Ah Generation 5. The first “true” 3D generation. Technology made a massive leap from the previous generation, but did gaming benefit?
Basically the Nintendo 64 vs PlayStation era in my experience. I have never seen an Amiga CD32, a Sega Saturn, or a 3DO in the flesh, and so I can’t comment too much on them.
At the start of the fifth generation, around the mid-1990s, I was enjoying my Game Boy and my Super Nintendo, and had my first forays into young love. Most of my paper round money went on CDs, and so I more or less sat the console generation out, as an owner.
One of my best friends had an N64, and another had a PlayStation, so there was plenty of opportunity to enjoy them all the same.
First the N64. There was a certain charm about the machine. Nintendo had won me over with the SNES, made a fan of me, and when my grandparents took me and my sisters for a walk around Henley on Thames they had to practically drag me from a toy shop where one was on display. Mario’s face adorned a TV screen, in full, glorious 3D! I’d never seen anything like it, except in those terrible CGI cartoons on the tele at the time.
Unfortunately I couldn’t play the game as every time I moved Mario’s hand to select a new game, it would float on back up to the top corner! Of course now I know how to fix this issue, but not then.
With a family who dismisses video games as children’s toys, and bad for you, and “you’re better off playing outside” even though I spent most of my life outside, and no disposable income of my own, I wasn’t going to be able to buy an expensive console and expensive games. I’d already had a SNES for some years and only had 4 games for it in that time.
So I had to go visit a friend and play his instead. His parents bought him loads of games, for PC and Nintendo, and so his house was the place to go to play video games. We’d previously played through various Sierra adventures and the like, even having a sleepover one time with the sole intention of completing Lemmings on his Dad’s CGA PC – 4 colours ftw.
Super Mario 64 (now I could play it) was a revelation, Mario Kart 64, Diddy Kong Racing and Snowboard Kids became favourite racing games. The one that won us over though was Goldeneye. We played it ALL the time. We’d have pizza parties and get as many people as possible to take part in a tournament. I borrowed his N64 once while he was on holiday for a week, and played so much of it that when we next got a group together we played one hit kills, pistols only, three vs one. I was the one. And I won 20-0-0-0. Which was gratifying.
I’m not sure what other games we played. Largely the N64 has disappeared into the fog of my memory. I recall playing Turok with another friend and finding that quite interesting, and we rented F Zero X for a birthday party and had fun with it.
Fun fact: I was so sick of my girlfriend at the time that I abandoned her at the New Years party at her parents house, and as the clock struck midnight and marked the start of the new millennium, I was playing a Goldeneye with her kid brother.
Then there was Playstation. It came out before N64, but I didn’t really play one nearly as much until 1999. A friend and I did sit down and play trough Resident Evil 2, start to finish, on the day it came out – after school and either side of dinner. My cousins also had one, and we’d spend some evenings playing Oddworld. Otherwise I was 18 before I got my PlayStation.
If just finished 6th form and for a job, and whilst my pay was a measly £600 a month, it was all mine (after a small rent paid to mum). After years of earning £15 a week I was comparatively wealthy, and so besides guitars and other equipment, video games got a good chunk of my cash.
The game that convinced me it was time to invest in Sony’s first console? Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding. I was hooked for months to that game, only moving on when it’s sequel came out!
In between I played the three Resident Evils, Quake 2, Metal Gear Solid, Syphon Filter, the three Final Fantasies, Doom, Ape Escape and the Mat Hoffman and Dave Mirra BMX games. Rhythm games were a lot of fun, and basically a new idea, on PlayStation, with Parappa the Rapper and Um Jammer Lammy two standouts. My favourite of the genre though was Vib Ribbon – the first game I played that let you load in your own CDs to create new levels! And finally a special mention for Bishi Bashi Special. (Mid-90s Japanese nutfest) Banzai meets Wario Wares is about the best way I can describe it. It came out long before the uk was ready for such things, and I loved it.
A local newsagent, where I’d buy milk for work, got into selling PlayStation games – often for around £5. He’d take them back in trade for half what I’d paid for them too, so I went through many games this way. I struggle to remember specific titles here though, as it was a case of over-saturation basically cheapening the value of each game. They essentially became disposable.
So that’s more or less my memories of the fifth console generation, from the late 90s and into the early 00s. Picking a favourite of the two machines is difficult. As I play them today the PlayStation is the clear winner. The games are still fun to play, there was a large amount of good to great games in the system and a lot of them still stand up. N64 however I find just about all the games boring to play today. There are far fewer great games on the console too, and the controller is uncomfortable, the joystick overly sensitive.
Both consoles had their own “flavour” of 3D, a certain look that all titles shared (due, presumably to the graphics hardware limitations), and to my eyes the PlayStation looked better. N64 graphics are blurry, foggy and uninteresting.
I’m going with PlayStation. For the company’s first foray into the industry they got a lot right. They made video games cool for adults, upgraded the controller to enable all new experiences, the games were more affordable, and the PSOne “mini” version of the console is probably the best looking gaming machine ever designed.
It’s always fun looking back, that’s why there’s so much money in nostalgia. Want to chat about your own memories? Then look up @bitlandgaming on Twitter!