Special: The console everyone loves to hate turns one year old.
On October 26 of the year 2000, Sony's second game console, PlayStation 2 was released with enormous hype, pomp, and circumstance. Of course with the original PlayStation being the best selling game system ever made, it's not hard to realize why the hype was so huge ? the sequel to most major happenings is always a big deal. And here, on October 26th, 2001, we take a look back at the first year of the PS2 ? one that has its share of rough days, yet is getting better and better with each passing day.
The Past & Present
The PS2 launch wasn't without some problems; the release of only 500,000 systems instead of the promised 1 million created a frenzied shortage of consoles leading to huge payoffs on auction sites such as eBay, where PS2's were going for up to $1,000. This shortage, manufactured or accidental, led to even more hype for Sony's next-generation console. Eventually things settled down, but for 2 months in 2000, there was nothing hotter than PlayStation 2.
Sony's new console was brilliantly designed in many areas. First, Sony did the smartest thing anyone could do ? they made all their major PlayStation One accessories (except the multitap) and games compatible with the PS2. This in itself was a system seller for many ? making it more logical to hold on to, and still buy, old PSOne games that they would want as a permanent part of their collections. Plus it was Sony's way of offering hundreds of great games for those who missed out on PSOne, or for those who had the misfortune of some of the classics slipping through the cracks. This feature is something all consoles from this day forward have to consider to be a success.
However for most PS2 owners, it was about the PS2 games, not the past games. And while the launch was disappointing to many, there was still many gems in the early PS2 days. The biggest game would probably be Madden 2001, followed by EA Sports BIG's SSX. Both of these games are considered the best of the PS2 launch. Along with those two, there was your standard ?good game, but not an all-time classic? batch, including Tekken Tag Tournament, DOA 2: Hardcore, Smuggler's Run, Ridge Racer V, Timesplitters, and Midnight Club Street Racing. Granted none of those these games are AAA, but they're still pretty decent games.
The next big month for PS2 owners was March 2002, which saw the release of Onimusha, Zone of the Enders, and The Bouncer as the focus titles. While Onimusha turned out to be a great game that was somewhat knocked down due to the shortness of it, as was also the case with ZOE (but the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo overshadowed it anyway), but the most hyped of them all, Bouncer, turned out to be a highly disappointing, boring, repetitive, but very pretty, mess from Squaresoft. Two out of three ain't bad, I guess. March also saw the release of one of the most underrated and overlooked PS2 games, Konami's Shadow of Destiny. Developed by the same guys as Silent Hill 2, SoD took away action in exchange of mind-games, and the original plot & game style hooked those who gave it a shot. Too bad the game is already somewhat hard to find, because many missed out on a surprising classic.
However, the PS2 didn't really begin to roll until the summer. It started picking up in May, with the release of Sega's addictive Crazy Taxi, as well as the first-person shooter Red Faction, which was quickly snatched up by PS2 owners (however not everyone believes it's actually GOOD). Then in the month of June, gamers got a 1-2 punch of NBA Street, as well as the return of Twisted Metal, in the form of Twisted Metal: Black. Finally back in the hands of those who made TM a great car combat series, TM:B went dark and sinister, but most importantly it returned the series to its roots. To many, this was PS2's first true killer app since SSX.
July was the doozy though, featuring the game many bought their PS2's for ? Extermination. Oh, wait I'm sorry, I mean Gran Turismo 3! GT3 was hyped through the roof and upon release was nearly impossible to find unless you pre-ordered it. The game lived up to potential and became the finest racing simulation on any system. Sony celebrated the release of this game with the GT3 Racing Pack bundle ? for $329; you could pick up the system with GT3 included, for 20 bucks less than it would normally be. Sony wanted GT3 to be the system seller and the game that defined the console, and it did just that. Also this month EA began their assault for 2002 with the release of NCAA Football 2002; which claimed the title of deepest college football sim ever created. And yeah, Extermination came out in July as well, to little fanfare. Perhaps that small fanfare was deserved ? the game is the very definition of average & mediocre.
These last couple months have been the PS2's brightest days, as we neared the 1-year mark. In August, Madden NFL 2002 hit shelves to get a head-up on the huge amount of football games competing. Capcom finally ported Resident Evil CODE: Veronica to PS2, but the bigger story there was the demo disc of Devil May Cry, which shot DMC hype through the roof. Also Acclaim's Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 was released, giving BMX fans their equivalent, quality-wise, of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. September saw the release of the much-anticipated sequel to Silent Hill, which impressed and terrified gamers all over, along with SCEA's innovative and original ICO. October has been a slow month of sorts, but it saw the release of some of the most hyped PS2 games; as in Grand Theft Auto III & Devil May Cry.
While the future is bright for PlayStation 2, the present is still pretty darn good. There are plenty of good games out there, and a good share of truly great ones. It may depend on your personal tastes, but there is plenty out there now ? and the PS2's library is indeed very strong.
As the PlayStation 2's strong life is starting to polish up as nicely as it can be, many more games continue to mark the spot for reason of owning the console alone. Such titles as the powerful Devil May Cry or the idealistic Red Faction that have already made way are brand names labeled as some of the titles you need or must own on the system. But for the future, we're going to see games that go beyond what has already been achieved. Don't believe me? Well, just take a gander at what you could own.
In November, some say the reason for the purchase of the PlayStation 2 console is the upcoming Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. It could very well be. Certainly, the original title with its sneak based system was the best game of 1998 on any console. The sequel will improve on characters, story, even the gameplay... Additions like being able to peek around corners, tumble towards an enemy blockade, or using enemies as shields will be implemented as just a small fraction of what Snake can now do in his latest escapade.
November is another home to the release of the system's first move to the world of online, the way to connect with another gamer in real time. It's the shipment of the PlayStation 2's Ethernet adapter! With one of these babies, you have the option of either using a narrow band connection, or if you have it in your area, broadband for the fastest way on the net yet. The adapter will be compatible with a number of soon to be released titles like the best skating series ever; Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 (October), a tactical based combat game; SOCOM: U.S. Navy Seals (November), one of the PC's best First Person Shooter ports; Tribes 2 (January), and next year's most anticipated online RPG, Square's own Final Fantasy XI.
Not only does the adapter ($39.95) only let you play games, but also, will allow you to browse the web at your disposal. Sony has signed on with some of the Internet's biggest and best companies we've come aquatinted with (Real Networks, Macromedia, and even America Online). America Online, the largest user base Internet provider, has agreed to work with Sony in part of how users can connect to the Internet with their console. If you're already an AOL user, and plan on owning Sony's adapter, not wanting to pay an additional fee for online services, no problem! The install disc from AOL that should be available soon enough will surely allow any user to connect with an already existing user name at no fee other than what was previously being paid. Though, if you're not a big fan of the America Online services, and would rather sign on with any other company (preferably a free one), that option is always up to the individual.
Later on into early 2002, Sony's internal hard drive unit is planned to release. No price has been named yet, but I'd expect the 40 GB drive (that's a heap of an amount) to fall somewhere around $100. With the tool, you'll not only be able to trade images, movies, or any other saved files from the data bank, but also, future games such as the highly acclaimed Final Fantasy X will in correspondence with the hard drive, run faster. This may not be a great leap in any direction, but still, it couldn't hurt to have, right?
For the console itself, Sony plots much more than just a controller in hand. Rumors are still being spread that Sony plans to drop their big console's price for the holiday season by about $100, while others claim only less by half ($50). In Europe, Sony has already lessened the price from its $399 to its new, more American price $299. If any indication were apparent, then I'd say that Sony will, or at least SHOULD lower their prices in the States as to run against the competition they'll be up against next month. But as far as what Sony plans to do, as always, it's anybody's guess.
For the future of the console, the path is clear that many other big release titles are on the way. Big companies like Squaresoft will have their glory day with Final Fantasy X, Namco is getting one of Square's best PlayStation releases, and publishing the prequel to it as one of the most anticipated prequels ever...Xenosaga. Sony will continue in their first party triumph with some of the most interesting games like Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, and even next year's sequel to their summer blockbuster, the online release of Gran Turismo 4. Sega's third party will help out in many areas of bringing their Dreamcast hits like NFL 2K2, Seaman, and of course, one of the greatest fighting series invented gets a sequel exclusive to the PlayStation 2...Virtua Fighter 4.
The future is indeed bright for Sony, and the PlayStation 2. However, there are many games you may have missed, and one that just may be highly overrated. What are these? Read on, and find out.
In it's first year, the PS2 has seen a slew of titles being released (over 150 to be exact). And like any system, naturally some great games slipped through the cracks (anybody here with an N64 actually buy Excitebike 64 or Conker's Bad Fur Day? The anemic sales say no you didn't). So you have to stay on top of these things, so here are the top five underrated games of the PlayStation 2's first year.
MDK 2: Armageddon - For about a week, MDK 2 was the PS2's first AAA title, a system seller. Then it got buried under Red Faction hype and everybody forgot about it (more on that later). What you missed out on was a game that looked absolutely amazing. What you missed was a game that took the shoot everything that moves mentality of Contra and flawlessly transported it into a 3D world. You missed a game that was truly unique and featured one of my all time favorite video game characters. Max the mutant dog has 4 arms (and two legs), is always packing heat, and he likes his stogies. MDK 2 is languishing in the bargain bins right about now, so why don't you go rescue it and play a truly great game.
Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil - Klonoa 2 was ignored for a whole bunch of reasons. It looks like a kid's game. It's a 2D side scroller. It looks like a KID'S GAME. Well it is a kid's game. And it is a 2D side scroller. But guess what, that's what makes it great. Klonoa 2 is probably, I hope not, but sadly, it probably is the last great old school platformer. Klonoa 2 takes all the run, jump, and climbing fun of a platformer, but then adds in interactive 3D backgrounds, giant worlds for you to explore and the fact that it's just plain FUN! No old school gamer should be without Klonoa 2.
Gallop Racer 2001 - To be fair, it's probably not your fault if you've never heard of this one. I mean a horsing racing simulation, who would want to play that? Well you should. Like any good simulation, you can control every little minute detail of of your stable of horses. Everything, you breed them (hehehe), you train them, and you play the waiting game as you wait for a good race to enter your horse in. It's more addicting than crack. Actually it's more addicting than glue, and you don't want to mention glue around a horse do you? So be good to your horses and try to find a copy of Gallop Racer 2001, but it's a limited run, so good luck.
Shadow of Destiny - As mentioned up above, many PS2 owners missed out on this classic game from Konami. Featuring no real action besides lots of tough puzzles, SoD survived and thrived on the story alone ? with the help of an evil Homunculus, the main character Eike went time traveling to rearrange events leading to his death, in order to preserve his life in the future. Made by the same sickos behind Silent Hill, SoD features a total of six endings and a deep story. Though the gameplay is a little lacking (as in really no fighting at all) it's still a fun and challenging game. Too bad it's become rather had to find as we hit the fall.
Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 - The first Mirra game wasn't too bad, but nothing compared to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, or even Mat Hoffman Pro BMX, released this past may. However, this PS2 sequel improves on the concept by leaps and bounds, finally giving the BMX equivalent to THPS. Tons of objectives, gigantic parks, many selectable characters and a few cool secrets, along with a cool SIK trick system add up to a deep, replayable game that will rival THPS3.
This brings us to the overrated section. Now almost all games are overrated. There can only be so many "greatest games ever." But there is one game that is more overrated than any other PS2 game in its first year. And that game is Red Faction. Maybe I'm just bitter that Red Faction stole a lot of MDK 2's thunder. Wait, no I'm not, it's because Red Faction takes a cheesy gimmick like "let's blow up all dem walls" and made a game out of it. Besides the fact that you could smash holes in walls, Red Faction is a totally generic first person shooter that didn't take any chances. Nothing new happened in Red Faction, it just recycled bits from every other successful FPS of years past. Add in the fact that their prized "feature" didn't even work on most walls, and you're left frustrated for a long time. One good gimmick (poorly executed at that) do not a good game make. And I'm not even gonna mention how everything looked exactly the same as everything else (whoops).
Must Buy DVDs
As we all know, the PS2 is more than just a video game machine. It is also a kick ass (okay, middle of the road) DVD player. We here at Gaming Target have gone over pretty much every aspect of the PS2's DVD capibilities. So what's left? Why, the best DVDs released during the PS2's lifetime of course. This is what should be in your PS2 when you aren't playing games.
Dogma: Special Edition - Kevin Smith's magnum opus came to DVD this year in the special edition it deserved the first time through. this two disc monster set is like a dream come true to Kevin Smith fanboys like myself. There is of course all the behind the scenes stuff, actor biographies, and trailers. But then there are two great commentaries with Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Ben Affleck, and others. Then there's the over 100 minutes of deleted scenes. And who among us can't help laughing at the old lady that warns you you're going to hell if you watch Dogma. Every self respecting Kevin Smith fan (and movie fan in general) should own Kevin Smith's story of life, death, religion, and fart jokes.
The Simpsons: Complete First Season - Spread out over three discs are all 13 episodes of the first season to the greatest television series ever. Sure the first season wasn't the high point of The Simpsons, but that only means two things. One, that these sets will only get better. And two, that watching these classic episodes after all these years makes me realize how great they really were. Really, who doesn't love Bart's war on Nelson? And plus, season one features one of the few video game centered episodes, we are a video game site after all. Then there's commentaries on every episode, scripts, and the "lost episode" of The Simpsons that has to be seen to be believed.
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace - Okay, okay, it's not the original trilogy, but it's Star Wars, on DVD! What more could you want (alright stupid question)? Even though it's not part of the "real" trilogy, Episode I has a truly great DVD. Episode I has deleted scenes that have been finished just for this DVD. Episode I has seven behind the scenes documentaries on a second disc. Although I think my personal favorite extra is the "Duel of The Fates" music video. That is just too cool. And if you haven't heard, if you have this disc and a DVD-ROM drive in your computer, On November 9 you can download the first Episode II trailer. That's more than enough reason to purchase this great, great disc.
Terminator: Special Edition - Kindler, gentler Terminator it ain't ? this is the dark side of the series, and arguably the best. With a whole new transfer, and loads of cool features including a huge 1 hour documentary featuring some of the major players of the movie, lots of storyboards, DVD-ROM goodies and of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger, this special edition is a must own for Terminator & Sci-Fi fans both.
Really, it's not enough to say that the PlayStation 2 is just great. You need to experience the console's exuberant list of illustrious games, enjoy the power of home movie viewing, and know that of what's to come is what you may really want. Likely, with myriads of must have exclusive titles, home entertainment with an integrated DVD player, soon to come online abilities, and the ever growing expansion in titles, it's no wonder why the PlayStation 2 is one console that makes - not just gamers, but people - happy.