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Fare Thee Well, PS2!

 

         

Alas, like everything else in life, the joy and presence of gaming consoles grow old and pass away with the winds of change. With rumors and speculations about the the PS4‘s eventual announcement, it is difficult to believe that the now 12 yr. old PS2 is so long behind us even as the PS3 is in the twilight of its life. Nevertheless, it leaves behind a proud legacy for what can be considered the golden age of Sony. It was the one to crush the competition with Nintendo’s Gamecube and even Microsoft’s X-Box. The mere announcement of it crippled the Sega Dreamcast’s sales. Most importantly, it sold massively, being the console everybody seemed to have. It comes with a heavy heart that with the report of Sony’s final end to production of the PS2 both here in the U.S. and Japan, I take a look back down memory lane to remember a fine console and loyal friend through my gaming hours.

A Few Fun PS2 Facts:

Playing DVDs: While I never used my previous PS1 for playing CDs (a cool feature in itself), I was thrilled to find my PS2 being able to play my favorite movies and tv shows besides games. It made for one heck of a lifesaver as a back-up to the home DVD player and handled remarkably well with the PS controllers. For the money involved, the system got to be a home theater as well as game gem.

Console Sales: 153 million units sold worldwide as of March 2011.20.81 million as of 2009. Europe snagged over 48 million units since May 6, 2008 and Japan has sold at least 21 million of them since October of 2008.  Sony North America, meanwhile, has reported it selling a whopping 50 million  units as of December 2008 to many a happy citizen of the U.S. of A (me included).

Best Selling Game: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Legal Troubles: A class action lawsuit was filed against Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. back in July 16, 2002, in San Mateo County Superior Court of California. The lawsuit addressed consumer reports of inappropriate "no disc error" (disc read error) messages and other problems associated with playing DVDs and CDs on the PS2. Sony settled its “disc read error” lawsuit by compensating affected gamers with $25, a free game from a specified list, and reduced cost repair or replacement of the damaged system each. This settlement was subject to the courts’ approval, and hearings began in the US and Canada in April of 2006 and May of 2006.

Interesting accessories: The EyeToy color digital camera device released in October of 2003, a kind of webcam for the PS2, used computer vision and gesture recognition to allow players to interact with games using motion, color detection and sound through its built-in microphone. Optional controllers included a Onimusha 3 katana controller, a Resident Evil 4 chainsaw controller, light guns (Gun Con), and a special edition Tiny B pistol controller from Final Fantasy X-2, and fishing rod and reel controllers.

The Slimline edition: In September 2004, Sony unveiled its 3rd major hardware revision of the Slimline PS2. It was smaller, thinner, and quieter than the older versions and included a built-in Ethernet port (in some markets it also has an integrated modem). Due to its thinner profile, it didn’t contain the 3.5" expansion bay and didn’t support the internal hard disc drive. It also lacked an internal power supply, similar to the Gamecube, and had a modified Multitap expansion. The removal of the expansion bay was criticized as a limitation due to the existence of titles such as Final Fantasy XI that required the HDD. In July 2007, Sony also shipped revisions of the slimline PlayStation 2 featuring a lighter console case, using a smaller motherboard and a lighter AC adaptor. As well some cosmetic changes, the hardware design was overhauled, incorporating the power supply into the console itself. 

The PSX: Sony also manufactured a consumer device called the PSX that could be used as a digital video recorder and DVD burner in addition to playing PS2 games. It was released in Japan on December 13, 2003, and was the first Sony product to include the XcrossMediaBar interface and featured 1 USB port, a Memory Stick card reader, and 2 PS2 Memory Card slots. It didn’t sell well in Japanese markets and was not subsequently released anywhere else.  

Next Up: The Games  [PageBreak]

The Games:

(Note for image above: Not mine, but wish it was)

As we all know, the PS2’s ultimate legacy is the sheer volume of games it generated over its hearty life. A majority of my all-time favs come from Sony’s treasured black box and here are some of the best that captured my memory:

Star Wars Battlefronts I and II: 

Yes, I’m sure we’re all tired of hearing about Battlefront III rumors at this point, but what I recall here are the original Battlefronts. Being the huge Star Wars fan that I am, it became the first of many reasons to get the PS2 at the time of its release in good ‘ole 2005. Desperate to get my mitts on it, I split my the cost with my younger brother and we pooled our meager resources to start shooting Storm Troopers and flying X-wings over Bespin. The additional frenzy of post Episode III joy only added to the game’s enjoyment and more than a mere Star Wars Call of Duty, the game’s great-looking graphics and spot-on locations were a true testament to Star Wars’s size and scope and had me conquering the galaxy over and over again. At this point, I don’t care if Battlefront III really happens or not. I have my memories and Battlefront is forever already an icon of my childhood sci-fi love.

Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal

I was hooked on the Ratchet & Clank Series since playing Going Commando (only playing the 1st one later) and can say that the franchise has yet to beat its sequel of Up Your Arsenal. The series’s trademark humor was probably its funniest and its gameplay was filled with a variety of awesome weapons to blow the @!$% out of everything. It also produced the series favorite of Dr. Nefarious (voiced by Star Trek: Deep Space Nine actor Armin Shimmerman) and his butler Lawrence I still think of it as one of the very best sequels for gaming and is a download must.

Final Fantasy X:

Already a long way into its entries, Final Fantasy arguably crafted one of their last true gems. Its beautiful graphics and tight gameplay were a giant step for Final Fantasy coming into the then next-gen and its bosses battles are something to remember. Awkward laughing and forced romance aside, trekking across the world with Yuna and Tidus to sacrifice everything for Spira’s kind produced a vast and gorgeous world to explore only to end it all with one of video-gaming’s most poignant finales. Even if X-2 succeeded in belittling most of what X accomplished, Tidus’s farewell are some of the most memorable to grace Final Fantasy in the last decade. 

The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

There's no denying that among the Playstation 2's greatest platformers of its lifespan is one that pioneered action-adventure for the system. That game is the Prince of Persia reboot of the Sands of Time. Though it might not seem like much in retrospect compared to today's entries, series like Assassin's Creed and Uncharted probably owe much of its platforming mechanics to this early PS2 gem. Its still impressive graphics and a visually striking stunts have never made ancient ruins and abandoned palaces look so fun. Granted, the Prince and Farah may not have won over fans as characters, but Persia itself remained the standout character with its vast size and beautiful art design. It is little wonder, then, that it crushed Beyond Good and Evil's sales in 2003's fiscal year and has sold over 3 million copies world-wide. Ubisoft may have left the poor Prince on the shelf indefinitely, but nevertheless, The Sands of Time will certainly leave a permanent impression on its genre for years to come.

Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction

For the superhero fan in me, I was especially thrilled by some of the best superhero games on the PS2. First and foremost is the Hulk’s action-packed leap on the PS2. Though following his lackluster 1st film, Ultimate Destruction did what the Hulk does best: smash everything in sight. The only thing one can remember from this game is chucking tanks, grabbing missiles, and careening into every helicopter and building available and that was A-okay. Throw in an entire desert town and New York City to destroy and roam around in and there you have a terrific brawl to match even the Hulk’s ferocity. Nevertheless, the Hulk wasn’t without an emotional side, chronicling a thoughtful narrative of Dr. Banner’s darkest fears and Emil Blonsky’s journey to becoming the Abomination. Hulk smash puny little PS2!!!

Ultimate Spiderman:

Based primarily on the comic series of the same name, Spider-man wasn’t going to sit on the side-lines either. Ultimate Spider-man gathered together some of the finest comic book story-telling and visuals to produce a true-blue tribute to Spider-man comics, tossing in everything from comic character cross-overs to a huge and brilliantly animated cast of characters to play in. Its most important feature was its wonderfully crafted story-telling between Eddy Brock and Peter Parker’s family pasts and their respective turns to villainy and heroism. Getting to beat up Wolverine and wreck his bike as Venom in a surprise boss-battle was a thrilling bonus and experiencing New York as both Spider-man and Venom set the bar high for future comic book games.

The Shadow of the Colossus

While I liked Ico, I believe that its more limited level-based format and simpler scale paled in comparison to its spiritual successor of the Shadow of the Colossus. Upon playing the cult classic it for the first time on its collection edition, the power and gravity of the game’s world is mesmorizing to behold. Every bit of the game is an artistic marvel down to the creepy stares of its monsters and the haunting echoes of the land’s palaces. Every snapshot of the game captures another more terrifyingly huge boss after another and the tactics for taking them down make for even more memorable encounters. All the way up to Wander’s surprising fate, it’s difficult to describe Shadow of the Colossus other than saying this adventure reinvents the boundaries of the game experience. 

Psychonauts


Game designer Tim Schafer may be remembered for many more things now, but back in the good 'ole year of 2005, his very first game with Double Fine was what sparked a revolution in how we played cartoony stories with a mind-bending flavoring. With its whimsical level design and outrageous comedic sensibilities, Psychonauts was exactly what its generation needed to have a game as fun for kids as it was to any adult gamer. Its platforming and stiff camera angles might've aged poorly, but few should righteously deny its unforgettable dialogue, from the Milkman level to the terrors of the Meat Circus. Diving into other people's heads as a part of gameplay was insightful into the minds of its characters and lighting stuff on fire with your mind was never a bad thing. Another generation in and we may one day see the sequel that is fans have clamored for. . . because psychic warfare was never so much fun.

Beyond Good & Evil

Roughly half of all games stick with a standard genre formula: racing, shooting, platforming, puzzle solving, etc. Rarely does a game as ingenuitive and inspiring as Beyond Good and Evil come along to toy with more than one of these to mix and match some of the best of Nintendo's anthropomorphic characterization and solid storytelling to make an action/adventure game that can't be described as any one thing. Akin to its name, it finally portrays a strong feminine protagonist not bound by revenge or thrill-seeking, but by the need to stand up to a lie fed by a big-brother government straight out of George Orwell's novels. Throw in some quirky sci-fi coatings of spaceships and a likable cast of freedom fighters and you've got yourself a great story of intriguing relationships and a remarkable world that never deserved to go unresolved for over eight years. 

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

Starting off the PS2 with a bang, Metal Gear Solid 2 helped not only continue the franchise’s triple A success, but helped to redefine the stealth action game genre. Thinking back to the era, no games of the era come close to matching MGS 2’s character development, plot-driven story, inventive gameplay, or even impressive graphics for the time.  Its boss battles are only more memorable with battling a U.S. president and a fat man on ice skates. As with every Metal Gear, its characters provided a variety of classic moments, including emotional ones, and have become timeless icons for the console generation. Crawling through corridors and walking around in a cardboard box has never been so fun.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Alongside MGS 2 is its equally terrific sequel of MGS 3:Snake Eater. It may be one of the very few prequels to actually work, teasing us with even more questions to the Metal Gear Solid universe and again delivering stellar gameplay and an incredible presentation of nearly current-gen graphics. Boss battles like the classic kind-of-battle between Snake and the End and small things like 60s pop culture references and Snake’s, umm, “interesting” palette kept me glued to every minute. Snake Eater continues Hideo Kojima’s legacy of clever gameplay and memorable enemies like Colonel Volgin and the Fury, but in the character of the Boss, Metal Gear Solid captures some of its deepest insights into the complicated nature of war and self-sacrifice. Though debate may continue for years over the best Metal Gear Solid, Big Boss’s origin is one of the PS2’s finest. 

The Future:

With the PS2 officially behind us and the PS3 almost out the door at the same time, where do we go from here? If their new commercial is any indication, the Sony will be gracious enough to skip PS4-8 and the screwed up console launches, the glitches, the pricy DLC, and bothersome accessories that come with them and go straight to the PS9 by 2078. According to this maybe serious ad, we'll be experiencing Sony as cyborgs. If they do, I hope we finally get Star Trek’s holographic entertainment and get to simply be the game. On another note, I dearly hope we don’t have to inject nano-probes into our bodies like the ad claims. We’d probably be on hold with customer service to use the rest of our brains.

So, what're some of your favorite games from the PS2? Or what are some of your memories about the system. Comment if you like and thanks for reading!

 

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