The Favorite Games List was a recurring feature originally published on Trevor Trove. This installment originally debuted on January 10-11, 2016
Now that we’re entering the realm of PlayStation, Nintendo 64, and beyond, I think I’m going to occasionally break these up into multi-part posts. I probably could have done this with Super Nintendo as well. Maybe I’ll revisit that system at some point in the future. In this meantime, let’s visit some of my Favorite Games from the original…
My first experiences with the PlayStation were playing it somewhere other than my own home. By this point, my family was firmly in the Nintendo camp with the Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Game Boy so it took awhile to introduce another system into the house after the lackluster experiences with Sega. The timing of nearly 20 years ago is fuzzy but we probably even got the Nintendo 64 before the PlayStation, despite the PlayStation being on the market a year earlier. This was still a time when my father typically waited until he found a system at a garage sale or at the Swap Mart he worked at on the weekends. So my first introductions to the system were playing at my best friend’s house or even at the house of my church’s youth pastor. I don’t remember really anything else about him except that it was thanks to him that I was able to get my first exposure to…
Final Fantasy VII – Even before I had a PlayStation of my own, I was playing Final Fantasy VII at the youth pastor’s house or at my best friend’s house when I got to spend the occasionally weekend with him all the way over in Mesa (the fact that this twenty to thirty-minute drive felt like a trip to the other end of the country when I was 12 gives me a good chuckle now). As covered in my SNES right-up, Final Fantasy IV and VI are two of my all-time favorite games. And since I at the time thought we had jumped from Final Fantasy III on the Super Nintendo all the way up to Final Fantasy VII, I remember thinking that at the very least the graphical shift to 3D felt like it made more sense and wondering what the three games in between must’ve been like, not realizing Nintendo of America just wasn’t localizing them all so the numbering got all screwy.
Eventually, when my dad brought home a used PlayStation with a few games and a non-descript purple memory card, I was overjoyed that this game was among the collection. I really enjoyed the Materia system and characters. And at the time, the graphics were game–changing. Looking at games critically, it still ends up behind the Super Nintendo games when I think of my favorite Final Fantasy games but there’s no doubt in my mind that this was definitely my favorite when I was first playing it back then.
As of this writing, I’m replaying it on PlayStation 4 and might put together a proper review soon but the last little feather in my Final Fantasy VII cap was that, because this was one of those games that came out in the early days of the internet, I spend a lot of my middle school days trying to build a GeoCities website dedicated to Final Fantasy VII. I was slowly putting together a Walkthrough of the game and had a ton of character bios and pictures. And because it’s what you did at the time, I’d lie and tell people I was making all sorts of money off of the advertisements on the site. My first foray into managing a website…
Harvest Moon: Back to Nature – The sequel to one of my picks on the Super Nintendo list, Harvest Moon: Back to Nature stands as my favorite iteration of the game to this day. Adding to the addictive rebuild your grandfather’s farm and play nice with the townsfolk, this game was bigger and better in every way. There were more townspeople to meet and befriend, a wider variety of crops and animals for your farm, holidays and time-specific events to engage in, and a series of weekly TV shows you could “watch” (i.e. read the text descriptions while an image appeared on the screen) including cooking shows, a romance, a Power Rangers-esque show, and home shopping (to buy kitchen items for your cooking). In addition to still having the disc-version and it’s instruction booklet that had a handy calendar so you knew not only when holidays were but also when everyone’s birthday was, this is one of the PS Classics I keep on my PlayStation Vita and revisit every now and again.
Alright, I spent a lot more time on those two games than I was anticipating and I’m tired so I’ll continue this list tomorrow.
Thanks for reading!
I touched on two of my favorite PlayStation games last night so let’s dive into some more, shall we?
Dragon Warrior VII – As I touched upon in my Nintendo and Game Boy segments, the Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior games hold a special place in my heart just as the Final Fantasy series does. Much like the running theme in my top games of 2015 was 100+ hour experiences, Dragon Warrior VII fit that same description when I was first playing it 15 years ago. While the Final Fantasy games on the original PlayStation embraced the new technology and focused on 3D graphics, Dragon Warrior VII instead kept the series 2D sprites intact and poured the resources into an incredibly dense main campaign. Despite pouring over 100 hours into the game on at least two separate occasions, I still never completed the main story.
But the beauty of Dragon Warrior VII was that it was filled with dozens of smaller self-contained stories. You and your party traveled through time restoring fragments of the old world, piece by piece. Each island or town you would revisit in the past had it’s own story that you would get caught up in and resolve before that city would reappear in the present day, restored thanks to your efforts.
On top of that, I spent hours upon hours just grinding through the game’s job system. Maybe 30 hours into the story, one of the islands you unlock allows you to start adding the games many job classes, each with 8 levels. Mastering combinations of these classes not only gave you new skills and magic, but would unlock even better classes to pursue. Want to be a TeenIdol? Great! You just have to master the Dancer, Bard, and Jester classes to unlock it. One of the reasons I never finished the main story was because I often fell down the rabbit hole of trying to master as many jobs as possible for my whole party.
A remaster of the game is coming to the Nintendo 3DS in summer 2016 in the form of Dragon Quest VII: Warriors of Eden. If you have one, I think it’s a must have.
The Game of Life – I grew up in a family that loved classic board games. We spent tons on time playing Monopoly, Risk, and The Game of Life. The PlayStation version is pretty much the same as the board game but with extra PlayStation-era animations. This was a fun mindless distraction in the days before mobile or even Facebook games. Plus, it was one of the last games my whole family played together before I moved out of the house for college.
And it was way easier than trying to get the little pink and blue pegs into the cars. For some reason, that was just always a huge pain in the ass for our family and our fat fingers…
Chrono Cross – Because I missed Chrono Trigger on the Super Nintendo, Chrono Cross was actually my first entry into the series (even though I had the Final Fantasy Chronicles collection with Final Fantasy IV and Chrono Trigger on PlayStation). Chrono Cross, as someone who didn’t have its predecessor as a reference point at the time, was a fun RPG that I played following the strategy guide as closely as possible to maximize all of the different party members I could collect. Playing the game again after Chrono Trigger definitely reveals how much fan-service is in there from the original game but it I still found it a fun stand-alone in its own right. And I will always associate the game with the Barenaked Ladies because I was often listening to Stunt and Maroon on repeat while playing this game.
So those are a few more of my Favorite Games on the original PlayStation. Stay tuned for the third and final part tomorrow.
We’ve come to the final chapter of my Favorite Games on the original PlayStation. As you may have inferred from Parts One and Two (and the games listed in this iteration), the original PlayStation was very much my RPG-console. As a result, many classics of the system like Crash Bandicoot, PaRappa the Rapper, Metal Gear Solid, and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night never made it into my system (though I did finally play Castlevania on my Vita last year for the Kinda Funny Book Club). So these games not appearing isn’t a condemnation on them, I was just not fully in the PlayStation ecosystem back then.
Final Fantasy IX – As I touched on in Part One, Final Fantasy VII was an early front-runner for favorite game on the PlayStation. And when Final Fantasy VIII came out as the first game in the series I didn’t like, my hopes for Final Fantasy IX dwindled a bit. But from the games first moments where you play as a member of a theatre troupe, I knew I was in for a treat with this one.
While Final Fantasy VIII was filled with mopey, dour characters, Final Fantasy IX was vibrant and joyous. The Draw system of FFVIII was tedious and discouraged actually using magic because you’d lose the character boosting benefits, while the characters in FFIX received their skills and magic through equipping the right gear. Basically, Final Fantasy IX fixed everything I hated about Final Fantasy VIII and was a great, enjoyable throwback to the classic “fantasy”-based games of the series. As a result, Zidane, Vivi, Dagger, and come in just below the SNES games as my third favorite entry in the Final Fantasy series.
Final Fantasy Tactics – One of the first departures from the core, numbered series, Final Fantasy Tactics offered one of the deepest narratives ever in a Final Fantasy game as well as pitch-perfect turn-based strategy role-playing mechanics. I spent countless hours with this game trying to maximize the skills and equipment earned in each fraught battle. And because the enemies leveled up alongside main character Ramza, that often would up making the end game near impossible so it was that much more satisfying clearing a battlefield with all party members intact. Given the direction SquareEnix has taken the Final Fantasy franchise, it seems almost certain we’ll never get a proper follow-up outside of the Game Boy Advance games, which I found lacking the complexity of this original. What a shame. At least they touched it up and gave us some new content in the PSP port a few years back.
Final Fantasy Origins/Chronicles/Anthology – Mashed together as one entry, these three two-in-one collections are included because they brought some of the greatest RPGs ever to the PlayStation.
Origins brought me Final Fantasy I (which I had never played on the original Nintendo)and Final Fantasy II (which had never been released in the U.S. to that point), allowing me to finally play the games that established the groundwork for the entries I grew to love on the Super Nintendo.
Chronicles, as mentioned in yesterday’s post, gave us the phenomenal one-two punch of Final Fantasy IV (which I had fallen in love with as Final Fantasy II) and Chrono Trigger (which I had somehow missed on Super Nintendo). Unfortunately, the disc-based nature of these iterations does mean that the load times are somewhat more noticeable than their cartridge-based counterparts. But still, that’s two of the best games the JRPG-genre ever saw in one package, right there.
And Anthology gave me a new version of my all-time favorite Final Fantasy VI as well as the first appearance stateside of Final Fantasy V, which was a solid game with a focus on the classic Job System of earlier entries. All told, I was finally able to play nearly every single Final Fantasy game from I through IX on one system. Why Final Fantasy III didn’t get released to the U.S. until the Nintendo DS version remains a mystery to me.
Suikoden II – The last of my entries also happens to be the last one I played chronologically. Having been firmly in the Square and Enix camps during the original PlayStation era (before they merged), I didn’t really venture outside their catalog all that often. I wasn’t yet the well-informed gamer I am today so a lot of games just never made it onto my radar. I never even heard about the Suikoden games until Jared Petty sang Suikoden II‘s praises on an episode of Podcast Beyond. But I wasn’t about to spend an obscene amount of money on a physical copy of the game. So when they announced it was coming to Vita at the inaugural PlayStation Experience, I picked it up and played through it.
The fact that the game stayed with 2D-sprites instead of going the Square route of polygons immediately made it more timeless in terms of playability in a modern setting. But the vast cast of characters, complex story of brotherhood and betrayal, and dynamic combat played right into the things I love about the best RPGs. If you never played the game, allow me to join the chorus beating the Suikoden drum and insist that you try to play this game if you are able.
So there you have it: the final (fantasy-heavy) entries in my Favorite Games of Sony’s first PlayStation. What classics did I miss? I know there are a ton. Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter.