Top 100 PS1 Review: #2 – Final Fantasy 7 (1997)

Story Telling Matters. 

The Remake with all the bells and whistles can’t compete with pure polygonal poetry. 

Final Fantasy 7 PS1 IntroApe’s Ranking: #2/100
My Rating: StarStarStarStarStar

There is a scene in the Final Fantasy 7: Remake where the line is clearly drawn in the sand between new and old. It’s in Shinra HQ where the president is making a lengthy speech about destiny, fate, environment, power, and money. It has the double sin of being lengthy WHILE not saying anything important. It’s like squeezing a dry lemon: lots of movement but no juice.

This is endemic to the entire Remake. More dialogue, more graphics, and more action that ends up being less emotional. It’s no different than when I watched the bloated Star Wars prequels and realized that just because you have “more” doesn’t mean it’s going to make things better. Meeting the president in the original is super impactful, and he doesn’t even bother saying a word (for those who know why – 🥰).

But, was I giving the original too much credit? Nostalgia is a helluva drug, and it must have been at least 15 years since I last heard the whir of a PS1 in the middle of the night as I roamed the streets of Midgar. Were things really better with those horrendously looking blocks?

Yes. Yes they were.

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Top 100 PS1 Review: #21 – Final Fantasy Anthology (1999)

Reintroducing Final Fantasy To America.

Taking advantage of the popularity of FF7, Squaresoft rereleased almost every game they ever made for the PS1.

Final Fantasy V Final Fantasy Anthology Title ScreenApe’s Ranking: #21/100
My Rating: StarStarStar

RPGs were not mainstream until Final Fantasy 7 dropped on the PS1 in 1997. Even though Squaresoft and Enix released several iterations of their popular in Japan Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy  games, it was still a pretty niche market in America. Hell, Squaresoft didn’t even bother releasing all of their games in America leading to a unique numbering system that wouldn’t be corrected until the late 90s.

With FF7 being a blockbuster hit, Squaresoft wanted to capitalize with repackaging their catalog to a North American population now clamoring for more RPGs. Final Fantasy Anthologies was the first to release containing FFV and FFVI. Final Fantasy Origins (FF I and FF II) and Final Fantasy Chronicles (FFIV and Chrono Trigger) would soon follow for a total of 6 games being released for the PS1 which were ports of older NES or SNES versions.

Very little new content was added to these games. For the NES ports, the graphics were updated to SNES level. For the rest, short opening and ending CGI sequences were included. For those of us who already owned the originals (i.e: me), there was little benefit from buying these redundant ports…

…except when it comes to the never before released American titles.

Final Fantasy Anthologies includes such a title: Final Fantasy V. Only released in Japan, it is unique for having a diverse job system where characters aren’t pigeon-holed into a class type. Instead of the static characters in FFVI and FFVI, you can mix and match classes together to make unique skill sets.

I was more interested in the history aspect: every Final Fantasy is part of lineage where motifs, themes, and ideas build upon one another. This scaffolding is more apparent with the more titles you play by seeing how the series has grown over time. Having played the games that bookend FFV, I was interested to see where it stood. Was it more like FFIV with old-school conundrums or forward thinking like FFVI with a fantastic narrative?

Well, it ended up being a little of both. While FFV’s job system is THE thing that makes the game stand out, it’s not fantastically done. The other elements, mainly the story, are a disappointment and never reach the level I expected.

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Top 100 PS1 Review: # 35 – Alundra (1997)

The Hidden Gem of the PS1.

AND NO. IT’S NOT A ZELDA CLONE!

Alundar Psone Title ScreenApe’s Ranking: #35/100
My Rating: StarStarStarStar

Okay, maybe it is kind of a Zelda Clone. There are bombs, arrows, gloves that allow you to pick up boulders, and something called a “life vessel” that is nothing more than a heart piece. It’s easy to to confuse Inoa, the village in Alundra, with Kakariko or mistake the open world with the fields of Hyrule. However, what the game does within this framework is wholly unique…

… and hard as holy hell! This is quite possibly one of the hardest games I have ever played. Even considering this as something akin to Zelda is a sin after you experience the beatdown of the perfect this game requires. The game’s only downfall is how much it expects of you. The satisfaction of solving a hard and difficult puzzle is quickly extinguished when you realize that it’s only been replaced with an even harder challenge which is followed by another — it’s turtles all the way down.

The grind is worth it, though. Alundra has impeccable world building. Its mature themes are nestled in a world chocked full of unique of experiences. You’ll want to explore and talk to everything as it captures the spirit of adventure so well.

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Top 100 PS1 Review: #18 – Final Fantasy VIII (1999)

So Conflicting.

A convoluted, mish-mashed story with amazing moments nestled in a beautiful world full of culture which has a completely broken fighting system that is also immensely addicting… this game is nothing but contradictions. 

Final Fantasy VIII Title ScreenApe’s Ranking: #18/100
My Rating: StarStarStar

Final Fantasy VIII is such a hard game for me to unravel. It’s full of problems start to finish, but I can’t untangle that from the peaks of sweet experiences and nostalgia. The only way I felt like I could address this was by presenting all the problems alongside a twenty year perspective from three different vantage points: 2000, 2010, and 2020. These were the three times when I beat this game, and while Final Fantasy VIII might not have changed in those 20 years, I sure have.

There are amazing moments in this game, exquisite experiences where we feel it in our gut. It’s the reason we are willing to toil for a 40 hour adventures: the sense of wonder and connection that FF8 occasional provides. So no matter how silly and broken everything becomes, there are still pieces and parts that propel it forward.

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Top 100 PS1 Review: #92 – Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back (1997)

The Playstation’s Super Mario.

Crash Bandicoot 2 Title ScreenApe’s Ranking: #92/100
My Rating: StarStarStar

Every system from the 90s required a mascot with side-scrolling adventure. Early Mario and Sonic games are not that different to play. Both involve making articulate jumps as you perilously move from L to R.

Crash Bandicoot isn’t any different either. Even though it came out in the mid 90s and is 3D, the game sends you down train tracks and tunnels. There isn’t anything to explore; it’s a decorated hallway with tons of traps.

Somehow, it still gives you that visceral gut check. I cringed with every “almost made it” slip up and rang out in glee when entering the exit tunnel. What I was most interested in was the extra challenge of breaking all the boxes. The game boasts 45 hidden gems along with the mandatory 25 crystals. I thought i’d been spending a good part of my Winter pulling off amazing feats of daring acrobatics to close out this game with a 100%.

But, it really wasn’t worth it.

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Top 100 PS1 Review: #60 – Suikoden (1996)

Simple and Perfect.

Perfectly charming — no frills required.

Suikoden psone title screenApe’s Ranking: #60/100
My Rating: StarStarStarStar

How pure!

Suikoden harkens back to a time when characters and charm were more important than a silly sandbox game with a thousand permutations. An early scene puts the main characters around the dinner table with an impactful guitar solo that sets the mood for the rest of the game:

While the story might be pretty standard fair, the game boasts 108 characters for you to recruit for your rebellion army. Each one is unique in their own way and mostly avoids the pitfall of Chrono Cross where no one matters. Home base isn’t a static structure but rather a thriving community. This game builds a sense of connection with the world; you can’t wait to return home to see what your friends are up to.  Continue reading “Top 100 PS1 Review: #60 – Suikoden (1996)”

Top 100 PS1 Review: #5 – Chrono Cross (2000)

Thankfully, I Played This First.

Thus, the roughshod treatment of the beloved Chrono Trigger was unknown to me. 

Chrono Cross Ps1 Title ScreenApe’s Ranking: #5/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

This is my favorite video game of all-time. Just like its plot, I’m full of contradictions: it’s story is a mess, there are too many characters, non-boss fights are useless. While Chrono Trigger avoided pedantic discussions about time travel, Chrono Cross does the opposite by twisting so many convoluted plot devices in a knot that you could read gobs of timelines from fan historians and still not get it. I’ve never seen a sequel so irreverent of what came before it.

Thankfully during the Summer of 2000, I only vaguely knew about Chrono Trigger, so I was able to enjoy Chrono Cross in a vacuum. It’s a game of amazing atmosphere, music, and imagination. If you are able to float at a superficial level without trying to run everything to ground, you are treated to wonderful philosophical questions about free will, meaning, and fate.

Also, this is the best video game soundtrack of all time.

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Top 100 PS1 Review: #87 – Legend of Legaia (1999)

Great For Listening to Podcasts.

I couldn’t keep playing a game where I needed to be doing something else to stay interested. 

Legend of Legaia title screen.png
Ape’s Ranking: #87/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

I’ve owned this game since 1999, and I wanted it to be my first post for the top 100 PS1 games. I am older now, more disciplined and mature. I could set my mind to it and see it through! NO. NO I CAN’T. 

In the spirit of Lufia and The Fortress of Doom for SNES, the final straw with Legend of Legaia (or LoL, which the game is kind of a joke) was another senseless and artificial fetch quest. This was the kind of pointless plot that you expect a few hours in to learn game mechanics, not after twenty hours into the story.

Things were already not going well. While playing, I listened to the following;

The reason? The main focus of this game (the battles) become frequent, long protracted affairs that didn’t need my attention. They were a waste of time. I couldn’t ethically use my gift of consciousness on them without dual-tasking something more important. The story, quests, and characters all followed suite with their own quirks and problems. While this game is interesting to talk about from a historical/cultural perspective (after all, it is a FF7 clone that speaks to what gamers were looking for and how developers tried to create it), the game itself sucks.

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