PS2 Anniversary: A Hater’s Perspective

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I didn’t put it on my anniversary list but the PlayStation 2 is 15 years old in North America today, and I think this is a good chance for me to repost what I consider one of my better blogs from back at 1up.com — the one I made for the console’s 10th anniversary in 2010. I think it’s still worth looking at it today because I came at the anniversary from sort of a unique perspective — that of someone who disliked the console at first, begrudgingly accepted its importance later on, and only started to like it after it was on the downturn.

You may also note that I kind of ignored the 30th anniversary of the NES, and that’s because I don’t really know what I could say about it that hasn’t been said. The original Nintendo Entertainment System was pretty much the background radiation or the foundation of console gaming for an entire generation of humans. Its significance is kind of ever-present in terms of market penetration if you live in Japan or North America. I also kind of expected the game industry at large and Nintendo itself to make a bigger deal of the NES’s anniversary than it did.

Anyway, the PS2. Anything I would say about it looking back today I basically already said in 2010 on 1up, so here it is, re-edited for the present day and present time.

The following was originally posted on 1up.com in October 2010.

When the PS2 launched in North America I actually disdained the thing, and didn’t own one for the majority of its prime years. Yet, I still can’t help but recognize it as the owner of possibly the best game library ever and possibly the most dominant console since the NES.

I went over this a little bit during my three Dreamcast tribute blogs. Back in 2000 I was already the content owner of a Dreamcast and a standalone DVD player. Everyone at school tried to get me on the PS2 bandwagon. One argument was the DVDs – which I already had access to. The other argument was the games which at the PS2’s launch actually weren’t all that good.

The PS2 is a perfect example of my “one year in” rule when it came to new game platforms. Dynasty Warriors 2 and the original SSX looked pretty cool at kiosks, but otherwise all you got on the PS2 in 2000 was Fantavision, The Bouncer, some enhanced Dreamcast ports, and that year’s sports games. This did not stand up to the Dreamcast’s 2000 holiday lineup of Marvel vs Capcom 2, Street Fighter III 3rd Strike, Grandia II, Skies of Arcadia, and Shenmue.

The PS2 didn’t even begin to look appealing to me until the Dreamcast’s end in the middle of 2001. By “one year in,” I mean that a new platform’s software library usually doesn’t hit its stride until its second holiday season. The PS2 launched in the midst of the Dreamcast’s stride, and now it was getting its own stride upon the DC’s demise.

The time came to choose between introducing myself to the Sony boat or returning to what I knew – Nintendo and the Gamecube.  The PS2 was getting its first big hits in 2001: Gran Turismo 3, Grand Theft Auto III, Silent Hill 2, Ico, Final Fantasy X, and Metal Gear Solid 2. I seriously considered getting one right then and there, but three things eventually pulled me back over to Nintendo.

The first two were Super Smash Bros. Melee and Soul Calibur 2 being announced first on the Gamecube. The final straw was a Star Wars Rogue Squadron II kiosk at Toys R’ Us. Flying down the Death Star trench with Obi-Wan’s voice in the background was one of those ultimate “I have to have this game and whatever machine it runs on,” moments. And so began another four years of Nintendo exclusivity.

I have never owned an original PlayStation. I only owned an N64 from 1996 until getting a Dreamcast in 1999. No one in my neighborhood owned a PlayStation either – we were all Nintendo fanboys. The Gamecube did regain a lot of the Japanese third party support the N64 had lost, but it wasn’t too big a difference. Those years were still spent draining every last drop of enjoyment out of a handful of games in the months between each new release while staring at the PS2’s ever-growing library.

My cousins a few states away owned a PS2, so every time I visited them I’d rent and rush through games like Zone of the Enders, Final Fantasy X, and Metal Gear Solid 2. Eventually I acknowledged that the PS2 had the better library of games while still concluding that Nintendo was the way to go for me personally. Back then you could have called me a “self-aware Nintendo fanboy.”

What finally made me cave and buy a PS2 was Soul Calibur III’s exclusivity to the platform. Around the time the Xbox 360 launched in 2005 I was just starting my life with the PS2 – I grabbed one that fall along with SCIII and Shadow of the Colossus. Like I said in my anniversary post for Colossus, the PS2 was the second half of this “Pax PlayStation” era where most console developers felt their games were safe just being released on PS2, which is why it got such risky titles like ColossusGuitaroo ManOdin Sphere, or God Hand which you don’t really see at retail today.

In the end, holding off for five years to get a PS2 was probably the right decision because it made enjoying the platform for me several orders of magnitude cheaper than it was for everyone else. My 2006 was a buying spree of the PS2 games I’d always been looking in at from the outside: Devil May Cry 3, Final Fantasy, and the whole Metal Gear Solid series. That included PS1 games I hadn’t gotten the chance to play. I had 10 years of PlayStation to catch up with.

And the PS2’s resilience between 2006 and maybe 2008 cemented how strong it was. Some Japanese developers just refused to leave the thing behind, and in those later years it still got games like Persona and Yakuza. Alongside the catch-up I ended up playing PS2 games more than PS3 games in the early years of the PS3’s life, proving back then the importance of backwards compatibility. It’s why I still want Sony to attempt to bring PS2 classics to the PS4 — it has one of the most important software libraries ever.

For at least five years the PS2 was the standard. That thing was DVD console gaming.

Remaining PS2 Backlog Games:

Maximo
Shin Megami Tensei Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs The King of Abaddon
Siren
The final boss of Shinobi
God Hand

PS2 Games I’m Still Tracking Down:

Sky Gunner
Grandia III
Fatal Frame
Echo Night Beyond

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