Gran Turismo has always looked fantastic Polyphony Digital’s other PS1 releases (Motor Toon Grand Prix and Omega Boost) were much more interesting to me.
Backstreet Billiards (Argent, ASCII, 1998) was a game I received for review in my journalistic heyday at Videogamers.com. It was one of the first games I’d seen that came in a double disc case but only had one disc. Why the extra space? For the manual that lays out not just the game but the 10+ variations of billiards inside.
It’s also memorable as a billiards RPG with a story that revolves around a mysterious murder, a high stakes pool shark, and family honor. No kidding, you can beat a guy at pool in a sewer and he’ll give you a +10 glove of accuracy. It also has an incredible jazz-ified soundtrack and it was one of the few games that fully embraced letting you swap out the game disc for a music CD, complete with track selection options.
I can’t talk to the accuracy of the ball physics but the developers went so far as to include a whole separate Trick Shot mode that requires you to spin, bank and jump the ball. I can’t imagine it would even be in there if their engine wasn’t pretty damn close to reality.
After the flash of Toshinden wore off and long after I grew tired of Ridge Racer it’s ESPN Extreme Games that I still come back to to this day. It’s only a half-step up on tech from the “3D” racing games of the SNES era but it’s as close to the glory days of Road Rash as we’ve come. Winning was only half the thrill with up to 29 other racers (on rollerblades, luge sleds, skateboards and BMX bikes) to pummel and thousands of obstacles to dodge.
The pre-rendered sprites, gaudy color schemes and FMV starring ESPN’s Suzy Kolber date it squarely in the mid-90’s but honestly, it’s still fun to load up today.
PlayStation ‘Sofia Says’ Pre-Order (1994)
Experimenting with a mascot, Sony flirted with Polygon Man and the russian dominatrix from Battle Arena Toshinden, Sofia. Ultimately they wisely chose to let the games themselves do the talking… and then kind of made Crash Bandicoot their mascot.
Strider Hiryu 2 VS. Strider 2, 1999
Doing the good work they are at boxvsbox! I know Strider 2 gets a lot of hate but I personally quite liked it and its penguins that belly-slide to their own doom.