March 4, 2000. A day that will live in infamy. The day Sony's predecesor would continue the teenage tyrant's successful console the Playstation. Yes, the Playstation 2 has turned 15 this year and in response to Alpha Omega Sin's PS2 Memories, i thought I give my thoughts on what many consider the one of the greatest console of all time. But first, Alpha Omega Sin, if you are reading this, you got some fantastic tastes man. Also, P4 for the fucking win. Chie, best girl.
I understand that the PS2 didn't arrive on US shores untl October and I didn't get one until 2002, but considering the decade and a half I've spent with it, I think it counts that 3/4 would be it's birthday so there's your technicality.
I don't remember exactly when I got my first PS2 that I still have to this day, I do remember walking from a newly opened Best Buy at McCarthy Ranch to walk to my home 3 miles away on foot with the PS2 in hand and i just couldn't wait till I started playing it. Only one problem: I didn't have any games and the only DVD I had was one of Ranma 1/2. When I went to EB Games at the Great Mall, I picked up Kingdom Hearts 1 and it was a pretty fun action/rpg that blended Disney and Squaresoft fairly well. I won't go into my spiel about how KH2 sucks and pretty much flanderized the Square characters and put them under a bus in favor of the rest of Disney, or it's convoluted story, but my point is this was my first PS2 game.
In 2004 in the height of the Christmas Rush, i was hired at this kiosk in the mall where the owner was selling DDR Dance pads and had a copy of a Japanese DDR Extreme displayed for people to play. Not only was i earning 20% comission on every dance pad I sold ($80 x 20% = $16), but i was at the launch of what was considered to be Rockstar's biggest entry in the controversial franchise Grand Theft Auto San Andreas and Bungie's Halo 2. When both games were released it was a rush. The owner and I oversold on both titles as well as dance pads and copies of the US version of DDR Extreme. But what makes this console significant is that it was the console that got me into finding rare games. At first it was Gitaroo Man which was discovered on XPlay's segment of weird games. I got it, and it was strange, but fun. So I found two more copies which at the time were verging on rare, but were uncommon enough to seek out. Thanks Gitaroo Man for making me start my career as Rarefindit.
Throughout the years since then I have acumulated lots of games just for the sake of enjoyment and experimentation. Each game is not the same as gameplay, music and story have a purpose for each game. And after all, don't we play games for fun and entertaiment?
Here are a few titles I can recall among the 80+ titles I have which I am still collecting to this day.
Note: I do have Dark Cloud 2 (Dark Chronicle), but it's hidden in there somewhere.
Gitaroo Man (2002) Koei - If it weren't for this game and a curiosity that turned into a state wide search I wouldn't have turned into the self proclaimed Rare Game Hunter that I strive to be. The gameplay is simple, but difficult to master and the soundtrack is incredible. It received a cult following since I introduced it to a friend and they introduced it to another and so on. I'd like to think I started the cult following of an otherwise quirky rhythm game. Gitaroo Man was rereleased and/or remade on the PSP titled Gitaroo Man Lives and is still worth searching, but doesn't hold a candle to the original.
Firefighter F.D. 18 (2004) Konami - Anyone remember that movie Backdraft with Kurt Russell and Billy Baldwin directed by Ron Howard? Take that premise and make it into a video game where you have to save civilians with a incredibly prehensile and unlimitedly long hose and I shit you not, fight boss moster fire battles. Literally the bosses are giant flames with names like Blaze or Inferno. I can't help but chuckle at this fun and silly premise.
Katamari Damacy (2004) Namco - Your dad got drunk and destroyed the stars! Good thing his son (you) is tasked to make new ones. Originally released as a budget title this delightfully trippy gem is what I call a snowball engine. As the Prince, you roll up the Katamari (clump) with different things based on size and theme. Certain stages even require you to roll up only a certain object such as dogs. The thought of sending all those rolled up dogs whining and whimpering, chewing their legs off as they are sent into space without air as their breathless lifeless suffocated bodies explode into molecules that form the constellation Sirius, aka the Dog Star. My apologies to you dog lovers with that brutal description. This game is fun, the music is fantastic and it's different, but man is it sometimes screwy.
Dance Dance Revolution Extreme (2004) Konami - This game is near and dear to my heart as it plays a signigicant role as part of the catalyst of the sudden mainstream popularity of dancing and rhythm games. Although I promised myself I would one day own a Japanese PS2 with a Japanese copy of DDR Extreme for exercise it is the US version that still holds it own. Not only does it have something of a connection to Silent Hill 3 and 4, but it is the most balanced of all the PS2 DDR games. By the way, DDR X2 is the lesser known of the PS2 DDR games yet the most sought out. Why? Most of the songs are kinda lame, and don't get me started with the Disney Channel ones. I blame Americanization. You take something as foreign as food and make it appealing to an american audiences. Like riceballs turned into donuts or rice replaced with ice cream as seen in Doraemon (what?). Unfortunately for me, that's what I feel about the rest of the DDR lineup: Too much bargain bin songs from 5 years ago and too few jpop sounds that made the series so great. I still enjoy DDR Extreme and it's sequel Extreme 2. I tell you one thing: Paranoia Survivor Max Heavy + Max Period Heavy, hard as balls.
Atelier Iris Eternal Mana (2005) Nippon Ichi Software - I love RPGs. Not those games with RPG elements, just straight fun RPGs. What I love more is JRPGs. There's just something whimsical about the fantasy settings that make it pop out. Now what if there was a game where the main draw is item crafting and gathering. Between this and Arc the Lad End of Darkness (Didn't like Twilight in The Darkness) Atelier was the Victor between the two. I will admit there are just a small handful of tracks that were good, but nothing special. It was just unique, innovative and fun to make everything from scratch. If only Atelier Annie didn't allude me so.
Skygunner (2002) Atlus - Ah Atlus. You never cease to amaze me with the games you churn out. Once upon a time in between playing Tail Concerto and getting my own PS2 I stumbled upon this underrated gem. Why? Because the art style looked similar to this doujin artist I knew a little about named Cu-Little. There was a Skygunner doujinshi by this author. It wasn't till later I found out that Cu-Little was revealed to be Ken Akamatsu, aka the guy who did Love Hina. Big shock. So what about the game? Third person dog fighting a la Ace Combat where you shoot enemies down with coins as ammo. I never got to complete it because the last stage required me to shoot 6 charged shots at the enemy and I can only do 3 at a time while the timer drizzled down and it would shake off the other projectiles. At least the opening is nice and it looks French themed.
Dark Cloud/Dark Chronicle (2001/2002) Level 5 - *picks up both games*
Dark Cloud 1: Hi, I'm Dark Cloud 1, aka slow Rouge like rpg. My game has a silent protagonist collecting pieces in dungeons to restore the world from an evil genie.
Dark Cloud 2: I have Scott Menville playing a time hybrid mechanic trying to stop an evil circus from taking over my town and time.
Dark Cloud 1: My gameplay consists of 6 different characters each with different abilities and close and range attacks.
Dark Cloud 2: My gameplay has the player switching between two characters. One can ride a customizable robot called the Ridepod while the other can transform into monsters.
Me: Guys, guys! You're both good games and it's kinda sad there isn't any other like you two. Now of you'll excuse me, I'm going to ride around on a robot with armed with a katana and roller skates!
Okami (2006) Clover Studios - It's such a damn shame that at the time shooters were getting more traction on new consoles than this ever got any praise. This adventure style game has you play as Amatererasu as she restores the world from the evils of Orochimaru and uses the power of Rasangan to... oops my bad... A wolf goddess to restore the land of Nippon and vanquish evil from the world. If you were to say this game had a lot of style and substance then that would be an understatement. Not only that but it was a huge adventure spanning 3 different arcs and the music was fantastic. You can find it on the Wii and PS3, but nothing beats the original with Clover's insignia on the cover.
Persona 4 (2008) Atlus - Here comes the gushing. You know me, I love me some P4, and I will accept those who say P3 is better, but know that each of the Persona games, except the original, all have their own fans. What more is to say about it that I haven't already? Music? Terrific. Gameplay? Taut, yet fun. Story? Fan-frickin-tastic. Characters? You grow to love, except fatty Hanako. What? I'm still bitter about what she did that time. Poor Yosuke.
GTA Trilogy (2001-2004) Rockstar - Amongst the trio of murderous mayhem and antagonistic hit n runs, there's a certain charm that brings us all back to the carnage. 3 was ground breaking even with the frustrating limitations of the console. Vice City brought Ray Liotta and Burt Reynolds into the fray and it was delightful to be reminded of Hawk and Gator. San Andreas however brought the system to its knees as it was hailed as the best of the series... until V. Ah, the memories of making bank off drive bys and shooting people and mods of people having sex with clothes on. Those were the days.
Finally, Final Fantasy X/X2/XII (2002,2003,2006) Square Enix - Next to IV, VI, VII, and IX, X is considered the best of the series. Say what you want about X2 and the girly presentation, it had some pretty damn good parts to it especially in the Thunder Plains. XII is the odd one as its built around XI as a notmmo. The license board (earn points to get permission to wear a hat) and the intuitive gambit system really made the game fun. The music partially composed by Hiroshima Sakimoto brought out the political drama of the story which was Ashe gets redemption or revenge for her fallen kingdom. What am I missing? Quickenings? Summons, Overdrives? Nope they're all great.
Those are my thoughts on the Playstation 2. I have so many games that I am still collecting for. Who knows, I might get A Dog's Life just for a goof or Cubivore and Stretch Panic just because. If you have any memories of the PS2 you want to share, let me know @rarefindit on Twitter.