Category Archives: PS1

Silent Hill Review

Silent Hill ReviewSilent Hill (Available exclusively on PlayStation)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Survival Horror
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Release Date: January 31st, 1999
PlayStation Network Release Date: September 10th, 2009

Parent Talk: Silent Hill was originally rated M for mature because of animated blood and gore, and animated violence. That remains true today. While the graphics haven’t aged all too well, the game still features some rather disturbing imagery, lots of blood, and an overall creepy environment that most adults find tough to play at night, while they’re all alone. This is certainly not a videogame for minors.

Plays Like: The tank controls made famous from Resident Evil are featured here, although the game separates itself from that legendary series by not resorting to cheap scares and actually gets inside your head and messes with your emotions. It was one of the very first games that challenged Resident Evil because it was so different, and gamers couldn’t stop thinking about the creepy setting long after they had completed the game.

Review Basis: I finished the game countless times upon its original release, and quickly blasted through it for this very review.

Silent Hill was one of the very best games released on the original PlayStation, and I thought it would be fitting to discuss it in further detail considering a brand new reimagining of the franchise is currently underway at Konami with both Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro at the helm. Silent Hill is remarkable for getting inside your head and staying there. It features an incredible soundtrack, solid gameplay, and brain-twisting puzzles. If you’ve never experienced it before, there’s no better time to do so than right now. Take my advice, lock yourself in a room somewhere, close out all the lights, and crank up the volume. You want to be creeped out while playing, because it actually makes you feel like the protagonist, Harry, who has just lost his daughter in the bizarre fog-filled town of Silent Hill.

One note to make is that the video review is entirely made up of the very earliest portions of the game. I did this on purpose so as not to spoil any of the settings and environments for those who have never played the game before. Trust me, you’re going to want to experience the whole game for yourself.

Before continuing, did you know that Silent Hill was heavily censored for its release outside Japan? It’s true, even the North American version had many different elements changed so it would pass through the ratings board. Many of the enemies look like children with knives, and that just wouldn’t fly with the censor boards. In Europe the enemy designs were even more radically altered than the North American version. Ok that’s enough about censorship, let’s jump right into the game.

SH1The Great:

Atmosphere, it’s all about the atmosphere. Silent Hill operates on an entirely different playing field than Resident Evil because it doesn’t want to simply scare you with cheap tricks, it wants to mess with your mind. This is a physiological thriller more so than an action game. It succeeds, tremendously well. From the eerie sound effects, to the radio which omits static noise the closer you get to an enemy, the game is always reminding you that you’re not safe. From traveling through a fogy town, to the darkest depths of your imagination, Silent Hill, challenges you in ways very few other PS1 games did, and it’s for that reason why so much of the game has held up superbly.

The story is also the game’s biggest strength. It starts off with Harry and his daughter Cheryl making their way to the small town of Silent Hill to spend some time together on a little vacation. While driving a woman suddenly passes in front of them and Harry swerves out of the way, causing the car to flip and crash. When Harry comes to, he sees Cheryl in front of the jeep, through the thick fog that has enveloped the town. As he makes his way towards her she starts to walk off in the opposite direction. What’s going on, and why would she run away from her father? Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Silent Hill.

SH3The Good:

+ The music and sound effects are truly what make this game. Akira Yamaoka did a wonderful job, and to think that he wasn’t the original composer, he was brought on after the original departed the project. With incredible industrial tunes, creepy melodies, and countless memorable sounds, Silent Hill’s soundtrackis considered a modern day classic.

+ While dated by today’s standards, the graphics do their job well. The town is completely covered in fog, but that’s ok as it allows the details in the buildings and environments to shine through. The grain effect also works extremely well in making the players feel uneasy. If you’ve got a weak stomach you might want to skip out on Silent Hill as it’s extremely gory, and there are plenty of disturbing images.

+ One of the more interesting aspects of Silent Hill are the multiple endings. I won’t give any away, but they give you an incentive to keep coming back and trying to do things slightly different each time you play.

+ Dynamic camera angles work extremely well. Unlike Resident Evil, the camera swoops and twists and turns as you make your way through alleys, corridors, and rooms. It can even be a little disorientating at times, which as the whole point to begin with.

+ The FMV cutscenes were simply gorgeous for their time, and while they do look somewhat pixelated today, they’re still impressive.

SH2The So-So:

+/- You either get used to the tank controls, or you hate them for the duration of the game, simple as that. For people who started playing 3D games with the N64 and PS1, most don’t have too many problems adjusting to the controls, but that doesn’t mean they’re ideal. Combat, and exploration aren’t anywhere near as fluid as they are in today’s games, but for someone like me, I find that’s what heightens the game’s stress level and causes you to get sweaty palms within a few minutes of playing.

+/- The combat system feels much like the controls, mostly dated. Sure it works, you can knock back enemies with a pipe, or shoot them with your gun, but if the camera is moving around it can be difficult to pin-point exactly where you need to shoot.

The Bad:

– The voice acting shows no sign of emotion. The game would have been better suited for text-only dialogue.

SH4The Lowdown:

While Silent Hill certainly shows its age, it remains a chilling experience. The thought of losing one’s daughter in a creepy town is enough to put you on edge, but having child-like creature attack you, limited lighting, and a very eerie setting help push you over the edge, and that’s what makes Silent Hill so special. Hopefully the developers of the reboot remember that, cheap scares don’t stay with you months or years after you finish a game. It has to take control of you, and really freak you out, and based solely on the interactive P.T. teaser, Kojima-san and del Toro appear to be on the right track. If you’re curious to see where this legacy of evil started, I encourage you to check out Silent Hill.

Final Score: 8.5/10

Einhänder Review

_-Einhander-PlayStation-_Einhänder (Available exclusively on the Sony PlayStation)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Shooter
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Square
Release Date: May 6th, 1998

Parent Talk:Einhänder is rated E for everyone because it doesn’t feature any graphic violence or offensive language. This is the perfect game for everyone in the family, even young kids that are interested in spaceship shooters.

Plays Like: Virtually all shmups play the same except for a few variations here and there, and that’s absolutely correct with Einhänder. You select one of several crafts, and destroy everything on-screen. Along the way you’ll find enemy weapons you can steal, which increase your power, and if you’re really lucky you just might perform well enough to find some unlockable goodies.

Review Basis: I finished the game dozens of times over the years.

During the arcade heyday shooters, shoot ‘em ups, or shmups were the cream of the crop. Virtually every arcade game was a shooter of some sort. Some of the very earliest hits on the Famicom were also shooters, like Gradius, which was one of its first million sellers. The problem is, like all good things, there is such a thing as too much. The entire genre was over-saturated, and ultimately shooters fell out of the spotlight. Today they’re a genre dedicated to only the most hardcore fans. Bullet hell shooters tried to spice things up, but for the most part the genre is long past its prime. The same could be said in 1998, when Square took a chance and developed a shooter that was really unique. While it didn’t spark a revolution, it did prove that even in markets where almost everything has been tried multiple times before, it’s still possible to do something unique.

Ein2The Great:

Perhaps the best feature of Einhänder is its incredible use of moving camera angles. The entire game is fully rendered in 3D, but the action plays on a 2D playing field, and the camera is on rails. Often the camera will swoop in and out around your ship, sometimes even behind, and all the while you have complete control. It’s great because it makes for some really interesting boss battles, and gives the game a really unique flavor.

Ein3The Good:

+ At the game’s onset you have access to three unique ships, with another two waiting to be discovered. At any point you can adjust your ship’s velocity, which is a great touch. The game’s ‘gimmick,’ if you will, is that you have the ability to snatch over a dozen enemy weapons by destroying incoming enemies. Let’s say there’s a powerful enemy ahead that has a wicked looking rocket launcher, well as long as you destroy its body and not the gun itself, you can then steal that weapon for yourself! These unique weapons only have a limited amount of ammo, but it is great fun experimenting and finding the best one for your current situation.

+ The various ships also differ in the way they can hold different weapons. All ships can pivot their secondary weapons either over or below the craft. Some can only hold one secondary weapon, while others can hold three. Selecting the ship you feel most comfortable with is critical as you’ll need all the help you can get. This isn’t an easy shooter, and one hit sends you back to the previous checkpoint. Thankfully the adjustable difficulty levels make the game enjoyable to all.

+ Most PS1-era polygon-based videogame haven’t aged well, but Einhänder is different. It still holds up really well, with enemies nice and detailed, and the environments, while simplistic, still very much looking as they should.

+ Fantastic audio package. Not only is the soundtrack utterly fantastic, but the sound effects themselves pack a punch. This is one of those games where you’re going to want to get your hands on the soundtrack.

Ein4The Lowdown:

I’ve always enjoyed shooters, even though as I get older I find I’m getting worse and worse at them. My hand-eye coordination just isn’t what it used to be. That said, I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed Einhänder today, revisiting it for this review. It’s just creative enough to help separate it from the pack, but retains that classic risk versus reward the genre is known for. If you’re looking for a great shooter, look no further than Einhänder, although do be warned that it’s not cheap and is currently only available on the original PlayStation. Sorry PS3 owners, no PSN version for you.

Final Score: 8/10

Castlevania Chronicles Review

CCCastlevania Chronicles (Available exclusively on PlayStation)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Release Date: October 8th, 2001
PlayStation Network Release Date: December 18th, 2004

Parent Talk: Skeletons, bats, minor blood, and gothic imagery are what made the ESRB give Castlevania Chronicles a T for teen rating. It doesn’t feature over the top gore and blood, but the sprites are large and detailed. As such very young children might be freighted, although when I was a youngster I played games like this all the time and I turned out perfectly fine.  

Plays Like: Being released after Castlevania: Symphony of the Night everyone thought this would follow in its footsteps as being another Metroidvania game, but it’s actually a reworking of the Sharp X68000 Castlevania game from 1993. Needless to say, it’s all action, and is actually a reimagining of the original Castlevania game on the NES.

Review Basis: I finished both the original and arranged versions of the game.

If you were a fan of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on the original PlayStation, chances are you were hoping for a sequel. When Konami announced they were going to release a brand new Castlevania game on the PlayStation millions of fans were hoping for a follow-up to SotN. What we got wasn’t actually a new game at all, but rather a reworked or enhanced version of a very old Castlevania game for the Sharp X68000, which had never been released outside Japan. So while technically a new release for the world market, it wasn’t what fans were expecting and therefore many fans couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed as a result. The question is, is it actually disappointing?

CC1The Great:

Two games for the price of one. Ok that might be a bit of a stretch, but included in Chronicles are both the original unaltered X68000 version, and a new arranged mode which changes Simon’s sprite and a few other graphical tweaks, reworks the game’s difficulty, and adds an entirely new soundtrack. Outside that, you’re essentially getting a reworked version of the original NES Castlevania game. Interestingly Konami released this version to the X68000 during the same year they released Rondo of Blood on the PC Engine. Instead of incorporating the new changes being made to the series like branching paths, the multi-directional whip from Super Castlevania IV and other improvements, Konami decided to only update the audio visual presentation from the original game. That means Simon can’t jump on and off stairs, still gets pushed back when he is hit, and only has very limited mobility overall.

CC2The Good:

+ Same tight controls from the NES version. Simon can easily jump around and whip enemies to his heart’s content. Secondary weapons are available like the holy water, cross, axe, and knife.

+ Having the option to play through the original game completely untouched is a nice touch, especially since the original soundtrack is fantastic. The reworked tunes are good, but I much prefer the originals.

CC3The So-So:

+/- Graphics are nice and detailed, but certainly they aren’t pushing the PlayStation’s capabilities whatsoever. There’s a new FMV intro that’s a nice touch, but a lot more work could have been put into this in order for it to truly feel like a remastered version of the original.

The Bad:

– It feels dated. Simon doesn’t have the same move set as Richter from Rondo of Blood, nor as he did in Super Castlevania IV.

CC4The Lowdown:

Given the low entry price this is a great game for fans of Castlevania to jump into, but there are so many other, and better games in the series that are equally easy to find and purchase. I’d say if you only own PlayStation hardware than by all means pick this one up, but otherwise I’d highly recommend you go for the original classics, Rondo, and the more modern portable releases.

Final Score: 7.5/10

Resident Evil Review

Resident EvilResident Evil (Available on the SEGA Saturn, and Sony PlayStation)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Survival Horror
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
PS1 Release Date: March 30th, 1996
Saturn Release Date: August 31st, 1997

Parent Talk: The original Resident Evil was rated M for mature because of animated violence and animated blood and gore. You’re in a mansion filled with zombies, need I say more? Ok, I will say more, this mansion also has dogs that have returned from the dead, and all manner of other disgusting and decaying creatures. That’s not the only aspect that makes this a mature game, it will actually scare you. There are cheap scares all over the place with things jumping out at you, and the fixed camera angles mean you never know what lies directly in front of you.

Plays Like: The concept here is that you’re trying to locate your missing team member within a giant mansion. The catch is that zombies are everywhere in the mansion, hell hounds are outside preventing you from leaving, and you honestly have no clue what’s going on. By finding clues, solving puzzles, and combating the undead, you just might make it out alive.

Review Basis: Having played this one since 1996, I have completed it on every difficulty level, and multiple times across every platform it has ever been released on. It remains one of my favorite videogames of all time. No bias here.

I’m going to be completely honest with all of you, Resident Evil is one of my favorite videogames of all time. Back when this game came out I had never heard of a ‘Survival Horror’ game before, and I most certainly hadn’t played the Famicom-exclusive Sweet Home so I had never even thought of this wild concept before. You want to lock me inside some giant open 3D area with limited ammo, have me solve puzzles, and try and locate my missing teammate? How am I supposed to do that when the mansion is crawling with all manner of evilness? Therein lies the appeal, and within only a few short minutes of playing, I immediately fell in love. It didn’t hurt that I got the living crap scared out of me within ten minutes of playing. That was the very first time that ever happened to me before, and to be really honest, that feeling has never happened again. It’s Resident Evil on the original PlayStation.

RE1The Great:

‘You’re Dead Scared’ was the original tagline for Resident Evil and boy what a fitting line. I remember way back in April 1996 when a group of my friends were sitting in a basement with the lights out, as we had always done before, and we decided to pop in this new Capcom game. There were four of us there that night, and all four of us would have our gaming lives changed forever thanks to a few cheap scares. If there’s one thing the original Resident Evil did, is it lived up to its namesake, it really did scare everyone who played it. It didn’t matter if you were the biggest fan of horror films, or if you hated them, the minute you grabbed the controller and started to move around the various hallways, you knew anything could be around the next corner, and that feeling of dread slowly crept in. Before you knew it, you were jumping with every new sound you heard. That’s how classics are born, and to this very day, some 18 years after its release, it still proves to be every bit as creepy.

RE2The Good:

+ You all know the story, you know the mansion, and you know the characters, but what you might not realize is that the ultra-cheesy voice acting, and dialogue actually give this game it’s charm. Returning to this legendary game today I thought for sure it would be cringe worthy, but perhaps I’ve got my rose-tinted glasses on, but I found all of these different elements are what makes this game so special. It feels as though you’re playing a cheap b-movie, and that’s exactly what Capcom was going for. This was long before the John Woo-inspired moments from Resident Evil 6.

+ Core gameplay is broken down into solving puzzles, piecing together the story by locating journals or diaries, and combat. Often you’ll have to travel from one portion of the mansion to the next looking for a specific key, or a crest to access further into the depths of the mansion. Puzzles might seem simplistic by today’s standards, and they certainly aren’t logical, but again, they play into the game’s charm. One moment you’re trying to reach a map, the next you’re flipping switches on a series of painting in order to open a chest.

+ Combat is rather simple. Armed with a select few weapons, such as a knife, a handgun, a shotgun, bazooka, and a few others, you’re tasked with exploring each and every room in the mansion, not knowing exactly what enemies are inside. There might be zombies, there might be hell hounds, there might be crows, or there might be something else entirely. The catch is that there are typically more enemies in the mansion than you have the ammo to dispose of. This plays into the whole ‘survival’ aspect of the freshly coined term ‘Survival Horror’. You’re constantly weighing your options of using your ammo to take out the slow moving zombies, or saving said ammo for more powerful enemies you might run into later on. Health is also not easy to come by, so this juggling act is always on your mind. When you do leave enemies behind, odds are very good you won’t remember which room you left them in so be prepared to get scared all over again the hour or two later when you come by this way again.

+ Item management is also an extremely important element of Resident Evil. Not only do you have to conserve ammo, and health, but you need to make use of special storage units in order to keep additional items you can’t carry. At any given moment you can hold only eight items, and you don’t have the option of dropping items on the ground to pick them up later on. This means you’re going to have to make proper use of the storage units in order to keep everything you happen to find. Thankfully the storage units are magically connected to one another so you don’t need to backtrack all through the mansion to get your items, all you have to do is find another safe room with another storage unit and you’ll have full access to all your goodies.

+ Fixed camera angles were a genius way of solving crazy camera problems that were plaguing many early 3D games of the time. If you didn’t have a camera to worry about, the thought was you could just enjoy the experience, and for the most part that’s true. The camera angles only enhance the fear factor because you never know what’s going to pop out in front of you. On the downside though there are situations where you’ll be attacked by an enemy you never knew was even there.

+ The audio holds up perfectly, with crisp and clear music playing during key scenes, but for the most part the audio takes a backseat to the ambient noises. This was one of the first games I can remember of that really emphasized background noise. You wanted to have complete quiet because you needed to hear the moaning of the zombies, or the pitter patter of…something else. The voice acting as also brilliant.

RE3The So-So:

+/- Resident Evil was one of the first big console games to utilize ‘tank controls’ meaning your character always moves forward with up on the d-pad, and left and right will pivot their position in the 3D space in the appropriate direction. These controls have been blasted by reviewers, and gamers alike, although personally I’ve never had issues with them.

+/- The pre-rendered graphics still look fairly decent, although the character models are extremely rough around the edges. Enemies are also made up of low polygon counts. But you can easily make out what they’re supposed to be. I like the nostalgic looks, but certainly others who have never played the game before will most likely think the dated visuals distract from the overall package.

RE4The Lowdown:

Resident Evil was a landmark videogame. It was one of the first games that really scared people, it ushered in this new approach to action games, hell it even ushered in the whole ‘Survival Horror’ sub-genre, which is still going strong almost twenty years later. Most people who are new to gaming, or who have never played this version of the game and are curious to see what all the fuss is about, can easily find a copy on the PlayStation Network, or they can try their hand on the radically improved GameCube remake, which just so happens to be the very best remake of all time, but that’s for another review.

Final Score: 8.5/10

Fear Effect Review

Fear EffectFear Effect (Available Exclusively on PlayStation)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Kronos Digital Entertainment Inc.
Release Date: January 31st, 2000

Parent Talk: Fear Effect has been rated M for mature by the ESRB because of animated blood and gore, animated violence, and suggestive themes. This was an extremely risqué game for its time. It features lots of swearing, blood, and Hana in a towel. Today it’s certainly worthy of its M rating, but I won’t hit you nearly as hard as it did back in 2000.

Plays Like: Featuring the controls and action/puzzle mix from Resident Evil, you might think this is just another me-too clone, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Fear Effect might borrow elements from that spooky series, but it fuses the puzzles with logic, features some incredibly advanced (for its time) streaming technology, and is balls-to-the-wall hard. It’s a great action game that has held up pretty good considering how far along the genre has come in the past 14 years.

Review Basis: Finished the game about six times over the years, and finished it yet again for tackling this retro review.

Back during the end of the original PlayStation’s lifecycle gamers had been treated to some seriously outstanding games. Everything from Final Fantasy VII and VIII, to the Resident Evil trilogy. It was clear that a seismic shift had occurred from the SNES to the PlayStation. No longer were games for children or young adults, but now for everyone. There were cinematic masterpieces like MGS and platformers like Klonoa. We had Lara Croft, and we had Jill Valentine, there really was something for just about everyone. Incredibly an unknown studio, Kronos Digital Entertainment Inc., was able to create a game so unlike almost everything else that they were able to make not only a name for themselves, but make a space in the incredibly crowded PS1 library. This is one game you really need to experience, so long as you can come to terms with a few key elements.

FE1The Great:

Feels completely unique. What separated Fear Effect from the rest of the pack was its looped animated backgrounds. The reason the game spans four discs isn’t because it’s a 200 hour game, but rather because the game streams data from the discs. Instead of just using pre-rendered backgrounds, as was the norm since 1996’s Resident Evil, Fear Effect has fully animated backgrounds that loop every ten to twenty seconds. Sure it’s a little jarring to see the action just pause and then recycle itself, but back in 2000 this was so unlike anything else out there. You would see flying cars off in the distance, maybe fires swaying to and fro, it was incredible. Shockingly this holds up really well even today, some 14 years after its release.

FE3The Good:

+ The narrative is fantastic. Hana, Glas, and Deke are all anti-heroes. They’re all in this for a big bag of cash, and the only way to score said money is to find and return Wi-Ming Lam to her father. Sounds simple right, well you’re not the only ones looking for Wi-Ming, and after you play through the first of the four-disc adventure things take a supernatural twist. Before you know it the fate of the entire world may rest on the shoulders of three unsuspecting heroes. It’s brilliant and I was amazed by how well the voice acting and dialogue held up.

+ During the course of the game you take charge of all three protagonists. At the onset you’ll play as Hana, but then something will happen and you’ll have to find Hana while playing as Glas. This continues throughout the game, and because you switch characters you get to know them better, thereby filling in plot holes, while also learning their slight differences in gameplay, mostly related to accessing different weapons.

+ Logical puzzles. For the time of its release Fear Effect was extremely impressive for featuring puzzles wrapped around logic, unlike the Resident Evil series where you would have to find emblems to open doors…in a police station. Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Here you might have to travel through an electrified floor, which has the power fluctuating. Other puzzles involve trying to restore power to an elevator lift, and things of that nature. Virtually all the puzzles make sense, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to solve.

+ The cyberpunk world is incredible. The animated backgrounds, the anime-inspired graphics, and the fantastic voice acting all come together to make this game feel like Blade Runner has come to life in videogame form. Sure it looks dated today and is overly pixelated, but for a game released in 2000 this was really impressive, and if you can overlook the pixels it holds up much better than I thought it would.

FE2The So-So:

+/- Back in 2000 I would have said the controls were spot-on, but it’s now 2014 and the tank controls will take a long time to get used to for many new players. Up on the d-pad is always forward, but unlike Resident Evil, the rest of the face buttons do different things, and it takes some getting used to. There’s a duck and roll move, a quick 180-turn, you can cycle your weapons with the square and circle buttons, and you’ve got your action and fire buttons. Sounds simple, but their layout takes a solid hour or two to get used to. Some, I fear, will never get used to it, especially those used to full analog controls.

FE4The Bad:

– The pacing suffers a bit as the game introduces you to the gameplay mechanics. Fear Effect is essentially broken down into action and puzzle elements, but because of its intense difficulty, I found the action segments felt more like trial and error than anything else, and some of those puzzles are extremely challenging, which can drag on for a bit too long.

The Ugly:

Hands-down the worst feature of Fear Effect is the loading when you die. It’s not overly long per say, but it’s the fact that you have to reload every single time you die that gets really annoying. Couple that with the fact that there are no checkpoints in the entire game, and you can see how this feature hasn’t aged quite so well. The only way to progress in the game is to move from one save location to the next. If you die anytime in-between said save spots, you have to reload and play through the entire section all over again. The problem isn’t even the fact that these areas are long, it’s the fact that you’re going to die so often that be prepared to see “Now Loading” very frequently.

FE5The Lowdown:

Fear Effect holds up incredibly well in terms of its overall world and feel, however it falls short in terms of frequent load times and overall difficulty. Had there been checkpoints I think I could more easily recommend this to new players, but as it is now I’d say if you can enjoy a game with tank controls than give this one a spin, otherwise watch a few gameplay videos and see what this game is all about. It’s worth at least remembering because it did some really bold things for its time.

Final Score: 7.5/10