In The Beginning was The Word. And the word was Playstation.

PS1

Where to begin? My dad bought our first Playstation from our cousins circa 1998. We were a little late to the party and our system came with such classics as Tomb Raider and Gran Turismo. As our first 3d console these were very exciting times for me and my younger brother. And although Tomb Raider was impressive and fun we felt like we were missing a little something after sampling the delights of Mario 64 and Goldeneye on our friends consoles. However, for myself anyway, I would never look with green eyes at another system after I bought a second hand copy of Final Fantasy VII from our local Electronics Boutique.

Final-Fantasy-7-image-for-blog1

This was where gaming became a legitimate obsession for me. As we were both at school my brother Dom and I were only ever allowed an hour or so play on the PS1 in the evening after all homework was done. For anyone who has ever played a JRPG will know that this is nowhere near enough time to properly sink your teeth into some of these massive games. And so started a tradition that would literally last years. For pretty much the entirety of my life at secondary school, every evening I would go to bed at about 10pm and set my alarm (which I had hidden down the side of my bed along with all my adult VHS tapes and a burst Stretch Armtrong) for 1am in the morning. I would then quietly wake up and get dressed. Sneak along the landing and down the stairs. Still to this day I remember the floorboards to avoid as the creaking would risk waking the parents up. Quietly unlock the door leading to my dad’s study. Again being careful not to let the keys rattle. Open the top drawer of his filing cabinet which was where the PS1 was kept under lock and key. Then as quiet as a mouse I would set it up in the living room and game until about 5am, put everything away, sneak back upstairs, sleep for an hour then get up and go to school. Like I said I kept this up for years and many times my brother, Dom, would join me as he just loved to watch the stories unfold. We saw many great epics through together, Final Fantasies VII through IX, Alundra, Grandia and many others. And this is probably the series of memories I hold closest to my heart whenever I think about Playstation.

Playstation 2. The not so difficult second album.

Playstation

Years later I scrimped and saved and finally managed to get enough dollar together to buy a Playstation 2. And this time it was personal. This would be the first console that I had bought off my own back. A very ceremonial occasion in any young person’s life. I remember that it must have been around about the time of my fifteenth birthday my dad was taking me and my friend Ben up to London for the day and I had all the intention in the world of bringing back a PS2. After going from shop to shop and checking out bundles we finally came across one in a Virgin Megastore which was perfect. A brand spanking new PS2 with a copy of Zone of the Enders. Now not only did ZOE look amazing in all the trailers I’d seen but it also came with something I was even more excited about than the game itself. A goddamn playable demo of Metal Gear Solid 2!!!! And not only did I get this but my friend Ben, for my birthday, had bought me a copy of Final Fantasy VI which came with a goddamn playable demo of Final Fantasy X!!! needless to say I was in nerd heaven. And then later that night Ben and I stayed up till the very early hours of the morning, pilfering his parents alcohol as we often did, playing those demos again and again and again.

zoe

Now the Playstation 2 era was very important to me for another reason. This was around about the time that I started to get interested in the industry. I started to buy magazines to read up on news, previews and reviews. I was interested about who these people were that made these games I loved so much. One of the magazines which I read cover to cover again and again religiously was British based magazine PSM2. It was these guys that made me want to write about games. And not only was this a fantastic mag with reviews that I more often than not agreed with (I could have killed someone however after they only gave Grandia 2 something retarded like 18%!!!) but this magazine came with a dvd jam packed full of trailers and video reviews. Now if you’re a younger reader you’re probably thinking ‘big deal, so what’ but you’ve got to remember this is before smart phones and before broadband and all this wireless malarkey. We had dial up and if you wanted to watch a trailer for the new Ratchet and Clank game you’d have to settle in for a couple of hours with a warm cup of coco as the son of a bitch buffered! And so I would watch and re watch the trailers and reviews on these dvd’s constantly every morning as I ate my cereal and waited for the school bus. And some of these trailers just used to blow my mind! The stand out ones for me came with my very first issue which were the absolutely ground breaking and cinematic epic Metal Gear Solid 2 trailer from TGS  2001, and the effortlessly cool trailer for SSX Tricky set to Run DMC’s signature tune.

psm2

Talking about the Metal Gear franchise, another standout moment for me during that generation’s cycle was waiting for the Metal Gear Solid 3 demo. That’s right. The demo. Not the game. That was still months and months away. I remember that it was meant to come on the demo disc with the Official Playstation Magazine. I think that two months in a row I pretty much ran to our nearest newsagents to find it, and both those times it turned out that the demo had been delayed. I was devastated. That is until when the third month rolled around I popped into the shop and low and behold there it was! The MGS3 demo bundled with a copy of the mag! I snatched a copy straight away and paid for it there and then. There was however one small problem. I was on my way to work. I couldn’t possibly be at work at Starbucks AND play the MGS3 demo could I? Of course not. So I came up with a cunning plan. I walked to work, bear in mind the weather was terrible, snow and ice everywhere, and then just as I approached the coffee shop door put on an incredibly convincing limp.

‘Oh my god what’s happened?’ my manager cried as I stumbled through the door.

‘I slipped and fell down the steps at the train station’ I replied. ‘Can I sit down? Everything hurts. Can I see how I feel in half an hour and if I’m still in pain can I go home?’

‘Of course you can’ my manager dotingly said ‘just have some water and take it easy’.

And so half an hour slowly ticked by. Eventually I got to go home and by the end of the day I could do the entirety of the MGS3 demo blindfolded on European Extreme difficulty.

And this wouldn’t be the last time I pulled a sickie for a game that generation. I vividly remember feigning a migraine at work at Pizza Express so I could go home and play Jak X Combat Racer. I think that was possibly the last time that I actually took time off to play a game. Do I regret any of it? Hell no! Would I do it again? Well I guess if naughty Dog ever pulls their finger out to make a Jak & Daxter 4 who knows?

jakx

So suffice to say the PS2 had me hook line and sinker. There are just so many emotions and memories tied to this console that I could probably go on to write an essay. And you can hardly blame me. This console still has one of the strongest line ups of software to this day. There are too many games to list. Standout ones would of course be Grand Theft Auto, Grandia 2, Final Fantasy X, The Ratchet and Clank Series, Ico and Shadows of the Colossus, Okami, Timesplitters, Kingdom Hearts, Devil may Cry, Rouge Galaxy, Dark Cloud/Chronicle, Dragon Quest VIII. The list just goes on and on and on. As I mentioned Jak X Combat Racer before you’ve probably guessed that I’m a huge fan of the series. You would be correct. And it was searching for online reviews of Jak 3 shortly after it came out that led me to the website IGN. Little did I know at the time how important, not only in my hobby but in my personal life, this website would become to me. (But more about that in part 2)

guitar

One last memory, which is fittingly probably my last that the PS2 had, is Guitar Hero. Now I know that this game wasn’t exclusive to the system but I owned it on the PS2. I still remember like it was yesterday picking up Guitar Hero 2 and going home and getting one of my oldest friends Simon over to play. We both have very similar tastes in music Simon and I. We always said we were born in the wrong decade as the eighties would have suited us down to the ground. Guns’n’Roses, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Skid Row. That was our jam! And so it became an almost weekly tradition that we would stock up on Marlborough Reds, Jack Daniels and get pissed and rock until the sun came up. The standout memory from this music and booze induced haze was the high score chasing that occurred on Ozzy Osbourne’s Bark at the Moon. Often when I was at work I would get a text from Simon saying he’d beaten my high score. Which would mean I would then have to go home after a 13 hour shift to try and get back on top again. I still remember trying to go to sleep those nights and just seeing the different colour buttons running down my closed eyelids. Good times.

It’s like Playstation but on the go!

psp

Ah the Playstation Portable. Now I don’t have a lot to say about this little beast. It’s not that I didn’t like it. Quite the opposite. I loved this machine. It did however pale in comparison, in my opinion, to the Nintendo DS. That being said there were some absolutely phenomenal games on this system that could have only been done on this handheld. Graphical powerhouses like Final Fantasy Crisis Core and Grand Theft Auto Liberty City and Vice City Stories were milestones in handheld gaming. No to mention other fantastic early hits like Daxter and Ratchet and Clank Size Matters. However the truly great games were very few and very far between. Which was a shame as I think if it had had more support and a more consistent stream of quality titles the PSP would have easily given Nintendo a run for its money. I only really have three stand out memories of the PSP and they’re all a little drab. One is playing Breath of Fire on my sofa whilst in a pretty rough relationship. Another is playing GTA Liberty City Stories at work at Pizza Express and marvelling at the similarities between the mafia’s pizzeria in the game and the one I was currently sitting in. and the last is getting chocked up at the end of Crisis Core when you realise the inevitable fate of Zack.

crisis

So there you have it. These are my Playstation Memories for the early days of Sony’s foraging into the home console and handheld markets. It feels like it ended on a little bit of a muted thunderclap at the end there, and I apologise for that, but little did I know about the storm that was approaching that would rock my world and change my life forever…..

To be continued in part 2   

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  1. […] #PlaystationMemories Part 1 (bridgeburnergaming.wordpress.com) […]

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