance.
I’ve never heard of this game in my life, but I thought this puzzle game was fun. This is the type of game I believe would fit into the second hypothetical PSX Classic model (making a system with rarer gems). I could see myself firing this one up again.
From a namesake standpoint, this could be considered a “must-have” for the console, even if it was overshadowed by the released on Final Fantasy VII. Still, this is my first time experiencing it, so time will tell if I give it a fair shot.
Rayman has always been on my radar due to its cult following. The sprites and level designs are still gorgeous. I might come back to this game and finish it properly.
Resident Evil: Director’s Cut
This game is a classic and probably should be on this mini console. However, I’ve played it too many times already and even purchased the DS version back in 2007. Oddly, the original Resident Evil is not even the best entry point in the series now thanks to the remake and Resident Evil 0. I feel that if a Resident Evil game were included on the PlayStation Classic, it should have been RE2. Yes, the remake came out this year and the “best” version of RE2 required the dual shock controller. Having said that, I recently replayed the original RE2, and it still played well. It would have been a better addition than yet another port of the first game.
Time for a deep nostalgia dive. If love is too strong of a word, I at least appreciate the first Persona. I might be a rarity, but I actually played this game in the 90’s, and I even own the original PSX jewel case! I got it for my birthday on a whim in 1999 and loved its unorthodox style. There was a lot to love about the game at the time, including the contemporary setting, odd characters, and the ability to talk to demons during battles. As a genre-melder, it also combined turned-based RPG combat with dungeon crawler mechanics. Of course, as I discovered later, there was a lot to hate about this game as well, including its localization and the fact that a major sidequest was completely omitted. This game is dated and might not attract many new fans. However, it still has one great thing going for it, and that is one of the most atmospheric game soundtracks I have ever heard:
Ridge Racer 4
Despite the game’s advertising campaign in 1998, I honestly never played it until now. If Gran Turismo or Need for Speed III were off limits, at least Sony featured a competent Namco racing game. It seems to have some great things still going for it. Like some other games on this list, the jazzy techno soundtrack is also solid twenty-one years later.
Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
As a game, it’s fun. However, it’s questionable that this is the only Street Fighter entry on the console. There were several possibilities (my pick would have been Street Fighter Alpha 3), so this was probably one of the weaker options.
Want to play a third-person spy game that helped usher in some genre mainstays? Give Syphon Filter a whirl. It doesn’t look great and it doesn’t play very well by today’s standards, but the automatic targeting option was a pretty strong addition. It sort of makes up for the fact that the character models are dreadful.
I put a lot of time and energy into Tekken 3 back in 1998. In fact, besides Squaresoft’s Bushido Blade, this was one of the few fighting games that I rushed out to buy. The game still looks okay and the soundtrack is as strong as ever. However, the game is sluggish because Sony opted for the PAL version. Some gamers didn’t notice a difference, but I did. The game is still fun to play, but basically every subsequent Tekken title now overshadows it.
Total nostalgia play. I’m sure some gamers saw this and got excited. Unfortunately, it sucks. There are much better Rainbow Six options out there (thankfully).
Here’s yet another game that time hasn’t been kind to. However, it was all the rage in 1995 and 1996. I can certainly see why it would be included on the console, but it can be recognized for its contributions without any of us playing it for an extended period.
The final game on the console is also a strong Japanese RPG. Wild Arms is notable for its interesting setting as it combines high fantasy with the Wild West. I put it on my Vita a couple of years ago and it still has several great moments. Ultimately, while the sprites are lovely, the polygon battle sequences are very slow (random battle encounters also take a while to load). While I’d consider this game to be one of the console’s top five options, the battles aren’t as fun as I remember them. Still, every subsequent game in the series is worth checking out. I’m partial to Wild Arms 3.
That covers every game on the PlayStation Classic. It was fun to revisit some of these games since it’s hard to top an original PSX as a Christmas present as was my case in 1997. Every retailer should have the price marked down, so see if you can buy one for $30 as I did. At the very least, it’s a nice collector’s item to have in any game library. Ultimately, about eleven of these games are still worth my time. However, here is my hypothetical list to make a stronger console (I’m omitting Spyro, Crash Bandicoot, and Tomb Raider). Yes, it’s RPG-heavy and privileges Japanese titles over Western ones.
My Completely Biased List
Breath of Fire III: Quietly one of the best RPGs on the PlayStation. At least Sony ported it to the Vita, so there is one way to play the game.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night: I’m sure there were licensing issues with this game, but this is arguably the best Castlevania game ever made and should have been included in the first place.
Final Fantasy VII
Kartia: Final Fantasy Tactics is the most renowned SPRG for the original PlayStation. However, Atlus’ Kartia might have been a solid sleeper pick for the PlayStation Classic as I don’t think it was ported to another console outside of Japan (Japanese PSN).
Metal Gear Solid
Resident Evil 2
Parappa the Rapper
Parasite Eve: Honestly, I’ve never played a game quite like this. The horror RPG subgenre is severely lacking in my opinion. This is one of the few games that pulls it off. Its only real drawback was how painfully short it was.
Ridge Racer 4
Silent Hill: It wasn’t my favorite game in the series, but Silent Hill was a nice psychological survival horror game for those who wanted something different than bio-engineered zombies. I played it again in 2016. While it showed its age, it was still genuinely scary in spots.
Street Fighter Alpha 3 (or another 2D fighter like King of Fighters 1998): The PlayStation Classic needed a 2D fighting game. These are just my suggestions, but I consider them two of the best for the original PlayStation.
Suikoden: Arguably my favorite RPG series. The first game might not be the strongest, but it sets up the sequel nicely. The first game could probably be dropped if it weren’t for the memory card bonus content in the second game.
Suikoden II: Sony dropped the ball by not putting this game on the PlayStation Classic because it is one of the best Japanese RPGs of all time. It’s also rare to find a physical copy of the game. Fortunately, I downloaded it onto my PS3, so all is not lost.
Tekken 3 (but not the PAL version)
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2: This exclusion screams licensing concerns (skaters, brands, music, etc.). Still, it’s one of the best games for the console.
Xenogears: One of the most ambitious, complex, convoluted, and ultimately unfinished RPGs I have ever played. Xenogears took several chances and created a story that required a literate audience. Its major hiccup (and it was a big one) was the rushed second disc that harmed everything that the first disc cultivated. Xenogears is truly a flawed masterpiece.