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    Sony's first video game console established the PlayStation brand. It dominated the 32/64-bit era and was the best-selling home console up until the PlayStation 2.

    All PS1 Games in Order: Part 002

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    borgmaster

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    Edited By borgmaster

    An explanation of what I'm doing here can be found in my introduction post.

    Last week's look at Air Combat and Battle Arena Toshinden can be found here.

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    No Caption Provided

    ESPN Extreme Games

    Release Date: 9/9/1995

    Developer: Sony Interactive Studios America

    Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

    Time to Full Irritation: 45 minutes

    Long story short: this is a bad Road Rash with questionable 'tude.

    I'm not that up on what the "Xtreme Sportz" scene and what its relation to the mainstream was like in the mid-90's. I can only assume that the various sports falling under that umbrella were thought of in the way seen in this game. If that was the case, then were I a street luger back then I would have been offended. What we have here is a combat racing game ala Road Rash where you choose between 4 different equipment types (Roller Blades, Bike, Skateboard, and Luge) and one of a few characters that each have their own affinities for the different equipment types. There are 5 tracks with a race taking on average between 4 and 5 minutes to complete. Money, score points, and season points are earned by passing through ring gates on track (which very much have collision detection on their rims) while punching other racers and trying to finish first. The money is used to buy up to three upgrades for each equipment type; but since the game is stingy about the money earned versus upgrade cost you will need to grind significantly to unlock them.

    Only vaguely human-shaped, but he's throwing a shaka so you know he's real!
    Only vaguely human-shaped, but he's throwing a shaka so you know he's real!

    There seems to have been an attempt to give balanced trade-offs between the different equipment you can use. For example, the luge is the best for combat but has slow acceleration while the bike has the best acceleration while being the weakest in combat. None of that effort pays off because the rubberbanding, sluggish turning, finicky jumps, and aggressive obstacle placement will keep you too fucked up to really get into whatever nuance is there. It seems like you will need to grind all of the way to the top of the upgrades and memorize the track layouts in order to actually win any races. If the racing was good that could have been some kind of progression path, but here it's more of a death march.

    On top of that, the music is bad and forgettable and the whole visual package is ugly as sin. I mean it looks really bad, like I had a headache from this damnable thing after only 45 minutes. I looked up that in the original version of the game there's FMV of an ESPN presenter shitting on you for losing at the end of every race. That sounds like it would have been at least something to latch onto, but the version I played had that removed. It's truly shocking that this was an in-house Sony project, considering how bad it is. Saying that Sony has come a long way with its first party output would be an understatement.

    Italy is famous for having John Deeres littered everywhere
    Italy is famous for having John Deeres littered everywhere

    Now, that should be everything to say about this little piece of gaming history…but I have to talk about something real quick. The five levels are South America, Italy, Utah, San Francisco, and Lake Tahoe. I listed them in that order for a reason. The "South America" level features stuff like vaguely Mayan looking ruins that I guess are supposed to be Incan and jungles on a mountainside. " Italy " has you rolling through the Tuscan countryside going past an aqueduct and the leaning tower of Pisa while dodging John Deere tractors and wooden carts for some reason. "Utah" is a desert level where you dodge tumbleweeds and end up going through a stereotypical old west town. Finally you get a typical 90's interpretation of San Francisco and a Lake Tahoe level that seems to be somewhat based on what a street sports track would look like. The specificity and accuracy of detail going from the most to least foreign environments for an assumed west coast "Xtreme" dude offends me on a certain level. I'm not really equipped to dig into the specifics of how that is fucked, I just know that it is. Maybe someone else can better articulate the bullshit going on here.

    Ah yes, my favorite skate spot
    Ah yes, my favorite skate spot

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    No Caption Provided

    Kileak: The DNA Imperative

    Release Date: 9/9/1995

    Developer: Genki

    Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

    Time to Turning on God Mode: 30 Minutes

    Time to Complete Disillusionment: 75 Minutes

    I have to immediately address the most important topic around this game: it's pronounced "kih-leek". I always thought it was pronounced "kill-e-ack", and boy was I surprised.

    We are now arriving at our first Doom clone FPS on the Playstation. The premise as shown in the opening is barely comprehensible but seems to have something to do with guys in mech suits storming into a secret Antarctic base where some biological mad science has gone down. That's as decent a premise for a horror shooter as you can find, and the game does almost nothing with it. This is a corridor shooter where you fight boring looking security robots through narrow hallways and small rooms as you collect keycards and the occasional new weapon on the way to finding the elevator in each level. This action is broken up with era-appropriate obscure puzzles on some of the levels. The puzzles involve manipulating switches or buttons in some way and are not worth solving unless necessary for progression.

    The draw distance makes every encounter a surprise encounter
    The draw distance makes every encounter a surprise encounter

    The movement is slow and plodding, the character maneuvers with all the grace of a cow, and health pickups seem to be doled out stingily compared to the damage you receive. There's also a constantly draining energy bar that's used for special ammo which needs to be refilled at specific stations squirrelled away on each level. If that energy bar reaches zero then it's game over. These levels are fairly small and ugly looking in a way consistent with the times. Because of the aforementioned slow pacing, the levels end up taking way longer than they should with your character methodically trudging around randomly pulling at levers. It certainly makes the mech you're piloting feel weighty, but to what aesthetic purpose I can't say. On a positive note, in the three levels I played there are two music tracks that kinda jammed. In fact, the serviceable music carried most of the atmosphere that there is in this game.

    Our boy Carlos here has nothing useful to say, but too little screen time if you ask me
    Our boy Carlos here has nothing useful to say, but too little screen time if you ask me

    The most redeeming feature of this thing are the goofy CG cutscenes and absolutely abysmal voice over. The story is schlocky and it's told so badly that it circles back around to delightful. There are a handful of FMV scenes that are just *chefs kiss* and some goofy codec calls with your only other mech buddy. The problem is that there are only a few of these dialogue moments and they are each only a few seconds long. The amount of drudgery you have to go through between each one just isn't worth the payoff. I tried to keep soldiering through even after I had lost patience with the gameplay by turning on cheats and charging through the combat, all on the hopes of seeing something weird. Despite this, I bounced off on the third level due to the an obnoxious puzzle, well before reaching even one FMV scene. I ended up looking up a let's play and fast forwarding through it in order to see what dumb shit happens. Really, that's the only way anyone should interact with this game. Also, for something with "DNA Imperative" in the name that promises from the start to have horrible genetic experiments gone wrong, it doesn't even try to deliver on that until the last level. So, fuck this game.

    Even still, I feel some sick desire at the bottom of my stomach to go back and play this some more. I'm resisting that urge, but I fear that the sickness will take greater hold of me if I let it. Is this what Playstation ownership did to people back in the day?

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    This pair went about as well as I could have expected. Next time we'll look at a triple-header of NBA Jam Tournament Edition, Power Serve 3D Tennis, and The Raiden Project. Two of these are arcade ports and the other is, well, you'll see.

    No Caption Provided
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    borgmaster

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    I forgot to mention in the post: ESPN Extreme Games was later rebranded and re-released as 1Extreme in order to retcon it as the prequel to 2Extreme. The name 1Extreme gets funnier the more you think about it.

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    bigsocrates

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    @borgmaster: My understanding is that it wasn't just to retcon it but because they lost the ESPN licensing and they had to strip a bunch of ESPN content out of the game for the re-release, making it a lesser version. Or so I believe.

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    csl316

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    I didn't understand what "The DNA Imperative" meant as a kid, so I just assumed it was too smart for me.

    Still is.

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    Lab392

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    There's a real scumminess to the look of early PS1 games that I appreciate and hate at the same time.

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    GTxForza

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    Interesting history of the early days of PS1.

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    twins

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    Man seeing espn extreme games screens has unlocked something in my brain. I used to love that game and I completely forgot about it

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    borgmaster

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    #8  Edited By borgmaster

    @bigsocrates: You caught me being reductive. As far as I know, the order of events was: 1) 2Extreme comes out and does well, 2) Sony wants to do a Greatest Hits run of ESPN Extreme Games because it was the spiritual predecessor, 3) they can't get the ESPN license back, 4) they put it out anyway scrubbed of the ESPN branding and call it 1Extreme in order to rope-a-dope 2Extreme fans. However precise we are in describing the situation, the name is still very silly.

    @csl316: There doesn't seem to be much to understand. The original subtitle was apparently "The Blood", but I'm guessing due to the mid-90's political climate they needed a different but vaguely similar name and threw together "The DNA Imperative" because it sounds cool and mysterious.

    @twins: I'm guessing you were under the age of 15? With all of these early PS1 games, I can see how bored children could put in the hours to "solve" them and find a good time eventually. I'm avoiding putting that sentence into every entry because a bored enough kid can find fun in just about anything, so that should be the absolute minimum bar for a game.

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