For me, the top 70-61 games according to Retro Sanctuary's Top 100 PS1 Games list are proof of the strength of the PS1's library. It includes genuinely very good games like Klonoa and Fear Effect as well as games with the respectable legacy of Oddworld, PaRappa the Rapper, and ISS Pro Evolution 2. As usual with Retro Sanctuary's list, not everything belongs here, including ports of better Arcade and PC games.
Of the games in this list, I have reviewed three games as wells as two games related to them. Generally, this is equal to other games I reviewed but is actually lower in the list than I would have put them. There are better games outside of the Retro Sanctuary list that deserve to be here. Let's see how the next 10 games turn out to be.
70- ISS Pro Evolution 2 (2000, 2001):
As an avid fan and player of real football, games like Konami's famed Winning Eleven (now known as Pro Evolution Soccer) were the only sport video games that interested me. In my opinion, the PES series still is the best football game mechanically speaking (the FIFA series simply copied entire systems from that game and then packaged it and marketed it better), and that level of proficiency can be directly traced back to the game's roots on the PS1.
ISS Pro Evolution 2 is the culmination of all of Konami's experience throughout the PS1's life cycle, and it's still a blast to play today. With fast-paced gameplay, strategic simulation, and a lot of depth inside a deceptively simple shell, the game had legs to spare. It scores in every department that doesn't involve team and player licensing, and by this stage, some famous names started appearing in the games.
Generally, Sports games only get better with technology, and that is still true in this case. But damn isn't it still fun to play this game today. At least for an afternoon, I got Maldini to win the World Cup.
69- Gradius Gaiden (1997): (Japan Only)
The PS1 is not known as the best console for Shmups during its generation. That honor goes to the Sega Saturn. That doesn't mean that the console didn't get its share of really good Shmups, many of them exclusively released in Japan.
Gradius Gaiden is such a game. With its tried and true formula, only introducing 3D graphics minimally and without compromising the general look, the game is as challenging and fun as fans of the genre demand. It also has some really good music as well.
Klonoa is different from the other mascots introduced in the late 90s in that Namco balanced the edgy style of the era with a classical Japanese focus on cuteness and personality. That saved the character from being as dated and cringy as some of the other B-Tier mascots of the time.
However, an arguably more drastic departure was Namco's insistence on remaining within the tried and true 2D Platformer genre instead of going for the 3D trend. That ultimately worked for the game's favor, as is this is a really very good 2D platformer at its core, with the added bonus of having a nice story and some good graphics.
I missed this game when I had a PS1. Maybe I was an idiot and thought it was a cute game for children. If that was the case, then I sure missed playing a very good game. A very good game that could have been great if it expanded its ideas more, and managed to include more stages.
As it is, this is a sweet and short game that is worth the playtime for sure.
67- Point Blank (1997): (Japan Only)
I have no idea why a Light Gun shooter, a genre the PS1 is no known to excel at, is included in a top PS1 games list, and a Japan-exclusive game at that. Seriously, nothing about this game stands out from other superior Light Gun games, and it is not as cool or good as the genuine Arcade experience.
As far as I am concerned, this is a complete waste of a slot.
66- G-Darius (1997):
Just as I said that there the PS1 is not known for Shmups, another one comes into the list, but this one was actually released in the US. Whereas Gradius Gaiden is a traditional shooter, G-Darius is a much more experimental title in both its presentation and gameplay.
Starting with its gameplay innovations, the game has multiple paths through it, similar to the way Starfox 64 works. True, these paths are not as varied or extensive as the levels in other Shmups, but that variety is appreciated for multiple playthroughs. As for the mechanics, the biggest twist is the ability to "capture" certain enemy ships and use them as sentries or make-shift bombs. I honestly don't see how that works well with all the chaos, but I guess some people figured it out.
As for graphics, this game employs polygons in everything from the base enemies to the backgrounds, and it honestly doesn't look as good as traditional 2D Shmups, but it is not too extensive that it aged terribly. The end product is an innovative game in the genre that is cool, if not as respected as many of its peers.
65- Future Cop: LAPD (1998)
The closest parallel to Future Cop: LAPD is probably EA's own Strike series, in which you control a helicopter from a top-down perspective and fulfill a variety of objectives at a semi-open level. Similarly, here you are tasked with piloting a special fighting vehicle that you use to kill enemies and fulfill a variety of objectives.
Mechanically, the game is still responsive to play, and I imagine some people can enjoy mastering its unique movement system and speed-running through objectives. However, I am not sure that is enough in itself to make the game fun for the casual hobbyist. Other than its unique gameplay hook (which isn't in my opinion strong enough for the game to hang by), the game has little else to recommend it.
But it can sure be fun to those who dedicate themselves to master it (but I am sure that time would be better dedicated to other games).
While the name and tank-style controls may suggest a Resident Evil-like Survival Horror game, Fear Effect in fact has more in common with the cinematic action games Naughty Dog likes to produce today. This is a relatively short game that spans a massive four discs, and that's because of the vast amount of cutscenes and the fully voiced dialogue.
Normally, for a PS1 game, that would mean a game that aged terribly, with ugly polygonal graphics and cheesy voice acting. However, Fear Effect is preserved in its original cinematic vision, which was highly competent at the time, and still great to see today.
Two elements ensured that Fear Effect didn't age too badly. First, its cell-shaded graphics in the game's many scenes still look good. Second, the characters and voice acting still makes for a compelling, if basic, cinematic experience.
As such, Fear Effect is still fun to play today even beyond a historical playthrough, and that's something that not every cinematic PS1 game can claim to be.
Fear Effect 2 is a prequel that is very much in the image of the first game but with some additions for better or worse. It has more action, story complexity, puzzles, well-directed cut-scenes, and more cleavage.
Originally, I thought that the overt sexuality of Fear Effect can be considered an empowering factor. That argument is blown out of the water with this second game, where the sex factor is clearly gratuitous and exploitative, but apart from two or three points it's not far removed from a typical action movie.
Depending on how you like the first game and the specific combination of things the sequel has, you will like it more or less. Personally, I found the first game to be slightly better, mostly because of its tighter story and better character interaction, but they are very much in the same league.
I think that cements the legacy of both games as ambitious PS1 games that succeeded in crafting impressive graphics and ambitiously cinematic games married to traditional action gameplay. Yet, the series arrived too late to make much of an impact in the scene, and as such subsequently disappeared.
There is no doubt that the Oddworld was a unique breath of fresh air (despite Abe's foul farts) when it was first released on the PS1. It was an interesting Puzzle-Platformer with a unique look and a subversive story. Also, it had hugely ambitious lore behind it.
Yet, playing it now, I cannot but wonder at the patience players at the time must have had to enjoy it. Abe's Oddysee is a game that demands precision without being equipped for it and has some very obtuse solutions to puzzles on top of that.
That's not to say that its unique charm cannot be engaging some of the time. Gamers regularly ignored the frustrating aspects of some games in the past when they had other good parts to them. At least, we were more used to unfair design and repeated failures.
Unfortunately for Abe's Oddysee, I don't think its unique and interesting world shields it from what I consider some unfairly precise gameplay, nor would I consider it fun even if it was slightly less frustrating.
Just a year after the release of the first game and envisioned as a spin-off sequel, Abe's Exoddus isn't actually a much different game. Yet, it is improved in many small areas that is a much more enjoyable game to play.
If you loved the first game, you will probably love this one more. Conversely, the game doesn't do anything to change your mind if you hated or were ambivalent about its predecessor.
The Oddworld franchises started with a sprint before it attempted to walk. It envisioned a "Quintology" of games and yet dared to call the first sequel it released a "spin-off sequel", and to that end thought a spin-off would be released between every mainline game.
Obviously, that didn't happen. In fact, despite being a clearly better game, Abe's Exoddus failed to sell as half as the surprisingly successful first game. I think that is because, despite the franchise's neat ideas, I just think it isn't very fun to play.
Still, there are enough neat ideas in this sequel that it is worth playing for those who like Puzzle Platformers with a weird and quirky personality.
62- PaRappa the Rapper (1996,1997):
There is no doubt about the legacy of PaRappa the Rapper, which was one of the pioneers of the Rhythm genre. It was one of the games that created much of the common gaming vocabulary of Rhythm games, from the scrolling notes to the ubiquitous music bar. However, actually playing it today is a less illustrious experience. The gameplay is poorly calibrated, and you feel the Rhythm commands are poorly synced both visually and audibly, and that's a crime for this genre.
Ironically, while its gameplay has aged very much, the game still looks great. Its unique paper cartoon aesthetic is brilliant, and the music is good despite being cheesy in some way.
61- Warcraft II: The Dark Saga (1997):
There is no doubt that Warcraft II is a brilliant RTS game. Equally, there is no doubt that playing it on consoles is a much worse experience compared to playing it on the PC.
This is one of the many examples where I don't understand the Retro Sanctuary list. There are many more games that deserve this spot more than a gimped PC port.
This report is a consolidated review of the top 100 list by Retro Sanctuary. 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.