Console Challenge Day 11: Top 7 Hidden Gems for the PlayStation (PSX)!

Good morning and welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee!

Today, I’m listing the top seven hidden gems of the PlayStation era! This is a sister article to the one I wrote for The Well-Red Mage on the top seven all-time best games of the console. Check it out here.

The PlayStation had an enormous library of games, some amazing, others… not so much. However, there are a great deal of games for the console that many people have missed out on (besides the one’s I’ve deemed the best on the system) and it’s a downright shame they haven’t received enough attention. So, my mission today is to rectify that mistake and share these top seven hidden gems! Grab a coffee and get comfortable as we start the countdown with:

7. Crash Team Racing

What do you get when you combine the craziness of Mario Kart with a really good story mode? You get Crash Team Racing! Literally the best part of this game is the aforementioned story mode, where you have to race around tracks to earn trophies and defeat bosses in order to proceed to the next hub area and eventually get the chance to race against Nitrous Oxide, an extraterrestrial racer who wants to turn Earth into a parking lot!

There’s a bunch more things to do once you best him though: you can revisit tracks to earn CTR tokens and open the Gem Cup Challenges or you can also try your hand at earning Relics through Time Trial mode. Earning the Gems and Relics and challenging Oxide once more earns a neat and hilarious post-credits montage of what each character is up to, post-game. Highlights include Crash getting a movie deal with Universal Studios. Beyond that, the driving mechanics are fun and fast-paced, the dialogue is great (“TINY SQUISH PUNY CARS!” Classic.) Last but not least, there are plenty of hidden secrets to discover, including secret characters that can only be obtained through the time trial mode! I’d really love to see CTR remade or remastered with online capabilities!

6. Rayman

If you’ve played Rayman Origins recently, you may recognize the name and the character. Rayman, a 2-D side scrolling platformer, is the first game of the series and featured the titular character on a quest to both recover the Great Protoon and rescue the resident Electoons from the sinister Mr. Dark. Despite the vivid animations, the whimsical visuals and it’s charming soundtrack, the game is a lot tougher than it appears to be. Despite the difficulty, Rayman gains new abilities, like hanging off ledges, improved punching ability and gliding, as he progresses. Further, to access the final area of the game, Rayman must find all the Electoons in every level, with some found in tricky, hard to reach areas requiring a slew of abilities to access and which can really test one’s patience. It’s a great platformer and a wonderful way to explore the origins of the character.

5. Xenogears

From the publisher of the Final Fantasy series comes an interesting RPG that deals with plenty of issues, such as disassociative identity disorder, religion, war, love, death and reincarnation and the rise and fall of civilizations. Oh and Giant Robots. Can’t forget about those.

Xenogears’ story is vast, epic and a bit of a convoluted mess. However, it’s a great mess to get lost in. For instance, one of the main antagonists is the protagonist’s darker persona; a highly destructive individual named Id, many characters have hidden agendas or buried secrets and three of the game’s primary characters (Fei, Elly and Miang) undergo constant rebirth and reincarnation as the Contact, Anti-type and the Complement respectively. One of those incarnations (the Contact no less) discovers the cause of the cycle of death and rebirth that binds his and Elly’s souls (an all-powerful, sentient alien artifact), becomes evil and disillusioned, learns how to transfer his consciousness to various bodies (thus freeing the Contact to reincarnate to his next body) and finally becomes a seeker of power with desires to end the world, complete with a slick catchphrase (“Doth thou desire the power?” Awesome.). These are just some of the many side stories that happen all at the same time.

Oh, and lest I’ve not stressed this enough: GIANT. ROBOTS. Because, as both Gundam and Neon Genesis Evangelion have demonstrated, giant robots make everything better!

4. Parasite Eve

Another inventive game from the folks at Squaresoft, Parasite Eve is actually the sequel to a Japanese novel of the same name written by Hideaki Sena. Parasite Eve is an action RPG with horror elements set in Manhattan, on Christmas Eve in 1997. It stars a rookie cop named Aya Brea, who attends a Broadway show featuring an up and coming opera singer named Melissa. Midway through her solo performance, the singer’s fellow actors and members of the start to spontaneously combust. The singer escapes in the chaos and Aya pursues her only to see animals like rats and birds horribly mutate into gruesome creatures, right before her eyes! After finally catching up to her, Melissa suddenly mutates into a being calling herself “Eve.” Declaring that mitochondria have begun to rebel against their host cells, she awakens a power within Aya that forever changes her. Over the next six days, Aya chases Eve across Manhattan and attempts to stop her from giving birth to the “Ultimate Being,” all while learning about her mysterious new powers and a supposed connection with her long-dead twin sister, Maya.

Parasite Eve is Squaresoft’s first Mature rated game and with good reason: the visuals and subject matter are quite disturbing. However, the narrative is gripping and the action-RPG combat mechanics are very well done. The game also makes great use of horror elements, like the use of foreboding silence and jump scares, to make the player feel on edge about what will happen next. Plus, Aya is a total badass who faces all challenges head on, no matter how gruesome it gets, much like Samus Aran and Lara Croft. Parasite Eve is a wholly underrated game and one that definitely deserves more recognition.

3. Soul Edge/Soul Blade

From the makers of Tekken comes this fantastic weapons-based fighting game! Set in the 16th century, nine characters from different countries and versed in various fighting styles set off to find a tenth individual who is purported to hold Soul Edge – the ultimate weapon. To some of the characters, it’s a weapon of salvation and to others, it’s a weapon that must be destroyed due to its evil nature. It’s the first game of the Soul series and is the prequel to SoulCaliber – one of the best fighting games ever made.

The PlayStation port of this game (which was originally released in arcades) came with a whole slew of extras. It introduced a story mode in Edge Master Mode, where the player follows a character’s journey to find Soul Edge while fighting opponents under certain conditions and handicaps. Defeating opponents yielded tons of really cool weapons with various stats and special effects which could then be used in all other game modes! On top of that, Soul Edge boasted three soundtracks: the original, an arranged, orchestrated variant and the Khan Super Special Soundtrack, which was exclusive to the PlayStation edition. To top it all off, this edition included a third alternate outfit for each character and five secret characters including the final boss, Soul Edge. Seriously, that’s a lot for a fighting game! Sadly, you can only play it via a physical copy or through emulation. I don’t understand why Bandai-Namco hasn’t released this digitally yet. It’s an absolute travesty.

2. Tomba!

Number two on the list is this colourful, zany and fun platformer starring a pink haired wild boy named Tomba! It reminds me a bit of Zelda II and Metroid in that there’s a heavy emphasis on exploration and backtracking. There’s a whole slew of items and tools available at Tomba’s disposal to use in his quest to recover his grandfather’s bracelet, which was stolen by the Evil Pigs; greedy, treasure-loving piggies who’ve been terrorizing the local populace. On top of the main quest, there is a whole bunch of side quests to pursue that yield rich rewards, like extra lives and power ups and even access to new areas. What’s especially interesting is, like number six on the list (Rayman), that behind the cute and funny visuals, there are plenty of difficult platforming sections which require patience and a degree of trial and error to figure out.

As we round out the top seven, there’s one game on this list that’s both incredibly amazing and frustrating, requiring more patience than a saint to complete. However, this game is one of my all-time favourites for the system and is hence on the number one spot on this list of hidden gems:

1. Alundra

I honestly have gushed enough about this game on Twitter and for good reason: if there was a poster boy for the term “Hidden Gem,” this game would be it!

Take the gameplay of the Legend of Zelda, add in platforming mechanics, a story darker than Majora’s Mask (complete with discussions on religion, death, depression and nightmares that can really kill you), the ability to walk through dreams, an intricate dungeon design with puzzles that are guaranteed to obfuscate and befuddle the most brilliant of minds and a stellar cast of characters who reflect on their reality with a combination of abject horror, dark humor and apathy. That is Alundra in a nutshell. It’s quite difficult to complete thanks to the difficult puzzles, but the game’s story is great and the writing is well done! And while Ronan is no Sephiroth, he’s still an interesting villian in that he impedes Alundra’s quest at the orders of his “God”, even if it means he has to do unspeakable things, like murdering innocent people, including children. It’s also the subject of my next review (insert shameless plug here).

So there you have it! My top 7 Hidden Gems! Do you agree? Disagree? Have some games to add to this list or replace? Drop a line in the comments below!

Big thanks to The Well-Red Mage for issuing the challenge and for letting me join in on the fun! You should definitely check out the other console entries written by my fellow mages and other writers, they’re worth the read!

Until next time Mature, Distinguished Gamers, this is Ryan from Games with Coffee, reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

Koffi Trigger – Letter from a Mad Scientist Woman

Hey all, welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee! I had so much fun writing the first letter to Athena for the Year of the RPG, that I decided to make this an ongoing thing for the rest of the year! I’ll be writing in the perspective of the main characters of the series and (if time allows) maybe have some of the secondary characters write in as well! Hope you enjoy it!


Dear Athena,

So, the letter you’re about to read was written on parchment made using outdated production processes and materials that aren’t used in present day paper manufacturing. Why am I mentioning this odd, out of place tidbit? Well, because I’m writing to you from a tavern in Truce Village in the year 600 A.D.; four hundred years in the past!

Before I get around to explaining how exactly I found myself in this era of time and the events that followed, allow me to introduce myself: I’m Lucca, the beautiful, brilliant scientist from Truce Village circa 1000 A.D.

… Well, truthfully, people in the village call me by a different name: Perks. My best (only) friend in the village gave me that name – Koffi. You might know him; he’s a fairly talented swordsman with an unhealthy obsession with coffee, hence his name. I don’t get why he calls me ‘Perks.’ Koffi says it’s because my obsession with machines and science rivals that of his coffee addiction and that I apparently ‘perk’ up whenever I see any piece of technology. It’s annoying, but I digress. Your name popped up when he told me about you and how he wrote you a letter on a whim, hence why I decided to write one myself. It’d be nice to vent to someone else for a change… I’m just hoping you get this.

Anyway, this fiasco started out at the Millenium Fair, back in 1000 AD. I had just fired up my latest invention – The Telepod – when Koffi showed up… With a girl in tow! A cute one to boot! I was so proud of him…

Mind you, while I care for the caffeine addicted swordsman and cherish him as a close friend, in no way would I want to pursue a romantic relationship with him. Why? Well, he’s kind of a dimwit. But I mean it in the nicest way possible!

When I first met Koffi’s companion though, something about her was incredibly familiar, but at the time, I couldn’t put my finger on why she was so familiar in the first place? Odd to put in here, I know, but it becomes relevant later on.

After a quick chat (in which you were brought up), I asked Koffi nicely (read: forced him) to try out the Telepod. I only wished you could see the look of fright upon his face when I told him to try it out; he still remembers the flamethrower incident (which I won’t go into specifics; he might have mentioned it already)! Either way, he tried it and it was a complete success! I’ve successfully teleported a person from one point to another! And I can’t believe it worked! I mean, I did the math and there was a large statistical chance that it would fail spectacularly and splice the poor guy in two, but hey, I avoided it! Hooray for science!

And here’s where everything got crazy; the girl Koffi brought (her name is Priss), wanted to try it out. Here I thought “This would be excellent publicity! If the Telepod gets popular enough, I might get that coveted research and development grant from the Royal Family!” So, I threw sheets to the wind and decided to let her on.

That… Turned out to be a huge mistake.

I still don’t quite understand how it happened, but as she was teleporting to the receiver pod, it seems like an unknown energy source – possibly originating from her pendant – overloaded the Telepod and somehow tore open a hole in space-time. Instead of arriving on the receiver pod, she fell through the hole and vanished.

Naturally everyone panicked and fled from the scene. My father and I argued as to whose fault this was; either he inadvertently increased the Telepod’s power to beyond the overload protection, or I missed a zero when I recalibrated the sender pod prior to her getting on. Anyways, it was no surprise to me that Koffi picked up the pendant that was left behind and told me to fire it up again. He looked hellbent and he only has that look on his face when the ferry comes in with his latest coffee shipment: 200 lbs of roasted beans.

So, my father and I overloaded the Telepod to achieve the same effect of tearing a hole in space-time, with help from the pendant. Koffi was flung into it while I pondered as to what these holes were, why have they appeared and how do I get one open without using the Telepod or the pendant?

Long story short and without going into immense scientific explanation (which, if I’m honest, would turn this letter into a book), I postulated the theory that this space-time energy is naturally occurring, and that Priss’ pendant acts as a sort of conductor for this energy. Using that theory, I built my most amazing invention yet: the Gate Key. When used near a large concentration of this space-time energy, it would create a stable, temporal portal out of it (which I’ll call Gates). I tested it back at the fairgrounds and successfully opened the portal where Priss and Koffi entered! So, naturally I followed along, where I landed 400 years in the past, in the middle of the war between humans and Mystics.

Midway through travelling, I finally realized to my horror who Priss reminded me of and what the consequences of her being in this moment of time would be! I rushed to Guardia Castle of the past and discovered that my fears were founded; Priss is really Princess Nadia, the current heir to the throne in our present time! Also, this year is significant in our country’s history, because it’s when Queen Leene, Nadia’s ancestor, mysteriously disappeared! She would have been brutally murder if not for a trusted knight who rescued her at the last moment. But because Priss is a dead ringer for the Queen, the castle guards called off the search when she was found, meaning that the real Queen was still in danger. If she was killed, it would create a time paradox which would have untold consequences on the space-time continuum! To top all of it off, Nad- sorry, Priss disappeared in a flash of light, meaning that the paradox activation would be imminent, if my theories were correct.

… Basically in a nutshell, unless Koffi and I found the real Queen Leene and returned her to the castle safely, we would all be royally screwed. Pun totally not intended.

As we left the castle to search for the Queen, we were stopped by… a frog man. No, I’m not kidding you; he was a short, ugly and slimy looking frog that stood on two feet, wore travelling clothes and had a sword sheathed on his waist. He insisted (in a very medieval dialect) on joining us to find the Queen. I was initially grossed out (I really don’t like frogs) and almost told him to get lost, but Koffi took a shine to him. It might have been a swordsman thing between the two, but Koffi decided to let him on. While he called himself Frog (wow, that’s an imaginative name…), Koffi decided on a different name: Sir Beans. I actually laughed at that one.

Despite being dismayed at the name choice, Beans joined up with us as we canvassed the village for information about the Queen’s last known whereabouts. We’ve discovered that a day or two ago, the Queen went to the Cathedral near the castle with the Chancellor, but only he returned, citing that the Queen was staying to pray for our troops on the Zenan Bridge. When the report went out that she went missing, the first place they searched was the Cathedral, but they found nothing. We all though this sounded suspicious, so we’ll be heading there shortly. Koffi and Beans (I snickered so hard when I wrote that out) went to gather up supplies, leaving me time to write this out to you.

Looks like they’re back, so I’ll end it here. Wish us luck.

-Lucca (Perks)

PS: You know, I wish I could send you pictures – photography wasn’t invented until late 800 A.D. or so. Maybe when (if, really) I get back to our current time, I’ll invent an instant photo device or something… (I’m actually writing this idea down as we speak.)

PPS: …Koffi says hi and also says thank you for the response, he just got it.

“The Quest:” Practicing Writing Through Fanfiction and Using NaNoWriMo as Motivation to Write!

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” How is everyone today?

As you may or may not know, November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo): the annual event where writers from all over write a minimum 50,000 word novel in one month. It’s a pretty big deal, since it motivates people to get off of their butts and start writing, instead of thinking about writing something, but not doing anything about it.

Why am I mentioning this? Well, one of my goals in my Quest to be a better person this year was to improve my writing with the determination to fulfill one of my biggest life goals; to write and publish my own original story. While I’ve made a lot of progress on it this year by building a world, a loose timeline of events, some character development and a plot structure, I’m probably a year or two away from starting to put it all together. A lot of my progress was possible thanks to all the practice I’ve done writing fanfiction, which (as I may have mentioned this once or twice in previous posts) I’ve been doing ever since I was a kid. The biggest problem I have, however, is the fact that I’ve been unable to properly finish a story that I’ve started, whether it was an original story or fanfiction. Most times, I’d start, only to give up after the first few sentences and scrap the story. Other times though, I got pretty far into it, but my endings were terrible. However, there’s one story right now that I’m determined on finishing: a fanfic that crosses the universes of Final Fantasy VII and Sonic the Hedgehog, which I’m using mostly as a practice board for the real thing when I get to it.

Now, the operative thought you may have here may be; “A crossover fanfic!? What in hell’s name are you talking about?!” But seriously, here me out for a second; it may not be as far-fetched as you think!


Ten years ago, I got bored with studying advanced mechanical dynamics for my engineering degree, so I started writing character comparisons between the personalities of Sonic the Hedgehog and Zack Fair and Miles “Tails” Prower and Cloud Strife (from the Sonic the Hedgehog and Final Fantasy VII games respectively) after noticing similarities between them. As I delved deeper, I noticed a lot of things in both games/series somewhat coincided with one another. Examples include:

  • FF VII’s ‘Materia’ system consists of the five common types of Materia (Green, Red, Blue, Purple and Yellow), along with the rare White and Black Materia, which makes seven. Know seven other multicolored gems that fit that profile? Chaos Emeralds.
  • Robotnik’s (Eggman’s) desire for world conquest is analogous to Shinra’s naked ambition for world domination. Both achieve this through scientific means; genetic, robotic or otherwise.
  • In the Sonic comic series published by Archie Comics, several issues speak of a gold-silver substance called “The Source of All,” which is a form of spirit energy used to create life in the Sonic universe and which also has a link to the Chaos Emeralds and Power Rings in that canon. A similar link exists between the Lifestream, Mako and Materia in FF VII.
  • Finally, in the Sonic Archie Comic canon, prior to the start of the war between the Freedom Fighters and Robotnik, the Power Rings, created by an object called a “Ring Forge,” allowed the Mobian race to rapidly move from a primitive, medieval age to a hyper-advanced golden age. The same can be said about the Shinra Company’s discovery of Mako and the subsequent construction of Midgar leading to an age of advancement and prosperity thanks to cheap energy.

Using what I’ve found, I expanded on the initial comparison and eventually created an alternate Sonic universe, combining the story elements from the games and the Archie Sonic comic book universe canon with Final Fantasy VII’s plot as its backbone. I published portions of the first installment (out of six or seven!) on the Fanfiction.net website (My pen name’s Zonic Warrior-STH) – one of the largest sources of online fanfiction.

Six years later, I started rewriting the story, partially due to some harsh, yet constructive criticism, partially due to paying attention to how other author’s structure their stories and mostly because I hated how the original sounded. I mean, I read it out loud once and I cringed at how terrible it sounded…

So, for the rewrite, I decided to change my approach to writing. I started taking notes on what to write in terms of narrative and character dialogue relative to the backbone of the plot. I did even more research into FF VII’s plot and the world encompassing both the Sonic games and comics and continued to note things that sort of matched between the two and things that would need to be modified to fit the narrative that I wanted to portray. I studied both action and dramatic scenes in movies, TV shows and other games and wrote what it would look like in a book. And finally, using those same mediums, I tried to interpret how the dialogue and narrative would play out in scenes and how to describe in detail the present setting and character’s body language to better form an image in a reader’s mind. These strategies proved valuable both for developing the fanfic and eventually my original writing; in fact, just this June, I finished all the rough notes for the fanfic, which would make finishing this thing much easier, while I use note-taking apps like Google Keep, on a day-to-day basis to jot down and organize my plot, dialogue and action scenes for my own personal work.


I’m determined to finish this thing, more as a way to prove to myself that I can actually and properly finish a story. That’s why I’m using NaNoWriMo as motivation to finishing it. By scheduling time every day in November to write a few hundred, even a thousand words, I’ll be much more closer to finishing this thing than any other point before.

So far, as of writing… I haven’t gotten too much done, sadly; I barely hit 20% of the goal. But there’s still just under half a month left – I got time and resources (Thanks Google Docs!) on my side! And even if I don’t make 50,000, I would have done more now than I have in the past, which is something I can be proud of.

If you want to take a peek at my writing style or get a better idea of what the story’s about, check it out here. Bear in mind that I’ll be revising the hell out whatever you’ll be reading when I finish writing the whole thing, but still, let me know what you think. I’m always open to constructive criticism.

Stay tuned for the next edition, because I’m not done with November just yet! This month will mark twenty years that I first played Final Fantasy VII, the game that made a HUGE influence in my life. That will likely show up at the end of the month. Also coming up soon, I’m going to talk about some hardware I picked up a while ago, how to use a gaming mouse for work purposes and two more Espresso Shot Reviews!

This has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, getting back to work on writing this beast of a story and always reminding you, dear reader, to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!