It's been approximately seventeen years since I part exchanged my MegaDrive for a Playstation. I had to have one after experiencing the, at the time, groundbreaking graphics and almighty physics system of Tekken 2 - who knew I'd get so much joy repeatedly kicking a bear in the face? There have been some nights where I think of my MegaDrive and wonder nostalgically if I made the right decision to pass it over to the great pre-owned section in the sky. But in truth, as a patron of all generations of the Playstation, past and soon to be of the next, I look back fondly to remind myself the joy it gave me.
Therefore with under a week until the PS4's UK launch I would like to recount my top three gaming moments on each generation's console. Note, I do not mean my top three games. Rather I would like to look back and recount the specific moments that I hold so dear.
This was probably the easiest console to deal with. It was my formative years. The Simpsons had yet to become a pastiche of itself and 4:3 was all the rage. In the midst of it all, whilst others were deciding which member of Friends they might be, a gangly teen in the North of England experienced these gems:
1) Final Fantasy VII - The Nibelheim Incident.
Final Fantsay VII could be dissected into hundreds of key moments, each of its own merit. It was the first RPG that I really immersed in since my days of Zelda. The graphics were mind blowing, the plot layered and absorbing and the game huge. I remember justifying the 40 plus hours I'd spent on the three-disc epic (much of which were breeding Chocobos) to a friend and them not understanding why I would dedicate such hours to a game. So many things I could have told them, but the key moment that jumps out was the Nibelheim Incident. I had chased him from Midgar. I knew he was insane. I knew somehow our pasts were linked, but when I saw Sephiroth wreathed in flame, the wake of his destruction a shimmer in his eye, he turned casually, un-phased and disappeared through the inferno at Nibelheim. That was it. FFVII was a part of me.
2) Resident Evil - Yawn
I'd always been an avid fan of horror, so when a pre-owned copy of Resident Evil came home with me and I turned it on, I knew the awful acting, the clunky controls and the questionable motives were incidental. I had entered the world of survival horror. The early Resident Evil series is everything I look for in a game - Resident Evil 2 easily my favourite. However, this first atmospheric foray into a soon to be epic franchise was also my first. Wandering the claustrophobic halls tense and low on ammo, knowing every corner was potentially fatal, proved to change my expectations of gaming. Of all the great scenes throughout this flawed masterpiece, the first appearance of Yawn, the giant snake, had me recoil hopelessly. Its colossal size dwarfed me, I couldn't run and I had to avenge Richard.
3) Street Fighter EX plus Alpha - Double Perfect M Bison
I'll be the first to admit it's not the greatest of the Street Fighter franchise, but it does hold up. I racked up countless hours on this forgotten gem with my best friend. Inept with the opposite sex we'd fritter away days on end in epic battles night after night. The more we challenged each other the more our skills grew. I was quite a formidable player back then, but of all the fights and all of the heartbreak it was playing arcade mode on level ten (its hardest level) that my greatest achievement came; a double perfect against M Bison.
I bought my PS2 with money I'd earned from a hideous job I was working the summer before I went to University. It was money I was supposed to put aside to take with me, but I knew my popularity would prosper from such a formidable piece of hardware. Over the following years my favourite moments included...
1) Grand Theft Auto Vice City - Last Dance
I'd played GTA1 and 2 on the PS One. I'd had my mind blown when I saw the transformation it had undertaken to become GTA3, but Vice City was another level entirely. It remains one of, if not the strongest addition to the GTA franchise. A sandbox environment creating [then] one of the largest playing environments I had experienced. The game was crammed with film references, controversy and humour. My housemates and I lost a lot of University hours to this one and so when we finally saw the last dance of Lance Vance in a Scarface homage blaze of bullets and finished the beast, we felt exonerated from our lack of study.
2) Metal Gear Solid 2 - Turn Off The Console
Hidjeo Kojima and the Metal Gear Team have never shied away from messing with your head. Metal Gear 2 is another immersive gaming experience. The attention to detail and the use of cinematic technique makes any of the Metal Gears an experience of its own. And though the later series might have gone a bit far with 90-minute cut scenes and infuriating over exposition, the heart of the series remains as a master class in stealth gaming or, I should say, tactical espionage action. It's hard to tear yourself away from a Metal Gear in full flow and so when the Colonel starts telling me over my codex that I should turn off my console and take a break, insisting that I'd been playing too long, my mind was so addled I nearly did. Well played Metal Gear, well played.
3) Red Faction - Destroyable Scenery
Red Faction, in my opinion, is a lost classic amongst so many wonderful FPS games. With echoes of Total Recall this was the first FPS I had on PS2 and one of my favourites. But there was one aspect of it that jumped out more than any. Red Faction was fitted with Geo-Mod technology, what this meant is that the scenery was fully destructible. Akin to the first time I played Goldeneye and saw bullet holes appear in the wall, the first time I used an explosive against one of Red Factions walls and watched it cut a pathway into the scenery, I too was blown away.
I was an early adopter. I have an original 40gb PS3. It's a tank of a console that these days hums and whirs manically, as it tries to cope with the likes of the Last of Us. I think the day it gets some rest will be a happy one. It's been a good friend to me these past six years. What things we've seen...
1) Skyrim - Daedric Armour
Skyrim is an immense beast of a game. The hours I put into FFVII pale in comparison. There were times when I wondered 'what am I doing with my life, it's three in the morning and you've not eaten for a while'. But the addictive, life consuming, nature of the game is testament to its majesty. There are few RPGs I've played that come close to Skyrim. I feel that if you have made it this far in the article I am now amongst friends and so, without shame, gaining the Daedric Armour was a beautiful moment simply because I looked badass and after so many hours of campaigning I earned it.
2) The Last of Us
I said I wouldn't pick whole games, but it's hard to pick any given moment above another in this beautifully rendered game. Despite problems with load time and frustrating glitches, the Last of Us has pushed my PS3 above and beyond its limitations and is truly one of the greatest games I have ever played. Somewhat older than when I first had my PS1, it is encouraging to see that there are still games that can fill me with that sense of wonder and enjoyment that I got in those early days. Not only this, it is a testament to game manufacturers and developers alike of how far they have come in those seventeen years since this all began. But to be true to the article, if I have to pick one moment it would have to be starting the generator in the basement of the hotel, turning to see a horde of infected descend on me and knowing that until this game was finished it would never let me rest. It created such tension it reminded of playing those early Resident Evil games.
3) Online insults.
It goes without saying that one of the great additions to this generation of consoles is the advancement of online play. But with it was birthed a new faceless threat. Lurking in bedrooms and basements across the globe, consequence free insults have been hurled over headsets and messages alike to deflate and destroy the will of gamers. But of all these I have heard, one remains king. During an online CoD death match, one player ranked higher than the others. Not content with his clear superiority of skill he had to humiliate our futile efforts to survive, with slang and profanity only a pre-pubescent little shit bag could conjure, he exorcised no mercy. When all was lost with no warning out the darkness came a new voice, it was unclear what they had said but was distinctly female and met in pitches that made dogs wince with "I told you Mom, I'll be there in a minute! I'm playing A GAME. JESUS! GOD!" It took seconds of other gamer's eloquent retaliation before his connection went dead.
I look forward to seeing what the next generation throws at me.