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.
Rival Schools -- and its Dreamcast sequel Project Justice -- remain my favorite fighting games of all time, largely because I can still understand them. Modern fighting games are full of complex systems that I don't really understand, whereas Rival Schools played very much like Street Fighter 2 -- the old, simple versions of Street Fighter 2 -- with slice of life anime-style characters rather than the exaggerated caricatures of its stablemate.
It was also the first time I saw a fighting game have a coherent story mode -- something that we still don't tend to get all that often, with a few exceptions such as Persona 4 Arena and Aquapazza. Okay, the story was complete nonsense -- as I recall, it concluded with you fighting your headmaster in space -- and one of the best things about the Japanese version of the game -- the custom character "School Life" mode -- was conspicuously absent from the Western release, but I'd still love to play this game again.
Jaz: Comment: Rival Schools was going to be one of my picks too. It boasts a really interesting (and highly eccentric) range of characters, and some of the moves they can perform are totally nuts. I loved the way the characters are divided into factions, and that there’s a proper story behind the game (even if it is a bit weird). I really hope this one gets trotted out so others can enjoy its unusual charms.
Final Fantasy 9 caught me off-guard. Eight was a soppy love story, in a high-tech college of magic. Nine had chibis. I remember spending the first hour of Final Fantasy 9 completely bewildered. Chibis. Bobble-headed people everywhere! While it deviated from its predecessor’s slightly bleaker tone, Final Fantasy 9 wasn't completely made out fluff. Vivi's awkward confrontation with death still stands out as one of my most poignant memories of the PS One. I loved the world of Gaia, the rat people who are enamored of dance, the bumbling Steiner and his even more awkward crush on a certain lass in the game. Most of all, however, I want an excuse to get into the whole Tetra Master habit yet again because man, the Final Fantasy series are amazing at those mini-games.
Actually, could we just have a greatest compilation of the mini-games? Please?
We're finally -- finally! -- going to get 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 already 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.
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.
Pete: I don't think it's a case of designers having trouble making compelling space combat -- it's simply the (rather mistaken, in my opinion) assumption that space combat games, for some reason, won't sell. I think the astronomical -- no pun intended -- success of Chris Roberts' Star Citizen crowdfunding efforts demonstrates more than conclusively that people are still hungry for this type of game, so what better time to bring back one of the greats?
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.
Pete: I could get behind this if only for the fact it never came to my native Europe and consequently I never got to play it. It always sounded like an utterly fascinating concept, though, however flawed it might have been in execution. If it came to PlayStation Now, I'd definitely give it a go.
Square Enix's Ehrgeiz may not have been the best fighting game, but it was certainly an interesting one, with its fully three-dimensional stages, super-slick frame-rate, guest appearances from Final Fantasy VII characters and enjoyable mechanics. Actually, the Final Fantasy characters were the main draw for me at the time -- we wouldn't get a dedicated Final Fantasy fighting game until Dissidia on PSP some years later; a game which I must confess I still have to try.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Ehrgeiz, though, was the fact that alongside the fully featured fighting game, there was also a completely separate action RPG to play through. Sure, it was fairly rudimentary compared to some other games, but the simple fact that it was included made the whole package incredibly good value in terms of dollars-per-hour of entertainment.
I'm largely interested to return to this game to see how well it holds up today. I'm guessing not that well, but I have some fond memories of it.
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.
What a lovely game this was, and so beautifully localized by Working Designs. Some great characters, an enjoyable story and a fun battle system combined to make one of my favorite RPGs of the PS1 era -- and one that was notable at the time for having an actual theme song, which was relatively unusual at the time.
Lunar may not have been the most technically accomplished RPG released in the PS1 era -- its top-down 2D adventuring betrayed its Sega CD roots somewhat -- but it was definitely one of the most enjoyable and charming.
Jeremy: Lunar? Hmmm, they've crammed that game down our throats over the past few years. Me, I'm all for Lunar 2 -- a much better game, and one that's seen inexplicably fewer remakes. Plus, I have a poem somewhere in the PS1 version....
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.
Vib-Ribbon, for the uninitiated, was a game about a wireframe rabbit that liked skipping along a white line in time with music. In order to prevent her from devolving into a worm and subsequently into depressing nothingness, you had to ensure that she successfully navigated various obstacles that included spiky wobbly bits (press X), V-shaped pits (press down on the D-pad), loop-de-loops (press R1) and bumps in the road (press L1).
Where things got a bit more challenging was where these elements combined -- you'd come across a loop with a pit at the top of it, for example, or a bump in the road with a spiky wobbly bit on top, and would consequently have to press multiple buttons at the same time. It was rather difficult at times.
One of the most interesting things about Vib-Ribbon was the fact it loaded itself entirely into the PlayStation's RAM and consequently didn't require the disc once it was running. This meant you could load in your own audio CD and have the game generate music tracks from any piece of music you wanted. It was interesting to discover what tracks produced what kinds of levels -- some would be easy to get through, while others with more complex backings would see you contending with all manner of nigh-impossible challenges such as several obstacles moving at different speeds.
While I don't quite see how the CD import function would work using PlayStation Now, the base game was a great rhythm game that's worth revisiting.
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.
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.
Mega Man X4 wasn't my first Mega Man. I'm sure of that. Dim memories of a far more primitive Mega Man waft about gently in the back of my head. I'm sure I've played others. But my recollections of Mega Man X4 are easily the most vivid. I relished the opportunity to make an attempt at the game as either Zero or Mega Man, a liberty I abused whenever possible.
There's no specific reason as to why I so enjoyed Mega Man X4 asides from, well, the fact that it was rather stylish, involved robot politics and a certain iconic character. I want it on the PS One for an entirely selfish reason -- because I never actually finished Mega Man X4 while my PS One was still alive. I'm older now, and a lot better at these kind of games. Rematch, please.
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.
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