Hidden Gems: Sony Playstation.
Hello and welcome to our latest Hidden Gem article. This time we’re looking at the console that basically changed everything, the Sony Playstation. It handed beat downs to every other console on the market, dragged gaming as a hobby from darkened bedrooms to fashionable nightclubs and ushered in the true age of 3D.
Of course, some of these games are more ‘cult hits’ than ‘hidden gems’ but ‘Battle Raiden Love Hina Champions: Ubiqitious Mecha Ughhh IX’ or whatever just isn’t going to be as fun as these underrated titles.
Here’s Rich and Danny to take you to the third place. Whatever that is.
Soccer ’97 (Eidos)
I know what you’re thinking. Football games start and end with the ISS/Pro Evo series on the PlayStation. Well, whilst ISS Pro Evolution Soccer perfected the genre there were other games on the system that played a damned fine game of footie.
Eidos’ Soccer ’97 had many of the same traits as the PES/Fifa games but introduced some lovely features, some of which would improve the PES series even now. The game actually played out in an almost coin-op way. You had to beat five teams and were allowed three failures (essentially these were your lives) as you took on various Division One and Premier League teams.
Amongst the controls were a very useful back-heel button (great for showboating), a very satisfying chip/lob shot and the ability to chest up high passes. Once chested the ball could be either headed or bicycle kicked, Rivaldo-style, for some spectacular goal-getting.
Sure, it looked rough and the goalkeepers were awful but the game was the first, for a while, to feature clubs outside of the top flight and had some genuinely good ideas. The Michael Owen endorsed sequel wasn’t a patch on this though. Shame.
Sanvein is a weird yet highly original game and is one of the most wonderful arena style shoot-em-ups I’ve ever played, which is not bad for a game that retailed here in the UK or £10 brand new.
The idea was simple. Defeat all the boss rooms in each level within the time limit. It’s obviously going to have some kind of gimmick to stop you from just owning the bosses straight away so Sanvien pimps out this weird power up system.
Each level contains a number of rooms which you take over in a risk style manner. Depending on how many completed rooms you have next to the room your planning to attack, will decide how powerful your craft will be in that room.
Dying is also very weird on this because it’s all time-based. Instead of losing a life you just lose time and yes this game did do it before the awesome Warning Forever. Overall this game is a really unique addition to the PSX library with some nice presentation and interesting gameplay mechanics and I think a lot of people would enjoy this if only they would give it a proper chance.
Um Jammy Lammy (Sony)
Some of you will be familiar with Parappa The Rapper, a rhythm action title featuring a paper-thin rapping dog. Well this spin-off title features Lammy, an incredibly shy guitar-playing lamb.
As with Parappa, Lammy uses her musical abilities to overcome various challenges in the game such as flying a plane or pacifying babies. It’s as daft a game as you’ll ever see but, as with Parappa, it’s a masterfully well-crafted title which mixes some excellent music and genuinely funny moments to create one of the PS1’s finest hidden gems.
For such a cute-looking game, it certainly packs a huge challenge but it’s well worth persisting with just to see how far they can take an already loopy idea and there’s a good mix of musical styles so you won’t stay irritated at any of them for too long.
Poy Poy 2 (Konami)
Obviously someone was a fan of Jerry Springer at the Konami office because one of their staff decided to make a game based around a TV show where people throw anything they can get their hands on at each other until there is only one person left standing.
Of course the game is set in the future so you’ve got these fancy gloves which give the wearer special powers. These range from turning objects that you are carrying into massive fireballs, giant hammers and everything in between. Some gloves were too powerful and had to be banned in multiplayer but on the plus side that was only about two or three gloves out of around fifty (if memory serves).
The main draw of this was the four player multiplayer (which could be played with the almighty multi-tap!) but the single player was not bad either even though it got a little repetitive after awhile. Saying that though the Single Player did unlock the gloves so it was worth doing.
Overall with its quirky presentation (some might even say dated!) and it’s great but simplistic gameplay Poy Poy 2 is worth digging out your old grey love machine for. I say that because this game does not work on the PS2 which is a shame. I doubt Konami are ever going to pull this IP out for another spin again (which is a shame!) so I highly recommend checking this title out because it’s awesome.
Rollcage Stage II (Psygnosis)
Whilst Wipeout had the futuristic racing genre cornered in the eyes of the casual audience that the PS1 was winning over, the Rollcage games were a little less clinical and stuffy whilst packing in a ridiculous amount of adrenaline-inducing moments.
With Rollcage, you were in a super-fast car that had enough traction to actually stick to walls and ceilings. So a nice rounded tunnel would allow you to circle right around hitting speed boosts and powerups that would otherwise be inaccessible.
The racing was just about perfect and it’s one of the few racing games that actually manages its power-ups properly so that you aren’t robbed of a victory, Mario Kart-style, by any last second missile attacks.
The game actually got an unofficial sequel, Firebugs, which was great but didn’t have as good music. So this one makes the list.
Internal Section (Squaresoft)
This game was released before REZ yet it seems to get compared to it quite a lot thanks to it’s graphic style and the fact that the game’s visuals react to the music, even the music CD’s that the player puts in which is awesome.
Essentially the game plays a lot like tempest but with some really catchy music. It’s weird but the game also has twelve different weapons, each named after a sign of the Chinese Zodiac. I would only suggest taking three or four with you though otherwise you might find yourself scrolling for the weapon you want and then BAM!! You get hit by an enemy!
The presentation is what the game is known for even though the gameplay is rather solid. The music is also very good and was produced by some of the best Japanese Techno merchants at the time. Generally the music is not my thing but it really suits this game and I really enjoy listening to it while playing this game.
This is a quite rare game to find due to two reasons. One is that the game only came out in Japan which means it’s import only and two the game has a low production run which is a shame because is one fantastic tube based shooter which I highly recommend check out just for the mix of great gameplay, trippy graphics and catchy techno tunes.
Total Drivin’ (Ocean)
Whilst racing games aren’t usually my thing, I do love a nice varied game and Total Driving delivered such a good range of driving experiences that you just had to admire their vision.
From rally driving, F1, indy and even buggy races, this game had you learning a lot of disciplines and in some, at the time, very detailed and beautiful locations. Rallying around Scotland or racing around sand dunes in Egypt were genuinely exciting.
The game did get a little too difficult for its own good, but by then I’d easily had my money’s worth out of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the AI routines in the game go on to form some part of Skynet though.
Armoured Core (From Software)
I know that the series has had a long running time. God knows how many games that FROM Software have churned out now but Armoured Core’s finest moment in my eyes is when it all began right back on the old grey gaming machine.
With plenty of missions, rival mech pilots and secrets as well as and a ton (one hundred to be exact) of customisable parts and weapons for your robot I will guarantee you will be playing this game for a very long time if you give it a proper chance to get it’s teeth in to you.
The campaign mode essentially revolved around you being a bad ass mercenary who will take any mission for the right price. Once in a while you could fight other mechs (or cores as they are called in this game) in missions or in the battle arena.
The graphics were very good for its time as well and allowed two player via split screen or system link up but no prizes for guessing which mode me and my mates played the most. Because the game had so much score for designing different Core designs it was always a pleasure to see how my friends decked out their battle machines.
Overall I would rate this as one of my favourite PSX games of all time as I spent so long just trying to totally complete the damn thing. This is still one of the most absorbing PSX games out on the market today in my opinion.
Dave Mirra’s Freestyle BMX (Acclaim)
Activision’s Tony Hawk series was definitely the premier extreme sports series on the PS1 with the first two instalments of the series being arguably the best but when they tried to recreate that magic in a BMX title they massively failed. Matt Hoffman’s Pro BMX was just awful, with some of the most hideous controls ever seen in a game ever.
So when Dave Mirra’s Freestyle BMX came out my hopes for it were very low. Still, I was massively addicted to watching the X-Games at the time and gave it a punt, despite a host of lacklustre reviews.
Turns out it was brilliant. A complex but fair trick system, well signposted objectives (no Tony Hawk style searching for a particular bench or something) and some some fiendish challenges made this game a tough but enjoyable challenge.
The PS2 sequel wasn’t up to much and by the time the horrible porn-o-sequel BMXXX came out the series was best left alone.
Star Ixiom (Namco)
Star Ixiom is a little known PlayStation exclusive update to a little known classic game called Star Luster. Star Ixiom was Namco’s attempt to make a decent space sim for the Playstation and it works.
The main game mode consisted of you defending Earths interest in a galaxy which seems hell bent on trying to destroy the human race. The game pimped out this unique blend of strategy and intense dogfights.
The strategy element was mainly based around deciding what to research, what ship, wingmen and weaponry to take our with you on mission, when to attack and when to defend. Another major part of the game is recognising which of the five alien race is the biggest threat first and work towards taking out their boss creature/ship. Speaking of alien races the five races are mainly cameos of different alien races from past Namco games which even include the mighty Galaga.
The graphics are not the most stunning I’ve seen on the system but they do work rather well and the framerate is perfect considering the amount of action that takes place on the battlefield. The controls are also very tight and simple to understand and the game has plenty of replay value thanks to it being different pretty much every time you play it.
If you are a fan of space sim’s then please for the love of god pick this bad boy up. If you are not then I would strongly suggest picking it up anyway as it’s an utterly charming game and it’s tons of fun just remember to read the manual first!