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Happy 20th Birthday, PlayStation—Niche Gamer Salutes You

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Today is December 3rd – the 20th birthday of the original PlayStation as it launched on this very same day back in 1994, in Japan. While the western world didn’t get their hands onto the console that would revolutionize the gaming landscape until the following year, you could say it was definitely worth the wait.

To celebrate the 20th birthday of the original PlayStation and by proxy, the entire PlayStation brand, we’ve compiled an entire feature where our writers (including myself) all file in to spill our guts over the most precious PlayStation memories we have. Hopefully we don’t get too sappy, but without further ado, please enjoy.

A forewarning – our writers were allowed to write as much as they wanted, so don’t be screaming when/if you get to a long section.

Brandon Orselli – Founder, Editor in Chief

I’d have to say my first memory with the original PlayStation was probably the original Final Fantasy VII. I know, I know, this isn’t a cop-out I promise! My journey with the console was somewhat late, as I was a pretty diehard Sega fanboy (and still am at heart) but I ended up getting the console for the wonderful breadth of exclusives it was getting.

After journeying through Final Fantasy VII, I enjoyed the likes of the Crash Bandicoot series, the Spyro games (especially the first one), and my share of other RPGs as well. I’d have to say two games stood out to me the most, and they were Legend of Mana and Suikoden II. I just adored both games so much, and they helped me get through a very troubling time of my life.

As a kid I was somewhat nervous around others and I generally was entirely a very serious person, I’d get offended a bit too easily if people made fun of me or something. Gaming, like many of you, was my escape and I reveled in the worlds that I could go to, to get away from the bullshit that I routinely experienced at school. I won’t bore you with that, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have the “Sparkling City Destroyed” theme stuck in my head for nearly an entire summer.

I played Legend of Mana and replayed it so much that I had literally everything you could possibly get in the game. I had the best pets, weapons, armor, and the most ideal map with all of the worlds laid out in the perfect places. I enjoyed all of the side-stories and I was genuinely upset when I got to the end of the game. However, another RPG was seriously moving to me, and gave me yet another case of “I wish I could play this again for the first time.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pd8yaHALySk

Seriously, Suikoden II was a game that literally helped change me as a person. It helped open me up a bit, and it helped me actually look forward to conversing with strangers more often than not. The characters, worlds, cities, towns, adventures, victories, failures, sorrowful moments … all of it was just a whirlwind of a ride and I sincerely consider it to be one of, if not the greatest video game I have ever played in my entire life.

I still think about the interactions between characters, and try to imagine what they would be doing after the war… I genuinely cared about those characters, their families, their hopes, their dreams, and I wanted to know more about them. It’s rare for a game to do that to me, where I want to get more content from that world, and yet it was a game that completely lacked voice acting. It leaves something to be said, when I was more emotional reading text bubbles in Suikoden II than I am with the majority of modern RPGs that have multi-million dollar budgets and full voice casts.

I am thankful for my experiences across all of the PlayStation consoles, but Suikoden II was honest-to-goodness the most memorable time for me. I will always be, no, we will always be gamers. Happy birthday PlayStation!

Dimi Gronnings – Managing Editor

The PlayStation’s 20th anniversary got me thinking about how much influence the platform has had on my gaming life. There are a handful of games that have defined my gaming tastes, and Sony is responsible for two of those titles.

Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee

Oddworld is, almost two decades later, still a beautiful game, beautifully presented, with a beautifully tragicomic backdrop.

The puzzles in the game are challenging without being frustrating, and require forethought on the player’s part. The game’s A.L.I.V.E. (Aware Lifeforms In a Virtual Environment) game engine creates mini vignettes of emerging narrative within the broader story, and ensures that the creatures that populate the low sci-fi milieu feel real; they exude personality and respond to the world and your actions with such verve that you can’t help but be, inexorably, charmed.

The story is told largely through grunts and animation. The lack of dialogue allows the game to draw players closer, by letting them project their own interpretation and nuance into the experience. It doesn’t hurt that the protagonist, Abe, is a likeable fellow.

The game is a cohesive and singular experience that’s relevant all these years later. I consider it, still, the most accomplished 2D puzzle platformer ever created. Playing Abe’s Oddysee is a contemplative, joyous, almost zen-like experience.

Final Fantasy VIII

I’m about to out myself as a heretic: I’ve never played Final Fantasy VII, and probably never will. My introduction to the Final Fantasy series was through FFVIII. The game was my first JRPG, too, and I’m ever so thankful that it was the title to introduce me to the genre.

Final Fantasy VIII is a marvel of game design. The junction and refinement systems are the ultimate form of character customization, and the combat system is satisfying. (YES YOU READ THAT RIGHT.) The systems aren’t balanced, and they aren’t meant to be. (Selphie Tilmitt’s Limit Break is potentially the best attack in the game. She can one-shot the final boss!) Final Fantasy VIII allows you to play it the way you want to.

The care and skill on dispay in the music, sound design, atmosphere, and visuals is remarkable. I almost didn’t mind watching the GF animations over and over. Although the game suffers from early-3D-itis, the animation of that 3D is outstanding.

Despite plenty of narrative missteps, to this day I consider the game the runner up for Best RPG Storytelling Ever; if not for the latter half of the game, when time travel is introduced, it would have won the title.

And Triple Triad is the best card/mini game ever invented.

These are not the only games that Sony has helped to realise that have left an impact on me, but they are most representative of what I think of when I think PlayStation. There’s a creativity, a heart, a spirit to PlayStation games that I don’t think other platforms have ever quite captured (apart from Sega; sigh). And although PlayStation and the video games industry have changed over the years, this creativity, heart, and spirit are still evident in their business, and I’m grateful for that. I don’t know what the industry would look like without them. I don’t want to ever find out.

Here’s to another 20 years, Sony!

Cody Long – Senior Staff Writer/Reviewer/2D Artist

My fondest memory of PlayStation is probably when I was but a wee lad, most likely around 9 or 10 years old. My parents had gotten me the PSone for Christmas, complete with a little portable screen that attached to it with speakers. I had been a bit of a Nintendo fanboy before this, shunning the PlayStation due to its 32 bits, versus the Nintendo 64’s, well, 64. I am quite confident that I had no idea what bits even were, but the higher number was better, right?

Anyway, I got three games along with it. They were Croc, Crash Bandicoot, and Final Fantasy 8. I remember booting up FF8 first, amazed that games could take up multiple discs. As much as I dislike the game now, I thought it was the bee’s knees then. I didn’t even have a memory card for the first week or two of play, but I was a kid, so I was content just playing the beginning bit over and over again. Sometimes I would “accidentally” leave the system on overnight, hoping to get just a little bit further in the morning.

I grew up, and my PSone got buried somewhere in my closet, then we moved, and I honestly have no idea where the thing ended up. It’s kind of sad, really. But while I may not have the console, or even the games anymore, I still enjoy the memories of a simpler time in my gaming career.

Chris Gregoria – Senior Staff Writer/Reviewer

Of all the memories I have of the original PlayStation, I think the one that sticks out the most is actually more of a tangentially related memory. I played a lot of Spyro 1 and 2 as a kid, and this was back when BradyGames guides were still a thing. I had one for both games that of course detailed your way through each level, and I (always the little perfectionist) figured it’d be well within my reach to 100% the first game. So I hunted down everything in the game, with a little help from my mother (I was probably like 5 or 6, tops, at the time.)

Now, I very distinctly remember having an argument with my dad that using a guide isn’t cheating. Sure, it shows you your way around a map, details how to grab everything, and makes sure you know all the secrets. But it doesn’t do it for you, so it’s not cheating! This was a constant argument, by the way. Lasted the entire time I used guides. Now…I think my younger self to be silly, but that’s beside the point.

As for most fond PlayStation memory over all…I think that comes from Tales of the Abyss. A friend of mine and I took an afternoon and dedicated it to beating the snot out of Van. On unknown. With level 110ish characters. With starter weapons (i.e. wooden sword). This fight lasted about two and a half hours. All our attacks hit for 1 damage, with the exception of a few artes that registered for 5. We managed to get him to his last form, where we finally ran out of items. Despite sounding incredibly tedious, it was super fun, and I would totally do it again.

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Carl Batchelor – Senior Staff Writer/Reviewer

You know how some parents put a yard stick against their child’s back and measure their growing height through the years by putting pencil marks against the wall? For me, the yard stick was my age, my back was the console and the marks on the wall were the games that helped shape me as I grew. Gaming wasn’t just a hobby for me, it helped shape my beliefs, dreams, and even my political leanings. Gaming was the barometer with which my life was measured, and no period of my gaming life changed me more than the one the PlayStation 1 kicked off.

When the first PlayStation came out in 1995, I was still stuck in the 16 bit era and steadfastly refused to “upgrade”. Spending that summer playing Earthbound on the SNES and the Sega 32X version of DOOM, I was pretty well satisfied, gaming-wise. Especially with the Saturn I bought and the marathon sessions of Daytona USA I inflicted upon my neighbors, who were tired of hearing me blare the music out of my windows for hours nonstop.

Unfortunately, by 1996, things started to dry up. The SNES was replaced by the N64, the 32X was dead in the water, and my PC was gathering dust. This situation, combined with a work promotion and a fair amount of money burning a hole in my pocket, led to me sneaking out and buying a PS1.

I say sneak because at the time, I was a 20 year old saving money to move out of my folk’s place and they weren’t too happy with me spending my “Move the hell out of our house” fund. So after buying my PS1 at a local Software Etc store, I went 20 miles away to an apartment complex and threw the box away in their dumpster. Then, after sneaking the machine in my room, I hid the console behind two large boxes in my room and funneled the cords under the rug so it remained completely invisible. I was then ready to play.

Play what though? I was a RPG nerd who rarely played anything that wasn’t an RPG. Before launch, former Sony boss Steve Race made anti-RPG comments in which he said he’d never allow a Final Fantasy game on his console…but with Race quitting during the US debut of the console, that was obviously about to change. I figured, if Square is hopping on board with the PS1, I would be too. After all, the only RPGs on the Saturn were Riglord Saga and whatever Victor Ireland’s Working Designs company had up their sleeves, so I needed another syringe to shoot the candy into my veins since none of the others were giving me anything good.

Being the horror fan I was, and after hearing so many of the local people at the Software Etc store I shopped at raving about it, I decided to buy Resident Evil first. Now, to say I was addicted to the game would be a gross understatement. I so quickly fell in love with it that it was *literally* all I talked about. I went full-blown crazy and everything I said and did had references to RE1 in it. My cousins, who were a couple years younger than me, would roll their eyes and moan whenever they ran into me since all I ever talked about was how this or that reminded me of something in RE. I remember driving back from Ocean City with them during one particularly dark, cloudy afternoon in which I commented on how the weather would be perfect for filming a Resident Evil movie. Paul W.S. Anderson must not have been there.

I’d go into work and imagine walking using the “tank controls” as I went about my tasks. I would even pick things up very carefully and in a singular, slow fashion…pretending as if I had just picked up an item in RE. It was really that bad. The game was simply so realistic and cinematic that I had never experienced anything like it before and was immersed in it like nothing else. Not only that, but I was good at it and was “that guy” in the local software store that would stand around for an hour on his lunch break and give those who were stuck on the game a well-drawn out guide to beating it. Many of whom would come in days later to thank me for helping them finish the game themselves.

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My SNES, Genesis, and PC gathered immense amounts of dust at the time, since Resident Evil wasn’t the only PS1 game that stole my life (and sanity) from me. A couple months after getting RE, I bought several more games, two of which affected me even more so than Resident Evil.

King’s Field and Blood Omen were games that I bought simply because I liked the description written on the box. I never expected to really get into them since I was more into Japanese style RPGs, but like most of the PS1’s early games, they were so vastly different from the norm that I fell in love with their uniqueness.

Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain was, and still is in my opinion, the most atmospheric game ever made. The music, the sound effects, the screaming of Kain as he butchers his enemies…it was so raw and adult and unashamed at being evil that it sort of became the poster child for the PlayStation at the time. It wasn’t the Asian-themed, spikey-haired, colorful game that I was accustomed to on my SNES…it was something completely different and alien to me. Watching in glee as Kain streamed the blood from an enemy’s neck to his mouth, hearing the cries of the chained up women (Whoops, did I say that?) as I devoured them for spiritual energy…it was so totally NOT what I ever imagined playing, and this was a good thing. Blood Omen is a game I still play to this very day, every Halloween in fact, just to remind myself why Dennis Dyack is an unmatched god of game design and that title was so meaningful to the hobby.

King’s Field was a budget title by the time I bought it, and I still remember having the “longbox” for it. While many think of “From software” as the Dark Souls developer, I’ll always remember them for King’s Field. As a PC gamer who was playing The Elder Scrolls Daggerfall at the time, I was a hard man to impress when it came to first person RPGs. Until King’s Field, I was fairly certain that it would never get better than 1992’s “Ultima Underworld”. I was about to be proven wrong, however.

King’s Field, like Blood Omen, was dark. Dark-as-hell-on-a-cold-day kind of dark. Just staring in that watery dock area in the beginning of the game and being about 20 feet away from a boss monster that could reach out and kill you in one hit was enough to hook me. The game was so brutal and so unconventionally difficult that I found myself playing it just to spite the game’s designers. While I played it first just out of anger, as I got further into the game’s massive dungeon world I began to admire the level design and overall theme of the game. It was oppressive and gloomy in ways that even Blood Omen wasn’t. Plus it had that same “find item, backtrack and use item” gameplay I loved in Metroid. Which is amusing when you figure that next fall I would be playing a little game called “Symphony of the night”.

My first year with the PlayStation wasn’t over yet though. The biggest and most incredible change to my play style and gaming habits was about to take place, and I didn’t even know it yet. My love of stereotypical Japanese games (and don’t get me wrong, I still love them) would be challenged once more with the most gothic, most gloomy and most original game I ever played. An RPG that would, from the day I played it and forever afterward, become my favorite RPG series.

Revelations: Persona.

I asked for two games from my parents that Christmas, and since my mother had figured out all my gaming was the result of a new system, I wasn’t afraid of asking for new games for my PlayStation. One of those two games was King’s Field 2, an obvious choice given my intense love of the first game. The other? Well, after not having played much in the way of RPGs other than Lunar (which I loved), I figured I would give Persona a shot since it had that same dark, gothic look that all my other favorite PS1 games had at the time. I was really digging the new style of games I was getting and it was starting to deeply change my tastes. Though I was still an anime-obsessed JRPG’er, I was quickly becoming fascinated with this mid 90’s gloominess in games, and PlayStation seemed to be leading the charge in that new style. Persona had all the hallmarks of such a game, and even though EGM’s famous review crew rated it poorly (I distinctly remember it getting all 6’s and a 7), I wanted to try it myself.

Ohhhh…Christmas of 1996, how I so fondly remember thee. 20 year old me sat at that opening screen for Persona and was completely dumbstruck. I kid you not, that opening was to me what looking at the golden tablets of Mormonism was to John Smith. It was one of those VERY rare moments in your life where you see something and you just know, you just KNOW that you will never be able to go back to your normal life again. Your life is forever measured in “before you saw god” and “after you saw god”. It was truly that moving of an experience for me. Of course, if my church heard me say this, I’d probably be in trouble…but you know what? It’s true. Persona 1 was that game, and right from the opening, which I probably watched a dozen times before even starting my first game, I knew my gaming life was forever altered.

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That Christmas, my aunt entered the hospital after she was diagnosed with ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The depression caused by this mixed with the intense feelings of hopelessness and abandonment that were the main theme of Persona 1. It was very cathartic to me and helped me not only get through a very tough time in my family’s history, but also began changing the way I thought about games in general. Persona taught me so much. Persona was the first game I played where I didn’t pick up the controller to grind levels or beat a boss, but rather, to diagnose my own problems. Persona dealt with a lot of extremely adult things, such as hiding behind masks, fearing reality, and being angry over abandonment. At that time, I was guilty of all three, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that Persona saved my life. It not only saved it, but it also became a sort of medicine for me that I would go back to, even now, when life starts to overwhelm me. Though I would play through the rest of the Persona series (Thanks to Gemini for translating Tsumi no Batsu!) over the years, I would end up getting more into the main Shin Megami Tensei series thanks to SMT3 on the PS2, but that’s a different story for a different time.

So what did the Playstation mean to me? It was a great changing of not just gameplay and graphics, but style as well. Where the SNES, NES and Genesis were all about color and childlike fantasy games, the Playstation punched down the walls and introduced many young gamers like me to the dark reality the hobby had, up till then anyway, been afraid to touch. I still credit Sony and the Playstation brand with bringing that to the hobby and I feel that were it not for the Playstation, the darker and more “raw” games we all enjoy now would never have existed. There would have been no Grand Theft Auto, no Persona, and certainly no Dark Souls. The Playstation changed the hobby forever, and it ushered in an era where gaming was finally allowed to “Grow up”.

With all the controversy right now centered around gaming and its supposed lack of morality and sensitivity, I look back at those early PS1 days and laugh. Contrary to what this hobby’s detractors may say, gaming is, in fact, a *very* grown up and mature hobby, and we have Sony and the Playstation era to thank for that. Whether it was Dennis Dyack’s masterpiece Blood Omen with its grim tale of choosing between good and evil, or “Cozy” Okada’s deeply unsettling look into the human condition he accomplished with Persona, the Playstation paved the way for darker, more realistic and “adult” games to be made.

Even more than that, it made gaming “cool”. I say this myself when the same people who teased me for being a gamer in highschool were now coming up to me in the local game shops and asking me for advice on Crash Bandicoot and Legend of Mana. It was so amazing to see the same guys (and gals) who laughed at my hobby only two years prior, now suddenly embrace it with all the enthusiasm of a kid discovering ice cream for the first time. Even the local alternative rock station got in on it by having a contest where you had to send in your best Final Fantasy 7 tips to enter a sweepstakes…it was like living in a bizarro world. Gaming did more than grow up, it changed popular culture. Heck, it changed an entire generation.

…and it was all because of that wonderful little Playstation console.

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Chris Gollmer – Senior Reviewer

My fondest memories of the playstation are from all the RPG’s I played as a child, entering into new worlds ranging from medieval fantasy to sci-fi opera’s. Staying up all night to play Star Ocean the second story (which my dad later found out and let me stay home the next day from school and play with me) to tearing up on pivotal scenes from Suikoden I & II.

The original PlayStation was THE system that got me to start looking for more niche-based titles in my JRPG hunger. The experiences I’ve had with these titles I believe aided my development as a person. It’s had it’s good and bad moments but I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Roberto Nieves – Weekday Staff Writer/Reviewer

There are many fond moments that I have on the PlayStation from sneaking around in Metal Gear Solid, to roaming the land as Spyro the Dragon, to discovering Shambala in Uncharted 2, and finally taking on the Helghast in Killzone. Perhaps my most profound memory involves my time on the PlayStation 2 and Metal Gear Solid 3. It was a cold, windy, and stormy January day. A blizzard was hitting the area and we were getting covered in snow.

That Christmas, my parents got me Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. I had worked on it for that whole week, in between high school life, swimming with the Monmouth Barracudas Swim Club, and spending time with Dad while Mom was away on a business trip. I remember that night I could feel the cold drafting through my room. I could hear the sleet tapping the window. As Night fell, it was a blotting blanket of white snow, with the orange street lights showing through. As Naked Snake, I fought the elite military of Soviet Russia, defeat the terrifying Cobra Unit, and made my way to Grozny Grad.

As this storm was happening, I participated in one of the most intense and ferocious final acts that I’ve had in games. The thrill of escape, destroying metal gear, defeating Colonel Volgin and finally, the last boss fight with The Boss. As she talks deeply abut the virtues of war, here was a boss fight for the ages. Between the Master and the apprentice and how that becomes a relation deeper than anything else.

When the game ended, I was just in awe at what I had played, the fact that PlayStation, and the brilliant people at Konami and Kojima Productions brought an incredible experience that transcended what a game could do. It left me asking questions and looking back at real life history in the Cold War. It further cemented my commitment to PlayStation.

Honorable mention includes the first Kingdom Hearts game, where I poured 80 hours into fully completing the game. Along those 80 hours was a touching tale of fighting for what’s right with all of your heart with your favorite Final Fantasy and Disney characters. When I finished Kingdom Hearts, I had so many feels, I couldn’t speak. It was beautiful, touching, amazing, and a true portrayal of good versus evil.

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Josh Feinbaum – Staff Reviewer

I have a lot of incredible memories with PlayStation.

I remember opening my PlayStation the day it came out. My aunt had gotten one for us as a late birthday present, (my sister and I are twins so we usually got one gift to share) and we loved it.  Our first game was Rayman, which I couldn’t stop playing.  I was completely immersed in the colorful world of the limb-less hero, and was also entranced by the games beautiful soundtrack, with songs that I still find myself humming from time to time.  Over time, I expanded my collection of incredible titles with games like Ape Escape, Tomba! And Tomba! 2, Tail Concerto, the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro games, along with more mature titles like Jade Cocoon, Vagrant Story, many of the Final Fantasy games, and Parasite Eve.

My most memorable Playstation memory is of my favorite game of all time; Chrono Cross.  I still have my original copy of the game, (I actually own two physical copies so I can lend one out to friends) and my complete save file is still on my first memory card.  As of right now, I am on what I am pretty sure is my ninth play through, still getting lost in the epic music and unique characters.  I was still playing my PlayStation all the way up to the day that the PS2 launched, which my mother got for me as an early holiday present, along with Tekken Tag, which my sister and I played all the time, unlocking everything we could in the game.  I still remember her and I playing the random bowling mini game too.

I still own every PlayStation I have ever received or purchased myself, except for my first PSP. In a lot of ways PlayStation has helped me learn what I want from games, setting a standard of quality that I want developers to meet.  That standard is high, but I have faith that because of PlayStation and what it has done for the industry as a whole, I can expect that standard to continue being met, or surpassed.

Happy Birthday PlayStation :3


Seriously, thank all of you guys for being amazing and continuously supporting us. We love PlayStation, and the memories we’ve garnered from the systems. Here’s to more years of gaming decadence!

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The staff at Niche Gamer are crazy passionate about the same games that we cover and play every day. Please feel free to contact us any time!