The PlayStation 1 had such a massive library of games that it is impossible to do it justice with a simple top 100 games list. As such, I decided to supplement my usual review of a top 100 games list (this time, I used the top 100 PS1 games list from Retro Sanctuary) with other games picked up from different lists. This parallel "Additional List" is not numbered in any ordered way, so the quality of the titles theoretically varies from top to bottom with no rhyme or reason.
This report covers 10 game series, with one game having two notable games on the PS1, for a total of eleven games. Of these games, I only fully reviewed three games, since the rest of these consist of genres that I don't usually cover in these reviews or games that I played thoroughly a long time ago. Of the games in this selection, I can confidently say that Tales of Destiny II (Eternia) should comfortably be in the upper portions of a top 100 PS1 games list. I can be equally confident in saying that C-12, One, Kagero II, and Rampage: World Tour have no place on such a list.
Here is a brief on these eleven games, please enjoy:-
The Tales JRPG series is nowadays synonymous with comfort food; a satisfying meal that is neither complex nor memorable. Full to the brim with anime archetypes and genre cliches, it is honestly difficult to pick the different games apart.
It is then hard to imagine a time when the very things the series is known for were actually incredible innovations to the genre. The unabashed anime-ness of the series was established in the first game on the SNES, where an Anime cut scene and vocal track inexplicably fit into the cartridge. With the second game, Tales of Destiny, the series established much of its traditions and firmly entrenched itself into becoming an anime-videogame, for better or worse.
Despite its nice story and cast of characters, I must admit that I had to force myself to finish Tales of Destiny past the halfway point. With the story and exploration slowing down, the game's rather mundane gameplay was forced to carry its weight, and it failed to do so.
With merely nice sprite work and functional music, the game's production design wasn't doing any of the heavy lifting either. Instead, the residual charm of the story and characters gradually passed, and we are left with a step in the right direction but the franchise wasn't there yet.
Being the third game in the series, but only the second game released in the West after Tales of Destiny, this game was mistakingly branded with the Tales of Destiny II moniker to attract fans of the first PS1 Tales game. This decision would come to bite Namco later when they released the actual sequel to Tales of Destiny on the PS2, which they just called Tales of Destiny 2, using Arabic instead of Roman numerals.
One thing the original localization title made clear is that this game is a sequel to the first, and sequels, especially in the video game space, do not only mean a continuation of a story. Indeed, more often than not, sequels constitute an evolution in mechanics and presentation, which is what Tales of Eternia clearly demonstrates.
Here, we see the Tales series maturing in style and mechanics to the treasured JRPG franchise we know and love today, but that's not all that it represents. Despite some minor flaws and shortcomings, this game has the charm to stand tall alongside its more accomplished peers. Not only is it a massive upgrade over the first PS1 Tales game, but is also a very good game in its own right. It has a nice and engaging story that is headed by a very good cast of characters, with Farah being a special highlight in both the story and (later in the game) combat.
It helps that the story is being told through surprisingly good voice acting, and is supported by the solid Action RPG gameplay the series will be known for in the future. Thanks to its great 2D art and sprites, it still looks great today, with the rough but limited 3D polygons adding to its charms rather than subtracting from the overall presentation. It will even allow you to forgive the rather disappointing soundtrack.
A39- Kagero: Deception II (1998):
I am as equally baffled that this game was released in the use as I am that it was featured in any Top 100 PS1 games list. Kegero: Deception II is considered the blueprint for the rest of the series, a rather unique franchise in which the gameplay hook is to be as sadistic as possible in constructing traps for your innocent victims to fall into. You accomplish that by setting three traps in a 3D room outlined by a grid system, and then timing when those traps are sprung on your hapless victims in real time as you observe them with glee, getting more points by making ridiculous pain combos.
While surely inventive from a gameplay perspective, three issues betray the final product. First, is that your view of what is happening is constricted by an awful 3rd-person viewpoint. Second, the game's rather ugly graphics make it difficult to ascertain level features and distances accurately. Finally, the gameplay hook of waiting for victims to fall into your Rube Goldberg machine of pain and death is downright boring. It's ironic that the act of playing a game with sadistic tendencies is a masochistic endeavor.
A38- Dragon Warrior (Quest) VII (2000, 2001):
Dragon Quest sure came late to the party on the PS1 and I think that's mostly due to Enix's care in preserving the iconic look of the franchise, which they didn't want to subject to the jagged effects of early PS1 graphics. Instead, the eventual release of Dragon Quest VII has a hybrid 2D-3D look that fits the series well and looks better than a lot of PS1 games of the day.
Unfortunately, the series wasn't as respected in the West back then as it is today and the conservative nature of the game's graphics and gameplay drew a massive shrug from both gamers and the gaming press. It was considered downright backward in comparison to industry stalwart Final Fantasy, and its massive length and the slow burn of its story didn't help.
Now that a remake on the 3DS released which relieved some of the tedium (although it's still a MASSIVE game) it is easier to appreciate its good points. For one thing, its "basic" story has in it so many great micro-stories that are frankly more memorable and well-developed than the majority of JRPGs of its day, but that has always been a unique quality to the series; beauty in simplicity.
Still way too long for its own good, but if you are going to play it, then try the 3DS version.
A37- Brave Fencer Musashi (1998):
I knew that Brave Fencer Musashi was a cult classic when I started playing it and it was easy to see why. This was clearly a kid-oriented Action-Adventure game, but don't let that fool you, as it had a lot of depth to it. Musashi could copy the abilities of enemies in the field and use them to attack and/or solve environmental puzzles, and the level progression required careful management of the various NPCs' goals and quests. As such, it was really effective in developing genre staples in others' minds.
Unfortunately, I stopped playing the game due to personal family issues and simply couldn't get back into it again. Having gone deep into the game, its flaws were more readily noticeable since the thrill of continuation subsided. Musashi's base weapon attack has a pitiful range that reduces the fun of regular encounters, and there is sometimes very little direction on what to do next in a game that expects major backtracking.
Still, I know that I would still have really liked the game had I actually finished it. I could see that its great ideas outweigh its flaws.
A36- In the Hunt (1995):
I classified the genre for this game as "Swim 'n Gun" because it really couldn't be anything else. It's a port of an arcade game where you control a submarine that was released on Sega Saturn and PS1 and is released on the PS4 and Switch today. Controlling a submarine is probably the most unique thing about this game, and it changes how a Run 'n Gun would play tremendously. You have to worry about attacks from all directions as you swim underwater, with attack capabilities in the front, top, and bottom of your sub. There is a nice mechanic where your top shoot behaves differently when you raise to the surface of the water, and the level designs are made to take advantage of the various limitations of your sub.
Visually, you can see how this team then moved on to make the excellent Metal Slug series, with some great chunky sprite-work that lends the game a huge visual flair. However, the sound team may not be the same because this game's soundtrack and sound effects were extremely sharp and annoying.
Other than its unique ideas and great visual flair, the game wasn't particularly well-received. The submarine was a slow and big target, making the complex bullet-hell evasive maneuvers difficult to pull off, and was simply less appealing to play than other games in the Shooter genre. I am not a genre expert, but I think there is a reason this game is more well-known on the PS1 rather than the Saturn which had much stronger Shooters overall.
A35- Zanac x Zanac (2001): [Japan Only]
Zanac X Zanac is actually a compilation of Zanac games to celebrate the release of the original that was released in arcades, and it includes multiple versions of the original as well as the all-new Zanac: NEO. While the original is noted for its fast pace, adaptive music, and A.I. adapted difficulty, it new release that gives this compilation its value. Zanac: NEO Shmup was Compile's swan song before folding and being bought by Sega a year later, and it's a rather solid swan song for fans of the genre.
The series is known for having fast, almost twitchy, action along with a deep power system and an adaptive soundtrack. These are ramped up in NEO, and you can feel players going into a zen mode when playing the game (which suits the soundtrack). Unfortunately, the game was released only in Japan and is extremely expensive nowadays.
The move to 3D game development in the 5th Generation of Consoles introduced several interesting design problems regarding translating well-liked genres, such as 2D Shooters like Contra, into 3D space. Many developers went in different directions in answering that problem at a time when camera control concepts were in their infancy.
One is a 3D Run & Gun that attempts to channel the hectic bullet-filled action of its 2D counterparts (mainly Contra) into 3D space, and it succeeds in principle, but not in practice. This is not the answer fans of the genre (or good games) were looking for. Like many of the games that mindlessly tried to convert the tried and true genres of the 16-bit era into 3D space, One fell short of being a fun game. Sure, it was competently made and actually delivered its gameplay promise. However, the balance of the game and the feeling of playing it was all off, and frankly a huge downgrade from playing even the low-quality 2D Run & Guns of the day.
When the person playing the game is thankful that it is soo short, it is a sure sign that the game has fundamental flaws in its design. The design problem for moving genres to 3D space was a key issue in the 5th Generation, and One was clearly a wrong answer.
A33- Rampage World Tour (1997):
This game is an update of the Arcade classic that dared to use charming sprite graphics and was criticized for it by the gaming press at the time. Sure, Rampage World Tour is a rather basic building destructions Arcade Action game, but the graphics are not the reason that it's a bad game.
Despite its repetitive nature and weak gameplay, the game still had a solid reputation among players. I think that's because there is an inherent destructive trait to kids that this game lets them express, and the series has some charm to it as well. I know that I played the game and enjoyed it as a kid.
Released at the tail end of the PS's cycle, more than a year after the release of the PS2, C-12: Final Resistance was incredibly late to the party. Yet, being so late in its release may have been in its favor, as all the development secrets and tricks for the console were uncovered by then.
Unfortunately, despite taking advantage of vast collected knowledge in PS1 development, the game lacks the excellent application to make that knowledge count. It doesn't matter that the game may somehow be "technically" better than many other PS1 games before it because that expertise is in the service of a mediocre game at the end. C-12 was probably one of the final high-profile releases on the PS1, and despite the technical experience it had going for it, the late release may have belied a lack of ambition in the title. This is obvious in how bland the game's world and combat feel.
Now that the game's tech has aged a bit, its design shortcomings are as obvious to see as the cybernetic eye in Vaughan's low-res face.
A31- LSD Dream Emulator (1998): [Japan Only]
It may be a bad idea to make a video game by rejecting the idea of games in the first place, but that's exactly how the director, Osamu Satu, approached making this "game". As such, LSD Dream Emulator, which was only released in Japan, is unlike anything else on the PS1. Satu wanted to make a piece of contemporary art, and this game certainly qualifies. Gameplay consists of moving through a surreal dreamlike world, and that's about it. It is just entire surreal sequences consisting of the craziest PS1 polygonal graphics, with an equally crazy soundtrack, and it's up to you to decide if it's bloody brilliant or some smug horseshit.
This report is a consolidated review of the additional list in my PlayStation 1 REVIEWS blogging series list. It features the reviews I made for the list but also has a brief paragraph about each game on the list that I didn't review. For games without an official review, the opinions I express are purely based on some little playing time and general research about the game and its reception at the time.