The PlayStation’s Launch Lineup: Where Are They Now?

By: Chris Hodges, editor-in-chief

We continue our celebration of the 20th anniversary of the PlayStation‘s North American launch by taking a look at each of the launch titles and their developers to see where they stand today. (We only covered games that truly began on the PlayStation and weren’t ported from a previous system or sequels to a long-running franchise.)
__________

Air Combat
Developed by: Namco
Published by: Namco

Air Combat

Namco was one of the PlayStation’s biggest and most successful supporters, and Ridge Racer was one of the system’s marquee titles. However, the company also added the first installment of its new flight combat franchise, later to be know as Ace Combat, to the console’s launch lineup. The series would be a trilogy on the PS1 and have two more installments on the PS2 before branching off to other consoles in the years following. The series actually just had a brand new entry last year for PS3, Ace Combat Infinity, which is the series’ first foray into a free-to-play model. With over two dozen titles across a variety of platforms going as recently as 2014, Air/Ace Combat is, perhaps surprisingly, one of the most enduring franchises of the PS1’s launch.
__________

Aquanaut’s Holiday
Developed by: Artdink
Published by: Sony

Aquanaut's Holiday

One of the quirkier and more artsy additions to the PS1’s launch lineup, Aquanaut’s Holiday was a game that helped to show the possibilities of this new system and its power beyond simply bringing existing familiar genres into blocky, awkward 3D. The game has no time limit, no enemies, and no concrete “objectives” to speak of, primarily being about exploring the vast expanses of the ocean – which was a far cry from the fighting, racing, sports, and action games that dominated the rest of the launch library. While the game saw a few sequels in Japan, it was a one-off title in the U.S. Developer Artdink would go on to produce a few other unique PS1 titles, with No One Can Stop Mr. Domino probably being the biggest cult favorite, although they did bring some noteworthy titles that they didn’t develop to Japan as a publisher, including Psygnosis’ Colony Wars. But worldwide, the company is most famous for its popular A-Train simulation series (though, unsurprisingly, it has never had much of a presence in the U.S.). While Artdink’s output has slowed considerably in recent years, they’ve still consistently put out several games a year every year since, including work on various licensed Dragon Ball Z and Gundam titles. Aquanaut’s director, Kazutoshi Iida, would later be one of the main creative forces being Nintendo’s somewhat ill-fated Doshin the Giant.
__________

Battle Arena Toshinden
Developed by: Tamsoft
Published by: Sony

Toshinden

Sega was putting a lot of their Saturn eggs into the Virtua Fighter basket, so naturally the PlayStation had to answer back with a signature 3D fighter of its own. Their answer was Battle Arena Toshinden, although it would take less than a year for the supposedly PlayStation-exclusive title to be ported to the Saturn (see, they were doing stuff like that even way back then). In fact, its sequel would also come to the Saturn, and it wouldn’t be until Battle Arena Toshinden 3 that the PlayStation finally got a BAT game to truly call its own. Part 4 was also a PS1 exclusive, but it never came to America. However, it was 1999 and that point, and that was the same year that a little game called Soulcalibur was all the rage and was a Dreamcast launch title, and in addition to BAT‘s already flagging popularity (and quality), Soulcalibur basically made the series obsolete. Developer Tamsoft spent a few years cranking out forgettable budget titles for Japan’s popular “Simple” series of low cost games until making a new name for itself in recent years with its tawdry Onechanbara series, which feature bikini-clad young women killing zombies that should’ve just been a one-off budget game but has become a multi-game series because, well, boobs and zombies I guess.
__________

ESPN Extreme Games
Developed by: Sony Interactive Studios America
Published by: Sony

1xtreme

While it has since become something of a tradition for a new console to launch with that year’s edition of Madden (among other sports titles), prior to the PS2 there wasn’t any set precedent for sports games at a console launch. However, Sony wanted to establish the PlayStation as a console that handily covered all genres, including sports, and their compromise was this collection in the vein of titles like California Games. Like most titles of that ilk, none of the events in EEG were terribly deep on their own, but taken as a whole it was a decent enough representation of the extreme sports scene of the time, especially in a pre-Tony Hawk world. The title actually became a series, followed by 2xtreme and 3xtreme (with the original being renamed “1xtreme” both for consistency’s sake and due to Sony loosing the ESPN license). The series didn’t go beyond those three games, as extreme sports had become a genre all its own and individual sports like skateboarding, BMX, surfing, even wakeboarding were able to sustain their own separate titles. The game’s developer was eventually renamed 989 Sports and would establish its own series for every major pro sport, some of which gave EA a run for its money for a time. However, 989 struggled to make the transition into the PS2 era, and after a string of disappointing titles, the 2005 entry to its GameDay, MLB, and Gretzy NHL franchises would be the company’s last. Sony was able to successfully relaunch its baseball series as MLB: The Show in 2006, a franchise that has been very successful, but it is thus far the only in-house PlayStation sports brand to live on beyond 989’s collapse.
__________

Jumping Flash!
Developed by: Exact
Published by: Sony

Jumping Flash

While Crash and Spyro would eventually be seen as the PlayStation’s answer to Mario and Sonic, at launch and for a little while after, the only platformer that PlayStation brought to the table was Jumping Flash. Played entirely in a first-person perspective and focusing on mile-high floaty jumps, JF was definitely a great showpiece for the PlayStation’s ability to render large 3D environments with huge verticality. The game was a sleeper hit, and sold well enough to spawn a sequel for the system the following year. But by then, Crash had shown up and the world wanted more “character” in their platformers, and a platform game without an in-your-face star just didn’t have a chance in the late 90’s. So, sadly, the JF series only saw one more title – the Japan-only Robbit Mon Dieu – before it was closed out as a trilogy. The company produced a few more PS1 games, most notably the PS1 adaption of Ghost in the Shell, before being absorbed into second-party Sony studio Sugar & Rockets (PoPoLoCrois), and then both studios were eventually merged with Sony’s Japan Studio, creators of Ape Escape and LocoRoco.
__________

Kileak: The DNA Imperative
Developed by: Genki
Published by: Sony

Kileak

PlayStation came out swinging with its own exclusive first-person shooter right out of the gate, which for its time was a pretty bold move. That was the era when it still would’ve been perfectly acceptable to just launch with a port of Doom or Quake or the like. Kileak was also unique in that it was developed by a Japanese company, which to this day very few non-Western companies tackle the genre. Unfortunately, other than the impressive (for the time) visuals, Kileak was largely a bland, unremarkable affair (and would be all the more unnecessary following the release of the far superior Disruptor from Insomniac for PS1 in 1996, not to mention the N64’s console-FPS-redefining Goldeneye in 1997). Kileak actually had a 1996 sequel, but it was completely overlooked – again, there was legitimate and far superior competition at that point. Genki followed up in 1997 with BRAHMA Force: Assault on Beltlogger 9 that doesn’t have any story connection to the first two games but felt very much of the same series. Admittedly, critical response to that one was arguably the strongest of the three games, but it was still ultimately just a decent game and the overall competition was even stronger at that point – this was 1997 on the PS1, after all. After that, Genki finally stopped trying to make Kileak/Brahma Force a thing. However, they wouldn’t have to lick their wounds over it for too long: they were about to launch their popular Tokyo Xtreme Racer series and would later go on to work on the ports to some high-profile titles, like the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection.
__________

Ridge Racer
Developed by: Namco
Published by: Namco

Hosted at Universal Videogame List www.uvlist.net
Everyone knows just how significant of a release Ridge Racer was for the PlayStation, the perfect star alignment of right game at the right time for the right system since probably Tetris for the Game Boy. The series remain huge for many years, spawning several sequels for the PS1 including what is often considered one of the best arcade-style racers of all time: R4: Ridge Racer Type 4. Namco was able to keep the tradition of Ridge Racer as a marquee launch game alive for several more platforms, not even just PlayStation ones, but sometime in the mid 2000’s the series began to lose its way – likely due in no small part to the arcade racing genre in general falling on hard times. Several misfire attempts at reinventing the series as a racing sim only proved to further weaken RR’s brand power, although it continued its launch-day tradition on both the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita. The series has been able to find new life as a successful mobile game, which has kept the RR name alive, so at least the once-great series isn’t completely dead like so many of its contemporaries.
__________

Zero Divide
Developed by: ZOOM
Published by: Time Warner Interactive

Zero Divide

PlayStation fighting game fans actually had two 3D fighters to bring home on launch day, the other being robot-based fighter Zero Divide. One thing that game definitely had going for it was sharp visuals, arguably better than Toshinden’s and certainly with more interesting fighter designs, and it featured some unique elements like the ability to hang off the side of the ring during an attempted ring out and potentially pull yourself back up and recover. Still, the PS1 is a system that was home to not only the initial Tekken trilogy but a wide variety of unique, oddball fighters like Bloody Roar, and other notable upstarts like Dead or Alive and Rival Schools, and Zero Divide was quickly overshadowed on a system that eventually grew quite crowded with 3D fighting games. The series had two more installments – one not developed by the original team and neither of which came to the U.S. – before finally fading into its expected obscurity. Developer Zoom – who more famously co-developed the classic SNES shooter Phalanx, by the way – would later go on to find its creative spark again with release the PS2 sleeper hit Mister Mosquito, though it hasn’t developed anything of particular note since then beyond a couple of unknown WiiWare titles (the most recent of which was released way back in 2010).
__________

Advertisements

One thought on “The PlayStation’s Launch Lineup: Where Are They Now?

Leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s