For those who know me well, that title alone may come as quite a shock. Being a huge fan of flagship NES titles like Ghosts ‘n Goblins and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, only to be followed up by SNES whoppers like Super Metroid and Super Mario All-Stars, it would almost come as a no-brainer that I’d make the natural progression to the N64, right? Even more so after a neighbor kid showed off his shiny new console replete with the totally awesome Super Mario 64? Surely I’d be hooked?! Nah.
That’s not to say that I didn’t make up for lost time later, but both my brother and I were pining for something different. The N64 had the familiar cartridge format, but for some reason decided that it was a good idea to remove the top labels. This was a crucial feature for our limited shelf space, where my brother and I had to share a bedroom for the majority of our childhood. Plus, there was talk on the schoolyard about the awesome games and franchises being released on an almost mythical console from a new entrant: The Sony PlayStation.
Knowing absolutely nothing about the rift between Nintendo and Sony until years later, my brother feverishly mowed lawns in an effort to buy a used PS1. Luckily for us, our stepmother worked in a pawn shop and had a few available because that’s what always happens after a new game or console release. Pawn shops were where high value, recently released electronics washed up before the days of Craigslist, but for a couple of broke-ass gamers who couldn’t work for a legal wage just yet, it was a shiny beacon that we were drawn towards like a couple of cracked out moths.
When he finally got his hands on a console, he quickly found out that games are expensive. Another predictable glut of mowing lawns would follow soon after, but for now, we sated our curiosity of this new and strange console that used CDs through rentals at our local spots. Our area had about three small stores to pick from before Hollywood Video and Blockbuster swooped in and crushed them all (only to later fall victim to Netflix), and were all delightfully stocked with games that Nintendo would deem too risque for their family-friendly brand.
What followed could only be classified as a gluttonous orgy of audiovisual assault that would span almost an entire decade, so what set it off? Well…
Wanting to start our journey into the PS1’s already sizable library in the most gruesome way possible, we both agreed on Clock Tower and Project Overkill as our inaugural PS1 titles. Even better, the clerk didn’t see any problems with issuing two games that prominently feature blood and marked “M” for Mature to a couple of punk kids with a handful of change. What assaulted our eyes and ears was beyond anything we had experienced up until that point. Sure, it was implied in Super Mario Bros. that all of the Goombas and Koopas die after getting stomped or kicked, but in these games, you not only see the onscreen characters die, but also see their blood and innards get spilled like so much Diet Coke. In fact, Clock Tower proved to be such a disarming psychological thrill ride that we returned it early, but then proceeded to talk about nothing but for the next 2 weeks until we finally bought it. I even gushed about it in one of the first articles I’ve ever written, back when I didn’t know a damn thing about blogging!
As time wore on, our stepmother would bring home other titles that not only tossed the gaming industry on its head, but cemented my newfound loyalty, such as Crash Bandicoot, Final Fantasy VII – IX, Spyro the Dragon, Resident Evil 1-3 and Grand Theft Auto. What I enjoy most about Sony’s early forays into the console biz is their fresh perspective. The PS1 forswore firmly entrenched cartridge media in favor of CD-ROM and proved itself a force to be reckoned with even after being spurned by the mighty Nintendo, specifically Hiroshi Yamauchi, in a power move that deprived the world of the SNES-CD but kicked up the fervor of the 4th Generation Console Wars.
Even developers formally loyal to Nintendo began jumping ship to Sony, notably Square Enix (the company formerly known as Squaresoft) and Konami, the latter of which released over 50 titles for the PS1 and only 13 for the N64. Lower production costs and flexibility made the PS1 a much more attractive console to develop for than the N64. Nintendo’s decision to continue with proprietary cartridges cited “longer load times” and durability issues, but was widely speculated to only be focused on copy protection. It is widely believed and speculated on that Nintendo’s reluctance to embrace this new technology may have even hurt their relationships with developers, a problem that could still be going on today.
So what did all of this deep biz mumbo jumbo mean to a punk kid like me? Absolutely nothing! Before being blighted by knowledge and the real world, I knew what a good game looked and felt like, and Sony’s PS1 had the goods. Yeah, it was cool to play my neighbor’s N64 when the mood struck (I was never a big fan of the controller), but when I truly wanted to get my game on in the 90’s, I’d look no further than my brother’s PS1. It remained our go-to until I moved out and later bought Sony’s next entrant, the Playstation 2, which not only allowed me to play my PS1 favorites I’d bought over the years, but also the face-meltingly awesome PS2 exclusives that were coming out at a seemingly astronomical rate.
So what did the PS1 do for me? It made me realize that even though Nintendo is awesome, good games can be found anywhere, and it’s an attitude that I carry to this day! Just don’t forget to back those Playstation games up for when they inevitably fail.
As of the writing of this article, I’ve only covered my NES collection, but as you’ll see, one thing remains clear: good games can be found everywhere, and I can thank Sony and their original Playstation for showing me the light. Lumpz the Clown OUT!