1993 marked the start of the coveted Fifth Generation in Video Gaming, before being overtaken by the legendary Sixth Generation in 1998, and officially retiring in 2006.
Shifting from pseudo-3D graphics to fully realized 3D worlds (among other noteworthy achievements), the Fifth Generation started a legacy that has failed to stop. One of the major contributors in this Era was Sony’s PlayStation.
Released on December 4th 1994, the PlayStation was destined to become a fan favorite even before reaching the drawing board. The release of this console gave gamers something new to hook their idiotbox to, and a new rival to Sega and Nintendo – the pioneers and dominators of the previous Eras – and gaming in general.
As one of the top three console available on the market, the PlayStation quickly bested its rivals – the Sega Saturn and the Nintendo 64 – and established itself as the de facto leader of the Generation.
Since the PlayStation was also chiefly targeted at a much older audience (as opposed to Sega and Nintendo who, more or less, kept their following young), the PlayStation was able to reach a much wider audience; with many games released for the console spawning countless sequels and a dedicated cult following for a fair few, even acquiring its own mascots in the shapes of Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, and Sir Daniel Fortesque; who, though never quite reaching the ubiquitous heights of Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Donkey Kong, are just as lovable and remain permanent fixtures in the industry.
The success of the console led Sony to release a follow-up, the PlayStation 2, in the year 2000, to even more critical and commercial success. Following the path, Sony added the PlayStation Portable in 2004, the PlayStation 3 in 2006, and the PlayStation 4 in 2013, to the ever-growing family. The newest addition, the PlayStation 5, is just mere months away from being released (at the time of writing).
Though each received varying critical and commercial reception, one thing has always been clear: whether Sony is facing off against Nintendo, Microsoft, Sega, or *ahem*, SouljaGame, it has always answered back with a powerful system worthy of more than just attention. True, the others reciprocated with even more robust consoles and innovative features, none have achieved in knocking Sony out of the ball park.
The original controller conceived for the PlayStation was nothing more than a modified SNES controller with an extra pair of shoulder buttons and grip holders. Elephant grey in color, the controller was light and easy to use. The design and the different colored action buttons would go on to define the PlayStation and would come to be known as the signature of the series’.
Sometimes all you need to see is the blue X or the green Triangle and you know the PlayStation is lurking somewhere in sight.
But yet there was something missing. Something big. Something the Louvre Museum without Mona Lisa big. With the 3D on the rise, as well as manually operational in-game cameras, Sony knew they had to come up with a feature that would allow the player to control the camera and engage in the action simultaneously. The answer came in the form of a stick. Two of them, to be precise.
Released in 1998, the new and improved PlayStation controller, the DualShock, hit the right chord – bringing a new method of playing games – and satisfied fans the world over. Unlike its immediate predecessor, the Dual Analog Controller, which had an impressed surface on either stick, the dual sticks in DualShock were round and rubber gripped, giving more efficiency. Also, the grip holders were longer, perfectly angled that you could use the dual sticks with your thumbs with ease.
Still elephant grey in color in its original release, they also came in dark grey, black, and transparent blue. Third-party releases included a see-through orange with black buttons and an opaque pink with light grey buttons.
Though the third-party unofficial controllers don’t harm the system, they’re not recognized as official but are still fun to collect, seeing the different colors they appear in. They can also be customized to match with your current favorite game or series.
If we were to take the other definition of the word, then there can be no doubt that Reiko Nagase is the official lady mascot of the PlayStation.
She appears in several Ridge Racer installments of racing games – one of the best series on the PlayStation – as a grid girl.
However, the use of the word in this context refers to the internal and external aspects of the different models that were released worldwide. Though many differ only so slightly in terms of chips, graphics, and circuits, there have been only two externally radically different designs overall.
The first and original resembled a square shoe box. Despite appearing to be bulky and heavy, in reality it doesn’t weigh much. In fact it is surprisingly light. This model has two large buttons on either side of the CD tray and one smaller button on the left. This one is the reset button. The other two are power-on and open CD tray.
The PAL variants have text on the buttons instead of symbols, which is present in the NTSC versions. Once again, just as how it is with the controller, the color scheme is grey – though customizing is possible.
In 2000, six years after the release of the shoe box, Sony revealed a new and re-engineered model. This time it resembled a perfectly curved scrambled egg. Called the PSOne, this model is smaller in size. In fact, it is only a few centimeters bigger than a standard-sized book.
This time around there are only two buttons on the console, the power-on button and the CD tray one. The reset button has been merged with the power-on button. So basically, if your game freezes, you have to switch off the console and then power it on; something that doesn’t pose much of a problem, truth be told.
Another change that was observed was its color scheme of both the console and the controller. Abandoning elephant grey for ceramic white, this color scheme was more easier to the eye and gave off a cheerful air, as though the console was more eager to play the games than you were.
I bought my “model 2”, the PSOne, in the year 2000, hot off the shelves straight from the Sony HQ in Muscat, Oman. At around 115 riyals, the price was reasonable enough. For those comfortable with dollars, this equals to $299.99. My PSOne came with a free controller and a memory card but with no game. I don’t exactly remember what my first game on the console was, but I’m pretty sure it was the original Medal of Honor.
After storing countless memories on various 1MB memory cards and having some of the most happiest memories I can think up of – one of which is detailed below if you care to read it – it was time to retire and climb up one rung on the ladder; enter the PlayStation 2.
When this bad boy entered my life, I gave my PSOne to my (then) young cousins; who then proceeded to break it apart in two in just a week. I’m dead serious.
I never thought it possible to cause any kind of damage on the ferrite bead of the controller, but my cousins did the impossible. The CD tray was ripped off, my 90+ collection of CD’s was reduced to no more than 20-25, one of the controllers – a translucent blue – was cracked, with one of the dual sticks taken out. And the wires… oh, don’t get me started on them. To spare you the horror, the best I can say is that they were covered from top to bottom in electric tape for fear of a shock.
I repeat: I’m dead serious.
Quite a-while ago, someone was selling his PlayStation and PlayStation 2, with a bunch of games, EyeToy for the latter, and Light Guns for the former. I was particularly interested in the former – the model 1, or the shoe box.
I don’t know why, but I always wanted to own that particular model, so for about 20 riyals I bought the whole lot. That’s about $51.25.
Talk about a bargain, eh?
MY FAVORITE MEMORY
Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of the Super Heroes is a superb crossover fighting and one of the finest from 90’s gaming. As the name implies, familiar characters from the more famous titles of Capcom and the Marvel universe clash and collide – and occasionally join forces as allies.
Each character is beautifully animated. Characters like Hulk and Venom are wonderfully detailed; their sinews and popping veins standing out like no other. When the green rage-monster moves, aggression and force can be felt at every step; likewise with the symbiote, whose slimy nature is fluid and precise. The energetic, detailed sprites not only give life and energy to the characters, but also to the whole “I’m just here to win” attitude that is so prevalent with such fighters. I haven’t played a more energetic, electrifying and awesome game as Clash of the Super Heroes.
With that being said, a particular memory that I hold close to my heart comes to mind, which I would like to share it with you:
Back in 2003 when I was in the 4th grade, my school held a fundraiser for the hurricane victims in Sri Lanka. Since there were no limitations as to what one could do to participate and donate, I and a couple of my friends decided that we would use my TV and PlayStation (since I lived practically next door to the school) to accept donations.
Our idea was to charge a small fee per game for a limited play-time (500 baisa for 30 minutes; 1 riyal for 60 minutes); with the money incurred going to the fundraiser. At the end of the day, we managed to accumulate round 15 riyals (roughly $40). Though this wasn’t very much – even at the time – it was a major effort for a couple of ten year olds.
When the fundraiser time was drawing to a close, and with the crowd thinning every passing hour, my friends and I decided to stick round and play games to our liking. The one game we all agreed on was Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of the Super Heroes: a favorite across the classroom.
For the next couple of hours or so – well into midnight – I and four of my friends took turns to whip the virtual asses out of each other. No alliances mind you, only enemies. At every successful victory, the victorious would retain his position, while the defeated would get rotated to the other person, and so on. What makes this particular memory such a happy one, is it was the first time I was engaging in multi-player co-operative style of playing I had only heard about in magazines and online forums.
Our playful, hushed swearing, attempts at distracting the other player, and screeching reminders to use the combo attack are all what stick vividly in my mind. Anyone who has ever engaged in multi-player combat with their friends – especially when it gets loud and chaotic – will know the feeling. It’s one of those memories that etches itself permanently in your brain.
Though I’m not at all close to my classmates now, and it’s been decades since I last touched my PlayStation, this particular highlight stands out among the rest when I think back of school. Whenever I’m having an off day or just want to think about a time where innocence reigned supreme, I often invariably go back to this moment… a moment where we acted good for a cause and kicked each other’s asses.
The PlayStation 1 boasts an impressive library of games that is at once versatile, with defining titles from practically every genre. Several of the launch titles became an instant hit and the immediate success enjoyed by many led to numerous sequels and spin-offs.
Rayman by Ubisoft marked his first appearance on this console, though it was originally designed for the poorly received Atari Jaguar. Rayman was very well-received and the console was blessed with three sequels, with the immediate sequel, Rayman 2: The Great Escape, being one of PlayStation greatest games.
Popular arcade hits like Tekken were successfully ported onto the console to even more acclaim, spawning an ongoing series that is still being cited as an influence by contemporary developers and designers. The racing genre found a new abode, and the console enjoyed a wide and varied range of racers from Need for Speed to Gran Turismo to Ridge Racer to Test Drive.
The tail-end of the 90’s was the golden era for the console. Legendary titles such as Tomb Raider, Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Tekken 3, Metal Gear Solid, Twisted Metal, Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy VIII, Ape Escape, and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night all made their first appearance on this console and are closely associated with it.
Most of the aforementioned games have been ported to other platforms – and with improved quality – but for most of us, it was on the PlayStation that we enjoyed them first.
One of my favorite genres, the first-person shooter (FPS), didn’t exactly embrace the console with open arms, with only a handful of good FPS’s to speak about.
The progenitor of the WWII FPS sub-genre, Medal of Honor, remains the best ever FPS to ever grace the PlayStation 1. True, Quake II was also a tremendous success, but the PC version is what everyone remembers the best (and maybe perhaps the N64 port, too). If you were to take out the ‘shooter’ part, then Myst and Riven were also very good ports. Other titles – namely Doom, Duke Nukem, and The Stygian Abyss – also got ports and received varying degrees of feedback, but it’s their original PC / DOS versions that remain the best.
In terms of pioneering or originating a genre, the PlayStation has had quite a few. The survival-horror genre had already existed since the age of Atari 2600 and SNES; but it was through the combined successes of Resident Evil and Silent Hill that the ‘true’ blueprint of the genre was laid out: one that is still being followed to this day.
The stealth genre, along with dramatic, cinematic cutscenes and symphonic music, was single-handedly invented by Metal Gear Solid: considered by many to be just about the greatest game ever to be released on the console.
In the role-playing game genre (RPGs), all the Final Fantasy games are considered as not only some of the best in the genre, but as also some of the best the industry has to offer. The most cited instalment is Final Fantasy VII. Known for changing the blueprint of the genre completely, it features a death of a prominent character so shocking and saddening that it changed people’s perceptions on video games forever; and is almost universally declared as an apex point of art, expression, narrative, and emotion in video games.
The impressive capabilities of the console meant that 3D titles and FMV-heavy games could finally be given ample of elbow room to show-off their potential. Unfortunately, as it goes in the world of technology and innovation, most games have now aged rather badly.
In an age of realistic graphics and cinema-like quality, games like Tekken 3 and Bushido Blade are jarring to look at, what with all the polygons and edges going around in frenzy circles. One of my all-time favorite games in the world, Colin McRae Rally, now looks like a hodgepodge of porridge.
But I cannot harp on the now-outdated visual fidelity too much. Graphics alone do not a good game make. Did Colossal Cave Adventure have graphics? No, nothing but text, but yet it is still one of the most popular and groundbreaking titles ever made. Playing as the The Rock in all his glory in WWF Smackdown 2: Know Your Role was a fan-favorite of everyone back in the day. His misshapen, pixelated nose stands testament to how far we’ve come in visual quality.
But misshapen nose or not, Spidey’s point butt in Spider-Man 2000 or not, these games are still as enjoyable as they were when they first came out. In fact, I dare say they’re more entertaining than most contemporary games, simply because of the fact the developers took extra time to balance the look and feel of the game. Nostalgia and a certain respectful regard for vintage graphics also adds to the charm.
Yes, I respect my elders.