Sony PlayStation Overview
Active from 1994-2004
R3000 @ 33.8688 MHz
2 MB RAM, 1 MB VRAM
In the mid-90s, Sega and Nintendo continued to market their successful-but-aging 16-bit game systems, and newer consoles – such as the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer and the Atari Jaguar – tried to define early 3D gaming. Yet it was the Sony PlayStation that broke through to take the next gen crown. Its graphics may seem crude and janky by modern standards, but while rarely great, they were very good at the time.
Oddly enough, Sony decided to produce its own videogame console after a deal to produce a CD-Rom attachment for the Super Nintendo went sour.
The Nintendo 64, released two years later, was the only console to give the PlayStation serious competition for market dominance in the US. The N64 was more advanced in many ways, yet underpowered and limited by the cartridge format, causing many third-party developers to switch to the PlayStation’s less restrictive and less expensive CD format. The most notable game to jump ship was a little game called Final Fantasy VII.
PlayStation was marketed as edgier and more grown-up compared to Sega and Nintendo brands. The early PlayStation library was bolstered by well-received NAMCO arcade games, e.g. Ridge Racer and Tekken; ports of 3DO games, e.g. Road Rash and Return Fire; as well as second-party games produced by the recently acquired Psygnosis, e.g. Destruction Derby and Wipeout.
Sprite-based 2D games were rarely approved for publication, at least outside of Japan, most likely due to marketing the system as the home for “newer” 3D gaming. Ironically, the later-released PlayStation masterpiece, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is widely considered to be one of the best 2D games ever made.
Sony would continue to succeed with its later PlayStation consoles (even if the PS3 stumbled in its early days, out of hubris). Yet for me, there is something special about the original PlayStation’s widely varied library, where bizarre wacky games could coexist with bigger budget fare. Warts and all, it’s my favorite PlayStation era.
- Ben Langberg