Sony Playstation

The 1996 PlayStation Expo: 5 reasons to buy a PlayStation

Last Updated on April 6, 2024

Sony’s 1996 PlayStation Expo proved to a wider audience to see that big games were coming in the console’s second year.

1996 had already been a great gaming year by the time winter had heaved itself over the horizon and marched onwards with a sackful of Christmas incomings. It had been the best. I had a brother with a PlayStation and had bought myself a Saturn over the summer; we were flush with games and the only problem was that my brother’s PlayStation was his. I could play it as I pleased, but it would often bugger off with him.2

Until the autumn, that hadn’t mattered much because my Saturn was the little cult machine with the games that could. But then winter arrived, and with it came financially dangerous news from afar. Sony had held a PlayStation Expo 96-97 in Tokyo and reading about the games (in a copy of C&VG) made things clear. I was going to have to buy a PlayStation of my own for five forthcoming reasons.

They were going to cost a fortune.

5: Resident Evil 2, Capcom

Displayed at the expo as a video demo, this was the latest peek into what would become the disbanded first effort of graft a sequel onto Capcom’s smash hit horror from earlier that year. Like everything else about the game I had seen from screenshots, it still appeared to have been through a filter marked gun metal blue, but it had the immediate pedigree of being the new Resident Evil.

It looked the business. New characters, a fresh local location but those familiar pre-rendered cameras and more zombie heads for you to pop. A lot more; the heavier hand of action tropes which would carry through to the final release being all present here, and that was what excited me at the time. Resident Evil had been a largely ambient trip through a high-character location, but every still you could find of this first build sequel was bringing the ammunition.

The recently announced Saturn conversion of the original was now redundant to me. More surprising was that I had no other prior interest in zombie fandom. But then nor did I think that any RPG would be my thing before my number 4…

4: Final Fantasy VII, Square

I had seen some pictures of this already. I was aware that this game was Big in Japan with exclamations all over it, but because it was an RPG I didn’t really understand much of what that was going to amount to. Whatever it was would apparently be cutting edge, and the video showing of it at PlayStation Expo was enough to garner some uniquely excited reporting from C&VG.

The gist of what I was taking from it was that it was going to itch my Akira scratch. And when I say itch, I mean get your motor running and get out on the cyberpunk highway. Break out some telepathy and let’s go wild. Except not exactly. There were going to be text boxes, but even then, this game at this show was spooling my heart like a turbo. It was preparing to enter me into a whole genre which I had long ignored. And on top of that was the certainty that this game was going to require more time to play than borrowing a machine from my brother was going to allow.

It was going to take a year to get over to the UK. Great, I thought, that would give me time to save. Trouble was that Namco had a trio of games at the Expo for the coming year ahead, so there wasn’t much time at all

3: Soul Edge, Namco

Tekken had been a big deal in the family home, and Tekken 2 even more so. Namco were the new Capcom until I finally got to spend some time with Virtua Fighter 2 on the Saturn. Then Tekken was suddenly slow and cumbersome. At least that’s what I thought. I couldn’t drag my brothers over to my side, not with Virtua Fighter 2 or even Fighting Vipers. They were team Namco, but I was not any more. There were rows, I was laughed at, and something had to give.

At PlayStation Expo, Namco offered a possible solution. A weapons-based fighter in broad medieval colours. And what colours; sharp character design with every translucent trick up their scabbards and emergent stage lighting set to very nice indeed. It looked spectacular in screenshots, everything about it was bold with confidence. And it looked fast. Which it was once I got the chance to play it, faster than the allotted 30 fps could keep up with to be honest, but this was the slickest looking thing on PlayStation. I didn’t enjoy its PAL moniker of Soul Blade though. Soul Glo would have been better, but then I have recently watched Coming to America.

2: Rage Racer, Namco

Namco launched the PlayStation with the tech demo wonder conversion that was Ridge Racer. The subsequent Ridge Racer Revolution was anything but, but the brand was about to be given a custom console livery with the forthcoming Rage Racer. My eyes had purchased it soon after purchasing that copy of C&VG.

I had loved Ridge Racer on my brother’s PlayStation and although Sega Rally on the Saturn had since sent that, and WipEout, down the pit lane, I wasn’t against a little more of that hi-revving, high sunset drift machine. And from the text that I was reading, this was going to be a lot more. Namco were going in for a penny, in for a pound with console-specific additions to their games by this point and Rage Racer was built from a whole new console chassis.

I remember thinking, what if it is better than Sega Rally? The fact was that I was going to have to find out, in some detail and over some decent length of time. This looked like a whole lot of a game, the sort of thing that a couple of my brothers and I would likely indulge in with inter-family lap records. Controllers were going to be broken over this game, I knew it from first contact and I hadn’t even bought the machine whose controllers would be ruined yet.

1: Time Crisis, Namco

There were popular Namco arcade games, and then there was Time Crisis. I do not have its total coinage tally to hand, but this was one of those arcade titles that everyone who interacted with it, loved it. I have, for instance, just finished a round of interviewing my fellow writers of this very website and Time Crisis was the common game of praise when it came to talking coin-ops. Everyone was at it. It was the new Daytona USA, and it was coming home, exclusive to PlayStation.

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It all looked present and correct from those screenshots of the Expo. They’d even fitted a side button to the replica gun that would come with it to re-create that cover-fire! mechanic. If they could hold a steady frame rate, and this was Namco so they (probably) could, this was going to rival Virtua Cop 2 back over on the Saturn. Again the pangs of possible succession. Namco was really going for it with home console arcade supremacy. Gunning for it in fact. They nailed me for another sixty quid by the time I had scanned over the pictures.

You win, Namco.

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