It was normal to be skeptical of Sony's PlayStation. Here you had a company best known for generic 2D movie games, like Hook and The 3 Ninjas Kick Back. How on
You Better Be Ready: To this day there are gamers who haven't cracked Sony's cryptic ad campaign!
on earth did this clueless company stand a chance against industry giants like Sega and Nintendo? Fifteen years ago it looked like the PlayStation was dead on arrival.
But a funny thing happened on the way to September 9, 1995. Instead of getting slaughtered by the industry veterans, Sony proved that they had been paying closer attention than their competition had realized. Sony won that early rounds by targeting older gamers who felt their interests weren't being served by family-friendly Nintendo. They introduced the world to a slew of must-own games of all genres, from fighting to racing. They successfully brokered deals with the biggest publishers in the world, including both Electronic Arts and Square. Sony clearly had what it takes. But don't feel if you didn't see their overwhelming success coming, most game journalists dropped the ball in the lead up to 1995.
Today marks the fifteenth anniversary of the Sony PlayStation, a milestone that needs to be celebrated. Without the PlayStation we might not have Resident Evil, God of War and Grand Theft Auto. To help ring in this festive occasion, Defunct Games is proud to go one-on-one with the PlayStation's launch line-up. Take a trip back to 1995 with us as we look at the quality of the earliest PlayStation games. This is Defunct Games vs. PlayStation Launch. FIGHT!!
Nintendo had Mario, Sega had Sonic and Sony had ... Sophia? Okay, so maybe a whip-carrying dominatrix is not as family friendly as Sonic or Mario, but that's the mascot Sony went with when they released their very first home console. Battle Arena Toshinden is the one and only 3D fighting game released at the PlayStation's launch, put up against Sega's Virtua Fighter as the sacrificial lamb. As early generation 3D fighting games go, Toshinden isn't half bad. The characters are forgettable and the graphics are laughably bad by today's standard, but there's a certain charm to this series that I always liked. For one thing, this game introduced weapons, an aspect completely glossed over Virtua Fighter. Of course, with a number of sequels on the market and better fighting games available, there's really no reason to go back and suffer through the rush job that is Battle Arena Toshinden. But trust me, compared to some of the 32-bit fighting games to come, Toshinden is a small triumph worth celebrating.
ESPN Extreme Games
[ Release: 1995 - Company: Sony - Genre: Racing ]
By 1995 everything in life was pretty extreme. The soda we drank was extreme, commercials yelled in our faces about their extreme deodorant and even that crappy band Extreme had a hit album. No wonder Sony decided to team up with ESPN to release Extreme Games. Unfortunately, this is not based on the long-running X Games, which also launched in 1995. Instead this is a crummy "racing" game where you skate downhill punching, kicking and steering your way through colored gates. ESPN Extreme Games is the joyless version of Road Rash, a game actually worse than EA's Skitchin'. In order to beat the extreme levels, players are forced to fight their competition. This would be fine if the combat mechanic was well thought-out, but alas your punches are too short and your legs are downright useless. The game pretends to offer variety by giving you the option between four extreme modes -- skateboards, street luge, mountain biking and rollerblades. Sadly, these four modes feel nearly identical. All this is topped off by lackluster levels, ugly scaling and gameplay that felt outdated even then. There was no good reason to play this extremely awful game back in 1995, and even less of a reason to play it now.
Now here's a novel idea: Instead of trying to avoid other racers, players attempt to dismantle the competition. This is Destruction Derby, the potent mixture of Ridge Racer and a county fair. Racing fans take control of a warn-out, banged-up pile of scraps and compete against a group of similarly minded fools. Destruction Derby supports a number of traditional races, plus an all-out demolition derby where car parts will litter the arena. The gameplay is simple and the modes are as basic as they come, but there's something primal about smashing up other cars. Even as a single player game (which is how most people will experience Destruction Derby), it manages to be different enough to draw your attention from the painful Ridge Racer port. Destruction Derby may not be PlayStation's best racing game, but that's not going to keep racing junkies from having a bang-up time.
As far as I'm concerned, Jumping Flash! is the best thing about the Sony PlayStation launch. While everybody was looking for the next great platformer, Robbit (a half-rabbit, half-robot creature) was hiding in the shadows. Played entirely from a first-person perspective (a novel idea in 1995), Jumping Flash requires players to navigate increasingly complicated platforming challenges while avoiding Hawaiian-themed bad guys. The tropical setting, strange science-fiction plot and eccentric bad guy all makes this one of the most enjoyable action games on the PlayStation, leading to an equally entertaining sequel. Best of all, this concept still manages to feels fresh. This one of those rare occasions when a developer fully understood what they needed to do and actually did it, all the more impressive considering the complexities of programming in 3D. Thanks to some criminal mismanaging by Sony, these days nobody remembers Jumping Flash. And that's a shame.
Kileak - The DNA Imperative
[ Release: 1995 - Company: Sony - Genre: Action ]
What would a game console launch be without a terrible first-person shooter to make fun of? Welcome Kileak - The DNA Imperative, widely considered one of the worst first-generation PlayStation games. And you don't have to take random stranger's word for it, even the developers behind the game agree that it's the worst thing they ever worked on. Going back to it fifteen years later I was surprised that it wasn't nearly as bad as I remember, but it's still not something I would spend even a dollar on. The problems with this game are obvious right from the get-go. The maze world you find yourself stuck in is uninteresting and full of repeating textures. It's also needlessly complicated, what with you having to worry about your bullets, battery life and shields. But the whole thing falls apart when you attempt to fight your way through this shooter with the standard D-pad and face buttons. With no compelling reason to keep going and levels that will slowly drive one insane, Kileak - The DNA Imperative is a terrible experience that should be avoided at all cost.