Happy 16th to the Sony Playstation.

It’s hard to believe that 16 years ago today, Sony’s first Playstation games console hit the UK stores and yet after all this time I vividly remember standing outside in the drizzle of Autumn mist waiting for my local computer shop to open. Face mashed to the door glass in the hope of spotting any sign of life inside that could be flagged down and persuaded to open up early so I could finally get my mitts on Sony’s stunning new grey box.

It was a local store of course without crowds and queues of gamers to battle ( a cunning move on my part I thought) and yet this lack of eager gamers, excitement turned to concern and the roll of cash I’d saved became damp with nervous sweaty hands. The store owner said he would have a few new consoles in for the release date and I had reserved one for me…but what if they’d been a problem?…by the time I could race into to the city and to the larger stores, they would probably have sold out.

I’m sure he kept me waiting on purpose 🙂 and Fortunately, t’was my imagination running amok. The store open, he handed me my new console and I ‘peeled’ the wet notes from my hand!

Sadly, I could only afford the console itself, but as payday was just around the corner, I wouldn’t have to wait very long before I had my first game. For now, the Demo 1 disc included with the console was enough to blow my socks off and provide a few demo games to sample.

Over the past 16 years I’ve owned many Playstations (which I’ll now use the short code PSX to save my ‘typing finger’), some I brought, some i sold, some I traded, donated and have been given but up until recently have been without one for some time. Thanks to the chaps at the Retro Computer Museum I know have a lovely looking modded model example complete with the original control pads (edit – now have another modded console thanks to James!)

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So to coincide with the release date and the fact that autumn, amongst other things, still reminds of the PSX, I’ve been revisiting some of the very early release titles these past few weeks. There’s nothing suprising here and I’m guessing most gamers are very familiar with all of them. However, if it’s been awhile, dust down the old grey box, forget about HD and dual shock controllers and go back to 1995, in don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

WipeOut.

Psygnosis – Sept 1995.

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The killer release game and probably on top of everyone’s choice for their first buy. WipeOut was something special back then and thanks to it’s trend setting design element, fast paced visuals and cd quality audio tracks straight out of the dance clubs it became a popular culture icon breaking the mold of nerdy bedroom gaming for kids and introduced a slick and hip experience to all including non gamers alike.

Such was the appeal of the visuals, it was common to see game loops being projected onto large screens in nightclubs to accompany techno dance tracks. Add beer and it would often get quite hypnotic 🙂

WipeOut was my first PSX game and was one of handful of the european PSX first release titles. At a whopping £60 it certainly wasn’t cheap, but playing the single track on the demo 1 cd left me hungry for for more.

A total of 7 tracks are available yet sadly to this day I’m unable to get back track 5. Mastering the turbo start, memorising placement of the the speed pads, finding the racing line and a whole dollop of luck is in order.

Get it wrong and WipeOut can be a tad frustrating, get it right and with the music pumping, can be a huge adrenalin rush.

Going back to it today, PSX titles might look a little jagged compared to the smooth graphic accelerated HD games of today but it Wipeout still offers one damn fine gaming experience and the grey box certainly belts it out at great speed. Dial in Chemical Beats, hang on and enjoy the ride.

Destruction Derby

Psygnosis – October 1995

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Another popular early title released one month after WipeOut and therefore coincided with my wage cheque and subsequently was the second game I purchased.

Whereas with WipeOut it was best to avoid opponents on the race track, Destruction Derby encourage such ‘sport’.

Not only did it play very well, Destruction Derby looked absolutely brilliant with detailed 3d modelled cars each with it’s own unique livery, transparent tyre smoke, arid black engine smoke and an accurately detailed damage model as you watch your once pristine vehicle turn into a smashed, twisted and crumpled wreck.

Race circuits were equally detailed with excellent use of texture and lighting and like WipeOut contained advertisements for other PSX titles in game, something that had rarely been tried before and gave this surreal title a certain sense of reality.

Destruction Derby has plenty of great race options including a great two player hook up with two PSX consoles – it was a favourite recently at one of the gaming events at the Retro Computer Museum last year and something we must try again.

Time Trial – probably the weakest game mode as no one is bothered about lap times when you could be ramming your opponent against the wall. Still it provides practise time to get to grips with your car and familiarise yourself with the track layout.

Stock Car Racing – Traditional stock car racing where the top three drivers to reach the finish line after a number of laps will points and go up the leaderboard.

Wreckin’ Racing – by far the most fun game type as points are rewarded for smashing into the other cars to wreck them or spin them around. Hitting them in the right place will spin them 360 degrees and provide you with extra bonus points.

Each driver has their own personality and you find yourself getting to like or dislike certain drivers. Spin them out and they’ll yell out signature catch phases.

The destruction bowl – no start or finish line, just a big ass open space filled with all of other drivers. Your goal, smash up all of the other cars until their engine breaks (signified by plumes of black smoke) and avoid being hit yourself. Let the carnage begin….how long can you survive?

As an opening game Destruction Derby showed us the the technical prowess of Sony’s new box and it’s ability to throw so much stuff at the screen without stuttering. Certainly impressed the hell out of me and friends and yet was only a taster of things to come.

It might have CD scratches, but my original copy of Destruction Derby still appears to boots o.k.

Buying my third title, I recall, was a bit of a difficult decision? Do I go for the beautifully looking conversion of Namco’s Ridge Racer or do I step away from racing for a bit and buy the next big release, the one on one fighting game – Tekken?

In the end I went for the latter, although I did finally add Ridge Racer to my collection a few weeks later.

Tekken

Namco – November 1995

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Prior to the release of the Playstation, many gamers had a difficult choice, do they buy the latest console from Sega, the Sega Saturn with it’s fine collection of Sega arcade conversions like Daytona, Sega Rally and Virtua Fighter, or wait for the release from Sony in the hope that all the hype in the gaming publications at the time that this would be a far superior machine would turn out to be true…..how many times have we been here before 😉

In the end I opted to wait for Sony although I did deeply regretted not being able to play Virtua Fighter as it’s big brother standing in the in arcade halls was one of my favourites at the time.

With the purchase of Tekken for my new console I had high hopes, especially as, at the time Tekken was relatively unknown to me and had yet to see it in the arcades.

It goes without saying that I wasn’t disappointed and as you’ve probably played it yourself, you’ll know it’s damn fine game.

Outside of the arcades, Tekken was the first 3D fighting game I’d played and was such a refreshing and change to the 2D titles of the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat series. The 3D aspect gives the game a more realistic look and adds a new dimension (no pun) to what has come before….and so too with Battle Arena Toshinden.

It’s full of colourful and memorable fighters, a huge list of fighting moves, throws, specials and combos as well as, if you can master them, 10 hit combos and multi special moves which see’s your character perform an unstoppable array of punishing and bone breaking attacks. I spent ages mastering Kings special wrestling combo’s but could never get the timing right for Nina’s

Today, Tekken, Destruction Derby and WipeOut are still such great games to play. They can all be picked up second hand for just a few pounds and likewise PSX console bundles are very cheap too. This time around I don’t think I’ll have one missing in from my collection again.

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