Ah, the 90s. A magical time, quite literally, that brought me some of my favourite television shows as a child: Charmed and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I had watched Spice Girls: The Movie too many times to count and was desperately trying to style my hair like Rachel from Friends. What a time to be alive!
The 90s also introduced me to gaming, and indeed it brought me some of my favourite Japanese games that, to this day, I enjoy playing in my spare time. As I am currently feeling utterly nostalgic, I thought it might be fun to share with you all my top 5 Japanese games from the 90s!
5. Monster Rancher 2
Monster Rancher 2 was first released in 1999 by the developer, Tecmo. It is the second game in the Monster Rancher series, although if you happened to live in the EU then it would have been your first experience with a Monster Rancher game, as the first game was never released outside of Japan and North America.
From the eyes of a child, Monster Rancher 2 was like an uncensored version of Pokémon, or a more ‘adult’ version of Tamagotchi. It took virtual pets to a new level, one where the cutesy graphics were toned down and the Pikachu mascot was switched with a giant yellow eyeball. The game’s aim is to raise, fight and breed monsters, which is more challenging than you might think! I was always much too soft with my Mocchi monster. I would spoil it rotten with its favourite foods and never scold it, which consequently left me losing a lot of tournaments. The rules of monster upbringing were just too strict for me! I also remember seeing quite a few
NPC’s in cosplay humanoid ‘monsters’ in swimsuits, which, as a little girl playing the game with her even younger brother, was rather interesting to say the least!
4. Sonic Adventure
Sonic Adventure was originally released for the Dreamcast in 1998. Developed by the Sonic Team and published by Sega, it was released worldwide in 1999. The game comprises of the evil Doctor Eggman releasing an ancient monster named Chaos, of whom he uses to help him collect the Chaos Emeralds to conquer Earth. Our blue protagonist, Sonic the Hedgehog, vows to defeat the duo and stop their devious takeover.
I am perhaps cheating a little with this choice, as my first experience with the game was actually through Sonic Adventure DX, rather than the original Dreamcast version. Even so, Sonic Adventure was, for me, the game that began collecting snow for the Sonic the Hedgehog phenomena. From there my love for Sonic snowballed into Sonic Advance, quickly followed by my favourite Sonic the Hedgehog game, Sonic Adventure 2. Indeed Sonic Adventure has a lot to answer for! Oh, the hours I spent trying to collect those jewel chao eggs! Those were the days…
3. Pokémon Blue
Pokémon Blue and Pokémon Red, originally known as Pocket Monsters: Red & Green, were the first Pokémon games to be released by Nintendo in 1996. The games reached western shores three years later and proved to be a huge success with younger audiences. With an innovative trading system, adorable collectables and a hilarious Team Rocket to defeat, it is perhaps no wonder the two games received a ‘best-selling RPG of all time’ title in the Guinness Book of World Records.
‘Pokémon’ was the word on every child’s lips and a huge source of confusion for adults. My first experience with the Pokémon boom came from the boy next door showing off his new video game on the Gameboy Colour. It didn’t interest me at first. Why was the entire screen blue? Why should I be interested in a pixelated boy who made walking through grass his hobby? Then the cards were released. Chaos consumed the world and I had got bitten hard by the Pokémon bug. I had to play all the games, watch all the episodes and collect all the cards. Yes, I distinctly remember my angry ramblings with Bulbasaur once reaching the fire gym, but what else was I supposed to do? I had to take my frustrations out on something after my beloved card game was banned from school grounds!
Not only is it the King of the Iron Fist Tournament, but it is also the King of fighting games! Originally developed by Namco and first released in 1994 as an arcade game, Tekken was ported to the PlayStation in 1995 and has received successful sequels ever since. The game features an Iron Fist Tournament that is regularly hosted by the Mishima Zaibatsu Corporation. Fighters from all over the world face-off against each other for a chance to win the tournament’s prize, which is typically control of the company. Each fighter has their own reasons for competing, which provides players with interesting backstories and shocking plot twists. Tekken was also one of the first fighting games to use 3D animation.
Tekken was my first ever fighting game and it holds many happy memories for me. As a child, I was enamoured with the beautiful badass, Nina Williams. I was also taking taekwondo classes at the time, so it was safe to say Nina was a bit of a role model for me! It was one of the few games that I could enjoy with the entirety of my family. My uncle, a taekwondo instructor and huge Bruce Lee fan, would always select Marshall Law. My dad would regularly play as Paul Phoenix and my brother always favoured King. It would repeatedly bring my family together. It also provided me with a way of beating my uncle after experiencing crushing defeats at the local leisure centre. Gosh, did that man like to gloat. I was only a primary school student, uncle! Why weren’t you at least a tiny bit merciful…?
1. Ape Escape
Taking first place is Ape Escape, a platform video game developed by SCE Japan Studio and published by Sony Computer Entertainment in 1999. An albino ape named Specter gains enhanced intelligence after wearing an experimental helmet. He then becomes vindictive towards humans and raises his own ape army! He sends his fellow apes through time in order to rewrite history and become ruler of the world.
Ape Escape is the first game of its series, and also the first game to truly get me addicted to my PlayStation! Running around with a lightsabre (thanks for not suing, Star Wars) to stun monkeys, a safari net in your right pocket and a satellite dish in you left, was the mark of one epic adventure. It was the first PlayStation game to use a Dual Analog controller, giving players a fresh and exciting gaming experience. The visuals were bright and attractive, the plot simple but humorous, and the gameplay was incredibly fun. Ape Escape cleverly integrated vehicles and gadgets, and it also managed to achieve a satisfying level of challenge without making players want to throw their controllers out the window. Ape Escape truly is the gem of my PlayStation collection, but is it yours? Let me know in the comments below!
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