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: #12 – Final Fantasy Tactics (1998)

One of the Most Engrossing Games Ever.

Possibly the greatest game of all-time — really!

Final Fantasy Tactics Title ScreenApe’s Ranking: #12/100
My Rating:  StarStarStarStarStar

Square had a ten year period where they could do no wrong.

In an age before copious reviews online, buying games was mostly winging it with a dash of expert advice from the Electronics Boutique employee. The only thing that came close to a guarantee was seeing a Squaresoft logo. Starting with Final Fantasy VI in ’94, Squaresoft would go on to produce some of the best games of all-time and in rapid succession.

Known mostly for traditional RPGs, Square began to explore other genres with the playstation 1. It’s amazing the amount of side projects they juggled which even included a realistic, one-hit-kill sword fighting game that is well regarded. Final Fantasy Tactics (FFT) is the company’s foreray into strategic gaming where they melded the genre’s typical elements with the Final Fantasy feel of chocobos, summons, and classes.

It might be their best game ever, and that’s saying something given their catalog which includes the ever popular Final Fantasy 7.

What makes FFT so good is the combat: the battles are intricate doses of choices, strategy, and chance where you become highly invested in the outcome. Even random battles become gripping as every decision you make has a ripple effect on the outcome. The learning curve is huge and the game mechanics are harsh, but as you get better, you start to unlock the beauty of the immensely customizable classes.

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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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