The importance of a quality line-up of games to compliment the launch of a new console can not be underestimated. This was particularly true for the launch of the PlayStation in 1994. Sony’s 32 bit console would be their first foray into a video game industry which had been dominated by Sega and Nintendo for the preceding decade, if the Japanese electronics giant was going to succeed then the PlayStation would have to impress from day 1.
The PlayStation’s European launch was set for the 29th September 1995, with a total of 7 games available on day 1. The titles available, spanned a wide variety of genres with Fighters, First Person Shooters, Sports, Racing and Run and Gun games, all vying to be the games first played on Sony’s shiny new console; but were they any good?
Battle Arena Toshinden (1995 Tamsoft/Takara)
The Playstation required a 3D one on one fighter to compete with Sega’s Virtua Fighter, which had launched with the Saturn 2 months previously, and with Namco’s seminal Tekken not due for release in Europe until the November of 1995, Playstation’s early adopters had to settle with Battle Arena Toshinden. Developed by Tamsoft and published by Takara on the Playstation, Battle Arena Toshinden was the first 3D poloygonal weapons based fighter, a genre which would go on to be popularised by the likes of Soul Edge and Soul Calibur. Toshinden boasted an initial 8 playable characters, with a further 2 unlockable by completing certain aspects of the game, each character had their own weapons ranging from Swords and Staffs to Whips and Claws. The game was highly praised upon release, recieving high scores from EGM, Game Pro and other publications, however in hindsight the game has not aged well, especially in comparison to Tekken, Soul Calibur and the Virtua Fighter series.
The gameplay is somewhat slow and with a limited amount of moves at the players disposal the replay factor suffers greatly . However Toshinden is an interesting relic from a time when 3D gaming was taking its first tentative steps and is worth your attention for this reason. As a launch title, Toshinden did its job well, helping to make the PlayStation the popular choice for gamers over Sega’s Saturn.
Kileak: The Blood (1995 Genki/SCE)
Ever since id Software had popularised the 1st person shooter in 92/93 with Wolfenstein and Doom, developers left,right and centre were coming up with FPS games, which, they hoped would be the next “Big Thing”. Games such as Heretic, Dark Forces and Marathon (an early game for Halo developers, Bungie) were trying to steal the FPS crown from Doom. Genki waded into this 1st person free for all, with their 1995 release, Kileak: The Blood (renamed Kileak: The DNA Imperative, in the States), a PlayStation exclusive.
Kileak: The Blood saw the player take control of an armoured mecha, wandering around corridors, battling robots and searching for the elevators to take you to the next level. Unfortunately the level design was uninspired and a little boring, with limited controls Kileak had nothing new to offer over far superior games available on the PC. However, with the PlayStation port of Doom not scheduled for release until the December of 1995, Kileak: The Blood was the best PlayStation fans were going to get for the 1st few months.
Rapid Reload (1995 Media Vision/SCE)
Gamers who still wanted a little old school 2D action on their brand spanky new console, were treated to Rapid Reload. Media Vision’s game is a run and gun affair, often compared to Treasure’s classic, Gunstar Heroes. Players take control of Axel Sonics or Ruka Hetfield through 6 levels of shooty madness, battling various mechs, soldiers and robots to make it to the end.
The game plays well, although it is not as polished an experience as Gunstar Heroes, Contra or Metal Slug. Media Vision would go on to develop the best selling Wild Arms series of RPGS, but Rapid Reload would be their first game for the European PlayStation (1994’s Crime Crackers was a Japan only release). Rapid Reload is not a bad game at all, but was somewhat overlooked on release due to the excitement and novelty of three dimensional gaming.
Ridge Racer (1995 Namco)
Namco became synonymous with the success of the PlayStation, just as Rare would with the N64 or Capcom and Konami did with the Super Nintendo. This most special of relationships started with Namco’s first game for Sony’s console, a port of the uber-successful Ridge Racer arcade game. Ridge Racer would be touted as the PlayStation’s killer app in the months before release and would be a real demonstration of the power of 32 bit technology.
The console port would not disappoint, Namco delivered a nigh on perfect representation of the arcade original, even giving players the opportunity to replace the game CD with an audio CD so their own music could be played during races. The controls were perfect and worked well with the non-analogue controller packaged with the system (the dual shock wouldn’t be released until 1998). Ridge Racer would go on to sell 790 thousand copies worldwide beating the Saturn’s Daytona USA by 200 thousand units.
Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game (1995 Capcom/Acclaim)
It remains a mystery, even now 20 years later, how Capcom could make a Street Fighter game which lacked almost everything that made the original game so special. Those of you who weren’t around in 1994, think yourself lucky that you didn’t have to hype yourself up for the Street Fighter movie, only to be deeply disappointed.
The big screen adaptation of Capcom’s seminal fighter, starred Jean-Claude Van Damme as Guile, Raul Julia as M. Bision and, for some reason or other, vertically challenged, antipodean songstress, Kylie Minogue as Cammy. The film was awful and bore little resemblance to the game, although still managing to more than double its budget at the box office, and of course, Capcom needed to make a game of the movie of the game.
Street Fighter: The Movie featured all the famous characters from previous Street Fighter games including, Cammy, Chun Li, Ryu, Ken, Sagat, Blanka, Bison, Zangief etc, however digitized actors from the movie replaced the usual character models. The PlayStation port of the game, was a facelifted version of Street Fighter 2 Turbo but suffered from terrible slowdown and clunky controls, a far cry from the perfection of the original game.
Any new system would have been lucky to launch with a Street Fighter game, unfortunately the PlayStation launched with the worst Street Fighter of all time, luckily the console would receive its fair share of quality Street Fighting fare in the years to come.
Wipeout (1995 Psygnosis)
Quite possibly one of the best launch games of all time, Wipeout did everything right. Psygnosis’ futuristic racer managed not only to be an impressuve tech demo for Sony’s new wonder console but be a thoroughly entertaining game to boot. Players had a choice of four different teams, each with two craft each , giving a total of 8 craft to master. Weapons and shields could be picked up by flying over power pads and speed boost arrows littered the course giving even more umph to the already blistering speed.
Wipeout would be the game which attracted the 20 something age bracket, thanks in part, to the soundtrack which featured Leftfield, Orbital and The Chemical Bros, making Wipeout the go to game for after club gaming sessions. Yes indeed, Wipeout made the PlayStation cool, the Saturn would receive a port in February 1996 but by then the PlayStation was already the cool kids console and the Saturn was left in the dust.
In retrospect the original PlayStation’s launch lineup was small and a little lackluster, especially in comparison to subsequent PlayStation launches. However the PlayStation did launch with two AAA games, in Ridge Racer and Wipeout which would more than justify the console’s £299 price tag. The Saturn, arguably, had the more famous launch games, with Daytona and Virtua Fighter among them, however Sega’s console was £100 more expensive and woefully under powered 3D wise; the choice for consumers was easy.