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Although I have dabbled in fighting games here and there, the only major franchise in this genre that I'd consider myself to be a devoted fan of would be the Super Smash Bros. series. In terms of the genre's most iconic franchises, I find the first three Mortal Kombat games to be irresistibly charming and nostalgic (even if they barely work as actual fighting games), and the phrase "not my thing" constantly echoed throughout every match of Street Fighter II I've ever played. Other than that, the only fighting games I've really sunk my teeth into were the Super Smash Bros. games, Injustice 2, and, for some reason, the Wii port of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. Despite all of that, the Tekken franchise has always looked intriguing to me after playing a bit of Tekken 6 at my cousin's house a few years ago, and since I've heard a lot of people say that Tekken 3 was the best game in the series, I was pretty excited to give it a go.
I don't know what it was about Namco's late-90s offerings on the PS1, but they always seem to be jam-packed with personality, but unlike the laidback confidence of something like Ridge Racer Type 4, the cool allure of Tekken 3 comes from its in-your-face aggression. Even when you're not fighting an opponent, Tekken 3 still knows how to put you in the mood to fight someone from its varied cast of characters, as the stylish menus, energetic prerendered cutscenes, and amazing music do a lot to make the game look as exciting as it feels to play. Speaking of which, the actual combat in Tekken 3 is awesome, as the tight controls, buttery-smooth animations, and the well-implemented third axis meshed well with the impressive amount of moves and combos to make each punch and kick feel natural and weighty. The satisfaction that comes from experimenting with the roster is amplified by a ton when it comes to learning combos, with characters like Bryan Fury and Eddy Gordo being especially fun to play as thanks to how flashy, yet intuitive their movesets were for me. Pretty much every positive thing I've said about Tekken 3 is increased tenfold when multiplayer is involved, as this game is an absolute blast to play with a friend.
As great and mechanically robust as the traditional one-on-one fights are, I will admit that the most enjoyable way to play Tekken 3 for me came from the ever-so-silly "Tekken Ball" mode, and while the actual path to unlocking it can feel a bit grindy due to how often you have to keep replaying the game's standard arcade mode, the amount of fun that I had playing the mode made it all feel worth it. Playing through that mode was also satisfying in its own right, as it not only unlocked the rest of the game's roster, but each playthrough rewarded me an ending cutscene that pretty much always made each run feel worthwhile in how over-the-top (and occasionally funny) they were. My only real complaints with Tekken 3 can be found in its single player content, because while there are quite a few modes to choose from, a lot of them just felt like slight variations of the arcade that you're already going to spend a lot of time with. I also wasn't the biggest fan of the "Tekken Force" mode, because while the concept of a Tekken beat-em-up is really cool, it was all very clunky in its execution, and actually beating it feels based more on luck than anything else. These gripes pale in comparison to just how fun and stylish of a game Tekken 3 is, though, and it definitely deserves its legacy as one of the best fighting games on the PS1 (although it's not like it had very much competition to begin with).
My first exposure to Sin and Punishment came through the appearance of Saki Amamiya as an assist trophy in Super Smash Bros. Brawl (although I'd forget about the game's actual title until years later), and while I was interested in checking the game out, I wasn't truly excited to play it until just a few weeks ago. After having an absolute blast with Gunstar Heroes earlier this month, I took a peek at the rest of the games made by Treasure, as the only other game of theirs that I was aware of at the time was Ikaruga, and when I noticed that Sin and Punishment was a part of their catalogue, I knew that I had to play it soon. After failing to find a working English translation of the game, I decided to go ahead and play the original Japanese release instead, as it still had English dialogue, and this was honestly such a great decision, because while Sin and Punishment only took about an hour or two for me to actually beat, I can't wait to get back and play it again.
Sin and Punishment is a game where practically every one of its elements is fine tuned to perfection, as it kept me totally hooked and engaged without overstaying its welcome. The on-rails gameplay here is sublime, as it blends a tight and precise control scheme with never-ending cavalcades of enemies to shoot, attacks to avoid, and projectiles to deflect to create a consistently frantic experience where you're constantly on your toes. Despite how simple the controls actually are, there's a surprising amount of depth to your in-game moves, as even choosing between lock-on and free shooting can be the deciding factor between beating a particular enemy or boss or dying and having to start over. Speaking of which, Sin and Punishment also features some amazing and chaotic boss fights, with the final boss being intense, exciting, and visually stunning to the point where I genuinely could not believe what I was seeing. In terms of difficulty, Sin and Punishment was honestly pretty tough, but getting a full grasp of your whole arsenal of attacks and abilities made everything feel fair while still putting up a good challenge.
On top of having some superb gameplay, Sin and Punishment is also one of the best looking games on the Nintendo 64. The pre-apocalypse artstyle is oozing with style and grit, and I was very impressed by the amount of detail that all of the backgrounds and enemies had, especially with how fast-paced the game is. In terms of story, Sin and Punishment was admittedly difficult to fully take in and comprehend, but even then, I still thought that it was really cool. What starts out as a game about simply fighting off an army of Ruffians ends up involving time travel, visions, and the cosmos, and the over-the-top storytelling felt like a perfect fit for the high-octane insanity and constant setpieces of the moment-to-moment gameplay, with the delightfully campy voice acting being the cherry on top. Although there are a ton of games from the Nintendo 64 that I still haven't played yet, I have no problem with saying that Sin and Punishment is my favorite one so far, and not only am I excited to replay it over and over again, but I also want to eventually play its sequel on the Wii, Sin & Punishment: Star Successor.
It's been a little under a year since I played through Resident Evil 4 for the first time, and while I am still incredibly glad that it served as my introduction to both this franchise and the survival horror genre as a whole, there's still some part of me that wonders how differently my opinion on both of these things would have been if I decided to start off with the first game in the series. Over the years, I've heard a lot of great things about the GameCube remake of that landmark title (as well as its HD remaster), and while I technically could have went out of my way to buy it for the PS4 at some point, I already had access to the director's cut of the original PS1 game through the PlayStation Classic, so I decided to go with that version. Despite how it pretty much singlehandedly created survival horror as we know it (even to the point where it coined the genre's actual name), I was surprised by just how easy Resident Evil was to jump into, understand, and have a good time with, and while there were some elements of the game that I really wasn't a fan of at all, my eight-ish hour run was still a pretty positive one.
For the most part, the gameplay loop of Resident Evil can generally be boiled down to either exploration, puzzle solving, or combat, and it's good that all three of these elements of the game were fun in their own ways. The first two aspects of this game are pretty much intertwined, as going through every nook and cranny of the Spencer Mansion and its subsections not only rewards you with more items to use during your playthrough, but also different kinds of documents that reveal more and more details about what is going on. Although the game only features a few different kinds of weapons, the action in Resident Evil managed to feel good while still making its combat encounters tense thanks to the limited ammo, steer-heavy controls, and increasingly powerful enemy types, and the combination of these led to several occasions where simply running away from whatever was facing me was the best option. Each of these elements of the gameplay were solid on their own, but what made them even better for me was the game's strong atmosphere, as the cinematic fixed camera angles, ominous score, and detailed models made the moments where Resident Evil was legitimately trying to throw me off guard work quite well while also having the minute-to-minute gameplay feel tense in its own right.
From a gameplay standpoint, Resident Evil was already pretty solid, but my favorite aspect of the game was easily its story moments. Despite how the actual plot merely gets the job done and not much else, the infamously bad voice acting and dialogue was what elevated it to the point where I really looked forward to each cutscene. Even when putting the classic lines regarding Jill sandwiches and being a master of unlocking aside, pretty much every line that the characters say is funny in some way without ever actually trying to be, and that made Resident Evil feel like a playable zombie B-movie (which, in my eyes, is a huge compliment). I had quite a lot of fun with Resident Evil, but I won't deny that some of its design choices left me with mixed feelings. For me, the worst part of Resident Evil was easily the constant backtracking, as the limited inventory space makes it so that you have to constantly go back and forth to swap items from the unmarked storage boxes that are scattered across the map. Having to decide what to keep and what to leave behind is an interesting concept, but its execution here felt tedious rather than strategic, and I much prefer the inventory management system that was used in Resident Evil 4. There were also some elements of the game that felt odd and unnecessary rather than outright frustrating, with the decision to limit saving your game behind a consumable item sticking out in my mind. Despite those flaws, I still enjoyed my time with Resident Evil, and I'm now interested in checking out the original versions of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis in the near future.