It had been a long day. A day long and dull enough at work that I could be very annoyed at having gotten out of bed that morning, but frustratingly not bad enough that I could really complain about it, since it was hard by first world standards and I hadn't been digging silver out of a collapsing mine or anything lasting enough to harp on about. Even as I was driving home I was filled with even more hopelessness from outside of my own sphere of existence when I saw a shop that was a combination between a gambling slots casino and a Quick Tan tanning salon. Both of which were open until 2am every day. I couldn't work out who would want a tan at 2am, but also sadly knew there was business for it and it put me into a slump of numbness for the rest of the journey home.
So when I got in I needed a game to get me away from myself and relax me into sleep. I have GTA V in the disc slot of my PS3 but for some reason I didn't want to play it, instead surprisingly having a yearning for something a little older and a little rougher. So I looked through the few PS1 games that I had downloaded off the PSN store but had never gotten round to playing. Turned out the only two there were available was both Rayman and Driver, two games that are both pretty well remembered by most people I speak to, as well as highly regarded by Metacritic, so I was expecting good things.
So I powered up Driver first and the first thing that hit me was how damn slow everything was. I guess this says a lot about a few things. Firstly it shows how badly some of the PS1-PSN ports really are. Secondly, it also showed me just how much more patient I was back then; my attention span now having been destroyed by faster cpus, Subway and fibre optic broadband.
It was however a combination of both that annoyed me. Of course I was annoyed by the waiting, the slow loading bar jolting its way at sporadic lengths across the television every five minutes. The endless amount of time it took to read my memory card every single time I wanted to save, slowly making each low res icon appear one after the other in each of its little memory card slots. Most games now would just show you the relevant files, but back then it just gave you everything as if to say, “fuck it, find it yourself”. It made me want to start saving after a while, which was a kick in nuts several hours later when the game crashed on me. Even the menu of the game, which has that old classic style of menu screen where every selection is represented not by a word on an actual menu screen, but instead as an object in a living room, that you have to cycle through, the camera spinning around slowly to the next relevant object. An answering machine for the next level, a coat hanging on a door for exit, some keys on a table for free ride and a pager for options. I actually miss menu screens like this and so didn't mind that one so much.
But what I couldn't get my head round was just how slow everything was. The loading, the saving, the delay between selecting an option and the game actually starting. I could understand why the game hadn't been reworked to function with analogue stick since those weren't around at the time and that would be pointless development costs, but the loading times still being as slow as they were on a machine that could computationally speaking, cockslap the PS1 to death, made no sense to me. I'd played emulations before and they were fast as hell, so I couldn't quite work out why everything was so slow.
And even away from my annoyance at the mystery of why the loading times were the same, everything else about it was annoying now. Driver's controls were delicate as hell and at no point did I feel in control using the directional pad. The AI was mentally retarded, only able to smash into me and rules of when I was breaking law straight from some totalitarian state. If you're overtaking, then you're dead. If you're going toturn right and you overshoot the road slightly onto the pavement, then you're done. Did you just drive anywhere near me? Well I can tell that you're a bad driver so now, you're done. I began to imagine in my head that although I couldn't see Tanner because back then they didn't have transparent window technology, I guessed he was driving with his feet whilst smoking crack and furiously masturbating just to make any of the scenarios in which the police came after me make any sense.
Rayman felt the same. Everything was sluggish and slow and just pretty dull. I'd seen platformers that were better than this and faster than this and they didn't involve the ridiculous amount of one hit kills and mysteries that were set to cause multiple deaths like, can I interact with this object or will I be able to grab this ledge? I guess for the time Rayman must've looked pretty or had a new form of throwing your hand gameplay mechanic that had never been seen before because I just didn't understand why I'd been told it was a classic.
My real point here was just that without nostalgia, a lot of games just don't work if you play them now for the first time. You can't go back to them and enjoy them because they're either painfully slow to make your way through, have bad controls, or simply just have been outshined by their offspring. And that's what I found out last night.