This November marks the tenth anniversary of when the console wars for last generation truly began in North America. This month 10 years ago, both Xbox and GameCube hit the market to take on the PlayStation 2 which had just defeated the Dreamcast, sending SEGA out the console door. We’ve compiled some of TSG’s staffs favorite games for the last generation of platforms, giving them a quick moment to talk about their favorite titles of last generation.
This first week we’ll be tackling PS2 exclusives, or at least titles that originally launched as PlayStation 2 exclusives.
Kingdom Hearts 2
The game that has to be my favorite PS2 title has to be Kingdom Hearts II– the strange, strange mix of Disney and Final Fantasy that spawned a gaming renaissance of sorts in me. With the subject matter getting it past skeptical parents and into the systems of their children and the addictive, fast smooth gameplay and impressive number of enemies, this is one of the last great games of the PS2, showing everyone what it was capable of. There’s not much cooler than fighting Sephiroth with nothing more than an oversized housekey… Well, maybe ninja Mickey Mouse. Underwater singing aside, Kingdom Hearts II might just be one of my favorite games of all time.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
I was late getting into the Metal Gear series but once I was introduced I fell in love with the franchise. A great combination of stealth gameplay, interesting story and unique boss fights got me hooked. My biggest complaint with the series is the sometimes over the top story, but Metal Gear Solid 3 gets it right and delivers a followable narrative that keeps you pushing through the game. Snake Eater features my favorite cast of baddies and environment, set in the Cold War in the jungles of Tselinoyarsk. If you haven’t gotten to experience the game yet, you can pick up the HD collection on either the Ps3 or 360 on November 8 in the U.S or February 3 2012 in Europe.
Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter
Throughout the history of video gaming I don’t think there has ever been a sequel more daring than Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter. Instead of merely being content with being another entry in an above average series of RPGs, it set to define an entire sub-genre of RPGs that has spawned numerous amazing games all thanks to Dragon Quarter’s example (Valkyria Chronicles is the most noticeable example). Dragon Quarter mixes a strategic battle system (the PETS system) that continues to amaze even today with a stunning atmosphere that puts you in Ryu’s shoes, a lowly grunt for a mining corporation whose only dream is to find the surface of the Earth. What’s even better is that the game actually gets better the more you play it thanks to the ingenious SOL system which opens up more rooms in the game and grants extra cutscenes depending on how well you did in your last play through of the game. If you are a Breath of Fire fan and have longed for a new installment of your favourite series then you might be perturbed by all of the changes made from the four previously established entries. However, if you are looking for a video game that’s brevity should be an example to game designers everywhere then Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter is the video game for you.
The Playstation 2’s long lifespan spawned an enourmous number of games. Around the launch of the system, Dark Cloud was birthed. Dark Cloud isn’t your normal dungeon crawler hack and slash. The game featured the GeoramaSystem, which allows players to rebuild towns and cities anyway they wanted to. It’s a unique feature which later spawned into the White Knight Chronicles series. The repitition of the game play had a charm, which kept players crawling back.
Legaia 2: Duel Saga
Legaia 2, being a thematic sequel to my favorite PS1 game, Legend of Legaia, shared most of the original’s combat aspects. The only problem I truly had with Legaia 2 when comparing it to the original Legaia was that they didn’t scale the difficulty of the monster encounters properly and as such the early-mid game would lead you to failure and later in the title you would never even consider that a possibility due to its ease. Legaia 2 being based off the same combat system as the original Legaia will make you feel like your playing an old PS1 RPG compared to a (at its time) modern PS2 RPG but for me this is exactly the experience I expected and desired. The story, while not as great as the original was still really enjoyable in my opinion and I really liked playing the game and even now I sometimes go back and re-play it along with the original for that classic RPG feel.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (Spoilers)
Tactical Espionage Action extraordinaire, this game is one of my favourite games on the PS2 and one of my favourite in the Metal Gear franchise. Sons of Liberty was the second game in the Metal Gear Solid (MGS) series. This game is the game that started the whole thing about the Patriots and all that conspiracy talk with the government, and how that the president isn’t that actual ruler etc. etc. and I LOVED it! The action and game play is what you know and loved from Metal Gear Solid on the Playstation, sneaking, avoiding guards to your next point and objective throughout the game and if needed, intense action moments. The music sets the mood perfectly with a fantastic score and has one of the best iterations of the MGS theme song composed by Harry Gregson-Williams. Instead of playing as the iconic Solid Snake that everyone knows and loves, we are set in the exoskeleton suit of a young rookie agent with the code name of Raiden! Yeah sure he complains a lot of the time but you can’t really blame him for the whole shear madness that is going on later in the game, he does take quite a lot in. Though all the complaining and whining is made up for by getting an awesome samurai sword at the end of the game where you can just cut your foes in half! This game also had a lot of amazing and over the top boss battles the series is known for and don’t forget all of those plot twists as well! And it also has a couple of heart wrenching moments and an awesome ending to boot. This is a great game with a great story, great music and awesome game play, if you haven’t given it a try yet, be sure to!
Steambot Chronicles came late in the system cycle as odd Japanese games are wont to do and I feel like it brought a feeling of adventure I hadn’t seen since Mega Man Legends 2 back when the PS2 was released. Steambot Chronicles trades in both classic RPG and Anime tropes. Your character has amnesia and is awoken by an attractive anime lady who then shows you how the game works. Most of said game is spent in your Trot-Mobile a giant steam-punk style robot that you can customize to your hearts desire. Unlike most Japanese action RPGs Steambot Chronicles is open. As soon as you finish the tutorial area it sets you loose with a Harmonica and a Trot-Mobile. There is a main story and a basic sequence of events you can follow to complete it, but there are all kinds of choices throughout that allow you to shape the story and choose your own adventure throughout. You can become part of the generic evil team or save the world or even just run around and do sidequests for yourself. I spent a majority of my game earning money by playing the musical mini-games they have built into the game. Steambot Chronicles most importantly shares the classic anime style that I felt the Mega Man Legends games traded in. Maybe not quite as much but that innocence combined with the fun combat system, customization and open world make this game a fun and unique PS2 gem.
(GrimsChild PSA: It is impossible to finish Steambot Chronicles playing entirely on a backwards compatible PlayStation 3 due to a bug in the game. So playing to completion on PS3 requires access to a PlayStation 2 and the ability to transfer data to and from a PS2 memory card to get pass the buggy scene.)
Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII
Who could it be other than I who loves this PS2 train wreck of a classic. Dirge of Cerberus is Square Enix’s first attempt at a third person shooter, which oddly enough used the Final Fantasy VII name. In most cases people believe the name was soiled because of it. For me, it isn’t only my favorite PS2 game, but I also enjoyed it more than the original Final Fantasy VII… Not that you can really compare them. Although there’s more to my love of the title, the main aspect that makes it stand out to me is something shooters struggle with even today – finding a successful balance between both melee combat and gunplay. Charging in to punch enemies is actually a legitimate strategy, causing knock back and occasionally launching enemies into the air. If you’re skilled, you could use that split-second time frame to shoot them out of the air. It’s an overlooked aspect of what is, generally considered, a below average shooter. But that element alone is enough to make it one of my favorite PlayStation 2 titles of all time.
Ratchet and Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal
Ratchet and Clank is a fantastic series of games, with humour all the way through and solid gameplay. Ratchet and Clank 3 is the gem of the last era, showing the climax of three games of work from Insomniac. The gameplay changes up now and again to keep things fresh, and the weapons were random and powerful as ever, with the token one or two useless but cool to make it a challenge. The story is a nice way to show how far Ratchet has come from the first game where he was a mere mechanic to this game where he is considered one of the galaxy’s strongest fighters. James Arnold Taylor sounded a lot more comfortable after his first outing, and seemed to mesh much better with Clank’s voice actor. I can’t find many, if any , faults with this game, and would heartily recommend the entire first trilogy for a weekend of play. Gaming at its finest.
Final Fantasy X
As a huge fan of the Final Fantasy series, I was very excited for Final Fantasy X. As the series introduction to the Playstation 2 brought the promise of stunning visuals, Square-Enix’s signature CGI cutscenes, and as a first for the series it featured hours of real voice acting. All of the hype could not have prepared me for a story that touched me so close. Losing my father when I was young left me with so many unanswered questions and much anger. I found myself identifying with Tidus more than any character I had ever been introduced to. I shared in Tidus’ experience as he learned more about gist fathers connection to sin, and the real reason he had disappeared. Story aside, the game was stunning, a fitting PS2 debut for the series. The music, the writing, the CGI, the environments, even the sometimes cheesy voice acting. I would even dare to say that I enjoyed the freshness of the Sphere Grid, the challenges faced in the cloisters, and uncovering every last secret of the game. I can’t wait for the HD release on PS3.
Next week we will be looking at titles on the Nintendo GameCube!