Games of My Youth V -- PSX

The final installment of my series, featuring an RPG-loaded look at the Playstation.
November 14, 2007
Games of My Youth: Part V -- Playstation

In the year of 1995, Sony released its video game console, the Playstation. The disk-based system was greeted with unprecedented success -- it went on to sell over 100 million units!

Fresh off the my SNES, I was ready for a new challenge: I was ready to delve into third-generation* gaming.

* the "third-generation" is by my own standards. I consider the NES era the first-generation, the SNES/Genesis era the second-generation, and the N64/Playstation era the third; technically, to be historically accurate, this was, in actuality, the fifth generation of game consoles; with that said, I wasn't even alive for the first two, so they don"t even exist in my book.


Sony Playstation debuted at a whopping $300 in 1995; that was too steep of a price for my parents to pay, especially when it was for a kid that was only nine years old. I remember I once asked for a Playstation around the time it came out, and my mom laughed in my face; simply put, it wasn"t going to happen.

A few years later, after some price drops and some maturation on my part, my asking for a Playstation seemed a lot more practical. I remember a month or so before Christmas, I drew up this "advertisement" for a Playstation. It had a big picture of a Playstation plastered in the center, and around the perimeter of the image in flashy colors were phrases like, "it doubles as a CD player!," and, "it"s only $199!," and, "it's gray, not black!" (The last phrase was thrown in because my mother had initially had it confused with the Saturn or something like that).

Fortunately for me, my ad campaign worked. I woke up one Christmas morning and found that a Playstation was waiting for me under my tree. I eventually broke my Playstation, and actually got a second one a couple years later. I convinced them the "Dual Shock" version of the Playstation was a souped-up version of the original (though in reality, the changes were pretty trivial).

Memorable Games:

Final Fantasy VII
The ad campaign for this game was unprecedented. I remember seeing trailers for it, and being left in awe. Before I received my Playstation as a Christmas gift, I rented the console and Final Fantasy VII from a local video store because of how influential those commercials were.

Despite being released over 10 years ago, it still has unfathomable popularity, and with good reason. This was hands-down the most captivating, cinematic experience I had ever had while playing a video game.

This game was truly epic.

Random Memory:
It dawned on me how truly massive this game was when I finally left Midgar. I was in utter shock that a world map actually existed, due to the fact that you can"t access until hours and hours into the game.

Azure Dreams
A few of the titles on my Playstation list will be head-scratchers for some of you; Azure Dreams is the first of these games. It saw its debut in 1998 under the direction of Konami.

Azure Dreams was very unique. The action in this game only took place in two small areas: a town, and inside a tower. Inside the tower you ran around with a monster companion and tried to scale your way up all 40 floors; the tower has some really unique aspects to it, but I"ll skip those for brevity"s sake. You were also able to fund add-on"s for your town, and also pursue love interests. The monster system had a Pokemon-ish feel to it.

Random Memory:
I rented this game, and thought it was trash the first few times I played it. I eventually gave it another shot, and, to my surprise, it became one of my favorite underdog games ever.

SaGa Frontier
Probably another head-scratcher for most; SaGa Frontier was, on the whole, not really well-received. Most people disliked it. It was very non-linear; so open-ended, in fact, that it frustrated a lot of people and turned them away from it.

I personally liked the freedom associated with the game. Not only did you have seven different scenarios to choose from, you also had a really innovative battle system with some awesome combo capabilities; furthermore, the game also boasted tons of characters to recruit, as well dozens and dozens of hours of gameplay.

Random Memory:
T260G, a robot main character, was the first scenario I decided to play through the first time I rented this game. As a result, he remains arguably my favorite character in the game.

Final Fantasy IX
After taking (in my opinion) a step in the wrong direction with "Final Fantasy VIII," Square redeemed themselves with their ninth installment in the series by taking a more classical approach; in other words, they took a 180 from FFVIII's dark, realistic look, and reverted to a more cutesy, vintage Final Fantasy appearance.

Final Fantasy IX was really enjoyable for me. The story wasn"t necessarily memorable for me (I can"t really remember what it was about), but I do know that I had a blast playing through it. At the time of this writing, this stands as the last Final Fantasy installment that I enjoyed (X and beyond suck, in my opinion).

Random Memory:
Final Fantasy IX had a really addicting chocobo mini-game; you got points for digging up things from the ground. I remember putting the song Jimmy Eat World - "The Middle" on repeat and playing this mini-game over and over again until I received enough points to exchange them for valuable prizes.

Solid graphics and a good story set the tone for a pretty good game. What really interested me, though, was the ability for you to recruit 108 members to your party! This really gave the game a lot of replay value, and provided you with a lot of incentive to talk to people and explore.

Random Memory:
Suikoden featured a "war" system a few times throughout the game. Basically, two huge armies would go at it against each other. You serve as a general, and basically decide what type of attack you'd like to launch; it essentially turns into a game of rock-paper-scissors.

Star Ocean: The Second Story
Star Ocean: The Second Story is one of the most complex games you"ll ever play. The systems surrounding your skills and the development that goes along with them are complicated, to the point that a genuine understanding almost requires a FAQ/guide. The real-time action battle system was pretty novel; this whole game has a really solid, polished feel to it. I especially liked the pre-rendered backgrounds -- I thought they looked fantastic.

Random Memory:
I somehow found this game in the bargain bin at K-Mart. My mom and I were shopping there five years ago or so, and it was marked down to $20; I"m very fortunate she bought it for me, because it"s a very impressive game.

Breath of Fire III
I think this game is, generally-speaking, underrated. While the graphical style was simple, I loved it; it had a lot of vibrant colors, and was visually appealing. The game's battles were fun, had a cool "trainer" system, and kept things fresh by supplying a lot of mini-games and unique adventures along the way.

Random Memory:
Every time I think about this game, I think of little Ryu and his little upright ponytail-thingy.

Final Fantasy Tactics
Final Fantasy Tactics is easily in my top ten games of all-time. It"s a solid tactical RPG; where it really shines, though, is with the job system. You end up doing a lot of tinkering around, while trying to determine the optimal way to set your party up. This is undoubtedly one of the most addicting games RPG's you'll ever play.

Random Memory:
I like thinking about this game because it takes me back to the late 90's, a time when summer consisted of no obligation or responsibility. On a lot of days, I'd ride my bike through the surrounding neighborhoods, over to our local Blockbuster to rent some games. This, of course, was one of those games I discovered during one of these trips.

Closing thoughts:
As is apparent from the list, the majority of my time with my Playstation was spent playing RPGs. My Playstation was probably my second-favorite console in my youth (next to the SNES), and I logged a ton of time on it.

As gamers, we've got to be grateful that Sony decided to enter the gaming ring, because without them, we'd have missed on on some superb games.

Series Closure:
Writing this series has been a lot of fun. I initially started with just one article, but I realized there was far too much information I wanted to jam in there, so it made a lot more sense to break it up until little pieces.

Going through and reflecting upon my systems of yesteryear has been a trip down memory lane. It really made me think about some of these games, and how much genuine fun I really had playing them.

Video games were my favorite hobby growing up; because I played games with such frequency growing up, they undoubtedly played a role in shaping me in who I am today. I wonder what my childhood would have been like I had been born 20 years earlier, in a pre-video games era? It's scary to think about how dramatically different it would have been.

Hopefully this was half as enjoyable to read as it was for me to write. Ideally, reading through these would have invoked nostalgic memories of your own.

Till next time, happy gaming!

-- Kyle
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