The RetroBeat: Learning to love PlayStation after years of bitterness
I wish I appreciated the original PlayStation back when it was new.
Sony’s first console celebrated its 25th anniversary on December 3. When the PlayStation brand started back in 1994, gaming was a different world. I was also only 8 years old, so I was pretty different myself.
I was a fanboy, and I was all about Sega. I even slept with a Sonic the Hedgehog doll. A Sonic the Hedgehog 2 poster hung in my bedroom. I had a freaking 32X. I told everyone that Ecco the Dolphin was one of the greatest games ever even though I couldn’t get past the second level.
I was used to Nintendo being the enemy, but then along came Sony. And while I held some childish hostility toward Nintendo, I soon had a much better reason to hate the new PlayStation. It killed Sega.
Above: This controller used to make me so angry.
Sad for Saturn
At least that’s what I told myself. Now I understand that Sega’s undoing was largely its own fault. The Saturn was an expensive, clunky system that put developers through hell if they wanted to make 3D games … and in 1995, everyone wanted to make 3D games. But as the brat I was, all I saw were all of my friends buying PlayStations while the Saturn soon disappeared into obscurity.
For years, I only associated the PlayStation brand with Sega’s death. That feeling intensified in 2000, when the PlayStation 2 became a quick hit and Sega’s final console, the Dreamcast, soon suffered its own death. It was hard for me to get past that resentment and associate any good feelings toward PlayStation.
Which was silly, because I was playing fantastic PlayStation games all of the time. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was so much fun that I (and every other young boy in the country) considered a career in extreme sports. Metal Gear Solid was the most cinematic gaming experience I had ever seen. Twisted Metal 2 offered some of the most entertaining couch multiplayer I have ever experienced.
But while I would love PlayStation games, I couldn’t forgive the brand. My hard feelings over Nintendo during the 16-bit console wars eventually cooled. Soon, my room was filled with memorabilia celebrating both Sega and Nintendo. I had little figurines of Mario and Sonic standing side by side on my computer desk. PlayStation had no representation.
And it stayed that way for years. I’d still own PlayStation consoles and games. I’d would love many of them. But I could never call myself a PlayStation guy.
That sentiment only changed recently. I’m finally feeling nostalgia for the PlayStation. And a lot of that happened because of a device everyone else seemed to hate: the PlayStation Classic.
Above: The PlayStation Classic.
Nostalgia at last
Yes, the micro-console has problems. It’s library is missing a lot of notable games, including Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and Sony’s bizarre decision to run the European versions of many titles made those games feel sluggish.
But I had fun playing the PlayStation Classic anyway, and it made me appreciate the system’s low polygon, sharp-edged aesthetic. Even aged games like Battle Arena Toshinden are full of personality. I also discovered PlayStation games that I wish I played back when they were new, like Ridge Racer Type 4, which I now realize has one of the best soundtracks of all time.
As I went through the PlayStation Classic library, I began to realize something for the first time. I like the PlayStation. I like it’s gray color. I like its weird symbols for the face buttons. I even like its logo. Somehow, all of the hate had dissolved. I finally moved on from and no longer associate PlayStation with the death of Sega’s console years.
So, while Sony may be celebrating 25 years of PlayStation, I’m toasting to a much shorter period of time as a fan of the brand. But all the same, happy birthday, PlayStation.
The RetroBeat is a weekly column that looks at gaming’s past, diving into classics, new retro titles, or looking at how old favorites — and their design techniques — inspire today’s market and experiences. If you have any retro-themed projects or scoops you’d like to send my way, please contact me.
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