The PS1 era was the first console generation that really allowed for video game publishers to take risks. Prior to CDs, if a wacky game came out in Japanese, for example, you’d have to get a translator for the dialog and then create hard physical media with all kinds of chips in there (and maybe even batteries). CDs were cheap. Practically free. Remember those AOL cds that you’d get in the mail? Enough to put them on a dowel and get a lathe and make an AOL CD baseball bat.
Where was I? Oh, yeah. CDs allowed the cost of making games across cultures into something where you’d really only have to get a translator. For games like dialog heavy RPGs, this would be no small feat but for games where the majority of the action involved shooting or running to the right or some other heavy action variant, you’d pretty much need a translator for stuff like “pause” and “save” as action needs no translation. Maybe you’d have to get a translator for the opening cinematic but you can just hire one of the kids from the local high school for that.
Anyway, one of my favorite games from this era was a little game called No One Can Stop Mr. Domino! (Though the title screen of the game itself added a comma. “No One Can Stop, Mr. Domino!” It made it sound like a game where it was your job to help people stop.)
The idea was that you were a Domino running around a table (with all kinds of little obstacles all over it) and you left dominos behind you as you ran if you managed to run perfectly along a special track. Run around this table three times and then, the third time, you kick over the domino and you were scored on how long your toppling domino trail went. Get a long enough one, go to the next level.
This is a game that never would have made it to US shores until the cost of getting it over here was negligible.
Of course, now that we have the ‘tubes, the cost of getting games over here doesn’t even require physical media at all anymore.
Just the cost of a translator. And, as we’ve seen, those can be pretty extraneous.
So… what are you playing?
(Picture is “Untitled” by our very own Will Truman. Used with permission.)