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Weekly Musings #9 - Ten Playstation Titles Everyone Should Own (Part One)
Author: Michael Ahlf 
Date: August 9th 2004
This week's Musings is going to be quick, as my copy of Doom3 has arrived. The result is that this week and next week's columns are going to be two parts, covering ten old Playstation titles (yes, Playstation, not PS2) that everyone should at least think about having in their collection.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Symphony of the Night is often regarded as the pinnacle of Castlevania games, that perfect blend of RPG, storyline, and 2D action scroller that every Castlevania since has tried to live up to. A lot of Castlevania titles since have been mediocre or worse, too; even the PS2 release, as nice looking as it is, can't hold a candle to the involving gameplay that Symphony of the Night brings to the gamer. Until the second and third GBA installments, indeed, lovers of the Castlevania line were starting to despair for another good title; we were all afraid that the drought years of titles like Castlevania: Bloodlines (Genesis) and Dracula X (SNES) had returned.

Thankfully, that's not the case - and a look back at SotN will show you why. Rather than push the envelope of 3D as so many games of the time did, Konami took the Playstation's graphical abilities in 2D and stretched them to their limit. They also packed the game with tons of extras and items to hunt down, a wonderful bonus for repeat players.

Why you should own it: Because it is the pinnacle of the Castlevania series.

Oddworld: Abe's Oddyssee or Abe's Exoddus

Oddworld, by contrast to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, isn't about being the pinnacle of a well-established style. Instead, Oddworld was about breaking and remaking the 2D platformer into a fun, addictive puzzle-solving game. What was so innovative? Mostly, it was the gamespeak aspect - instead of simply running one character around, players had to rescue and manipulate other characters in a spoken manner reminiscent of playing Lemmings. Add in a decently fun storyline, irreverent humor and fart jokes, and a self-deprecating "hero" to the mix and it's again a game worth coming back to time and again. While the third installment on the Xbox wasn't as much fun, word is that Microsoft may have been smoking something when they passed on distribution rights to the fourth.

Why you should own them: Because good genre-mixing games are hard to come by.

Street Fighter Alpha 3

Yes, I know Street Fighter's been done, and done, and done some more. But Alpha 3 is special - of the "old school" Street Fighter titles, it's probably the most played. The EX series petered out, hampered by an overreliance on super moves and by the abortive disaster that was EX3's attempt to clone the Tekken Tag formula. The Street Fighter III line has always been niche, the sort of game that hardcore tournament players - and ONLY hardcore tournament players - will ever come close to playing for fun. By contrast, Street Fighter Alpha 3's a nice blend of everything. It's not too fast, not too "hardcore", and a good game to sit down and play with friends. It also has a plethora of "extra" modes for single player training - boss-only mode, create-a-fighter, world tournament. 

Why you should own it: Because for the PSX it's hands-down the best 2D fighter available.

Einhander

Sometimes the underdog titles are the best, and Einhander's no exception. It's only one game and lacks the star power of the R-Type franchise, but even so, it's a highly pretty and well worth owning 2D shoot-em-up title. The trick to gameplay in Einhander is about managing weapons - variant ships can carry one, two (but swappable and dual-fire), or three (swappable) weapons along with the ship's standard minigun, which varies in power depending on your choice. Weapons have to be stolen from destroyed enemies, fall off the screen, and can even be shot and destroyed if you're not careful.

Einhander was also one of the first games to really try out the Playstation's 3D capabilities, which shows itself in the amazingly huge and well-rendered (even by today's standards) boss battles.

Why you should own it: It's just an addictive 2D shoot-em-up.

Silent Hill

Silent Hill, now on its fourth incarnation, took the formula provided by Resident Evil and virtually perfected it - where later RE games became resource management and gore-spewing nightmares, the Silent Hill series has remained primarily about atmospheric horror. The first Silent Hill puts gamers in control of Harry Mason, exploring the deserted town of Silent Hill to try to recover his daughter, who ran off after a car crash. Graphically, it may be a bit dated these days (especially since the first RE got a major makeover to start off the Gamecube re-release line), but that's okay; the game provides plenty of atmosphere and opportunities to scare the gamer. 

Why you should own it: It's the closest thing there is to putting the player in the center of a horror movie.

I'll have five more next week - in the meantime, if you've got suggestions, drop them my way!

Got Comments? Send 'em to Michael (at) Glideunderground.com!
Alternatively, post 'em right here for everyone to see!

Weekly Musings #9: Ten PSX titles everyone should own (Part One)


Added:  Monday, August 09, 2004
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf

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