Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Sony PlayStation (it came out on December 3rd in Japan in 1994, late 1995 and 1996 for most everyone else), the system that came out of nowhere to give a company that was known more for the Walkman, CD players, and movies domination of an industry that it didn’t seem to have any business being in.
I remember when I and a few friends first heard that Sony was going to enter the market with their own system. We were pretty surprised, and a little confused, because all we knew about Sony was that they weren’t even a force in gaming that experienced hands such as Sega and Nintendo were. Looking back at previous attempts to upend these two ranging from NEC’s PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 to a resurgent Atari and their Jaguar, and their spectacular failures,Sony dipping its toes into a highly combative market seemed like suicide.
It would be years later that the stories finally came out, of a partnership proposed between Nintendo and Sony and a CES where Nintendo shoved Sony aside with a public declaration of support for Philips instead (leading to the CD-i and its take on Zelda which most just want to forget). Sony would remember the snub and quietly continued their CD-ROM project without them, ultimately creating what would become the PlayStation.
The Playstation won out over the Sega Saturn and the cartridge-based Nintendo 64 in the long run, garnering strong third-party support earning defections from both camps with the likes of Squaresoft and others that were tempted by the promise dangled before them with the system’s black CD-ROMs. It had action games, sports, shooters, you name it.
Most of all, it was the RPGs that drew me in from Final Fantasy VII (and the surprise we felt that anyone would dare defy the mighty Nintendo by playing for another team) to classics such as Konami’s Suikoden, its sequel, along with Squaresoft’s Valkyrie Profile and Final Fantasy Tactics. It was also home to PC ports ranging from Diablo to Command & Conquer, but I had a PC for those. 😉
And there was Castlevania: Symphony of the Night! What a game that was. And still is. So many nights spent exploring Dracula’s castle, pulling secrets from its corners and farming monsters for precious drops, only to have it flip itself into a whole new challenge midway through.
Grandia also captured my imagination back then with its anime-inspired intro, vast score, charming cast (though the voice acting left a bit to be desired), great battle mechanics, and an incredibly epic quest topped by one of the best endings in any RPG that tied up everything in a neat bow. It wasn’t a gritty, grim, or romance filled adventure — just a charming tale of adventure, mystery, and a lot of skill-building combat.
So Happy Birthday, PlayStation. Thanks for the memories! And here’s to many more.