Games That Pushed The Limits – Part 3

This is a continuation of my series on console games that made the best use of each console’s limited system resources.

If you think I missed any games, please feel free to leave a suggestion with an explanation in the comments section. I will be revising this guide as I learn more. Please wait until I have more parts completed before posting links to this story.

If you missed them, I recommend you check out Part 1 and Part 2.
Part 4 (the Portables) will be coming soon.
But now, lets continue with Part 3…

 Metal Gear Solid
MGS is a pretty easy choice for the PS1 since it uses the same mind-boggling game engine for its real-time cinemas that creates a seamless transition from a game sequence to a cut-scene. Game director Hideo Kojima has also implemented a blurring effect to give Metal Gear Solid a movie-like feel. .

Nearly every object (including Snake) is polygonal. There are few clipping errors and the characters move smoothly. The level of detail is unrivaled. For example, you make footprints in the snow that will eventually get covered up by snowfall. You can identify guards and other characters by their breath in the cold air. Water effects are accurate, light sourcing is dead-on, and the textures are solid.

Another way that Metal Gear Solid pushed the limits does not have anything to do with graphics, but instead it depends on the pure creativity of Kojima and the MGS team. The game had a numbers of points in the story where the memory card and/or controller is utilized creatively to enhance the game experience or serve as an “Easter egg”. If you don’t mind some spoilers, you can read more about these instances at Wikipedia.
Full Review of Metal Gear Solid

 Chrono Cross
While the gameplay and storyline of Chrono Cross may not live up to its prequel, Chrono Trigger, it is the pinnacle of RPG beauty on the Playstation — Even the low leveled spells and skills showed delicious eye candy.

If you thought that the pre-rendered backgrounds in Final Fantasy VIII were amazing, wait until you feast your eyes on the locales present in Chrono Cross. Everything is finely detailed and the characters blend in extremely well with their environments. The backdrops are detailed and look organic, resulting in an environment that actually makes you feel like you’re on a beach or in a beautiful village. The towns, caves, and castles you travel to are breath-taking and it is a delight to see where you were off to next.

All 40-plus characters are intricately detailed and the 3D models of each are of some of the highest PSOne quality and are smoothly animated. The boss battles are especially impressive, with some of them practically taking up the entire screen. The particle effects used in Chrono Cross very well-done and similar to those in Soul Reaver.

There is some slowdown during the more visually intensive spells in battle, but these things don’t even become much of an issue in gameplay. There are only a few FMV cut scenes, but they are extremely well-done and were produced by the team behind those of Final Fantasy VIII.
Full Review of Chrono Cross

 Gran Turismo 2
Graphically, it appears the Gran Turismo series has tapped out the PlayStation’s capabilities. Although the Sony marketing team boasted of improved graphics in GT2, fans of the series didn’t much of an improvement over the original. However, the attention to details, lighting effects, and car rendering make this one of the most convincing PlayStation games on the market in terms of visual realism.

Gran Turismo also has mastered the lighting-effect trick that gives cars a shiny sheen as they drive from camera to camera – an impressive visual that’s coupled with the speed-sensitive hubcap-rotation effects that accurately portray the “whoosh” of cars going past. I realize that the car shining is just a visual trick intended to add to the realism, but you may noyice that when cars go through a tunnel, the sunlight still bounces off their hoods.

Even with its small number of faults, Gran Turismo 2 still is highly regarded as one of the biggest techincal achievements on the Playstation. On a side note, if you would really like to see Gran Turismo 2 look really good, you may find that if you play the game on a PS2, it benefits from the console’s texture smoothing. And Dreamcast owners will get the biggest graphical treat if they use the Gran Turismo 2 Bleemcast disc on Sega’s wonderful white box.
Full Review of Gran Turismo 2

 Final Fantasy IX
Graphically, Final Fantasy IX is slightly improved over Final Fantasy VIII, but not quite up to the level of Chrono Cross. The backgrounds are not only rich and vibrant, but they are also are animated, which further increases the amount of visual detail. These beautifully hand-drawn backgrounds push the limits of the system’s resolution while adding interactive elements, little bits of animation and huge swaths of movement laid over the backgrounds.

The in-game character models are slightly less detailed and have a lower polygon count than those found in Chrono Cross. This sacrifice, though, allows a four-member team, leading to significantly more complex battles without bogging down the system.

Every single time you enter a new area in Final Fantasy IX, you’re presented with something new and beautifully rendered. The realtime battle scenes are remarkably faithful 3D recreations of the corresponding pre-rendered areas, and as far as smoothness and refinement are concerned, the spell effects are as awesome as we’ve come to expect, and the character animation in and out of battle easily compares to many of the best Dreamcast RPGs.

While it didn’t quite live up to all the hype in terms of gameplay, Final Fantasy IX pushed the envelope in terms of the Playstation’s graphical ability. It easily set the stage for the PS2 and the likes of Final Fantasy X.
Full Review of Final Fantasy IX

Obviously, just about everything Square touched on the Playstation was quite a beauty — and it wasn’t only the case with RPGs. Square dove into the shmup arena by bringing us Einhander.

In a shmup, you ideally want to see as much detailed destruction on your screen as possible, without any slowdown. Einhander delivers on those dreams in full polygonal glory. (This shooter has polygons, but the environment is not fully 3D and the gameplay is still true to the 2D roots) Einhander, for the most part, flies by at a solid 60 frames per second, however there are some minor slowdown issues once things get hectic with 20+ enemies on the screen at once.

Even the smallest enemy fighter in Einhander is a carefully crafted polygon with moving parts, flickering lights, and plenty of style. The explosions are quite impressive and you will find that the larger enemies get stop apart piece by piece. The bosses are gigantic and their defeats are a sight to behold.

Einhander’s background scenery is simply gorgeous and the game is filled with countless levels of scrolling, complete with colored lighting and other impressive effects. Einhander also makes good use of color, shading, water reflections and transparicies of polygons. All this eye candy in a 2.5D environment causes one to re-think their definition of what a shooter should be.
Full Review of Einhander

 Tobal No. 2
In addition to shooters, Square also dealt with a few fighting games on the Playstation. While Bushido Blade and Energhz were both great games, I’m choosing Tobal No. 2 as the Square fighter that best showed off the Playstation’s power. Unlike Tobal No. 1, No. 2 was never released in the US. It is unfortunate as Tobal No. 2 improves on the original in every aspect.

The animation in this brawlers is silky smooth with its high frame rate and it has some great touches that gives the game some personality. Tobal 2’s visuals actually rivals some N64 titles as the characters very smooth (unlike Tobal No. 1’s more blocky presentation). The lighting effects are very nice looking as well, especially on the game’s fireballs.

Even the backgrounds have improved significantly from the first Tobal. Usually, sequels to games are simply re-hashes with a larger character lineup. However, the game engine in Tobal No. 2 game feels as if it’s been rebuilt from the ground up while maintaining the spirit of the first game. The result is a 3D fighter that not only looks beautiful, but plays beautiful as well.
Full Review of Tobal No. 2

 Ridge Racer Type 4
The original Ridge Racer was one of PlayStation’s first big system pushers. Regardless of what you thought of Ridge Racer as a game, you had to agree that it was an excellent port of the arcade version that showed the true potential of Sony’s 32-bit wonder. However, in order to compete with the high standard set by the Gran Turismo series, Namco has really bumped up the graphic quality of the Ridge Racer series in Type 4. Ridge Racer Type 4 features a smooth framerate locked solidly on 30 frames per second and lots of detailed textures throughout the game.

The highly-detailed tracks have been arranged in such a way that scenery pop-up is kept to a minimum (except of straight-aways, but it’s barely noticable). The instant replay mode after a race isn’t quite as dynamic and as up to the quality as Gran Turismo, but it’s certainly detailed enough to hold its own.

Ridge Racer Type 4 has a great use of lightsourcing and things like brake lights give off tracers in tunnels. There are still some imperfections in this fourth Ridge Racer increment, however such as seeing the opposing cars through walls. Nevertheless, this late Playstation racer is still a great sight to behold on Sony’s 32-bit platform.
Full Review of Ridge Racer Type 4

 Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
The Playstation was never very good at 2D graphics — it was primarily built to show off its 3D capabilities. However, there are a few great 2D titles on the Playstation that could rival the Saturn’s gems.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night made the Playstation (or even the PS2’s backwards compatibility) cry with the heavy 2D work in order to provide a breathtaking experience and a game that is arguably one of the best 2D side-scrolling adventure games of all time.

Castlevania’s areas use some impressive graphical techniques, such as multi-scrolling backgrounds and 3D techniques in the backgrounds that create the illusion of shifting perspectives. This pespective trick is most evident in the Royal Chapel with the stained glass windows and large cross in the far background. As the player walks or jumps, the windows, the beams of light coming through them, the walkway between them, and the arching ceiling will transform their shapes to match the player’s location.

When you combine these wonderful graphical effects with the game’s amazing soundtrack and solid control and gameplay, you are presented with a Castlvania game that is still the standard to beat for the modern portable Castlevania episodes.
Full Review of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

 Street Fighter Alpha 3
2D fighters have always seemed to suffer on PlayStation because of the system’s lack of a significant amount of RAM. It took a dead Saturn to make a great Street Fighter game on PlayStation. When Capcom finally focused on pushing the Playstation to its 2D limit, it found that it could beat the system into grinding out 30 frames per second, that it could handle dozens and dozens of characters, that it could put a handful of characters on screen without slowdown.

SFA3 is right up there with SOTN for top 2D honors. Alpha 3 did not get as good of console ports as some of Capcom’s other fighters. While it is missing some frames of animation, it performs respectively in other aspects, including having some of the tightest controls among the console ports. Street Fighter Alpha 3, in my opinion, is the best 2D fighting game Capcom has ever made for the PlayStation.
Full Review of Street Fighter Alpha 3

Honorable Mentions:

  • Final Fantasy VIII – The low-polygon characters of FFVII are gone, replaced with sometimes surprisingly realistic high-polygon models that only look better the closer they get. FFVIII follows FFVII in using realtime 3D characters over pre-rendered backgrounds. All-around this game is great, but on a technical level, Final Fantasy IX and Chrono-Cross top it. (Review)
  • Vagrant Story – This beautiful RPG is generally overshadowed by Square’s other titles such when it’s arguably one of the best games on PlayStation. The art direction for Vagrant Story is just amazing, and has outstanding animation. (Review)
  • Parasite Eve II – Yet another Square RPG that has impressive visuals. This series, however, has a style similar to the Resident Evil series. The 3D models were very good, but Square’s later games such as Vagrant Story and Chrono Cross featured models that were more detailed. (Review)
  • Wipeout 3/Wipeout XL – Graphics and music have always been especially important to Wipeout, and these later installments, they’re still quite impressive. Pop-up is nonexistent in single-player and not too rough in the multiplayer. (Wipeout XL Review)
  • Resident Evil 3: Nemesis – The graphics are slightly improved over the second, and the CG movies are a little bit more polished. New features such as dodging, a 180-degree turn, the ability to blow up nearby objects, and mixing ammo are a welcoming addition to the series. (Review)
  • Bushido Blade – This unique fighter from Square had some of the most detailed graphics for a polygonal fighter in its day and held a consistent 30 frames per second. However, in other regards, it was only just above par for the Playstation’s capabilities. (Review)
  • Tekken 3 and Soul Blade – Two more 3D fighters (this time from Namco) that were really quite polished. Tekken 3 is still impressive to this day and Soul Blade is essentially a lower-resolution counterpart to the later Soul Calibur powerhouses.
  • Fear Effect – Creepy and cinematic, Fear Effect pushes the limits of the Playstation’s power with its incredibly cool animation technology. Excellent production qualities.

 Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Near the very end of the N64’s life, and well after the Dreamcast had been released, Rare pulled out all the stops for its final N64 game. Rare took what was originally a kid-friendly game and retooled it to be a ground-breaking, more adult-themed game, and pulled every graphical trick out of its book for Conker’s Bad Fur Day. Conker totally really made gamers re-think what the N64 was capable of — both in temrs of content and graphics.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day has some phenominal character shadows, fantastic draw-in, perfectly blended texture design (that not even Banjo-Tooie can touch), multi-layered transparencies, almost two hours of real-time cinemas, and the extensive particle effects system. Conker absolutely pushes the N64 to its graphical limit, but this becomes painfully obvious when the frame rates bog down while you enter outdoor areas. However, if you were able to tolerate it in Perfect Dark and Banjo-Tooie, Conker’s BFD’s dodgy frame rates won’t be a problem.

Conker also features full Dolby Surround Sound, similar to Rare’s other titles like Donkey Kong 64. The game features hours of full speech dialogue between characters. It’s really amazing what those guys could cram on a cartridge. I used to make fun of Nintendo for sticking with cartridges for so long, but looking back now that I’m more educated, it’s definately possible to make great games on a cart, plus load times are non-existant.
Full Review of Conker’s Bad Fur Day

 Perfect Dark:
From superior graphics, which really showcase the capacity of the N64 Expansion Pak, to Dolby Surround Sound, to seemingly unlimited playability potential, Perfect Dark is one of the headlining N64 titles.

The game isn’t nearly as enjoyable without the RAM expansion, since the graphics in Perfect Dark use the full potential of the system. If you do utilize the Expansion Pak, you’ll be rewarded with high-resolution graphics, as well as drastically improved frame rates. If you thought the graphics in Rare’s previous shooter, Goldeneye 007 were incredible, Perfect Dark will completely blow you away. They are so good that all of the cut-scenes are done in real-time (much like Metal Gear Solid).

At first glance you may not notice such a large improvement over Goldeneye, but once you start digging into the game, you will notice all the little details that makes Perfect Dark a worthy successor. Things like lens flare, blur effects, and lighting effects make everything seem much higher in quality and realism. The textures are also crisper, clearer and don’t blur nearly as much as those in Goldeneye. All the character models are higher in polygon-count and look much sharper than ever before.
Full Review of Perfect Dark

 Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Majora’s Mask runs on an upgraded version of the Ocarina of Time game engine and utilizes the 4MB RAM pack. Graphically speaking the extra 4MB gives you a greater draw distance, less pop-up, more local lighting, textures, and animation, in addition to more characters on the screen.

The draw distance is so amazing that the first time you step out into the world of Termina you can see almost endlessly. The textures are colorful and diverse, and each new area has its own unique look because of it. Nintendo even introduces some new effects like motion blur and use the feature in a number of the cinematics in addition to the gameplay.

Because of the strain that this Zelda puts on the N64, there are some scenes that drop as low as 10 to 15 frames per second. At certain times Nintendo opted to take the framerate hit for some added visual effects. But overall, Majora’s Mask has been polished and shined in a lot of areas, and nearly uses all of the N64’s resources.
Full Review of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

 Turok 2: Seeds of Evil
This shooter filled up one of the largest N64 carts at 32 megs (which ties it with Zelda) in order to bring five virtual miles of gaming areas. The first level, for example, consists of nine areas, each larger than some entire levels in Banjo-Kazooie. The game is so large in fact, it’s been stated to take approximately 45 hours to complete. (Although, this speedrun was completed in 4 hours)

Gone are the numbingly repetitious texture patterns found in the first game that resulted in those incredibly monotonous environments. Each of the six levels in Turok 2 contains its own exclusive texture data, meaning that no two levels will look alike.
Gorgeous lighting effects abound, along with other visual tricks and eye candy. The character models are nearly as impressive.

There a number of great effects that provide an engaging atmosphere: realtime lighting effects, soft-skinned characters with unrivaled animation routines, unique architecture in each level, super-sharp and detailed textures. However, these effects can also bring an incredibly frustrating gamplay experience with disappointingly slow and choppy framerates, mostly caused by effects that we could have done without.

Turok 3 had some of the same effects, but it toned them down a bit took out some of the ones that were not as necessary. But since we’re talking about the games that stress the hardware most, my vote goes to Turok 2.
Full Review of Turok 2: Seeds of Evil

 Resident Evil 2
This N64 port takes the contents of two PlayStation discs, including all the FMV sequences and the bonus missions, and fits it into one 512-megabit N64 cartridge, which ends up being twice the size of The Legend of Zelda cart, for the record.

If you use the N64 expansion pak, the visuals are bumped into hi-res mode, making them look even better than those in the PlayStation version in terms of both resolution and anti-aliasing (no jaggies). But even without the pak, they’re still very impressive.

The game’s frame rate also slows down a bit when numerous monsters are onscreen at once, but not enough to affect gameplay. And though the computer-generated FMV sequences look grainy in comparison with the PlayStation version, they still look fantastic considering the cart format.

The FMV cut-scenes are not as good as the CD versions, as there is definitely some artifacting present, and everything looks a bit more blurry, but it is otherwise very impressive.
Full Review of Resident Evil 2

Honorable Mentions:

  • Banjo-Tooie – This great platformer features some massive would and the game engine’s drawing distance is just staggering. Banjo-Tooie also has some impressive ligting effects such as the real-time shadows which can stretch and can come from multiple light sources. These effects combined with many different animation routines is all done without help of the Expansion Pak. (Review)
  • Donkey Kong 64 – DK64 is the first title that must be played with the memory expansion pak. Graphically, the high-resolution detail is immediately apparent (there’s even an optional widescreen mode). For those with a high-quality sound system, the Dolby surround sound effects adds to gameplay – audio clues can help gamers find certain items such as fairies. The audio filters, such as when a Kong’s underwater, are also impressive. It wasn’t as revolutionary as the original Donkey Kong Country was in its day, but Rare still pulled some performance out of the N64 with DK64. (Review)
  • F-Zero X – Incredibly fast vehicles on crazy cool courses. It showed off how fast the N64 could draw, but lacked a good deal of textures. It was a great game, but I needed F-Zero GX on the Cube to get the real deal. (Review)

 Soul Calibur
The Dreamcast had a pretty short lifespan. It was an impressive machine so it’s a shame that developers did not have more of an opportunity to push the system to its max. However, it’s ironic that one of the Dreamcast’s most impressive games (in terms of graphics and gameplay) was on of the system’s first games.

Soul Calibur is gorgeous, but when you consider the game was a launch title for the Dreamcast, its image quality is all the more impressive (especially with a VGA adapter). The 3D backgrounds are stunningly rendered with realistic lighting that affects the characters and their shadows. The models are superbly animated using realistic motion-captured fighting moves. Back in 1999, you had to wonder if screenshots were pre-rendered video of if it was actually running off the game engine.

The best part of the game’s graphics, though, doesn’t lie in its models, but rather in its animation. A quick look at the hidden exhibition mode, in which the characters practice their fighting patterns will reveal a level of animation closer to reality than had ever been previously achieved in the arcade or home. And when viewing an actual fight, you’ll see the same level of animation splendor.

Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast is actually much improved over its arcade counterpart in the graphics department. I had played Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast a number of times before I actually saw a SC arcade cabinet. When I did stumble upon one, I was greatly disappointed. Initially I thought maybe the display was bad, but in reality, the graphical polish just wasn’t as strong as the Dreamcast version.
Full Review of Soul Calibur

 Shenmue 2
The first Shenmue game was one of the most beautiful and revolutionary titles for the US Dreamcast. Unfortunately, the US store shelves never saw the sequel that improved the game in every way (unless you count the XBox port).

The game engine was incredible (The graphics were actually just the start). Each building, sidewalk, table, chair, crate, and every other environmental nuance has been rendered and calculated with an insane amount of detail and elements such as the color and intensity of the lighting is carefully reproduced for each environment.

To those of you that own a newer-generation system and play games like Splinter Cell or Half-Life 2, you may not think that is impressive. However running on a machine released in 1999, it is not much to sneeze at. Shenmue II is, without a doubt, a testament to the power of the Dreamcast.
Full Review of Shenmue II

 Skies of Arcadia
Being one of the few good RPGs on Sega’s last system, Skies of Arcadia was quite popular. However, you may be wondering why this title is on this list. After all, the character models may be cartoony and plesant, but they aren’t exactly cutting-edge.

However it is the inner-workings of the game and the extra touches that fully utilize the Dreamcast’s hardware. This massive game completely filled the system’s memory in order to dynamically render the environment on the fly and hold its massive landscapes. Because of this, there are a number of areas where slowdown is experienced. The special moves are especially prone to this, but many of them aren’t extremely noticable unless you play the Gamecube version (the Cube’s extra power resolves these issues). The heavy-duty graphical effects for the special moves (primarily Ramirez’s Destruction attack) results in mistiming of sound effects.

The environments and characters are depicted via some of the best graphics yet seen on the Dreamcast. The framerate is almost always a solid 30, dropping only for the most intense spell effects (and certain areas of the overworld map). Since the game is locked at 30, the designers had a lot of polys to work with, and it shows. This is by far the most detailed world yet featured in a 3D RPG, with great architecture and extremely varied and detailed textures. OverWorks has done an excellent job of exploiting the Dreamcast’s muscle and have taken RPG visuals to the next level.
Full Review of Skies of Arcadia

 Sonic Adventure 2
Like I mentioned in the AvP writeup in Part 2, the original Sonic Adventure is one of the only games that has wowed me graphically. In the days when the N64 was the best there was, Sonic Adventure on the pre-release demo Dreamcasts looked like something gamers only dreamed about. While the original Sonic Adventure was eventually bested by later Dreamcast releases, Sonic Adventure 2 increased the eye candy (and focused more on action gameplay).

Sonic Team pulled off some incredible accomplishments with Sonic Adventure 2 on the Dreamcast it pushed several million polygons per second, had gorgeous lighting effects, featured ultra-high resolution textures, and had all that locked in at 60 frames per second.

On top of all those feats, SA2’s environments are works of art, dazzling the eyes, but always remaining fuctional in terms of gameplay. The textures are all very large and detailed, which is important in the painting of the game’s many environments. All in all, you’d be hard pressed to find a game that looks much better on the Dreamcast.
Full Review of Sonic Adventure 2

 Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future
The environments in this game are so beautiful, I think of Ecco as an “ocean simulator” more than I think of it as a game. The geometry and texturing of Ecco’s aquatic world are near perfection, creating a stunning and believable environment — from the lush scenery to an exotic assortment of underwater creatures.

The overall graphical gloss is very high, with lots of fantastic little touches: the animation on the animals in the game is amazing, the lens flare is great, and the underwater shimmering is very realistic. Of course, with all this detail the frame rate does suffer at times. However Ecco is the kind of game where a frame rate which hovers between 60 and 30 isn’t as noticeable as a racing game or first person shooter.

There are 34 levels in total and there’s no denying that Ecco is a massive game which will take a long time complete. Since the game involves a lot of exploring and puzzle solving, I didn’t find it as engaging as some people. It is beautiful, but I personally get frustrated by the Ecco games.
Full Review of Ecco the Dolphin

 Dead or Alive 2
As I mentioned before, the original Dead or Alive was a technical feat on both the Saturn and Playstation. With the sequel, Tecmo decided to license the NAOMI arcade board (which is essentially a Dreamcast with more memory) from Sega which eventually led to a flawless Dreamcast conversion.

The characters are smooth and and animated seamlessly — including their hair, clothing, and the female character’s breasts (which actually had their own physics engine).

The characters are not as realistic as Soul Calibur, but instead, DOA2 is geared more towards fast-paced action. The arenas are richly detailed, enormous, and have multiple levels. They are, however, so beautiful that they require a lot of memory. This means that in Team Battle or Tag Team modes, you can only fight in one, simpler arena since the game actually has to load four characters.

There is an ongoing discussion as to whether the Dreamcast or PS2 version of Dead or Alive is better. To see a good breakdown of the different aspects of each port take a look at this comparison.
Full Review of Dead or Alive 2

 Resident Evil Code: Veronica
While Resident Evil 2 and 3 were good fun on Dreamcast, they were still just ports of the Playstation versions, so they hardly pushed the Dreamcast. Luckly, Capcom built a Code Veronica on an updated engine to take advantage of the power of the Dreamcast and Playstation 2.

Code Veronica has the most impressive graphics in any Resident Evil game prior to the fresh Gamecube installments. Capcom switched from pre-rendered environments to a three-dimensional nightmare. Code Veronica uses the Dreamcast’s power to move seamlessly throughout the game without sacrificing any of the series’ marquee backgrounds. Somehow, Capcom also worked all this out without having any noticable load times.

The character models are nearly as detailed as Soul Calibur’s. Just like Soul Calibur, they look so good, its hard to tell the difference between what is pre-rendered and what is running off the game engine. Cutting edge lighting effects further enhance Code Veronica’s graphics. Everything that should cast light on its surroundings.
Full Review of Resident Evil: Code Veronica

Honorable Mentions:

  • Phantasy Star Online Ver. 1 & 2 – Sonic Team seemed to know the Dreamcast inside and out that the graphics and textures in their games (the Sonic Adventures and Ecco the Dolphin) were incredible. Their work in the Phantasy Star Online series is no different. PSO also paved the way for Sega’s groundbreaking online network — which paved the way for later networks like XBox Live. (Review)
  • Propeller Arena – AM2 produced some great visuals in this unreleased game, and when you combine that with some incredible 4-player split-screens, the planned online play and voice chatting, Propeller Arena would have taken the Dreamcast into the next level. (Review)
  • Alien Front Online – It had many of the same things going for it as Propeller Arena. This multiplayer Tank game had some impressive graphics and environments — so much that it suffered from some slowdown during heavy battles. (Review)
  • Jet Grind Radio – JGR was one of the pioneers of cell-shading. It takes normal 3D models and puts an additional graphical layer on top to make it look like anime or a cartoon, making a huge difference in the atmosphere. Plus no Dreamcast game pushed the music out like Jet Grind Radio. (Review)
  • Rayman 2 – The game boasts one of the most lavish and beautiful 3D cartoon worlds yet produced in a video game. The game feels literally alive, and the superb soundtrack and sound effects help boost the immersion further. The polygon counts are not insanely high on Rayman 2 but the textures are incredible and the frame rate is silky smooth. (Review)
  • Street Fighter 3: Third Strike & Guilty Gear X – These two fighters showed off some of the Dreamcast’s 2D power. Third Strike has some of the best animation to be found in a 2D fighter and Guilty Gear X has its trademark high-resolution sprites. If only more game developers took the 2D features in these two games to make some good platformers (or games from other genres), I would be extremely happy.

More to come…
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Continue to Part 4!

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Mozgus says:

Great list. I dunno if Soul Blade should be listed though. It can’t compare to Tekken 3 in terms of visuals, but it’s a much better game overall. I just can’t deny the blocky characters, where many body parts like arms and such are just plain textureless.

Also, Ehrgeiz looked damn good for a ps1 game. If not only for the 640×480 resolution, and I believe it was 60fps.

I’m also thinking hard about Skies of Arcadia being listed. I love the game and am playing it through for the third time. I just beat the ice dungeon today. I just don’t think it pushed the dreamcast all that hard. Looks good, but not great. And while it has the best, most immersive environments in any RPG ever, they weren’t TECHNICALLY impressive. They were in an artistic sense though.

Now if you wanna search for a Dreamcast game to replace it with, have you tried Draconus?

In both visuals and audio, it gives many games today something to live up to. Frame rate can get unstable, but the textures are extremely clear, the worlds are very detailed and almost as vast as what you’d find in Morrowind for PC. The audio quality is just as great. Please try it if you haven’t and add it to the list. You need to experience it. Those screenshots are poor and don’t give any good indication of what it looks like.

Mozgus says:

Some other mentionables for DC:

Evil Twin. Almost as visually impressive as Shenmue 2, except not as huge in scale.

Quake 3. Near perfect port.

Rez. This is debatable. I’m not sure if the game’s unique visuals really pushed the system. But if they didn’t, then I think them, combined with the audio system, might have. The music sounded like a high quality stream, but was able to dynamically change itself according to your actions. It still puzzles me how this was done. How could sequenced music sound so good, on this hardware?


Whichever Colony Wars game was the best (Ask the experts)

A good platformer would do this list nicely. Look into the Crash Bandicoot or Spyro the Dragon games. Or maybe Ape Escape. That game still wows me.

Whichever Driver was best. Some people complain that the sequel pushed too hard and at times the frame rate is unplayable, so look into the first.

Front Mission 3, a fantastic mech combat turn based strategy. Extremely detailed mech models during battles and cutscenes. Also, the game had a virtual internet mode that was very innovative in technical design.

Legend of Mana, hosts some of the best 2d ever found on PS1. The game has kind of a painted look, like how Yoshi’s Island SNES had a coloring book style.

How is Silent Hill NOT on this list? While playing that game at night, if you mute it and listen closely, you can actually HEAR your ps1 begging for mercy. I know the frame rate wasn’t a solid thirty, and it didn’t have vsync enabled, but damn was that game beautiful. Or repulsive in an impressive way?

Syphon Filter, whichever is best. Huge worlds and draw distance. Good detail all around. Great animations.

Tales of Eternia. The battles are all beautiful in this game. Perfect 2d blended onto perfect 3d. At the end, when you convert aurora shield to blade, killing the final boss, the graphics will kick you on your ass.

Tenchu 2. Improved on the first game in all visual ways. Everything got rounded better. Everything had more texture. Daylight stages were introduced. Unfortunately draw distance was a little weak.

Rival Schools comes very close to the visuals of the dreamcast sequel Project Justice.

Anonymous says:

Personally, I think FF7 pushed the limits, not graphically, but with one of the most in depth storylines, and it did it at a time when RPGs just weren’t as popular: FF7 brought RPGs out into the open.

Mozgus says:

Um, I don’t think that applies to what Racketboy here is doing.

alonzobots says:

I was surprised not to see Mario 64 here, that game introduced the world to the analog controller and redefined the platformer for the 3d age. It had huger worlds with lots of stuff to do and was pretty non-linear. I was pretty amazed by that game and remember being shot out of a cannon and seeing the world fly by below me, using the analog stick to sneak by sleeping flowers etc. That game changed things forever and I actually think the goofy looking n64 controller was made just to play that game!
Though I dont think front mission 3 had much of a impact or pushed the limits technicnologically, that game was amazing, I logged 90 hours into that game! You could replay the entire game and fight the campaign from the other side of nearly every battle, and have different members of your party and kill the guys who would have joined you if you made different decisions, genius!
Quake 3 for the dreamcast was a perfect port, if only the dreamcast launched with broadband…I couldnt believe how smooth the framerate was and how detailed it looked and you could play it online. But it was only a port, and you could just play it on PC before the dreamcast even came out.
I didnt know that Resident evil 2 for N64 had voices of the movies, that amazes me. That games is 2 disks for the Dreamcast, and the dreamcast has 1.2gig disks! How did they condense that to 64megs? (512megabit is 64megabyte) I hope they release Resident evil deadly silence 2 for nintendo DS, they already have it halfway done!

Mozgus says:

alonzobots. Most of your post is missing the point as well. He isn’t doing a “Best games ever” list. He’s listing the games that pushed the systems the hardest. Mario 64 did NOT push N64 to it’s limit. Fun factors, godly soundtracks, and sales numbers mean absolutely nothing in this list.

It doesn’t matter if Quake 3 was better on PC. The fact was, they got that game running solid on console hardware that was fractions of the spec requirements for it on the PC.

Anonymous says:

Excellent articles! You’ve done a great job and know your games very well.

Two games you forgot to add:

Goldeneye for the N64 and Philosoma for the PS1.

I know everybody and their momma knows what Goldeneye is, but not too many know what Philosoma is, so I’ll just say that Philosoma is a really kickass, albeit short, shooter for PS1 that uses all different kinds of camera angles and perspectives to draw the player into the game.

eldberg says:

NES missed:
Batman and Flash

Anonymous says:

What about:

Cosmic Smash for Dreamcast? Unique, fantastic looking game.

Repid Reload/Gunners Heaven for PSX. One of the finest looking 2D games ever – never got a US release, but was critically acclaimed in Europe and Japan

neohx_7 says:

Mario 64 pushed it to the limit making analog controls and immersive 3D worlds accessible. When it first came out it floored everybody I knew.

Anonymous says:

Its not tobal 2 in that pic thats crimson tears by capcom

Mozgus says:

Once again, Mario 64 did NOT push the SYSTEM to it’s limit. It doesn’t matter if it was amazing when it came out. The fact is, it was a launch title, and later games for N64 pushed the system harder. Why is this so complicated for some of you?

Anonymous says:

for the dreamcast, i was always under the impression that virtua on otangram (VOOT) pushed that system fairly hard? ah the last of the great virtua on games, sigh.

gsus says:

i still believe the dreamcast is one of the best consoles ever…
here are games pussing graphics & gameplay:
– REZ (plain peace of art)
– Ikaruga (treasure – dont need to say more)
– ..many others i loved to play…

i fully agree with the mentioned games.
greets, gsus

Anonymous says:

For the N64:

Starcraft 64
Jet Force Gemini
Qwest 64

Anonymous says:

Anyone ever heard of a game called Immortal for the NES?
The NES version actually matched the Genesis sequel, visually. It definitely deserves to be on this list.

Jet Force Gemini should be here as well.

parkbench says:

As a completely unqualified and picky gamer who absolutely loves the internet and your articles, I protest to the following:

While the gameplay and storyline of Chrono Cross may not live up to its prequel, Chrono Trigger.”

Now, I’m sure that actually was the popular response, and maybe it’s the fact that much of my younger days was spent posting on Chrono Cross/Trigger forums, but I, for one, think CC’s story does live up to and surpasses that of Chrono Trigger.

CT’s story laid the groundwork for something great and CC took it there. What was CC supposed to be? Another dangerously-close-to-generic hero story? It took it and developed it, made it unique, and developed the world to new heights. The one big flaw in gameplay was the excess amount of characters, but I truly believe there’s depth to the story that people don’t even realise. To the point where its complexity (or perhaps ostensible complexity, to some) inherently spawns debates like, “Should Guile be taken as a new character or as Magus due to his character quote when he sees the Frozen Flame + other factors?” 😛

That’s all a tangent anyway, and I just like fellating my intellect. And I’m bored.


“While it didn’t quite live up to all the hype in terms of gameplay, Final Fantasy IX pushed the envelope in terms of the Playstation’s graphical ability. It easily set the stage for the PS2 and the likes of Final Fantasy X.”

Among certain circles, FFIX is considered one of the better PSX FFs, simply because it takes everything that was good about the previous versions (well, if it really did it’d have V’s job system, but, let’s say the mainstream ones).

I’m also surprised at the lack of mention of Paper Mario. I remember reading things on emulation sites/forums about its ‘different’ graphical techniques, but this could be a misplaced memory here.

racketboy says:

I greatly appreciate your comments.
I’m not a educated student in all things Square/Exix, so I simply went by the impressions I observed from the community I hang around in.

I will also plan on adding Paper Mario to the expanded list — especially when I expand each console to its own, longer page.

Anonymous says:

Sonic Team didn’t do Ecco the Dolphin. I don’t think they’ve ever touched the series.

kaneda says:

Your comments on a lot of the games refer to the graphical power of a particular game, but an interesting aspect I feel you missed out on was to look at the games from a programming perspectic, as games that push the limits of a machine are not always (although most often, for sure) doing it through graphics.

Majora’s Mask on the N64 was particulary impressive with its use of the ‘clock’ system that determined NPC routines and sub-routines that all occur in the background of the main game. This is also true of Shenmue, of course, amongst others.

A perfect (ho-hum) example of what I’m getting at can be found in Rare’s Perfect Dark. It is an outstanding technical acheivement, not just because of its graphics. It had full speech, some very smart full cascading/dynamic Artifical Intelligence, full real-time lighting, customisable ‘bot’ AI, numerous game-modes including co-operative (an incredible acheivement at the time that is often over-looked) and even a counter-co-operative mode where the player took control of the enemies.

I’m sure these features also pushed the system to it’s limits, on top of the already impressive graphics.

Anonymous says:

So far you’ve done a great job with the limits list. The only problems I really had were with the psx section as its a little rpg biased

Driver 1 for psx (mentioned)
WCW vs the World psx (640×480 3d wrestler with pro license…setting the stage for the n64 greats…)
Soul Reaver (amazing for psx)

thats all I would add really

Anonymous says:

Just for the sake of accuracy, Capcom did NOT make Resident Evil: Code Veronica for Dreamcast. It was programmed by SEGA, following a script written by Flagship, Capcom’s sreative team.

racketboy says:

I’m not sure where you got information. A simple check of wikipedia show that RE:CV was developed by Nex Entertainment for Capcom.

Nex Entertainment has done work for Sega in the past such as Shining Tears and Ranger X, but not in this case.

NovaStar83 says:

To be honest i think the vga adapter for the dreamcast is a bit over hyped. i play games on my pc anywhere from 1024*768 to 1600*1200 @32 bit color, when i switch my vga box to play games on my moniter at 640*480 @24 bit color its not really all that great, i will admit it is sharper but at the same time it also shows more flaws in games. I usully prefer to play my dreamcast on my tv useing S-video, i think useing S-video gives a sharp anoff picture and because its on the tv i get some free anti-aliasing at the same time).

thats just my 2 cents, i gess purely console gamers will see a greater difference but i think most “hybrid” console/pc gamers will be less impressed.

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