Also: Mr Biffo and Mr Hairs from Teletext's Digitiser magazine.
Unlike some game launch parties, which all rather blend into a morass of free nibbles and c-list celebrities, the night remains tenacious in the memory for several reasons:
- We all had name plates at the banqueting table, and I was due to be seated next to Jane "Mrs Jonathan Ross" Goldman (she never turned up).
- The evening played out like one of those murder mystery dinners - actors hamming it up during the meal, to the incredulity of the assembled games journalists, who merely wanted to enjoy the free drink and complain about how they could be doing something else and how terrible their jobs were and moan moan moan moan drink moan drink.
- One of the rooms was full of dolls and raw meat, and some of the dolls had raw meat in them.
- Hitting my head really, really, really hard when I passed through a fireplace which connected two rooms.
- Someone from Virgin proclaiming boldly that "When the history of gaming is written, The 7th Guest will have a chapter all to itself." Ha ha.
- That same fellow revealing that the game was in development for Nintendo's Play Station.
Yes: Nintendo's Play Station; the CD-ROM add-on for the Super NES which Nintendo was rumoured to have been developing with Sony. Alas, Nintendo dropped the project when its bosses took a closer look at the small print of the deal, and realised that Sony would essentially retain control of all Play Station software publishing.
Nintendo instead spent some time developing a CD-ROM device with Philips, before cancelling that as well, and moving forwards with its Nintendo 64 (although not before Mario and Zelda had embarrassed themselves on Philips' ill-fated CD-i device). Sony, meanwhile, forged ahead alone, dropping the space between the words Play and Station, while announcing that this PlayStation would be a brand new, standalone games system.
Oddly, I didn't realise the significance of this at the time. I mean, Sony just made personal stereos. What did they know about games?
Sony had already dipped a toe or seven into the waters of gaming; it had been publishing fairly unremarkable games for years on the Super NES and Mega Drive. It had also recently purchased Psygnosis, the Liverpool-based studio responsible for Amiga classic Shadow of the Beast. That aside, Sony didn't exactly have much in the way of a pedigree when it came to games.
I first saw a PlayStation at a European Computer Trade Show - possibly at the tail-end of 1994 - encased inside a glass cube. Indeed, it was, quite possibly, just an empty casing. There wasn't even a controller attached. We didn't think much of it; given Sony's lacklustre track record in gaming, there was nothing to suggest that its console wouldn't be swallowed up by the ongoing dominance of Sega and Nintendo. We regarded it with indifference.
Oh, how wrong we were to be so blasé. Our wrongness oozed from us in a purulent stream, like a noxious, yellow sludge.
When it was released in September 1995, I continued to resist the hype. Oh I was as impressed as anyone by the dinosaur demo which came bundled with every PlayStation. I could see that this was a leap forward in terms of graphics (if not quite a real-time Jurassic Park t-rex, as most of the magazines seemed to believe). But there was also, I felt, something cold about the PlayStation. It felt less like a toy than Super NES and Mega Drive, and more like... well, something a superstar DJ could play with.
Which, of course, was entirely intentional on the part of Sony.
My money had been on the Saturn, frankly, which had launched months earlier. Sega had something in the way of form when it came to games, and the Saturn hardware just seems friendlier. Plus, I didn't get a lot of the fuss about the PlayStation launch games; Wipeout felt like style over substance, Ridge Racer seemed to lack content, Kileak: The Blood was impossible to love...
In fact, heresy as it might be to say, but Jumping Flash! was the PlayStation launch title I played the most; an underrated early attempt at a 3D platformer, which history has booted into the rough.
My resistance to the PlayStation never really went away, and pretty much remained intact until the PlayStation 4. And that's mainly because Microsoft managed to make a grazed scrotum of the Xbox One.
Oh, I could see that the PlayStation was a well-designed and powerful system, but the more Sony marketed it as a lifestyle accessory for cool people, the less it appealed to someone like me. It felt as if gaming was being shoved into new areas, where I wasn't welcome. I had little desire to cross the velvet rope and join the party twats.
Obviously, history records that this strategy paid dividends for Sony. Making gaming "cool" - setting up PlayStations in night clubs, and getting celebrity endorsements... we'd never really seen anything like it.
Gradually, though, while I may have struggled to love the PlayStation, and most of its RPGs and beat 'em ups left me cold, I accept that it played host to games which have come to be considered classics, in spite of what I might think.
For my money, few of them have aged as well as the games of the 16-bit era, but I realise that many of today's most enduring franchises were brought to life on the PlayStation. Actually, looking back at the games which appeared on Sony's first console, I think that was part of my issue with it; lots of staid driving games, hardcore beat 'em ups, interminably dull RPGs, and the perma-ubiquity of Lara Croft. Whoever Sony aimed the system at, it wasn't the likes of me.
For my money, most of its games felt as if they were trying to work out what they were meant to be. It says much that most of my favourite PlayStation games - Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, for example - felt like throwbacks to the previous generation.
Even at the time, Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid - while I could see they were nice games - never felt as playable to me as something like Sonic The Hedgehog or even - to Heck with it - Unirally. The wobbly polygons, with their rough textures, lacked the charm of pixels, and the controller was always uncomfortable in my hands.
By the same token, it was probably a necessary step, and it's to Sony's credit that this step turned into a leap.
That's how I see the PlayStation now: an interim machine, which opened up gaming to an enormous audience... A triumph of marketing more than hardware. I missed the simplicity of 16-bit graphics, and game design. I missed the relative innocence of Sega versus Nintendo. Three years a games journalist, and I was already hankering after the past.
When the Nintendo 64 was released a year or so after the PlayStation, I was certain that Nintendo had won the current generation - and that only became more clear over time. Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, Goldeneye... it felt like the Nintendo 64 was where the classics lived.
Unfortunately, sales figures didn't back this up, and success in gaming tends to be measured more in sales than critical reception. The N64 might've had the edge creatively, but commercially the PlayStation ruled.
Through Sony's marketing and PR, the PlayStation spoke to a wider audience than the Nintendo 64 could manage. Whether it was the primary colours of its joypad, the games which appeared on it, or the fact it used what must've felt like obsolete cartridge technology, the N64 just wasn't as hip as the PlayStation.
In the mid-90s - with the UK in the grip of Cool Britannia - such pointlessness never felt more of a commodity. Even Lara Croft - who had become the icon of the PlayStation in the way that Sonic and Mario had done for their respective systems - was cooler and sexier than any of her predecessors had ever been. She appeared on the cover of The Face, and was spread across lads' mag centrefolds in her bikini. Something which nobody wanted to see Mario doing, even if he did tuck his Italian sausage between his thighs.
The sales figures spoke for themselves; more than 100 million PlayStations were sold worldwide - outstripping any games console which had come before it.
Though Sega's death-throes continued for some time, Sony essentially killed the company's hardware fortunes, and diminished Nintendo to a distant second place. It ushered in a brand new sort of games industry, where gaming became truly something for the masses, and where marketing and branding became as important as the content.
Still... give me a Nintendo over that bollocks any day.