Which games are worth tracking down the original retro copies and which are best to simply download? aka The downside of a weekly content schedule with a full-time job; Tiredness and making content that’s definitely not a delay tactic to catch up on reviews.
The PlayStation 2 has been voted the greatest console of all time, multiple times and with the Golden Joysticks not that far away now (with a greatest Hardware of all time award) it’s a great time to look back at one of gaming’s greatest hits. A lot of people playing games these days don’t realise quite how big the impact of the PlayStation 2 was back in the day. It was the easiest way to not only get the latest video game hardware on your TV but also a cracking DVD player. When the DVD format was to the point where all new releases hit DVD first and VHS second you’d be looking at the PS2 not only as a method to play the latest games but also the latest films and TV. I’ve already written about my love for the Saturn, Dreamcast and GameCube but now it’s the PlayStation 2’s turn.
For me the PlayStation 2 is synonymous with my university days. There was a PS2 gaming stand at the bar on my first night out at freshers week, it was running GTA3 and I was stood there drinking cheap vodka and having a blast for far too long. The first time I could afford a console that wasn’t second-hand was the PS2 and it came bundled with GTA3 and Reservoir Dogs (the film not the game) It may have been the first game I’d bought on the console and I’d played the original GTA to death on PC but I bought the PlayStation 2 specifically to play one game; Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium 2001. I had sunk months into Street Fighter Alpha 1 & 2 on the Saturn and the jump to CVS2 and PlayStation 2 hardware was mind blowing. Looking back I can’t think of any other console where a single fighting game has made such an impressive impact.
Going through my collection of PlayStation 2 titles (that didn’t get sold to pay rent through the years) I’m surprised by just how many titles have been picked up and ported elsewhere or lovingly remastered to different consoles. There are a lot of titles that got multiple versions back in the day and run better on either the Xbox or GameCube but the ones I want to focus on here are the PlayStation 2 games that never got a port and are best played on the system. I’ve re-bought Metal Gear Solid 3 and Guilty Gear XX so many times it’s getting ridiculous and I even own a Japanese and Pal version of Disgaea 1 but as with others, these have all been ported to the moon and back. I’d mention Spider-Man 2 but having played that on the original Xbox I’d say that version is arguably a bit better. Emulation of the PlayStation 2 on PC is now so good it makes playing titles a doddle and nearly makes up for the lack of emulation on later PlayStation hardware (although some games are accessible through PS Now) With all that preamble down let’s take a moment to dust off the cases, look for the memory cards, pick up a HDMI cable and have a blast.
Locate – Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium 2001
The game that sold me on the PlayStation 2 all those years ago. I’d argue Capcom Vs SNK 1 just doesn’t hold a candle to the plethora of content and refined quality in the sequel and for £12 it’s an absolute steal. Thankfully this game was mass produced to the point where finding a good condition copy isn’t too hard now. It still holds up and the extra bosses are still just as punishing now as they were then. With its ratio system and ridiculously big cast of characters you’ll be smashing through the arcade mode multiple times. There has yet to be a port of this fantastic fighter to anything and you can spend hours colouring and messing with the sprites at your leisure. It’s one fighter that won’t have you going for broke.
Emulate – Fullmetal Alchemist: Dream Carnival
There were a lot of Japanese anime games that got released outside of Japan but back in the PlayStation 2 era the audio would be dubbed and that’s it. The option for dual audio didn’t really start to be a standard until the PS4/Xbox1 era and unless there’s a fan-translation or undub you’re stuck. If you’re after a copy of this you can be looking at around £30.00 for the English version but if you want the original Japanese voice cast you’re best off emulating it. Dream Carnival is a fantastic Smash Bros style brawler where each characters abilities give them a unique feeling and charm. The stages are 3D with different layers and with supers that are designed to work in a 4vs capacity. If you’re a FMA fan (especially of the original TV anime) then you’ll want to give it a go and see if you can transmute a victory out of the chaos.
Locate – Marvel vs. Capcom 2
#FreeMarvelVsCapcom2 maybe getting somewhere to the point where we see the HD 360/PS3 releases ported to something new in the future but for now you can pick up a copy of this classic for around £35.00 and it still holds up wonderfully well. The sprites and blurring are a little rough but the stages and art style are still superb. Of course you can play the arcade original on Fightcade but the PlayStation 2 port is a fantastic game for the solo fighter. You’ll be earning coins through play and then unlocking characters, stages and colours using the in-game shop. It encourages you to try every character rather than sticking to your favourites. You’ll want to take this for a ride.
Emulate – Naruto: Narutimate Hero 1 + 2 + 3 & Naruto Shippūden: Narutimate Accel 1 + 2
As with Fullmetal Alchemist, the Narutimate Hero & Accel games were translated and released in NA/EU as the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja series. I’m not one to start foaming at the mouth about dub vs sub in anime but the difference in Naruto is stark and at £15-£60 a game these are best emulating. These games are absolutely cracking 2.5D fighters that have buckets of the charm and unique elements within each title. The story modes are packed with exploring, action and superb cutscenes. The series in general feels like a lot of where Naruto Storm’s inspiration comes from (especially the incredibly unique over the top special attacks) Some games feel a lot like the manga and the performances from the anime voice cast is superb. Hero 3 and Accel 2 are absolute classics and a small walkthrough will be enough to figure the options without Japanese knowledge dattebyo!
Locate – Any FPS Shooter you remember
When you think of first person shooters on the PlayStation 2 you’ll typically remember the Medal of Honours, Call of Dutys and the historic war shooters of the time. Given you pick those titles up for 99p (or less) I’d recommend you skip those and go to Black which pushed the PlayStation 2 to it’s limits. For £2.50 you can easily find a copy (typically next to TimeSplitters 2 for £8) and it’s still amazing even with the huge advances in the genre. Most FPS games have had ports to newer systems or had their Xbox versions given backwards compatibility so it’s worth a go for a few rounds of nostalgia. If only to see where Criterion and some big names cut their teeth in the genre.
Emulate – Gregory Horror Show
Every time there’s a list of games that are hidden gems on PlayStation 2 Gregory Horror Show will show up (I’ve even mentioned it before in Games that should have had a Sequels) It’s not a surprise to anyone that’s played it, the quirky aesthetic and unique horror gameplay really was lightyears ahead of its time. The experimental AA games of yonder have now been largely replaced by the indie scene but unlike indie titles those AA games are becoming more and more rare due to the low production numbers. Unless you’re a diehard fan, £80.00 is a bit much for a game that you’ll really want to know about going in. Capcom have been knocking it out of the park lately so maybe they’ll squeak in a remaster or port in future and let this soul out of the bottle.
Locate – Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria
I’ve always enjoyed the Valkyrie games and it’s a huge shame the series has ran out of steam. The PlayStation 2 title feels like it was at the height of the series. Along with FFX this was the cream of the JRPG crop back then and has a cracking dubbed voice cast. I originally got so into the story that when my chipped PlayStation 2 started to have issues reading what I thought was just a PAL copy I tracked down an American setup just to see the end. It’s still a stunning JRPG and like Vagrant Story it feels like it’s doomed to be lost to time. For £8.00 you’ll be hard pushed to find such an enjoyable dubbed experience and you’ll be wondering why you don’t materialize your einherjar more often.
Emulate – Silent Hill 2: Director’s Cut & Silent Hill 3 & Silent Hill 4: The Room
Technically we all know Silent Hill 2 and 3 had a “HD” remaster but any fan will tell you to just avoid it like the plague. It’s a re-recorded broken mess, riddled with bugs and barely functions even to this day. You can easily pick up the PC versions from GOG but there is the infamous elevator bug that can lock up Silent Hill 2 and it does requires a bit of tinkering to get working. Personally I’m hoping the Xbox version of Silent Hill 2 becomes backwards compatible as it’s a great version. Despite being a fan of the series I don’t personally feel any of the games are worth the £30 they now command or £90 for the Collection set (that’s literally a big box with no special features) They are definitely still worth playing, just don’t skip playing 3 for the 2 by 4.
Either or Both – Gitaroo Man
One of the greatest games of all time. At £30.00 it’s easily worth that for the soundtrack alone but if you can only emulate the game it’s worth playing for the unique music rhythm action. An anime style story of finding your own worth, a unique visual style and personality that pours out from every moment are just some of the reasons why Gitaroo Man still retains its cult classic status. The only other version that you can play is on the PSP with a few extra VS tracks but the PlayStation 2 Gitaroo Man is a still an absolute must-have. You’ll want to play this from start to finish and if you can have a go at the fantastic multiplayer then you’ll coiling shredded beats in no time.
Locate – EyeToy: Play (and the 12 other Titles) & EyeToy Camera
To finish up, here’s something a lot of people have forgotten. The Kinect may have been a flop but the EyeToy before it was a huge success. There were an incredible range of titles for the PlayStation 2’s webcam and the support from 3rd party publishers was an early indicator of what would become the casual party games for the Wii. The EyeToy is incredibly easy to get these days and the bundled Play game goes for around £4.00. If you can get a setup that works still (it’s a bugger for needing a wall behind you) it’s a nostalgic workout. The PlayStation 2 had a huge number of party games regardless of the Guitar Hero games. There were 57 SingStar titles and 13 Buzz (that quiz one) games.
Make the space, shift the sofa and start waving your hands around like it’s the year 2003.
What do you think? Did I miss your favourite? Are you as surprised as I am to find some titles command ridiculous prices to this day? Let me know and be sure to like and share but before you go here’s a few more classics that are worth checking out if you have time!
.hack Part 1 – 4
Burnout 3: Takedown
Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter
Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII
EOE: Eve of Extinction
Fatal Frame 1 + 2
G1 Jockey 1-4
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec + 4
Jade Cocoon 2
La Pucelle: Tactics
The Matrix: Path of Neo /tv games
Max Payne 1 + 2: The Fall of Max Payne
Monster Hunter 1+2+G
Musashi: Samurai Legend
Need for Speed: Underground 2
Pop’n Music 8-14 + Hits Vol 1 + 2
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time + Warriors Within + Two Thrones
Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy
The Red Star
Resident Evil Outbreak 1 + 2
Shadow The Hedgehog
Shadow Hearts + Covenant