It also has to be said that PS1 developers were bold enough to use the console to create true 3D games at a time when many people rightfully doubted that 3D console games were ready for primetime. The PS1 (and, to be fair, the Sega Saturn) managed to convince millions of people to embrace the 3D gaming age (and all the complexities that came along with it), which is the kind of feat that can’t be easily overlooked.
With all of that out of the way, it has to be said that time has not been kind to PS1 graphics. I mean…just look at these shots:
Yes, PS1 graphics improved over time as developers mastered the hardware (as is always the case), and yes, certain PS1 games looked considerably better than others (and still hold up reasonably well today in the proper context), but PS1 technology had limits that even the greatest developers weren’t able to overcome. Most PS1 games were incredibly blocky, filled with “fog,” and packed with low-res textures (at least in games that weren’t pre-rendered). Things get worse when you actually try to play these games and find yourself staring at a nightmarish blend of constantly warping textures and scanning/filtering issues all complimented by absurdly long load times. Strangely enough, most PS1 games somehow look even worse when you try to play them on anything but the CRT displays there were clearly designed for.
That’s the thing about PS1 visuals. Whereas many SNES games still look visually impressive simply because it’s easy enough to look past the console’s technological limitations and appreciate the artistry, it is incredibly difficult to look at PS1 games now and not see the wrinkles. A game like Chrono Trigger looks pretty much exactly how the artists intended it to look. Games on the PS1 that were striving for a kind of “realism” that they were never actually going to achieve will always be at least partially defined by their shortcomings.
In the early 2000s, I convinced myself that nobody would ever be nostalgic for the era of PS1 visuals. Yet, projects like this Bloodborne demake or even new indie titles such as Omnibus show that quite a few people seemingly do have fond memories of PS1 visuals and have helped create a modern market for graphics that were often considered to be “ugly” even at the time that some of these games were released.
After all this time, though, I’ve finally realized that all of this love for the PS1’s “bad” graphics is as much about respect as it is nostalgia.