Sony's recent announcement of its upcoming PlayStation Now service certainly got us excited. Not so much about being able to stream PlayStation 3 games, which is useful, but not exactly thrilling to the many of us who still have our PS3's tucked under our TV sets. But more about being able to go back and experience some of our favorite PSX games of yore.
With that in mind, Team USG has pooled its collective wisdom and come up with 20 PSOne games that we'd love to see incorporated into the PS Now library. Which ones would you chose?
Surely this is a no-brainer for PS Now - because if it isn't, Sony's the no-brainer. I mean, who doesn't want the chance to revisit one of the all-time PSX greats? From its weird and wonderful characters and the bright and colorful world in which they live to its incomprehensibly bizarre plot and out-of-leftfield-bonkers tunes, Parappa the Rapper is utterly fantastic.
Yeah, its gameplay is tap-along-to-the-beat simple, but it's much more than that. This is a game that makes you laugh and smile. And if it doesn't, you should probably be shuffling along moaning, "brraaaaaiiiiiiiiins."
Listen, guys. Tomba is the best. It's the story of a feral child who runs around biting pigs in order to save the world through a free-roaming "metroidvania"-style setup filled with interlinked quests presented almost like game show minigames. It was weird and kind of ahead of its time (its open, overlapping quests are closer in style to current RPGs than to a '90s platformer), and it's a load of fun. Sadly, I never did beat the original game. Maybe PlayStation Now could change that.
Despite a great number of sequels, spin-offs, and Metal Gear Solid cameos, the Ape Escape series never took off in the way that Sony hoped. That's a shame, because the core trilogy holds up incredibly well, with 1999's Ape Escape being one of the more innovative platformers of the PlayStation era. Overall, it's a much more ambitious take on the genre when compared to your Crash Bandicoots and Spyro the Dragons, and it uses the full potential of both analog sticks (what with the DualShock being optional at the time) for the protagonist's collection of ape-snatching gadgets. Simply put, Ape Escape shouldn't be forgotten—even if those little guys are technically monkeys.
We finally got cult import platformer Umihara Kawase in the U.S. in the form of Sayonara Umihara Kawase for 3DS. That's cool, but personally I think the PlayStation game was better. Unfortunately, it's import-only, and it sells for about 200 bucks. Well, PlayStation Now has the potential to break down some of those walls by offering a curated selection of import picks, and I'd definitely want Umihara Kawase Shun 2nd Edition (probably the single best title in the entire series) to be one of those first ambassadors. It's fun, it's unique, and its language barrier is about as low as you could possibly hope (the entire game is practically wordless). Make it so, Sony.
I've written about FF Tactics before, but let me just state this again: Final Fantasy Tactics is an amazing tactical strategy RPG, the likes of which has yet to be surpassed by Square Enix. Tactics Advance and Tactics A2 were okay, but they were no Tactics. Others have raided the hill to take the throne, but for me, no one has succeeded yet.
Like Alpha 3, Tactics is available on the PlayStation Store, but it needs to be available to players on Sony's subscription service. Until it is, I shall continue to be the game's prophet, preaching of its greatness until the time that its holiness gets a proper sequel.
Like SaGa Frontier, this is another one of those no-brainer Square Enix classics that you can buy on the Japanese PSN but not in the U.S. In the case of the former, its absence here probably has to do with the fact that American gamers vomit in bewilderment when confronted with a SaGa. Einhänder, on the other hand, is a completely phenomenal shooter that no sane person dislikes. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd wager that licensing issues around its utterly glorious soundtrack are responsible for its failure to drift overseas. But man, whatever. People need to know the glory of this game one way or another; I don't really care how it gets over here again just so long as it does.
I appreciated the original Resident Evil from afar, but Resident Evil 2 marks the first time the series really clicked with me. It still features those dated tank controls, but thanks to the guidance of Platinum's Hideki Kamiya, Resident Evil 2 feels much more refined and far less clunky than its predecessor. If you're looking to jump into a classic survival horror game, Resident Evil 2 makes for one of the most accessible choices, and the DualShock version even features an easy mode to help spoiled modern gamers (me included) deal with the demands of 1998 gaming.
Space combat seems to be the perfect material for a video game, yet we don't see them very often. Maybe it's too difficult for some players to get their head around the concept of flying something where there's no up and down? Maybe it's too hard for designers to make combat compelling in a friction-free environment? Either way, it's been a long time since I've played this classic - and I'd love to give it a go just to see whether it's as much fun as I remember - or whether it's aged really badly.
Ah, poor Suikoden II. Overshadowed by Final Fantasy VIII at launch, derided for its dated visuals, undersold and underproduced, it wallowed in obscurity for a while before becoming possibly the single most expensive U.S.-released PlayStation title ever. Yet while its decent predecessor made it to PSN, this utter masterpiece never did. Why not? Well, again, poor Suikoden II. Konami didn't really bother to invest much in the way of quality control into the U.S. release of the game, so it's riddled with bugs, errors, and even entire chunks of untranslated text. Apparently it can't pass the quality control standard for PSN. But if Sony's truly serious about making PlayStation Now a source for streaming ALL PlayStation games, they're gonna have to suck it up and let this one through. Really, who cares about a few glitches? A game this good can withstand them, no problem.
I've always been a fan of music games. I've spent hours with Dance Dance Revolution, Pump It Up, Frequency, Amplitude, Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan, Elite Beat Agents, and Parappa The Rapper. (Rock Band and Guitar Hero were never quite my thing.) If I had to bring back one forgotten musical favorite with PlayStation Now, it would probably by Bust-A-Groove.
Bust-A-Groove (Bust-A-Move in Japan) was someone in-between a dance game and a fighting game. Players had to perform motions in time with the music, motions that would get more complex as you moved deeper into your combo. Doing the motions right would have your chosen avatar performing some sweet dance moves. You could even attack your opponent to throw them off their game!
Bust-A-Groove is its original Japanese incarnation was the first real music game I ever played, as I was late to the game with Parappa. I won't date myself with a specific place and time, but I remember playing Bust-A-Groove into the wee hours with my friends all sitting around a couch. It was a great time. Is Bust-A-Groove the best music game? Probably not, but I can't discount the strong pull of nostalgia in this case.
The disappearance of the SaGa series from American consoles ranks among gaming's biggest heartbreaks of the past five years for me. I know, the SaGa games are weird, and Unlimited Saga pissed everyone off, but I love the series -- it's so quirky, so defiantly different, so tied to a single creator's personal vision. It really bugs me that Square Enix never bothered to bring the SaGa Frontier games to PSN in America via PlayStation Classics, but PlayStation Now represents a chance to rectify that wrong. Frontier is a big, big RPG; it contains seven separate and only slightly overlapping stories, each of which ranges from eight to 30 hours of play time... and frankly, the game is so opaque that you kind of need to cycle through it half a dozen times before you'll properly understand how its systems work. But just as 8-bit emulation allowed gamers to discover heretofore unappreciated greats like River City Ransom, I'm hoping the subscription buffet model of PlayStation Now can do the same for oddball titles like SaGa Frontier.
I'm nominating this classic Namco arcade port for purely selfish reasons. It was the first game I played on PS1, and it just blew me away. At a time when most were still used to playing 16-bit classics like Aladdin and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, Ridge Racer looked every inch the generational leap forward it represented.
I've still got my original PS1 long box version of the game - one of the few PS1 games I've kept over the years. But since I don't have a console to play it on, having the chance to drift sideways down memory racetrack would be great!
Street Fighter is a series with a long history so I'm sure fighting aficionados all have their personal favorite game in the franchise. For some that may be Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, or Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, but the spot in my heart will always be occupied by Street Fighter Alpha 3.
Street Fighter Alpha 3 is the pinnacle of the series, unless you count its various ports like Alpha 3 MAX. 33 distinct and well-animated characters (37 in MAX), the ISM system allowing you to choose your playstyle, Alpha Counters, and the kick-ass World Tour mode. World Tour allowed you to take you favored character into fighting challenges to gain experience and abilities to improve them. It was such a fun mode for my friends and I; being able to spring your new custom character on someone is great.
Yes, you can already pick up the PSOne classic of Alpha 3 and the PSP version of Alpha 3 MAX on the PlayStation Store, but the game needs to be available on NOW. Why? So players using the Netflix-style option can have access to this gem.
I absolutely loved this port of Capcom's obscure arcade fighting game. It features Marvel vs Capom-style gameplay, but has polygonal characters instead of sprites. Players fight with a tag-team of two, who can be swapped in and out during a fight.
What I particularly like about the game is its bizarre cast of school kids and teachers, each of whom has a quite comprehensive character bio, backstory and special moves. Some of the combos of characters you can put together are really fun, and the fighting is exceptionally dynamic and polished. Rival Schools was released quite late in the Playstation's lifecycle, so many people never got to play it. I'd love to see it get a second lease of life on PS Now.
For a bright, shining four years, the game industry had a dark and mature series in the vein of Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda, without having to ruin Zelda. That started in 1999 with the release of Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. Amy Hennig - who would later go on to lead Naughty Dog's Uncharted series - crafted an interesting world in Nosgoth and a great protagonist (hero is a bit much in the first game) in Raziel.
Everything you'd expect from a Zelda-style game is here: exploration, combat, block puzzles in dungeons, plus a plenty awesome plane-shifting mechanic. And while the ending of Soul Reaver wasn't the greatest, you didn't have to wait long for a sequel: Soul Reaver 2 came to PlayStation 2 two years later in 2001.
There have been a lot of great stealth games over the year, but Tenchu 2 is one of my highlights. Not only did it have Rikimaru and Ayame providing two flavors of stealth action, it had great level design, and the awesome mission-creation mode. Since From Software is hip-deep in Dark Souls-style game we won't see another Tenchu anytime soon, so heading back to the past seems to be the best bet.
The PlayStation version of Silhouette Mirage was pretty well mired in controversy back in the day thanks to its U.S. publisher Working Designs' compulsion to tinker with it. They made some pretty radical changes to the game's mechanics, and many fans who had cut their teeth on the import-only Saturn version found the U.S. revisions worked to the game's detriment, slowing its pace and making it unnecessarily grindy. And yeah, maybe that's true. But Silhouette Mirage is still a pretty cool platform-shooter, with a dual-color combat mechanic reminiscent of the one in Treasure's own Ikaruga: Protagonist Shayla wields a different element depending on which direction she's facing, adding an interesting element of strategy to the time-tested concept of the 2D platformer.
You know, really, the coolest thing Sony could do with Silhouette Mirage for PlayStation Now would be to allow us to stream both the U.S. and Japanese versions of the game, letting players decide for themselves which version is better.
This very early PlayStation release really showed off the console's graphics capability. It's basically a first-person platform game, but the jumps you have to make so you can reach your goal are huge, vertigo-inducing leaps of doom. I can't think of any other game where you can jump higher and futher than you can in Jumping Flash.
Although its graphics look a little dated, Jumping Flash's original, timeless gameplay is still thoroughly enjoyable. Which is why I think it'd make an ideal back catalog game for PS Now.
The old Official PlayStation Magazine demo discs were full of gold. But as much fun as I had playing the first level of Klonoa again and again or perfecting my barrel rolls through bridge supports in Ace Combat (or getting a taste of the aforementioned Colony Wars and Einhander), Intelligent Qube was probably my favorite find from those discs. It's a brilliant puzzle game that drops you on a long, narrow grid with a wall of cubes tumbling toward you in different patterns. Players run around lighting up squares on the grid, and then push a button to eliminate any cubes currently on those squares, sinking them into the ground. Some of the cubes are lit up, and when they're sunk, they will highlight adjacent squares on the grid for players to trigger when the time is right. The mechanics are easy enough to grasp, but moving your player character around the playfield while trying to keep in mind which plates are lit up where and how best to use the glowing cubes requires just enough focus to keep you engaged. At its best, Intelligent Qube puts you in the beautiful moment where everything feels just slightly out of your control, where you think you can hold out just barely long enough but you don't know for sure. I don't think I've enjoyed any puzzle game quite as much, before or since.
Although Wipeout 3 was released in the states, this Special Edition was Euro-only. What makes it special? Extra tracks, a host of refinements to the physics and handling engine, and - most interesting of all - four-player racing (using two linked PlayStations and two TVs). I doubt whether that tech would work over PS Now (though it'd be great if it did), but either way, I'd love the chance to enjoy the definitive version of one of the best racers of its generation.
Bonus: The scrapped PlayStation game that we'd just love to play
Yeah, I know, Ico was a PlayStation 2 game. But it began life on the original PlayStation, and by all indications made it a fair ways along before it was scrapped and revamped for PS2. I have no illusions about the binned 32-bit version of Ico being at all complete or even playable for any significant amount of time, but what does that matter?
I'd love for Sony to put the low-impact nature of PlayStation Now to work to allow us to catch glimpses of these snatches of video game ephemera, providing beta or even pre-alpha versions of lost games like Ico or Thrill Kill for players to mess around in. Give us warnings and disclaimers about how rough and unstable they are if you like, but let us experience whatever exists of these prototypical creations. Not that most gamers would care, but for the curious and history-minded among us, that sort of behind-the-veil access would make PlayStation Now the single greatest publisher-initiated service ever.
Last, but by no means least, the USG video team has put together this short list of their favorites - that includes one of the most memorable moments in gaming ever.