The Forgotten Pixel Art Masterpieces of the PlayStation 1 Era
This week marks the 25th anniversary of the original Sony PlayStation’s release. It’s one of the most successful and influential video game consoles of all time, and while it may be best known for ushering in a new era of 3D gaming, perhaps its finest artistic achievements were rendered in flat 2D art.
It’s a bit ironic. From the start, the PlayStation’s hardware was optimized for 3D graphics, to the point where Sony Computer Entertainment America even limited the release of 2D games in North America, believing they would make the PlayStation look old fashioned. But despite the concern, the PS1 still wound up with one of the finest libraries of 2D games. There’s a wealth of classic digital artwork on display in these titles, many of which have gone overlooked in the decades since their release.
Gunner’s Heaven (1995) looks like a cross between Gunstar Heroes and Metal Slug (but it’s actually older than Metal Slug by a year!) with its intense run and gun action. Because of its lack of polygons, it was released in Japan and Europe, but not North America.
Hermie Hopperhead (1995) was the first 2D mascot platformer for the PS1, but remains obscure in North America, where it was also never released. It showed off the power of the PS1 hardware by ramping up the detail in its sprites (look at all those gradients!) and using many layers of parallax scrolling in its backgrounds.
The very first Rayman (1995) was a launch title for the PS1 in North America. It flexed its next-gen power through its generous use of color. 16-bit consoles worked within very limited palettes. The Sega Genesis could only display 64 colors on screen at once. The Super…