PS1 games you may have missed: More RPGs edition

In my last entry I took a break from mentioning RPGs. Since, however, RPGs are my favorite genre, you’re just going to have to live with a few more of them now.

Before we begin, I would like to briefly mention the first two games of both the Suikoden and Wild ARMs series. I have discussed them in more detail elsewhere, but all four are great games.

Lunar & Lunar 2: Originally released on Sega CD, these classic games were once again translated by Working Designs. Therein lies a lot of the appeal of the Lunars: Not only do you get a solid battle system, you also get a fun-filled localization. The voice acting leaves something to be desired, and the translation isn’t always true to the original, but the Lunars were the first games where I enjoyed simply running around talking to people in towns.

The plot is solid, if cliched (possibly because Lunar was a cliche-starter), and overall it’s a great time. Often, when you talk to a townsperson, it won’t be simply a “times are tough” or “I hear there’s a dragon in the ice dungeon” – there will be an actual conversation between that individual and your party.

The Lunars are a little bit on the difficult side if you’re used to, say, the cakewalk that was FFX, but neither will they force you to level. They’re not incredibly expensive, but if you want to try to get the soundtracks that originally came with the games as well, you’ll end up paying more.

Valkyrie Profile: Possibly the most notoriously rare PSX game, Valkyrie Profile’s price is impressive. Although the PSP remake is far easier to find, cheaper, and (reports say) better, the PSX original is still a good game. Whether it’s $100 good, I’m not certain. The cutscenes are well-done, with half-decent voice acting (for the time) and several genuinely sad stories. Multiple endings and a nice skill system will keep you going.

The battle system is a little bit too simple for my taste, but it’s timing-based, making it more Action-RPGish than most. The dungeon exploration is also heavier on action than most RPGs, including some neat maneuvers you can do to reach far-off treasure chests. Unfortunately, you can only experience the entire game on the Hard difficulty setting, which will involve a bit more grinding. Seeing all the characters’ stories and all the dungeons is worth it, though.

Dragon Warrior VII: If you want a difficult, long game, this one’s got your number. Very little of it is new, and it tends to plod on, but this is probably the most hardcore standard RPG I’ve ever seen. You don’t even see one of the main mechanics of the game (the Job system) until about 25 hours in. It’s heavy on the grinding, has no voice acting, and fairly bland 3-d mixed with some nice sprites, but there is always the appeal of a game that is so epic in size. As a plus, it’s about half as expensive as Valkyrie Profile – and you’ll get probably twice the gameplay in a playthrough. Just don’t expect it to be very polished, innovative, or pretty, and do expect it to be difficult and occasionally confusing.

Azure Dreams: Ahh, the Diablo of the Playstation. Yes, I do realize there is in fact a Diablo for the Playstation – but it just doesn’t feel as right as Azure Dreams. If you take a turn-based dungeon crawler, mix in some dating elements, and convert it to a cheesy anime style, you might have something vaguely like this game. For those more experienced among you, Azure Dreams is a Roguelike – each time you move, every monster on the floor moves as well.

This is one of those games I come back to every couple of years. It drags a bit towards the end, making it difficult to want to make any progress. The sim elements keep the game interesting early on, but they are a bit too simple and nothing new. For a dungeon-based game, though, I find it oddly addictive. It also saw a toned-down version released as a Game Boy Color game.

Obviously, there are several more PSX RPGs I haven’t mentioned here. These are only the games I can personally recommend – the PSX had so many games that every so often I hear about a good one I didn’t know existed, to say nothing of the PS2. It may seem a bit strange to play old, pixellated or jaggy games on a shiny new console, but it’s better than letting it collect dust, right?

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
16 years ago

Why can’t they port every good PSX game to the PSP?

16 years ago

The p0rn-light elements of Lunar are sort of unsettling now that all the characters featured remain so far below the age of consent. It was all well and good seeing Lucia or Mia strip down (somewhat) when I was 17, but I imagine it’d feel a bit like some kind of creepy fanfiction nowadays…

Thanks for the heads up about Azure Dreams! I’ve only ever heard the name before, but spritey roguelike games are right up my alley. Sounds like another hidden Konami gem. Any ideas about how pricey it is?

Is this the last of your PS recommendation series? If so, is the floor open for additional suggestions from the audience?

16 years ago

I played a lot of Azure Dreams back in the day. I sort of thought it sucked but couldn’t stop playing. I need to rebuy it.

I think this was Chris’ last planned PS recommendation article but we’d enjoy suggestions. Maybe I’ll do one and cover Kartia, Ogre Battle, Deception, X Com, Tail of the Sun, Silverload, Pandemonium, Discworld, Return Fire, Intelligent Qube…or maybe I’ll just do a Saturn games article.

16 years ago

Warhammer was good and Deception is great.

16 years ago

I was a fan of Deception as well, you never knew what you where going to find or do in that game. Giant insects in the generator rooms one minute, turning your wife into a zombie slave the next.

A few more I’d suggest would be:

All the neat PC ports. Jay mentioned X-com, and you put in a word about Diablo, Chris, but I’d say that Magic Carpet, Command and Conquer (regular and Red Alert) and Syndicate Wars were all great games with their own unique adaptations of their PC progenitors. Syndicate Wars in particular gains a lot from its transition to console land- 4 player co-op (with a multi-tap), game pad controls and no Syndicate legacy baggage to live up to.

If you want to some interesting sci-fi FPS gaming chock full of awesomely cheesy FMV and cool psychic powers, you can’t go wrong with Disrupter. As a bonus you get to see a “before they were famous” look at Insomniac Studios.

I’d also like to pass along Ghost in the Shell. The fast paced “crawl on anything” gameplay is still a ton of fun today, though combat takes a back seat to zipping through the environment. It comes with some anime, if that’s your thing, but I imagine that’s less of a treat now that the IP has seen a successful transition to TV. Regardless, nothing beats skillfully circle strafing huge robo-tanks as you hop effortlessly from skyscraper to skyscraper. The end boss fight while falling through the air also goes down in history as completely rockin’.

Critical Depth! Twisted Metal will always be fun, but it’s neglected cousin doesn’t get nearly enough props. Huge, differentiated levels with tons of atmosphere and healthy servings of actual exploration. Cool, fleshed out back story for each character. Great, strategic combat with a frantic pace and brutally cheesy (in a good way) AI. A solidly creepy/magnificent underwater feel. Man I love this game.

I’d say Tenchu 2 warrants a look. While the series is now something of a pathetic laughing stock, T2 really stands out as a fun, if simple, look at what could have been. Cool (if sometimes too silly) story, lot’s of neat ninja equipment, and a variety of unique levels.

Though it might be a very frustrating GAME, Broken Helix is also worth a try. It’s an X-files era alien conspiracy setup, starring a wisecracking demolitions expert. You go through Area 51 blasting things in third person. That might not sound very enticing, but BH brilliantly wraps it’s unspectacular story and gameplay mechanics with a couple of fascinating ideas. Firstly, actual time is always passing. You start the game with about a half hour until some madman blows up Area 51. That means an actual half hour. The entire game is made up of things actually happening in real time. A squad of hired government goons is coming in to the facility? Better hope you can stay ahead of them, because you aren’t in spawn point land anymore, Totto. Some reporter lady will meet up with you in 10 minutes on the second floor? Get going! Or maybe you’d like to stop that hired mercenary from slipping out and taking a means of escape with him- just cut him down as he’s getting out of the elevator.

These real-time elements are supported by a (for the time) astounding array of choices. If you decide to shirk your duties and forget about the bomb once you yourself are out of harms way, you can- just be ready to try and fake your way through the rest of the game under the suspicious eyes of the black-ops squad that sent you in. Maybe this alien stuff is just too weird and you want to get the hell out of there without trying to unravel the mysteries of area 51- there’s a way to do it. Or perhaps you aren’t too fond of humanity, why now find a way to serve the alien queen and blow up earth?

Sadly all this awesomeness is bogged down by some unfortunate platforming and a few torturously cruel escort missions. You WILL throw your controller (if you aren’t huddled over sobbing) as the Alien ‘Warrior’ your escorting gets mowed down 30 feet from the exit- for the 50th time.

There are a few more, but I’ll cut this wall of text short here for now.


[…] fun, if a bit baffling, and then there were the weird games: Kartia, the card based tactical RPG; Azure Dreams, the roguelike dragon-raising dating sim; and Tecmo’s Deception, in which you make a pact with […]