So, what is that list? These are the games I liked the most on each particular system, this time around the PSOne. These are not necessarily the games I consider best, but the ones I liked the most and the ones I have the fondest memories of. For these lists I tried to stay away from multiplatform games, or from ports. I tried to, but in a few cases it was impossible to.
10) Chrono Cross
9) Strider 2
8) Parasite Eve
When I was younger, I used to play Parasite Eve II, but I didn't really like it. And then, two years ago, I decided to give Parasite Eve 1 a chance and it blew my mind. It's amazing, the JRPG/Survival Horror blend is fantastic, with a phenomenal combat system and a story that remains very original to this very day.
7) Legend of Legaia
In this world, there's two things I love: JRPGs and Fighting games. Legend of Legaia mixes both to spectacular effect. While you explore towns and dungeons as you would on any other RPG, triggering a random encounters results in a turn based system in which you input combos with the four different directions of the digital pad. And performing certain combinations produces special attacks. And then there's super attacks. And ultra attacks. I love this game.
6) Lunar 2 - Eternal Blue Complete
Remember Working Designs? Those guys knew their craft, which is the reason their localizations are fondly remembered. But it helps when the source material is so fantastic. This is an oldschool JRPG, so a little grinding is in order, but the game is so good that that is hardly an issue. The game really shines with its story and characters, if you played Lunar 1, you get to see how the world has evolved, and even get to meet a few familiar faces or the grandsons and granddaughters from the original cast of characters. But that's just a plus, it's the new cast of characters that really make the game so engaging, which each of the five(or rather six) get to go through their own personal arcs and actually evolve. The game also mixes the gameplay with the story to great effect, Lucia is AI controlled, so while at the beginning of the game she'll run away or only care about herself, she'll begin healing the party, and even prioritize Hiro over herself!
5) The Legend of the Dragoon
I used to hate this game when I was younger, but lo and behold, now I like it even more than my then-favorite game, Chrono Cross. And I wonder why, it's a JRPG, with a transforming hero, and I always like heroes that can transform. And it's not just the designated hero Dart, the entire cast of characters have alternate transformations into all powerful Dragoons. This is a four disc epic filled with surprising twists and turns, as well as fun battle mechanics, which have the player timing their button inputs in order to maximize damage and fill the Dragoon gauge faster.
4) Crash Bandicoot 2 - Cortex Strikes Back / Crash Bandicoot 3 Warped
While Crash Bandicoot 1 has aged rather poorly, both Crash 2 and Crash 3 are every bit as good as they once were. It's hard to me to pick between both of them, Crash 3 had tighter collision detection, and smoothed out the levels to take out some of the most annoying bits from 2, like having to run towards the camera if you wanted to 100% it... but Crash 2 had a much stronger emphasis on the platforming and its higher challenge was welcome, which is where these games really shine. Regardless, there's no going wrong with either game, both offer the same tight of gameplay, even if one diluted the jumping a bit with vehicle and 'variety' stages.
The Crash PS1 games have shown their worth as time went by, one has to remember that the mascot platformer market was pretty much saturated by the time, and in an era when everyone wanted to be Mario, the Crash games delivered their own twist on the formula, making them unlike other platformers of the era.
3) Castlevania - Symphony of the Night
I always felt like the Metroid games were a bit boring. I played, but never finished or got into, Super Metroid and Metroid, and while I did finish Metroid Fusion, I never really liked it too much. Castlevania takes Metroid's exploration approach, a giant interconnected map for you to explore, having power ups and routes blocked off by obstacles requiring a specific tool to bypass, but adds RPG elements. Now combat actually matters, because you constantly grow stronger, not to mention the fact that they may drop equipment pieces. Armor not only increases your defense, but sometimes even comes with passive abilities, like allowing you to walk through otherwise lethal spikes. And while Metroid gives you dull energy cannons and missiles, here you get a whole slew of medieval weaponry, axes, swords and... Nunchuks? Knuckle dusters? Well, maybe not all that medieval, but you get the gist of it. Symphony of the Night made the Metroid formula fun for me. It's endlessly addicting to earn new abilities and then get the ability to cross-over obstacles you couldn't before, and it seems as if every time I play it I get something new, a weapon, an armor, an item, what have you!
Fact: Xenogears is incomplete. The developer team had four discs worth of content planned for the game, but legend has it that Square cared more about Final Fantasy VIII, so they decided to pour more money onto that project, leaving the Xenogears team to cram three discs worth of content onto the second disc. And it shows. But y'know what? Even despite that, against all odds, I still consider this game a masterpiece. Just like Legend of Legaia, it has a combat system with roots in fighting games, only that you have three attacks here: Weak, Medium and Strong, but they too can be tied together into powerful special moves. And then there's mech-on-mech combat, with its own combat mechanics. And the mechs? They look amazing, each character has his or her own machine, and it reflects on the owner's personality. And let's forget about the gameplay for a second, the story is amazing. Even though the storytelling took a huge hit on the second disc, it still managed to put forth a cohesive narrative, that delves into more philosophical matters, religion and even some psychology. I adore this game. It's a shame the spiritual prequels, Xenosaga, are so bad(My first blog posts were a bit more... candid about how much I hated those games), but at least Xenoblade turned out great.
1) Final Fantasy VII
I've already sung this game oh so many praises, but... let's do it again. Before Final Fantasy VII there were games I liked more than others, yes, but I don't think the word 'favorite' ever came to my mind. And then Final Fantasy VII happened. And it's true, as I grew up, other games took its place. I was young, so at a time, even Final Fantasy VIII seemed like a better game. Chrono Cross, Disgaea, Zone of the Enders 2, Persona 4... just a few of the games that held the 'My favorite' label over time. But as time goes by, as I replay them, those game start to show their age. But Final Fantasy VII is like wine, it only gets better with age. After Final Fantasy VII, everyone wanted to make the next big RPG, they even aped the amnesiac hero. Heck, with time Cloud was flanderized into a brooding, silent hero, which he never was. But it doesn't even matter if Squeenix keeps diluting the franchise and Cloud himself, they can't touch the original Final Fantasy VII.
The combat system remains just as good as it once was, featuring a surprising amount of depth centered around linking materia on the different equipment pieces. Materia not only alter your stats, but they also grant you access to magic... and they can level up. And depending on what materia orbs you link, you can create some very powerful combinations. It's not an amount of depth you used to see in the day, heck, even by today's standards.
The story has lost some of its originality, since it's been copied oh so much, and it doesn't help that the translation was so bad as to sometimes treat Tifa as a 'he'. But even then, I still get goosebumps when Cloud's reveal happens. And just as with the greatest RPGs of its time, each party member gets a surprising amount of depth and backstory, each getting their own arcs they have to go through. Even Yuffie and Vincent, while optional, have their own scenes, even if shorter and making less of an impact than those of the main cast, you still get to learn about Vincent's past, and how Yuffie's upbringing is tied to her hometown, Wu-Tai.
What can I say, as JRPGs continue to get more and more terrible, with pandering games that appeal to the lowest common denominator, like the Neptunia series, Final Fantasy VII gets better and better in comparison. Heck, most of the JRPGs of the era do, but that's a rant for another time.