Well bugger it, I'm going to talk about this now. Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the Playstation, A console many of us hold dear. I think all of us who experienced the Playstation can all agree that the console impacted our lives in so many ways. However despite the fifth generation being my starting point in videogames, I find that due to the excitement of all the technical prowess the consoles brought to the table, there was a lot of confusion surrounding the direction of these "modern games" and this led for a few awkward moments that stick out like a sore thumb. Though many of us are able to overlook these flaws in the name of nostalgia, I on the other hand realized something was wrong with the fifth generation.
Now don't get me wrong, the fifth generation was a pretty good generation for games which slightly fell short of the fourth generation for some really silly reasons. Although the fifth generation brought a lot of new concepts to the table, a lot of their games felt a little rough around the edges. These issues were quite easily overlooked as many of us were already taken in by the wow factor that is the fifth generation, we didn't pay them much if any attention at all. If anything, the fifth generation felt like a tech demo... a very long tech demo for the sixth generation which by then had perfected what the fifth generation tried to do and thus gaming had reached it's pinnacle.
Of course not everyone will agree with that. Most people prefer the fifth generation over the sixth for understandable reasons. I mean I only got into gaming at the latter end of the fifth generation so maybe i'm a little bit biased but I did go back to the forth generation and looking at it, I honestly think that the forth generation was a far superior generation for it's time as it had a lot of quality games that all pushed the systems to their limits and they all turned out well... heck the SNES at least has such a huge lifespan and practically gave birth to modern gaming on consoles before the fifth generation even arrived. Many people forget the legenary Starfox that blew people's minds with it's Super FX chip but these days, Starfox 64 takes all of the spotlight and people have taken it for granted. I always considered the original Starfox to be the best game in the series... but that's just me.
So in truth, the forth generation changed a lot about gaming and when I use the term "modern gaming" i'm talking about 3d models and environments as we can safely say that they are the most renown turning point in gaming. Just imagine if we didn't have 3d models in this day in age... some of us would be relieved but if we think about it, so many games, so many genres would not have existed without 3d. Open World games wouldn't have been a thing (even though GTA 1 and 2 weren't completely 3d but whatever) and even if they were, they wouldn't have captured half the immersion. Platforming games changed from side scrolling to huge open playgrounds with a new take on platforming. 3D transformed gaming, it transformed it so much that we wouldn't be anywhere without it. We need to thank the forth generation for bringing it to us... at least on console. I'm pretty sure there was a 3d arcade game or PC game somewhere (i'm pretty sure there was an arcade 3d game which involved tanks or something on the arcade but forgot the name) but who the hell had a gaming PC or an arcade machine in their house back then? Hand up everyone... oh wait a lot of you!? You lucky bastards, I didn't have a PC until the late 2000's, closest thing I even saw to a PC was at my dads workplace which was one of those big blocky monitors and was merely programmed for work, it didn't have internet, games or any of that stuff. If I did have a gaming PC back then and irresponsible parents to match, i'd have been able to play Diablo or something but unfortunately I had to take a Delorean for a spin to get there (thank god for second hand games... and thank god for us gamers from making sure Moneysoft didn't ruin that luxary with their Shitbox One).
So If we count Starfox and many other games, we can safely say that the forth generation deserves the credit for this major revolutionary execution of a concept that would change gaming forever. So where does this leave the fifth generation? Well the fifth generation was obviously limited in it's capabilities so you can't exactly knock it. It was merely tinkering with this new concept of 3d gaming. Remember that back then, 3D gaming was a new thing. We got games like Final Fantasy VII which was the first 3D RPG and everybody remembers it for that reason (I was going to do a "Why is Final Fantasy VII so well loved?" blog but I practically answered that question already, it's the first 3D JRPG released in the west which changed EVERYTHING). Some games stayed true to their roots, particularly low budget titles. Games like Star Ocean The Second Story and Valkyrie Profile released by tri-Ace were still deeply wedged in their roots, heck even Kirby 64 refused to accept this so called "evolution of gaming" and all three games maintained the old school style of gaming and many others. Games like Final Fantasy VII were lucky to have a big enough budget to execute this massive leap into modern gaming. Heck we still have them today, indie games for example have brought us a lot of old school gaming experiences and we are still getting games like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Breeze, Child Of Light and many more old school styled games which retained some of the elements often exclusive to the SNES era such as sidescrolling and sprites.
We take all this for granted these days and the fifth generation was still new to 3D gaming that criticising it is rather silly in itself as it's like critiquing a young child's programming skills, they were still new to it and were still learning new things and because of such a huge leap in gaming, it left thing sin a mess. Allow me to explain. Now you're probably wondering by now, what exactly was wrong with the fifth generation? Well the answer is, nothing was wrong... everything was just... clunky. Now if we go back to the forth generation back when games saved onto a batterry which would eventually wear out and delete everything, the fifth generation averted this with small devices called memory cards. Now don't get me wrong, memory cards were a godsend but my god at least box one in with your GODDAMN CONSOLE!!!
Now the biggest offender for memory cards goes to the N64. Whilst the EEPROM was a great idea, the memory card was not. I absolutely hated the fact that you had to insert them into the back of your N64 controller and to get them out, you needed some WD 40 or something because the cartridge felt like it was trapped in cement. The Playstation on the other hand wasn't so much of an issue... however they added another issue. That issue would be game disks. Unlike cartridges, disks couldn't carry save data (for some reason) and they would get scratched over time due to usage. This was a problem... particularly for any collectors out there because it was difficult to maintain their condition. On the plus side, the game disks allowed for more data... in other words we got better games... however it seems they took the whole "disk" thing a little too far. I first found this out when I bought a second hand copy of Final Fantasy VII. Thank god all the disks worked, some were unlucky but man did they go overboard with this. Most RPG's often varied from 2-4 disks long and a lot of people argue that this is due to the CGI cutscenes and I'm going to prove them wrong. How you ask? Legend Of Dragoon, that's how. 4 fucking disks, 50 fucking hours (unless you are really fast) that is how big that game was.
Now if you haven't read my review for Legend Of Dragoon I emplore you to check it out, it can be found over here: Legend Of Dragoon Review. My review explains a lot about the game in detail and how it felt to play it. Now if I were to look back at the first time I played this game back on a playstation magazine demo disk, I was blown the fuck away. It was like Pokemon... but with humans and instead of collecting different Pokemon, you could collect weapons and equipment and transform, cast magic and best of all use 3 part members at once! To add to that, the world, the story... it pulled me in. It was a story I longed to experience but never could simply because I could never find a copy. I eventually picked up Final Fantasy VII at a car boot and there my introduction to traditional RPG's began... though I will always credit Legend Of Dragoon for the true introduction, I never got to play it for many years and when I did my experience was... uh just read the review and you'll know all about it.
Now have you read my review of Legend Of Dragoon? Briefly? Bah i'll never get y'all to read my old shit... especially if you already read it but whatever, I don't blame you to be honest. In any case, how does Legend Of Dragoon relate to this topic? Because I find it to be the definitive game of the fifth generation. It was a game that offered so much wow factor but was let down by it's roughness. If there is any game on the PS1 that I can arguably say has aged poorly, it is Legend Of Dragoon. Everything from the random encounters, the long ass battle transitions, the lack of tactical options in battle (which was replaced with a timing mechanic because "wow factor") and the ridiculously underdeveloped cast of characters. Put all this into a 50 hour game and you have a disaster on a disk... in theory. In actual fact it wasn't a disaster back then, in fact the game was unlike any other for it's time. Looking back at Legend of Dragoon, I wouldn't say it's a bad game by any means, even now. Sure the characters were definitely lackluster but I wouldn't say it's a bad cast, some of the characters were actually somewhat interesting. Condering the fact that back on the SNES we had games such as Chrono Trigger which had a silent protagonist with a shoehorned love interest with absolutely zero romantic development, I think we can safely say that Legend Of Dragoon's cast wasn't bad, it was decent... but completely unacceptable to today's stadards. Sure we all love to go back to old school games and some of them still stand the test of time... but we can easily say that games have evolved and that there is a lot more diversity these days... these things change with time but sometimes there's nothing better than the originals and we're all guilty of looking back... but why the hell not, games are games regardless of when they were released. Still I have a much easier time playing Tales Of Phantasia on the SFC (well emulator for me) than I do playing any PS1 RPG simply due to the fact that they're just so goddamn long!
I mean it when I say the fifth gen was all about Quantity... particularly for RPG's... but it didn't stop there. Games like Gran Turismo 2 had 2 discs as well and one of them had a completely separate game mode, GT mode. This was completely new. In fact it was my first experience playing a career mode in a racing game. The fact that they put so much content into it was kinda cool... until I realized that half of it couldn't be accessed until yuo could acquire certain licences... seriously, what kind of game throws you into a long winded tutorial before you're even allowed to race past the first cup. As a kid, I was overwhelmed by the sheer workload required to access the later cups, I just wanna play the game, I don't care if I lose just let me play. There are still games which adopt this idea (Test Drive Unlimited 2 anyone?) which baffles me, make the tutorials available, but don't force them down our throats, that's what I say. Though it all made sense after a while, It seems like the purpose of these "extended tutorials" was not just to teach players the ropes, they became padding for what would have been a short game for racing game veteran. I honestly don't know how a racing game pro managed to sit through hours and hours of menu's for such short and unexciting driving segments, granted I was technically a noob but I prefer to learn by doing, not by being told what to do. Heck many of the later licences felt like challenges in themselves and I questioned to myself "why is this even neccesary?" It's padding.
Then again, the same could be said about arcade games back in the day. The leap between the third and forth generation was also a big one as it introduced reasonable difficulty levels that weren't designed to extort money out of player's pockets since there wasn't a coin op in the console. The purpose of consoles was to entertain and they finally realized this with the forth generation. However, like the fifth generation, the third generation struggled to make this change and there were still games that were designed in the same style as arcade games (Castlevania anyone?) which made them excruciatingly hard. I don't know if anyone is an arcade buff here but the only experiences i ever had with arcades is on the Xbox 360's game room and that taught me all I needed to know. There are some great arcade titles out there but i'm not really an expert in that era as i've been brought up around the fifth sixth and seventh era and have experienced the forth generation in my own way.
So multiple disks, long ass games, lots of padding. These are the 3 biggest issues with the fifth generation. This is where the sixth generation comes in. I'm personally quite fond of this generation and for good reason, it's timeless. It perfected the visual spectacle that gaming has come to know. Games like Valkyrie Profile 2 prove that sixth generation consoles offer some of, if not the best looking games ever made and still are the best looking games ever made... at least in my opinion. Ok sure we get a higher resolution these days... big fucking whoop, I miss the vibrant colors of Baten Kaitos, Pokemon Collosseum, Kirby Air Ride, Starfox Assault and the legendary F-ZERO GX. The Gamecube will never be beaten in this category i'm afraid, definitely be best console of all time IMO and still stands strong today. Heck the Gamecube could match the PS4 easily... seriously Nintendo, consider releasing new games on the Gamecube... better yet, take a look back at the games on the Gamecube and see for yourself why it is such an incredible console in terms of the visual flair of it's games... bring that back Nintendo, bring it back or I swear your company is dead to me!
Another thing I noticed was that games, RPG's in particular were shorter and only took up 1 disk worth of space. I also found a lot of sixth gen RPG's to have a lot less filler. Honestly to changed 4 disks to 1... even with a huge technological advancement is impressive. The sixth generation is the unsung hero in terms of gaming generations... nah scratch that, the Gamecube is the unsung hero in terms of consoles and don't you dare even try to bring up the Dreamcast... tell me one game that console had besides Grandia 2... oh wait you have a long list? Well I don't give a crap, it's SEGA, there's a reason why they're third party now, they suck (just my personal opinion right there).
Despite their shorter legnth, I still found myself appreciating the content that was on offer just as much as the Playstation offered. It was still just as enjoyable if not more. Let me give you an example. Final Fantasy X, regardless of whatever controversey surrounding it, it is just as enjoyable as Final Fantasy VIII, despite being considerably shorter and on a single disk rather than 4. I mean I don't really care much for either of those games really but comparing them as an example, i'd say that the sixth gen got it right, quality over quantity is the name of the game. Just look at Valkyrie Profile 2 for example, it's a very short game on a single disk but my god did those visuals blow me the fuck away... I though I was going to die of a heart attack at the shock of how good that game looked and sounded. damn that game's soundtrack is unparralleled. Depite this as I said, the game is pretty damn short, though it's difficulty hides it quite well, the game isn't even half as long as most PS1 games and still manages to be just as enjoyable. You get the gist yet?
So lets look at todays generation gap... seventh to eighth gen... I've just got my first ps4 game... oh wait it's a port of a PS3 game... welcome to the era of HD Remasters!!!