Demoing the Past


I was having a bit of clear out over the weekend when I stumbled upon a pile of PlayStation 1 era demo discs. A treasure trove of pixelated playables and badly cut trailers, they came packaged with issues of the Official PlayStation magazine back when I was a regular reader in the late 90s. These demos once kept me entertained for weeks on end and were an invaluable resource for planning future purchases at a time when I’d only buy a handful of games each year.

Putting our spring clean on hold, I dusted off the shiny throw-backs and fed them to my PS3. The majority of the discs were happy to co-operate, running smoothly on futuristic hardware, but some clung stubbornly to a decade-and-a-half’s worth of scratches and dust, and were quickly disposed of. Persevering with the working copies, I was greeted by an eyesore of a menu screen with nineties techno, garish neons and pulsating menus. Unfortunately, the trailers offered little respite.

Dub step is now the staple of video game trailers, as publishers continue to force wub wub onto every genre under the sun, but fifteen years ago it was Euro Trance (is that a thing?) and Drum & Bass that was played over countless action trailers. Sony succeeded in showing off the Legend of Dragoon’s impressive visuals but couldn't resist layering the trailer with what I'd like to call "happy hardcore", but is probably just shitty techno. Dino Crisis 2 opted for Drum and Bass, which certainly isn't the first musical genre that comes to mind when thinking about dinosaurs. Personally, I'd have plumped for Jungle, or taking a very different but equally nineties approach, Chaka Demus and Pliers. Ill-fitting tunes aside, it quickly became apparent that comparatively little attention was paid to trailers back in the PS1 era, as the lion's share of this collection displayed a severe lack of polish and/or editing skills.

Tenchu 2 was a feudal nightmare and, looking back at the trailer, I have no idea why I was once so excited for Mission Impossible. I'd convinced myself that it would be a perfect Metal Gear Solid - Syphon Filter hybrid but not even that iconic theme tune and a hint of Cruise could save this trailer from coming across as yet another lazy movie tie-in. By far the worst of the bunch was the clip for Peter Molyneux's Black & White, which would never actually make it to the PS. It ended so abruptly, mid-scene and mid-sentence, that I watched it a second time just to make sure that the disc hadn't conked out at an inopportune moment.


Fortunately, not every trailer fell short. Square, at the height of their powers, knew exactly how to make a rousing trailer, evidenced by the CG videos for Final Fantasy VIII and IX. The Japanese giant, pre Enix-ing, fought the temptation to include techno and its trailers were all the better for it. Galerians did a pretty good job of maintaining my interest with scary children and bloody corridors and Wipeout achieved what LoD and Dino Crisis 2 could not, making good use of a dance soundtrack.

Moving onto the actual demos, I was rather impressed by Vib Ribbon. With its simplistic gameplay and visuals, it was the most entertaining of the bunch and is absolutely something I could see myself playing today on my iPhone or gaming portable. Wipeout still looks the part and Ape Escape, Um Jammer Lammy and Twisted Metal kept me entertained to varying degrees. In Cold Blood had an interesting style and premise but was ruined by a Resi-esque control scheme that had me pirouetting on the spot when all I wanted to do was walk in a straight line. Syphon Filter looked rough but it is still a great deal of fun. You can't beat Logan and his door-ignoring escapades, crashing head first through every last plate glass window without a care in the world.

These forgotten demos were ideal for an afternoon’s entertainment and provided a nice break between finishing Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and starting Binary Domain. I hope to post something soon about my revisiting MGS3 in HD and I'm sure I’ll have lots to say about Toshihiro Nagoshi's third person shooter. Fingers crossed it won’t take me another fortnight to get around to it!

Comments

  1. Daydream Drooler11 May 2012 at 09:32

    ah the good old days of the PS1... I'm surprised your PS3 played PS1 disks and they were demos, shocking really, lol.
    I haven't played a ps1 game since I got a ps3 actually. I remember right before PS3 came out I decided to go back through FF7 on my PS2, even than it was a grind cause I was so over reading text. gone are the days of reading text in game... I've got books for that, lol.
    anyway, have fun with those classics

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    1. I sometimes forget that my PS3 can play old PS1 discs! I think the last PS1 game I played all the way through was MGS1 around the same time I played MGS4 (2008). I did start playing FFVIII earlier this year, but I didn't get beyond the first disc. I was enjoying it, but just had too many other new games I wanted to play.

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  2. I have a lot of disc demos too from back in the late 90's from subscribing in playstation magazine. most of the demos where pretty shitty but i do remember one demo that if you played it (viewtiful joe 2 it think) it would whip out your whole memory card. lol. still think that is funny.

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    1. I have a copy of Viewtiful Joe 2 on the PS2 but doubt I'll ever play it. Heard lots of good things about it though

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  3. two demos i played the hell out of were metal gear solid and tony hawk pro skater. good times.

    what's up with dark souls? noticed you quit playing it. took me 125 hours but i got the platinum. great game.

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    1. Yeah, I gave up on Dark Souls. I was enjoying it early on, but then I got to a point where the enemies were too strong for me (Sen's Fortress?)and I didn't have the patience for grinding so I packed it in. I think I had reached my limit with it.

      A Dark Souls Platinum is pretty impressive. Nicely done!

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  4. This just made me think of all the PS1 games I could be playing on my Vita. I hope Sony hurries up with that.

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    1. Yes, couldn't agree more. I have no idea what is holding them back and the sooner we are able to play PS3 games on our Vitas the better.

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  5. I used to really love demo discs back in the pre-online era. I played the Tony Hawk 2 demo more than most full games on the PS1. Even cooler than demo discs was Sega Channel which I had until it was finished. So cool and kind of ahead of its time I think.

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    1. I had no idea Sega Channel even existed! Just searched it online and it looks like it really was way ahead of its time. Impressive stuff for the mid 90s

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