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Ranking the Games of the PlayStation Classic

psx classic gamesWhen the PlayStation Classic was announced a few months ago it was only revealed what 5 of the included 20 games were going to be. It was odd, but considering most places pre-sold out I suppose it didn’t matter. When Nintendo had success with the NES Classic Edition, it meant we were in for more of these devices. Myself and many others tried to predict what would be included on a potential SNES Classic and most people probably came pretty close to nailing the final line-up. Nintendo is heavy with first-party titles and its brand is forever connected with the likes of Mario and Link. With Sony, that first-party recognition isn’t there. During the height of the original PlayStation, Crash Bandicoot was positioned as the company’s mascot, but he wasn’t even owned by Sony. His games were just published by Sony, but the character would eventually come to be owned by Activision. Still, it seemed inconceivable that Sony would pass over Crash, and yet they did! He will not be appearing on the PlayStation Classic as Sony has finally unveiled the remaining 15. I knew predicting the line-up would be more difficult than doing so with the SNES Classic, but apparently I didn’t realize just how hard it would be as I went a putrid 1 for 15 with my predictions.

I suppose if I wanted to give myself bonus points I could dampen that showing by saying I at least hit on two additional franchises. And two of my requested titles (Intelligent Qube and Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo) actually made it, even though I thought it would be a long shot to see them included. There’s no hiding from it though, I whiffed big time and I’ll own that. The actual line-up has likely surprised many and it has some nice surprises and some not-so-nice surprises. It’s a weird line-up, and since the PSX era did have some weird games I suppose that’s appropriate. There are three puzzle games among the 20, no 2D fighters, and only one title each from Konami, and Square-Enix. That means no Mega Man, Lara Croft, or Alucard. Were publishers not willing to “play ball” with Sony and its machine? Or was Sony just not willing to pay more for bigger titles? The Japanese version does have some different titles, including Parasite Eve and SaGa Frontier, but the Japanese market is a lot smaller than the North American one so maybe Sony is trying to maximize profits outside of Japan and is less concerned about the home country.

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There are a lot of contenders for biggest snub, but Alucard might be the biggest.

This is not an optimal line-up of games, but does that make it bad? Lets suss it out and rank these titles starting with the least appetizing:

20. Battle Arena Toshinden – A decent looking launch title, it was quickly overwhelmed by Namco’s Tekken franchise. Most people forget about this franchise, and with good reason. It’s not a good game, and it’s odd to use this one instead of the better sequel, but even that game isn’t great.

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Excited to revisit this one?

19. Destruction Derby – This game was a one-trick pony when it was released in the launch window of the PlayStation. It was cool to see cars explode and get smashed-up and it was sort-of perversely fun inflicting damage on other vehicles, but it was all empty calories. No one should be playing this game in 2018.

18. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six – This was one of the most heavily marketed games of its era. I probably saw more commercials for Rainbow Six than I did Final Fantasy VII. It’s okay, but the PSX port was pretty abysmal. Anyone playing Rainbow Six in 1998 probably shouldn’t have been playing it on PSX. Electronic Gaming Monthly even awarded it a dubious 3.8/10.

17. Jumping Flash! – We knew this one was included, and I even argued it had a place given it was a launch title and was just so very “of the era.” That doesn’t mean it’s particularly good and by today’s standards it’s quite ugly. Unlike the games listed before it though, it has a certain curiosity factor going for it that will make it worth a look when the PS Classic drops, but it might not be a game you actually stick with.

16. Cool Boarders 2 – If you like snowboarding and “extreme” sports games, then you’ll probably have this one ranked higher. It’s all right, but most people will probably wonder why it’s here and not Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (it’s the licensing, folks).

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I probably logged over 100 hours with this game, but I’ve never wanted to replay it after Twisted Metal 2 came out.

15. Twisted Metal – I loved this franchise on PlayStation, well the first two games at least. The first one though has not aged well at all, and even in the moment, I knew I was playing a junky game, but it had a certain fun factor. The sequel though is way better and actually still playable. I considered it the most obvious lock for the mini console even ahead of Metal Gear Solid so the fact that this game is included but the sequel is not blows my mind.

14. Oddworld:  Abe’s Odyssey – I said the PS Classic has three puzzle games, but you could make the case Oddworld is more of a puzzle game than a true platformer. This game was hyped a bunch as being a game that gave the player numerous ways to solve a problem, but it didn’t really play out that way. It was interesting, but hardly great. It’s graphical approach should hold up well enough though.

13. Wild Arms – One of the previously announced titles, I gave my speech on it already. It’s serviceable, and its simple JRPG mechanics mean it will always remain playable. It’s just a bit crazy to think that this machine has only three RPGs when the PSX was an RPG behemoth, and Wild Arms is one of the three.

12. Grand Theft Auto – GTA was a surprise hit for the PC when it was released, and it was somewhat surprising to see it get a PSX port. It was also the first title I was denied an ability to purchase at a GameStop. Like modern GTA titles, it was arguably at its best when it was just played like a sand box causing mayhem. Unlike modern GTA titles, the actual missions and story isn’t that rewarding and the game was really difficult. It was at least a little easier to handle on the PSX than with a keyboard. It should still be fun to screw around with, but might not have much legs with the PS Classic.

Intelligent-Qube

The inclusion of Intelligent Qube is a bit of a surprise. Is it a system-seller? Probably not, but it’s worth a look if you end up getting a PS Classic.

11. Intelligent Qube – This was a surprise inclusion, but a worthwhile one. It’s an interesting puzzle game that’s at least not another brick-falling puzzler. I don’t know how well it’s held up because it’s been many years, but it should be playable and may be a dark horse contender for many folks’ most played title on the Classic.

10. Resident Evil (Director’s Cut) – There’s no denying this title was huge for the PSX, and the Director’s Cut version was superior to the original. It is possibly the worst in the franchise on the PSX though and its controls are not something I look forward to returning to. It took many hours to get a handle on them in 1996 and I’m not sure I still have such skills. Maybe it’s like riding a bike?

9. Syphon Filter – This was basically Sony’s attempt at a first party MGS or Rainbow Six. It was fine for what it was, though I’d prefer a dual shock to play it. It’s going to look ugly, and even Gabe Logan’s running animation looked horrendous in ’99. It might surprise though, and the only reason why I didn’t include it in my prediction was because I didn’t think Sony would release it without dual shock support.

8. Ridge Racer Type 4 – A totally competent racer, but let’s face it, this isn’t the racing game you want. Gran Turismo was the first-party behemoth, but I’m guessing licensing issues made it impossible to include. WipeOut was an alternative racer, but one I’d consider more fun than Ridge Racer. I would have taken Crash Team Racing over this one, honestly, and I’m not sure if I’d even play this more than once on the PS Classic. The racing genre is one that basically improves a lot with better technology, so going back isn’t always fun unless it’s more of an off-beat title. I suspect this still plays well enough though, which is why I’m ranking it this high.

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I’m happy to see the original Persona included in this collection, but it’s also not a hard to find game so I wish something like Valkyrie Profile was included instead.

7. Revelations:  Persona – The first game in what is now known simply as the Persona series is the biggest surprise inclusion on the PS Classic. This was not a popular game when it was released, and Persona still has more of a cult franchise vibe than a mainstream one. The first game is not as good as more recent entries with the series really blossoming with Persona 3. It is still playable though, and it’s more strategy-oriented battle system differentiates it from Wild Arms and FFVII. This one is a nice surprise and unlike the original Final Fantasy on the NES Classic, fans who are only familiar with the newer entries might actually enjoy playing the first in the series as opposed to just checking it out for the sake of curiosity.

6. Mr. Driller – The nice thing about puzzle games is that they age well. Mr. Driller is another surprise inclusion. It was well-received in its day, but not really a system mover or anything. It’s fun and charming though and if you like puzzle games with a slight Tetris vibe then you’ll get some mileage out of this one.

5. RaymanRayman was all over the place in the mid-90s. He was so omnipresent that I kind of wrote him off for this system as I never associated him with PlayStation. His game is pretty good though, and its 2D approach should hold up just fine. I never loved Rayman, but I never hated his games either.

4. Metal Gear Solid – I’m not crazy about this list of games, if you haven’t noticed, but I do think it’s pretty top-heavy. The last four are mostly interchangeable, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Metal Gear Solid tops many lists such as this one. My reasoning for placing it 4th is because I think we’re missing out on some of the bells and whistles with this version by not having the dual shock support and a memory card full of Konami games. I also think the game hasn’t aged too well and recent entries in the series really helped to smooth out the gameplay experience. It’s still a fantastic game, it’s just not as fantastic as it could be on the PS Classic.

puzzle fiighter

This is a great choice for inclusion. I have nothing bad to say about Puzzle Fighter.

3. Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo – This is probably my favorite puzzle game. It’s incredibly addicting and the rare puzzler that might be more fun in two-player mode than single-player. It’s got a lot of charm and personality and its sprites should hold up very well. I’m a bit surprised at its inclusion, especially given the omissions of traditional Capcom fighters, but also delighted.

2. Final Fantasy VII – We’ve all probably played it. And even though there’s been backlash towards this title over the years because it’s the most recognizable from the long-running series, that doesn’t mean it’s still not in the conversation for best Final Fantasy game. It’s readily available on other platforms so its inclusion isn’t sexy, but it’s also necessary. If you’ve got about 40 hours, you should give this one some time.

tekken 3 jin

The visuals may not wow you like they did in 98, but Tekken 3 is still a blast to play.

1. Tekken 3 – And the best game of the PS Classic is Tekken 3. A late era title, it actually holds up quite well in the visuals department and the game is simply one of the best 3D fighters ever made. It has a huge roster of characters, some fun additional modes and characters, and there should be something for everyone in terms of fighting styles. If you don’t like 3D fighters then maybe this won’t win you over, but I spent many hours with this one and I’d actually be excited to run through it again and try to unlock all of the additional characters and modes. Well, maybe not Tekken Force Mode.

 

So that’s it; the PlayStation Classic and its 20 games. Are you going to get one? Did you already pre-order one and are reconsidering that decision? I’m over-all not impressed with these 20 games, the majority of which I don’t need to revisit. Even some of the games that I think are fine I still don’t want to really play in 2018. Why play Twisted Metal when you can easily play Twisted Metal Black? Why play Rayman over the easily acquired (and cheap) Rayman Legends? I wasn’t that excited over this console to begin with, as the nostalgia factor just isn’t quite there for me with the PSX era. If the list had turned out to be something closer to what I predicted I might have been tempted. With this list, though? I’m looking at spending 100 bucks to play Persona, Intelligent Qube, and Mr. Driller as the other games I really enjoy I still own for PlayStation and can play them right now if I want. I have a first-gen PS3 hooked up to my TV right now so nothing is stopping me from popping in Tekken 3 if I wish to play it. I’m not everyone though, so for those who loved the PSX and maybe sold all of their old games I can at least see some appeal, but I still feel like this roster is one big missed opportunity.


The Simpsons: Hit & Run

151790-the-simpsons-hit-run-windows-otherAfter a long stretch of posting about Christmas and Batman exclusively, it’s time to get things back on track here at The Nostalgia Spot. Here’s a subject I’ve been sitting on for quite some time. I love The Simpsons, and I also love video games, so it stands to reason I should love Simpsons video games! In a perfect world that would be true, but alas, we do not live in such a world.

The fact that Simpsons video games exist in the first place is kind of funny when you stop and think about it. After all, The Simpsons is essentially a family sitcom like Full House, except it’s actually good. I’ve never heard anyone sincerely bemoan the fact that there are no video games based on Full House, and yet we have around a dozen games based on The Simpsons. The most obvious difference between the two is that Full House is live action and The Simpsons is animated. Is that the criteria needed to enter into the world of video games?

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The main stars of the game. Sorry, Maggie.

Not exactly, but we’re getting there. The wonderful folks over at Talking Simpsons, a podcast that is a chronological exploration of the series, spoke with writer and show-runner Bill Oakley about his time on the show and he revealed an interesting tidbit about The Simpsons that I wasn’t aware of:  the audience was predominantly children. It’s not a total surprise to hear that, but as someone who watched the show regularly growing up with his entire family it did surprise me some. Because the art form is most frequently used to create children’s content in the US, animation inherently appeals to kids. And Bart Simpson was a character most kids looked up to, rightly or wrongly. So given that, it’s not at all surprising why The Simpsons received so many video games in the early days because, back then, no one really associated video games with any demographic other than children.

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Your first car is the (surprise!) famous Simpsons pink sedan which has inexplicably been turned into a convertible for this game.

Sadly, when the aim of a piece of media is to just appeal to children the end product is often pretty lackluster. The Simpsons were unremarkable in that respect as pretty much every licensed game from the 8-bit era was pretty terrible. The inaugural Bart vs The Space Mutants at least had an interesting They Live! inspired plot, but playing it was about as much fun as a trip to the dentist. The games that followed were the same, but without the quirky plot. Following the NES era the games became mini-game compilations on the GameBoy and SNES and the results were just as bad. The Playstation gave us Simpsons Wrestling, which the less said about that one the better. It wasn’t until we hit the PS2/Gamecube/Xbox generation where we actually received a home console game based on The Simpsons that was any good. Up first, was Road Rage, a Crazy Taxi parody that was decent, followed by Simpsons Skateboarding which was bad. The best though? A Grand Theft Auto parody called The Simpsons:  Hit & Run.

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Basically every major Springfield landmark is in this game, some of which you can even enter.

Hit & Run took a lot of the assets created for Road Rage and made them more interesting. Road Rage was okay because the taxi setup leaves a lot of room for the characters to just be funny, but the gameplay gets a little old a little fast. Hit & Run slows things down and lets the player exit the vehicle. Even though it’s a GTA clone of sorts, the game plays more like a generic 3D platformer when not in a car. Characters can run, jump, double-jump, attack, and butt stomp just like Ratchet from the Ratchet & Clank series but without the awesome gadgets. Generic characters litter the virtual Springfield driving generic vehicles you’re free to commandeer at your leisure, though the best vehicles are the ones you actually have to purchase.

Hit & Run contains a fairly large version of Springfield that’s broken up into three main stages, so they’re not interconnected unfortunately. There’s a suburban setting that contains Evergreen Terrace as well as the projects and upscale neighborhoods. There’s a downtown setting where you can find Moe’s, the remnants of the monorail, and infamous Matlock Expressway. There’s also a waterfront setting that inexplicably contains The Android’s Dungeon but also features Duff Gardens and the Channel 6 lots home to fine programming such as Krusty the Clown. Just about every major landmark from the show is featured, though the layout of Springfield is definitely not canon.  There’s a sense that in creating the three main stages the game designers just wanted to make sure they had some important landmark reserved for each one. It’s not a big deal, but Springfield isn’t as cozy as it could have been. It’s also very limited by the technology of the time since no section is nearly as large as an open world from today (even GTA: San Andreas featured a much bigger setting).

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In a surprising move, Apu gets to take center stage for a level.

Springfield is the star of this game, but lets not forget about the playable characters. As you probably guessed, they include the main cast from the show:  Homer, Bart, Lisa and Marge. As you probably did not guess, there’s also a level for Apu. Why Apu? No idea, but it’s nice to play as someone who isn’t a member of the main family and Apu is better than Milhouse. Nobody wants to play as Milhouse. Each level stars one playable character and takes place in a different section of Springfield. Levels get recycled eventually, but with a slightly different take such as night vs day. The last level does something different that I don’t want to spoil, but I’ll say it’s pretty cool. At the start of each stage, your character has access to their default car plus any car that’s been acquired along the way. Naturally, the further into the game you go the better the cars get so you probably won’t use most of the earlier ones. Just about every car is taken from the series too so you’ll get to drive famous cars like Homer’s Mr. Plow truck and Martin’s Honor Roller.

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Do it, Bart, take his head!

The setup of the game is pretty straight-forward. You’re given a task, and you need to drive over to a certain character to begin the mission. Just about every mission can be distilled into you driving to a checkpoint in a set amount of time. A timer counts down and often another character has hopped into the car with you to make fun of you while you drive. Complicating things is the hit & run meter. As you run over pedestrians and cause mayhem the meter fills. If it fills all the way you attract the attention of Springfield’s finest. Chief Wiggum and company are surprisingly capable of catching you, and unlike GTA they don’t have to yank you out of the car, just stop you. In the early stages you probably won’t have too much trouble, but as the game moves along things get harder and you’ll probably need to make sure you have the best vehicles available to complete the missions.

The plot of the game is unimportant and pretty weird, even for The Simpsons. Buzz Cola is spreading some new cola that turns people into zombies. It’s sort of a New Coke parody and for some reason there’s giant robot wasps. I mostly ignored it, but the plot pushes you along and into contact with basically every major character from the show. Since the game was released in 2003, it includes characters and references up to around season 13 of the show, so all of the best stuff was available and not as much of the not so great stuff. If you only like the old stuff, you shouldn’t feel too lost here. All of the voice actors contributed to the game and the dialogue is really funny. It’s easily the game’s best aspect.

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Say it with me now, “I am evil Homer! I am evil Homer!”

If Hit & Run did not possess The Simpsons license, it probably wouldn’t be remembered at all. The game probably runs about 8-10 hours depending on how thorough you are and towards the end the game’s structure does get a bit tiresome. There’s basically no mission variety to speak of, and while the game isn’t really hard some of the end stages will feature a mission or two that will likely get frustrating. I would often find myself getting bored and sloppy and that’s when my play quality would diminish leading to some angry moments. Usually putting the game away for a bit and returning another day remedied this and thankfully the game’s humor and charm were enough to keep me coming back. Once you’ve seen the three main hubs though the game does lose some luster since most of the Easter eggs have been explored by then.

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Of course the Monorail makes a cameo.

Hit & Run is at its best when you’re just exploring Springfield. Seeking out the special missions and homages throughout is definitely the most satisfying aspect of the game. The game keeps track of them too so you know if you’ve found them all or if there’s more out there. There’s some optional races too, but they’re sort of just padding. If that last level wasn’t so good I’d say you’ve probably seen enough after just level three. There’s also optional costumes to purchase in the game if you want to dress-up your character as Bartman or Evil Homer. Once you complete a stage too you’re free to jump back into it if you want in case there was something you failed to complete.

It’s debatable if Hit & Run is the best Simpsons game ever made. Virtual Springfield is much beloved by the community for its authenticity, though it isn’t really much of a game. Most people probably pick Konami’s arcade brawler, simply titled The Simpsons, as their favorite. It was available for a time on Xbox Live but I believe that is no longer the case. It is a fun game, though it’s also a traditional arcade game that exists mostly to devour quarters. It also was created during production of season 2 so it only contains references to the show’s first season, which is a bit disappointing. Hit & Run is definitely worth a look if you love The Simpsons. It was released across all three major consoles at the time, so it’s really easy to find a copy at a reasonable price. And if you like podcasts, definitely check out Talking Simpsons as, short of just watching the episodes, that’s the best way to enjoy the classic era of The Simpsons. The main podcast is free and is part of the Laser Time family of podcasts. There’s also a Patreon that has additional content (including the Bill Oakley interview I mentioned) most of which is available for just five bucks a month. I heartily recommend it (and no, I am not affiliated in any way with that show, I just enjoy it). However you go about, treasure The Simpsons since it won’t be around forever, as incredible as that may seem. Maybe we can even get one more game out of it. The Simpsons Game followed Hit & Run, and while the production values on that one blow away the other Simpsons games, the actual gameplay is atrocious and ruins the experience. A game that expands upon the basic formula of Hit & Run would probably work quite well, if enough time was sunk into it. I doubt we’ll receive another major Simpsons game, but it doesn’t hurt to wish.


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