On September 9th, 1995, Sony’s Playstation was released to a North American audience. At the time, no one really thought Sony could compete with the juggernauts of the day in Sega and Nintendo. After all, Sony had no experience in video game hardware and their software titles included mainly mediocre titles like Bram Stoker’s Dracula or the infamous Make My Video titles with Kriss Kross, INXS, and C&C Music Factory. Fifteen years later however, it appears everyone underestimated what Sony’s little grey system could do. It dominated the 32-bit era and remains a gaming institution. Hell, the vast majority of gamers these days can barely remember a time when Sony WASN’T in the hardware market.
Look at what happened to the other competitors from back then. Sega’s Saturn crashed and burned even though it offered some of the best games of all time. It was followed by the Dreamcast and finally Sega threw in the towel and became a straight-up software developer. Nintendo floundered with the N64 and Gamecube but finally found the same level of success it had with the venerable NES thanks to the Wii. We don’t even need to bring up the Panasonic 3DO, the Atari Jaguar, or the Amiga CD32, do we? The Sony PSX (or as we call it now, the PSOne) went from being snickered at by longtime industry enthusiasts and the gaming media alike to the cornerstone in Sony’s videogame empire. Now fifteen years later, the landscape for gaming is very different indeed. Motion based controls are becoming commonplace, online gaming is more common than not (compare that to the old SegaNET on the Saturn), we have achievements and/or trophies, and hard drives which have replaced memory cards, cart cartridges, and batteries. It’s a whole new world, something we said back in the mid-1990’s about the original PSX.
To celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of Sony’s first and most successful system, we’re going to take a look at fifteen games you might have missed back then. Please note this is not a “Top 15” list highlighting what I consider the absolute best games available on the PSX. Rather this is a look at fifteen games that have had a strong cult following since they were released on the PSX, even if they are obscure or even unheard of by the mainstream or casual gamer. This list will only include games that are PSX exclusive, which means no remakes, no cross-console titles, or any titles that have been re-released on the PSN as a “PSOne Classic.” I’ve also tried to make sure the games are available for thirty dollars or less, so that any gamer can pick them up and see why these titles still hold up a decade and a half later. After all, any PS3 can play PSX titles, even if only the old (and only one worth owning) 60gig PS3 has full backwards compatibility with the PS2 and PSX. The goal of this feature is to inspire a combination of conversation amongst older gamers, nostalgia over titles both loved and forgotten, and hopefully exposing younger gamers to fifteen titles that might not have had the largest advertising but still have a loyal following due to their quality.
Game #1: Guardian’s Crusade
Genre: Turn-Based RPG
Release Date: 01/31/1999
It’s a fact that Guardian’s Crusade, known as Knight and Baby in Japan didn’t sell very well. It’s a wonderful turn-based RPG that also had you raise your secondary character as a virtual pet. Based on how you treated Baby and what you fed it determined its eventual evolution. There were a plethora of options as to what Baby could become and its ultimate form, which made the game exceptionally deep, especially for a turn-based RPG.
The game isn’t that pretty, even by PSX standards, but it was one of the first games to offer a seamless graphical transition from overworld to towns and back instead of the shrunken up walking around the main world graphics we’ve seen in nearly every RPG before or since Guardian’s Crusade. This explains why the visuals are a bit off. The graphic power went into the overworld rather than character designs and when you realize this, you also realize how impressive the game was for its time, doing things that still aren’t commonplace to this day. Enemy A.I. was pretty impressive as if the enemy was obviously too weak for you, it would attempt to run away on the overworld rather than fight you. The game is also beloved for its incredible soundtrack.
Finally the plot was designed to be one that made this an RPG accessible to children as well as adults. You play as Knight, whose quest is to deliver the little pink monster named Baby to “God’s Tower.” Along the way you encounter new friends, new enemies, and Living Toys, which will be your army in battles. Living Toys can be summoned in battle by Knight’s Psychic Points (think magic points). Each toy uses a different number of PP and once Knight’s PPs are depleted, you won’t be able to use Living Toys until you get some back.
All in all, Guardian’s Crusade is an RPG that is still loved by those that discovered it to this day. The English localization is a bit rough, with a lot of Engrish and grammatical errors, but the sheer charm of the game is enough to win nearly anyone over.
Game #2: Echo Night
Developer: From Software
Genre: Adventure/Survival Horror
Release Date: 07/31/1999
Hey, you all like Demon’ s Souls don’t you? Well, long before that game was around, From Software was bringing us things like Armored Core, King’s Field, Lost Kingdoms ,and of course…Echo Night. Of course, I strongly prefer the Echo Night series to anything else From Software has done due to the excellent storytelling and unique locations you encounter.
In the very first Echo Night, you are treated to a pretty intense story. Your father’s house burns down, timed with his disappearance. The only remains are a manila envelope with a key inside. From there your quest takes you onboard a ghost train and finally a haunted luxury liner that disappeared in 1913. The ghosts on board this cruise ship are a diverse lot, ranging from evil little girls with hideous laughter to an alcoholic that can’t pass on until he’s had one last drink. The goal is to help as many souls pass on as you can without being killed by the malevolent spirits, as well as find out what these happenings have to do with your father.
I definitely preferred Echo Night to other survival horror games of its era including the original Resident Evil and Silent Hill. This is because Echo Night comes off a little more believable, requires you to think rather than slaughter, and most importantly, you can’t hurt the things that want to hurt you. The horror aspect of a survival horror game is ruined when an average Joe can just slaughter any monster in the game. In Echo Night, you can’t. Instead, you have to use your brain to outwit and defeat the monsters, rather than engaging in combat. This incites actual terror in the gamer and is far more akin to what would happen if someone was the only human on a vessel of the damned.
Game #3: WCW Vs. the World
Release Date: 02/28/1997
When people talk about wrestling games, most North American gamers tend to consider the four exclusive N64 titles that Aki made. WCW Vs. nWo World Tour, WCW Revenge, Wrestlemania 2000, and WWF No Mercy. Of course import gamers mention things like AJPW Vs. Virtua Fighter, Fire Pro Wrestling: Six Man Scramble, and Touken Retsuden 4 as being better, but I digress. What you may not know is that long before Aki was making licensed wrestling games for the N64, they released WCW Vs. the World on the Sony PSX. This was actually my first ever Playstation title (Tekken 3 was the second), having won the system in the summer of 1997 between my freshman and sophomore years of college.
I played the hell out of this game. My friends and I made our own fed using the game and kept track of win-loss records. Now the game certainly isn’t pretty by today’s standards, but in 1997, it blew away everything released by that point. The game also lacked tag matches, but it made up for it by having options such as tournaments, elimination matches, best of seven series, the ability to unlock wrestlers like Tiger Mask, Jeff Jerrett, and Big Show (things that had never been done before) and even the ability to make your own titles. Again, this is all common stuff for 2010, but in 1997, it was mind-blowing. The game even tracked won-loss records of your champions and how many successful defenses you had! Finally, it was the first US released wrestling game to actually have submissions and KO’s since the original World Championship Wrestling for the NES. You have no idea how annoying it was to play Super Wrestlemania or Royal Rumble and see guys do a submission move but then have to pin the wrestler afterwards. You punk kids don’t know how good you have it these days!
The best thing about the game was the roster. Most wrestling games up to that point had, at most, twenty wrestlers available to you. WCW Vs. the World offered a whopping fifty-five characters! The WCW roster included Flair, Luger, Sting, the Steiners, Eddy Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Masahiro Chono, Ultimo Dragon, Dean Malenko, Steven Regal, Sting, and Super Delfin (the latter of which never appeared in a WCW ring as far as I know). Of course, the game then included people like Steve Williams, Stan Hansen, Akira Taue, Road Warrior Hawk, Kensuke Sasaki, The Great Muta, Kenta Kobashi, the Great Sasuka, Sabu, Mitshauru Misawa, and many more. This was a dream game. Before then, the only way you could have these wrestlers all face each other was in a text-only game like TNM. This, my friends, was impetus enough for any wrestling fan worth their salt to own this game. Sure, in 2010, this thing has been surpassed time and time again by other wrestling games, but WCW Vs. the World deserves a mention here for not only being the first Aki wrestling game in the US to use licensed wrestlers, but for changing the entire genre of wrestling games forever.
4. Board Game Top Shop
Publisher: A-1 Games (Agetec)
Genre: Board Game
Release Date: 02/28/2001
I’ll admit, Agetec has a lot of games on this list. What can I say? I loved them in the 32-bit era and it’s a shame they’re reduced to being all but dead. I don’t think I’ve seen a game from them since Fading Shadows, and that makes me sad.
Board Game Top Shop is basically a weird Japanese version of Monopoly Instead of being a few blocks of New Jersey, BGTS takes place in one of several malls that you can choose from. There you will open a set of stores. If you land on an opponent’s store, you have to buy something from them. You can stock your stores with cheap or expensive items. It takes money from your own supply to do so, but of course, you make more money if the store is jammed with expensive things. On the other hand, if an opponent buys expensive items, they also have a chance of having something good happening to them. The end result is a highly customizable board game with far more strategy than the Parker Bros. game it is based on and it’s surprisingly fun and addicting. It’s one of the best party games I’ve ever played, and it can be purchased for next to nothing these days, so there’s really no excuse not to own this.
There’s even an extremely weird story mode you can play through that is worth experiencing. I can’t say BGTS is at its best when played by yourself, but it holds up far better than something like Mario Party in this regard. It’s one of the most charming and adorable games I’ve ever encountered for the PSX and it’s worth experiencing for the sheer weirdness of it all. It’s definitely the best board game of the PSX era, and it’s a reminder of when Agetec brought over a lot of weird and outside the box stuff.
Game #5: Vanguard Bandits
Developer: Human Entertainment
Publisher: Working Designs
Release Date: 04/29/2000
I admit that I’m a sucker for Human’s games. Clock Tower and Fire Pro Wrestling I miss terribly. I’m also a huge SRPG fan thanks to Shining Force and Ogre Tactics. Factor in the addition that Working Designs was doing the localization on the game (a publisher I adored at the time, but mainly for Sega Saturn reasons like Dragon Force), and you had a trinity I couldn’t pass up. I definitely wasn’t disappointed with Vanguard Bandits, thanks to its wildly diverging plotlines and its story rife with political intrigue and a fat guy that really likes cake. Plus, it’s a fantasy game where everyone drives giant mechs. You can’t beat that.
Vanguard Bandits remains one of the hardest SRPGs I’ve ever played. It has a very deep combat system and flanking is key to victory in nearly every battle. Vanguard Bandits really felt like a proper war simulation and I’d find myself playing the game like I play Chess; thinking out three or four moves ahead of time and calculating any possible scenarios before finally making my attack. With so many things to keep in mind (Action Points, Faint Points, different types of attacks, different defensive maneuvers, and several different special attacks that can make or break a battle), and the inability to grind so you can powergame through battles (which is commonplace in SRPGs), Vanguard Bandits remains the SRPG I go to when I want a challenge, even if the Shining Force games remain my favorites.
Once you beat Vanguard Bandits, you gain access to what is possibly the weirdest and most surreal storyline I’ve ever encountered in a SRPG. There’s also an unlockable comedy version of the opening cinematic, which is also a lot of fun. I know Working Designs got a lot of guff from all too serious gamers who abhorred that they stuck comedy in their translations instead of being all angsty and melodramatic, but Vanguard Bandits had a nice does of comedy in the Japanese version (Epica Stella), so it seems like VB was made to be paired with Vic Ireland and his crazy cronies. This is a hard game to find, but you can still pick it up for 20-30 dollars if you look hard enough.
Game #6: Tecmo’s Deception
Genre: Real Time Strategy
Release Date: 07/25/1996
This is one of those games that I’m still shocked managed to make it stateside, especially since the game is blatantly Satanic in tone. After all, the entire game revolves around the protagonist being a man who was unjustly executed and who then makes a deal with Satan itself to save his skin. From there, Satan puts you in charge of “The Castle of the Damned,” and it becomes your job to decide who lives and who dies when they enter the castle. Some are there to take your place as master of the castle, some of people who have come to see if it is truly haunted, and some are just looking for a place to spend the night. You have complete control over who lives and who dies, and each character that you spare or slaughter has an impact on how the game progresses. It’s a pretty intense game, even today, and the moral decisions you have to make can get pretty dark indeed.
I have to admit I’m a sucker for the old FMV strategy games on the Sega-CD like Night Trap, Double Switch, and Dracula: Unleashed, so when I first heard about Deception and its gameplay, I knew it was a game I had to pick up. You can set several different kinds of traps around the castle to kill your opponents. These range from a Monty Python-esque foot falling from the sky onto your victims to cages and pits. You can then take the remains of your opponents and get gold for them if you killed them, magic points if you harvest their souls, or you can use their remains and create monsters and/or golems out of them. Again, Deception was pretty out there in terms of tone compared to any other game released in North America before it, and it’s a wonderfully creepy experience.
Game #7: Brigandine: The Legend of Forsena
Developer: Hearty Robin
Publisher: Atlus USA
Genre: Tactical RPG
Release Date: 10/31/1998
I’ve always been a fan of those grid based style RPGs like Master of Monsters, Dark Wizard and the like that take forever to get through simply because the game is so massive. I honestly can’t think of another game developed by Hearty Robin, so if Brigandine was their only title, than they’re arguably the best one-shot company of the PSX era. If you’re a fan of Dragon Force for the Sega Saturn, than you’ll be happy to know that Brigadine has a lot in common with that game, although it is turn-based to Dragon Force‘s RTS.
Brigandine is a strategy oriented gamer’s dream come true. Each of your human generals is a Rune Knight and gains levels like in a RPG, complete with the ability to change classes. Monsters which are the bulk of your fighting force. They too gain experience, but can transform into more powerful creatures via the promotion option.
During the organization phase of your turn, you can equip your generals with items and move them across your territories. Then it’s on to attacking where you can pick three of your armies to storm the territory of an opposing kingdom, in hopes of gaining their castle, and thus their land. From there it becomes a tactical style battle system, where the best teams and strategies win. The goal is to kill not the rank and file monsters, but the Rune Knights themselves. After all, if you kill all the knights, you might be able to recruit some of their leftover monsters to your team. It’s a huge game, with six kingdoms and a total of 40 castles to conquer. My personal favorite kingdom to play as was Norgard, ruled by Vaynard. It was the country I first beat the game with, and it was supposedly the hardest to do it with, so I’m still proud of that fact to this day.
There’s a “Grand Edition” of the game in Japan that supports multiplayer action and the original game was brought to the Japanese PSN in 2008, so although it’s not there yet for those of us on this side of the Pacific, there’s still hope Atlus will do the same over here with a nice 5-10 dollar price tag per download. Here’s hoping Cador the Death Knight (one of the coolest looking bad guys ever) gets a shot at terrorizing a whole new generation of gamers.
Game #8: Koudelka
Genre: SRPG/Survival Horror
Release Date: 06/29/2000
Although Koudelka is one of my three favorite games for the PSX (Valkyrie Profile and Persona 2: Eternal Punishment are the others for the nosy). I have to admit it’s not for everyone. It’s an exceedingly niche game in that it is a combination of Survival Horror and tactical grid based RPG battles. Characters are also exceptionally customizable, but to the point where if you do it wrong (and most people do), you’ll be left with pathetically weak characters that die time and time again, no matter how often you start over, unless you scrap your save and start anew. Weapons also break repeatedly in the game from constant use, which is something I love as it ramps up the difficulty of the game, but it will no doubt frustrate gamers used to being able to rely on a super power weapon from when they first find it until they finally find something better. Truly Koudelka turned both genres it partakes in on their head, and left the few gamers that found this obscure game unsure how to proceed or even what to think of it. Thankfully Sacnoth (who eventually renamed themselves Nautilus) created a new trilogy on the PS2 based off of Koudelka that is perhaps for familiar, and far more beloved than the original titles. It’s called Shadow Hearts and is arguably the best RPG series of the PS2/XBX/GCN generation.
Honestly, I could talk about Koudelka forever. The graphics were done by ex-Squaresoft employees and the game looks better than half of what’s available on the PS2. It’s four discs long, but most of that is story and cut scenes. The actual RPG playing clocks in at about twelve hours, but the story is not only one of the best in gaming, it’s actually the best use of Lovecraftian characters and themes in a console game outside of Eternal Darkness and Persona 2. Even if you find the combat hard to understand and the character customization way too deep to follow, (I didn’t have a problem with either. It’s actually pretty simple.), the story is well worth the experience. The music is by Hiroki Kikuta (Secret of Mana 1 & 2), and like the controls, people either adore or loath the score. I personally consider it the most underrated game on the PSX, and although it’s definitely not for everyone, if you like Lovecraft, you want to see a Resident Evil meets Final Fantasy style game, or you love the Shadow Hearts trilogy, then you should pick this up on the cheap immediately. It’s definitely one of the most atmospheric games I’ve ever played.
Game #9: Thousand Arms
Developer: Red Company/TOSE
Publisher: Atlus USA
Genre: Turn-Based RPG/Dating Sim
Release Date: 09/30/1999
Long before steampunk was considered trendy or even played out, Red Company was giving us games in this setting that remain some of the most popular and beloved of all time. Of course, I’m talking about the Sakura Taisen series that Sega never bothered to bring stateside even though it outsold the Sonic the Hedgehog series in Japan. Maybe if you had brought over your most successful titles on the Saturn and Dreamcast, you wouldn’t have died such a horrible death and had your corpse reanimated by Sammy, Sega. Anyway, other games created by Red Company that have made it stateside include Bonk’s Adventure, Gates of Thunder, Nostalgia, Record of Agarest War, Fossil Fighters, and of course Thousand Arms. Sadly Thousand Arms is the red headed stepchild of the localized Red Company games, if only because so few people remember it. I bought this thing on day one due to my love of everything Red Company had put out, and I still have my preorder CD that included a desktop theme for Windows 98/00/ME. Radical. The disc also contained a forty track score, including “Depend on You” by Ayumi Hamasaki, which is one of my favorite J-Pop songs of all time.
The game is 75% turn based RPG where you’ll go through dungeon that seem to have random battles every five steps or so. The funny thing is Atlus noted in the game manual that they actually drastically reduced the number of battles from the original Japanese version, which makes me wonder how bad it was to begin with. Battles are a bit different as you can only have three people in your active party at once, but only one can fight. The other two are backups providing defense and power-ups to your main character.
The other 25% of Thousand Arms is a dating sim. Here your main character Meis must woo certain girls throughout the game, both members of your party and otherwise. By going on dates with them and engaging in dating sim questions that you correctly answer, you will raise your intimacy level with that character. With each new level achieved, you’ll be able to imbue your team’s weapons with new spells, powers and skills. Each girl also has a special mini-game associated with her, preventing this aspect from every feeling stagnant or repetitive.
With some excellent visuals, a pretty bizarre plot and a cast of eccentric and loveable characters, Thousand Arms is one of those games that sadly fell under the radar back in 1999 and deserved better. It’s definitely got its flaws, but the point of this piece is to highlight underrated and/or obscure PSX games with a cult following and Thousand Arms definitely falls under both.
Game #10: Clock Tower
Developer: Human Entertainment
Genre: Adventure/Survival Horror
Release Date: 10/1/1997
If you’ve been reading Diehard GameFAN at any time over the past eight years, then you know we’re all mighty big fans of Clock Tower, which is actually Clock Tower II as the original SNES game never made it stateside (But said game is hopefully coming to the Virtual Console as Clock Tower: The First Fear since it hit the Japanese Wii roughly a month ago.) We’ve talked about it in numerous other features including using Scissorman to kick off, 31 Days of Gaming Terror and the franchise even earned one of our old S4 columns. It’s my second favorite survival horror game of all time (You’ll see the first later on…) and it showed just how a point and click game SHOULD be done on the PSX rather than all those other games that came before and after Clock Tower
The plot is simple. You play as Jennifer, the sole survivor of a series of incidents at Barrows Mansion where your friends were horribly massacred by an unstoppable killer known as the Scissorman. It is now one year later and Jennifer is receiving psychiatric help for her post traumatic stress in Oslo, Norway. When Scissorman style killings start to happen again, along with the emergence of a second survivor of the serial killings, it’s up to Jennifer and Helen Maxwell to figure out if Scissorsman survived, if it is a copycat killer, or something else.
Much like with Echo Night, I love that you can’t defeat Scissorman directly. He is an unstoppable killing machine and all you can do is run, hide, and pray like hell he doesn’t find you. The great thing is that the AI of Scissorman learns from your play style. This means if you choose the same spot to hide repeatedly, he will eventually figure out where you hide and find you, leaving you trapped and prime for a horrible death. When you hear that music start playing, I don’t care who you are, you will tense up and starting muttering profanity under your breath. Scissorman is one of the creepiest, evilest, and scariest villains in video game history and his story (at least the one in English) needs to be experienced. I’ll admit the point and click gameplay is more akin to a PC gamer’s preferences, but the sheer thrill of trying to hide from a relentless creature that just wants to stab you with a giant pair of scissors and knowing it can outsmart you is reward enough to keep playing. Who will make it through this game of murder alive? Hopefully you…
Game #11: RPG Maker
Developer: Kuusou Kagaku
Genre: RPG Creator
Release Date: 10/2/2000
The RPG Maker series is still alive and well on the PC, but back in 2000 when it first hit the PSX, people were excited. You had the opportunity to make your own 2D 8-Bit RPGs! I remember I was fresh out of college and would talk to then Diehard GameFAN employees Eggo and Kodomo about trying to start a way for DHGF readers to exchange homemade games with each other. Of course the original mag folded soon after and I discovered that the game didn’t sell that well and that the vast majority of those that did buy the game never actually finished their RPGs due to the time it took to make one and the fact the game took up a whole memory card. I finished mine, which was an RPG based on the old e-fed I was in at the time and it included all the characters my friends and I had created. Unfortunately, no one else in the fed bought the game so that they could play it. Arrgh. Later on I had made a Vampire: The Masquerade game with it, but again, I didn’t know anyone else that still had RPG Maker and I didn’t want to put it online for fear of being hit with a lawsuit, even though I did some freelancing for White Wolf at the time.
What’s great about the original RPG Maker is that there were so many options open to you. You could design your own classes, write a full story and have it unfold before you and your friend’s eyes. You could even make your own sprites! This was pretty heavy stuff for the average gamer without a programming degree and I loved it. Most importantly is that the music in the game was pretty good, which was a godsend considering you’d have to put almost as many hours into RPG Maker as you would an actual RPG you were playing through. It was a pretty intense but rewarding experience. Thankfully if you want to flex your designer chops and make the retrogame you always wanted to play yourself, you can pick up RPG Maker pretty cheaply and see if it’s worth the time and effort after all those hours logged on a message board complaining about how bad a job the designers did on Game X.
Game #12: Hellnight
Genre: Survival Horror
Release Date: 12/30/1999
Hellnight, also known as Dark Messiah in Japan, is my favorite survival horror game of all time. There has never been a game that so successfully simulates what it is like to run for your life from a monstrous murder machine. It’s got one of the most surreal and engrossing stories I’ve ever encountered in a video game and although the graphics border on terrible, the experience is so all-encompassing and sublime that you can easily forget how ugly the game is once you start playing. I should also point out that although the game is in English, it was never released stateside, which has to be some crime against gamers everywhere. No worries though, you can import the UK/European edition for less than ten dollars these days. Long time readers know I’ve been praising this game since late 2002 when I first started in gaming journalism so I’ll be brief here. Otherwise you can read my multi-page tribute to the game under our piece from “31 Days of Gaming Terror” entitled “Our Favorite Horror Games.”
Hellnight, or at least part of the story synopsis comes from a poison gas (specifically Sarin) attack orchestrated by a cult on the Tokyo subway system on March 30th, 1995. This particular cult was named, “The Aum Supreme Truth.”Â The sarin gas was released onto five trains of three different subway lines, killing twelve and injuring 5,500 others. This attack was a wakeup call to the world at large, who at that time believed Japan to be nearly crime-free, aside from the occasional antiestablishment attack. It’s easy to see some of the parallels behind the real life subway attack and the religious cult/subway attack in Hellnight, although from that opening the similarities end.
Hellnight is a very bizarre game. It is surreal, and it exists to put a gamer in a situation of pure adrenaline and terror. It is wonderful in its simplistic gameplay but amazingly rich story. Very few gamers have even heard of this title, and you can count the number of professional reviews of the game on one hand. Although the game remains one of the most obscure titles in all of video gaming, it still remains one of the greatest. It’s not for everyone, as most gamers have been reduced to the idiocy of, “Must kill things with my controller.”Â It is long, it is hard, and often times you can go twenty minutes with just walking. That’s it. Just walking. But this is what makes the game so wonderful. No other game even comes this close to simulating what an actual survival horror experience would be like. As weird as it is to type, Hellnight, even with its underground dwelling monster of doom and its very intricate plot, is the most realistic horror game ever. Hell, it’s one of the most realistic simulations of any genre.
Get it. Experience it. SURVIVE it. If you can…
Game #13: Muppet Monster Adventure
Developer: Magenta Software
Genre: 3-D Platformer
Release Date: 10/20/2000
Today Magenta Software is probably best known for their Buzz! Junior games, but a decade ago, they put out a very weird but very fun licensed platformer that received rather positive reviews across the board and on both sides of the Atlantic. I’ll admit platformers are my least favorite gaming genre ever, and so the fact I can recommend Muppet Monster Adventure is rather telling indeed. Now I know what you’re thinking. “A licensed platformer? Those are ALWAYS awful!” Well, Muppet Monster Adventure proves this theory wrong.
The game’s plot is fairly simple. The Muppet gang goes to the ancestral home of Bunsen Honeydew only to be transformed into monsters via the evil energy surrounding the mansion. Only Robin, Beaker, Bunsen, and Pepe were left untouched. Honeydew and Beaker equip Robin with devices to save their friends and off he goes through a 3-D platformer romp, collecting Muppet tokens, gaining new powers and engaging in boss battles with his friends-turned-monsters. You have Fozzy Werebear, Gonzo as a Nosferatu, and Kermit as the Frankenstein Monster. It’s all very cute and it’s a platformer than parents and children alike can enjoy.
What’s nice is that all the voice actors for the Muppets at that time voiced their characters and there’s a lot of voice acting throughout the game. The cut scenes are also really well and still hold up to this day. Considering Magenta is basically a second party developer for Sony these days, I’m surprised this hasn’t hit the PSN as a PSOne Classic. If you’re looking for a nice, cheap under the radar platformer for the PSX, you can’t do much better than Muppet Monster Adventure.
Game #14: Intelligent Qube
Release Date: 09/30/1997
Intelligent Qube was a smash hit in Japan, spawning several sequels and a listing as a PSOne Classic on the Japanese PSN. Here in the US it received positive reviews…but low sales. I guess puzzle games weren’t too popular in 1997. Of course, only a few publications reviewed IQ at the time, all pretty much magazines save for the lone videogames.com (now Gamespot). Remember when there weren’t a lot of reviews for a game on the Internet? It’s a pretty weird game and the graphics are pretty outdated, but for the puzzle minded gamer, Intelligent Qube is a must play.
There’s no real plot. You basically control a character who may remind you of Sisyphus by the time the game is done. Each level consists of a large grid of blocks. Some blocks will be raised and will then slowly advance upon the player. You’ll have to clear blocks by marking bits of the stage with a blue light. When the block hits the blue light, it is destroyed. The goal is to clear each wave of blocks that comes at you in a level, before you are either knocked off the stage or crushed by the blocks. Grey blocks can be cleared normally, green cubes destroy all other blocks in a 3×3 area around them once cleared and black blocks are ones that you need to let fall off the stage rather than clearing them. It’s a little more complicated than my description, but it’s definitely a game that is as fun and addicting as it is weird.
It’ll be interesting to see if this ever comes to the PSN store here in the US> God knows Japan’s PSOne classics are far more numerous. They get stuff like this and Brigandine and we get…A Bug’s Life. What the heck Sony?
Game #15: Arc the Lad Collection
Publisher: Working Designs
Release Date: 04/18/2002
I designed to end this feature with AtLC for several reasons. First of all, it’s considered to be the last truly good PSX release that wasn’t a remake or re-release. It would also be the closest thing to a success for Working Designs in terms of sales until the company shut its doors in late 2005. It’s also telling that even though the Arc the Lad sold exceptionally well in Japan and was arguably Sony’s biggest franchise on the PSOne…they never brought it over to North American or European audiences. Instead, much like Demon’s Souls, Sony left it to another company to localize the game for Western audiences and then had to eat crow as the title received rave reviews (save from EGM who hated it for some reason…possibly because they were Sony’s lapdog at this point) and won awards. Deservedly enough Arc IV and V were brought stateside by Sony..and they bombed. Whoops.
What helps AtLC make it onto this list is that you’re getting four games in one collection, along with all the neat bonus items Working Designs through in at the time. You can find the collection used for about $39.99 these days, or ten dollars a game. That’s an incredible deal and well worth tracking down. The collection contains Arc the Lad I, II, III and Arc Arena: Monster Tournament. There’s also a documentary disc (the first third of which is the YouTube video for this section), a 150 page hardcover instruction booklet and some analog stick covers. Working Designs went all out with this collection and it shows. Younger gamers probably won’t remember the many many MANY delays this game went through before it was finally released. I remember it being delayed for roughly a year and a half from the original scheduled release date, but this was fairly common for Working Designs titles, and it only served to whip their loyal fans into a frenzy for when it finally was released.
Each of the Arc the Lad games is a tactical RPG and there is an amazing amount of continuity between the titles. The music is excellent, the characters are memorable and it’s a shame the fourth and fifth games in the series neither met the quality levels of the Arc the Lad Collection nor the sales figures, causing the series to die a pretty unmemorable death. Sure Sony crapped the series out in the PS2 generation, and most of today’s gamers either don’t remember the Arc the Lad or haven’t played the titles, but this last PSX release from Working Designs is worth finding, purchasing and most of all, PLAYING.
There we go. Fifteen years of the Sony Playstation aka the PSX aka the PSOne, along with fifteen fun games that might have missed your radar the first time around due to your age, the lack of marketing budget by the publisher, or the lack of media attention. All fifteen are definitely underrated games and really highlight how the PSX offered more than the big budget releases that most gamers first think of. Feel free to talk about these games below or even list some of your own favorite forgotten titles from the PSX era. I’d love to hear about them.