The “Crazy Old Man” Phase

It is a fact of getting older that eventually our favorite uncles, cherished grandpas, and even beloved parents go a little nuts as they get on in years. Luckily when this happens in the video game world we don’t end up with ridiculous family drama, but some wacky and wild games appearing on our past-its-prime system of choice. Since the dawn of the PS2 each PlayStation system has had a period when new games and titles were releasing for the previous generation of systems, while the new machine was trying to get up to speed. For example, Rockstar published The Italian Job on the original PlayStation months after they unleashed Grand Theft Auto III on an unknowing public via PlayStation 2 or God of War 2, which led the PlayStation 2 charge in 2007 as the PS3 gained traction. While those are examples of high profile games that bled into a new generation on past hardware, more interesting to me is the spectrum of truly weird titles that get released during this same stage in a console’s lifecycle – the “crazy old man” phase. As a hardware generation draws to a close the retail price of the system drops, which increases the number of people that have their hands on it, development costs also decrease as teams become more familiar with the system’s infrastructure and publishers are more willing to take risks on crazy, one-off titles, generally from Japan. Scanning across my shelf I’m greeted by titles that range from the ridiculously over the top God Hand to the incredibly cute, but satisfying 2D RTS GrimGrimoire. Most unexpectedly a few series have carved out a niche in the Crazy Old Man phase of a console most notably the Persona series. Here is something you may not have realized but every mainline Persona game beside the original Revelations: Persona, was originally released on past generation hardware. Here are the stats Persona 2: Eternal Punishment was released in North America a month after the PS2 launched and Persona 3 and 4 were released a year and two years, respectively, after the PS3 launched. So even with the looming shadow of a new console on the market great games can still find their audience.

Another aspect of an aged console is the ability to repackage compilations. A system staring at the Crazy Old Man in the mirror often decides ends up playing host to entries in its famous franchises bundled together or even collections of previous titles in a famous series. Don’t forget that at one time every mainline Final Fantasy game released until that point, except for FF3, was available on the PlayStation. That’s FF I, II, and IV through IX, which takes a bit of a time investment to get through. For this bit of insanity we must thank the likes of Final Fantasy Chronicles, released in 2001, and Final Fantasy Origins, from 2003. A system in the Crazy Old Man phase won’t just give you the weird and wild, but also offer a history lesson if you pay attention.

What I’m curious about now is how does this bode for the ailing PSP? With the announcement of a Growlanser game coming to PSP this year does this signal the PSP is about to enter the Crazy Old Man phase? Will we see the wacky and wild diversity of past Sony platforms repeat themselves on the PSP? Do fans want to see crazy compilations or are we ready to move on to the Vita and bigger and better things in the future?

A system’s senility is often considered a bad thing, with no more big name games on the horizon it is left to take up shelf space at retro game stores and/or old school gaming conventions. But don’t forget that in a system’s last gasps it will often offer pearls of wisdom, or more likely games of whimsy, that we would do well not to miss.

Written by Justin Spielmann

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