Adieu, PlayStation 2 – Ashe Collins

With no new titles in development on scheduled for publication in 2011, we can now officially declare Sony’s Playstation 2 dead. It becomes one of the longest lasting systems of all time, outlasted only by things like the Neo*Geo and its original arch-rival, the Sega Dreamcast (which still has games on tap for 2k11). To celebrate the life of the Playstation 2, a different Diehard GameFAN staff member will be presenting their list of their ten favorite games for the PS2.

1. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
2. Final Fantasy XII
3. Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly
4. Transformers
5. Jak 3
6. Devil May Cry
7. Silent Hill 2
8. Dead or Alive 2 Hardcore
9. Guitar Hero II
10. Killzone

With over 50 PS2 games sitting on my shelves over the years, I had a bit of variety to whittle my choices down to ten. I only bought titles I really liked and traded away the ones I didn’t. Decisions, decisions.

To help my list with a bit of variety, I’ve picked titles in a series I felt were the best in that series. I love all the games in the Jak and Daxter series – well for the most part, at least the PS2 exclusive ones anyway. So why did I pick these over all my other titles? Check it out.

10. Killzone
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Guerilla
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Release Date: 11/02/2004

When I first really got into PC gaming, it was in first-person shooters. Doom. Doom II. Duke Nukem 3D. Quake. Quake II. You know the names, you know the games. It was pretty much all I played for a long while before I got back to RPGs and action games again and realized that keeping my PC up to snuff for shooters was bankrupting me. I made the swap over to consoles and my PC became less of a gaming machine. Sure, I played some third-person shooters, but I just couldn’t get into a first-person shooter on the consoles. None of them ever appealed. Then Killzone popped up on my radar for the PS2. It looked different. Now while it was very familiar, it felt and played well in my hands on the console and I found myself actually enjoying playing a first-person shooter on a console again. The story was, of course, familiar, as the lone person or squad against impossible odds has become the staple of the genre.

While I never did get into the online bit as I never picked up the adapter to get my ancient PS2 online, I played and loved the hell out of the story mode and even trash talking my son as he played, and we’d take turns wasting Helghast. What amazes me about the multiplayer is there is still people playing this one online. Granted it’s only a small handful of people, but they’re there. It was a strong and gorgeous title that really showed that the PS2 was a very capable machine even compared to the newer consoles.

9. Guitar Hero II
Publisher: RedOctane/Activision
Developer: Harmonix
Genre: Rhythm
Release Date: 11/07/2006

Oh how I love and loathe thee, Guitar Hero. I never did pick up the first game, but I did get this one and Guitar Hero 3 on my PS2. Guitar Hero II was my first. Well, not my first rhythm or music game – that honor falls on Dance Dance Revolution – but it was the first that I had to have after playing it at a party. My son and I spent many nights banging away on our plastic guitars trying to outdo each other and top the high score charts on the memory card we shared. This was the game that unleashed that shy twelve-year old kid that gave up on learning guitar after a few months of lessons and being frustrated that I couldn’t seem to get the notes or chords right when I could play a tuba and a piano just fine. Here I wasn’t just trying a few notes, it made me feel like I was playing all these great songs that I’d grown up listening to on the radio.

While I haven’t kept up with the mass glut of Guitar Hero and Rock Band titles, I do still pull this one and the third one to have a jam session and drive my wife and my animals nuts, but hey, it’s not rock if it’s not loud!

8. Dead or Alive 2 Hardcore
Publisher: Tecmo
Developer: Team Ninja
Genre: Fighting
Release Date: 10/25/2000

This was one of the first titles I picked up for my PS2 along with Metal Gear Solid 2. I’ve logged more hours fighting with this game than any other fighter I’ve owned, including the Mortal Kombat titles and all my other arcade hours beating my friends to a pulp. While I didn’t understand most of what was going on it was, at that time, a visually stunning fighter and held my attention with the gorgeous women and the unlockable outfits and, well, she kicks high. I was mortified when I realized that this would be the ONLY Dead or Alive title to grace the PS2 as it moved over to the XBox, the PS2 version being an amped up version of a Dreamcast title. While there have been more fighting titles released on the PS2 and in very different styles, this is the one I’ve kept since I first bought my PS2 over nine years ago. Ahh… Kasumi.

7. Silent Hill 2
Publisher: Konami
Developer: KCET
Genre: Survival Horror
Release Date: 09/24/2001

I loved the first foray into that gloomy town, but the second one has stuck with me far more over the years as I could at the time, connect better with the lead, which made the game even more horrifying and even more fun to play than the first. A survival horror game where you don’t even get a weapon before your first fight. The introduction of the series’s most recognizable bad guy, Pyramid Head. Silent Hill 2 was a welcome addition to my PS2 roster. My wife and I spent countless hours wandering the town, taking turns with the lights off trying to pretend not to be scared until something would leap out after us and the person playing would drop the controller. There were some very nice improvements, especially graphically over its predecessor, which wasn’t hard as the first game came out on the first PlayStation. Controls were better, and the emotional investment was there for me this go round. I do have the other Silent Hill titles that came out on the PS2 and even Homecoming and Silent Memories, but Silent Hill 2 still just has the right tone for me.

6. Devil May Cry
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Genre: Action
Release Date:10/16/2001

While I didn’t get into the other titles in this series, or get as invested in Onimusha, which played similarly, or the button mashing fest of God of War, Dante’s first foray into the gaming world was fun for me. Sure there were other titles out there like it and there have been others that people could argue did it better, but Devil May Cry won me over with an interesting lead, an environment that spoke to the Castlevania and Ravenloft fan in me, and let’s face it, his fighting moves were slick as hell.

5. Jak 3
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Naughty Dog
Genre: Action Platformer
Release Date: 11/09/2004

Forget Ratchet and Clank. Jak and Daxter were my boys on the PS2. I’ve always been a big fan of Naughty Dog’s work, from Crash Bandicoot, through Jak, and now Nathan Drake in Uncharted. They’ve always had a great deal of quality in their titles, and there’s always been the right injection of humor and serious storytelling to make the games fun during the cutscenes and even more fun while you’re running around shooting, jumping or swinging your little Ottsel partner into someone’s face. The first title in the series was very much a traditional platformer with a few extra mechanics thrown in a la Crash Bandicoot. With Jak II they added an open environment with a city you could run around in like Grand Theft Auto and, of course, guns. Jak 3 for me, though, was this epic conclusion to the story I’d started when Jak and Daxter were first starting out. There were some amazing boss fights, great driving mechanics out in the desert, amazing visuals given system limitations and art style, and their usual flair for the comedic and the dramatic.

While I do recommend playing through all three main titles (while I liked Jak X Combat Racing, it felt tacked on), Jak 3 really felt like Naughty Dog pulled all the stops to combine everything they’d learned about programming on the PS2 and really put it to good use.

4. Transformers
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Melbourne House
Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Release Date: 05/11/2004

This was the title that really showed that if you did things right you could make a damn good Transformers title, or rather half of one. It was the half I wanted either way so I was thrilled. You see, Transformers fans love both factions, and while I’m the Autobot guy, I know plenty of Decepticon guys, and well, this title was made for the Autobot guys and girls, because you couldn’t play as the Decepticons at all, which really confounded many fans. Add to it that the game was based off Armada, which at the time the game came out had ended, Energon was in full swing, and plans for Cybertron were already in place. So it may not have done as well as Atari hoped, but it was a damned good title. The environments and the Transformers themselves were amazing to look at standing still or in motion. Changing forms was the flick of a switch. Targeting was easy, and the mini-con mechanic to power up your chosen Transformer was something that worked very well within the video game universe.

There were plans to just jump in with development on a game set in the Cybertron universe as a sequel, but Atari lost the Transformers license, and rumors started flying of a live action film in production. Transformers was the game that showed Transformers fans that there could be a game in the future that had something for everyone and that a decent game could in fact be made based on our beloved franchise. Now we have War for Cybertron, but I have oh so fond memories of taking out Starscream and fighting that behemoth of an aircraft carrier Tidal Wave that wouldn’t be matched again until War for Cybertron where we faced not only Omega Supreme, but Trypticon as well, because let’s face it, the Devastator fight in Revenge of the Fallen just didn’t measure up. Melbourne House nailed what we wanted from a Transformers title, we just wish there was a way to play this exceptional title as the Decepticons as well.

3. Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly
Publisher: Tecmo
Developer: Tecmo
Genre: Survival Horror
Release Date: 12/10/2003

While I enjoyed the first Fatal Frame with the experience of the game vastly different than Silent Hill or Resident Evil, the second one not only captured my interest more, but really had me trying to figure out the mystery of what happened at this village you’re stuck in. The controls were a bit tighter and the stakes seemed a bit higher. I love the mechanics of fighting ghosts by capturing them on film. This was a much nicer solution than fighting ghosts with guns or boards and was far more creepy than Silent Hill as the setting never really changed on you but the dead kept on coming. While Silent Hill has this town where anything can get you, and Resident Evil had things lurking around every corner trying to kill you, Fatal Frame brought you into much smaller areas, with lots of former people not always out to kill you, but each with a tragic backstory and not necessarily happy to be trapped there. The idea in the second game that you’re trying to save not only yourself but your sister from some twisted fate of the past sins of this old Japanese village really sucked me in.

2. Final Fantasy XII
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Genre: RPG
Release Date: 10/31/2006

While people ooo’d and ahhh’d over Final Fantasy X, I just couldn’t get into it. Final Fantasy XI I steered clear of on both the PC and the PS2 as I had enough grind with the single player versions of Final Fantasy to take the grind online. X-2 was much better to me than X, not only in mechanics, but I enjoyed the lighter story much more. Final Fantasy XII combined what I’d liked from X and X-2 and had a healthy variety of characters in it. Square Enix has always pushed the visual end of it and this one was no exception. I loved the setting, and the war torn storyline was at least more engaging than X’s almost simple save the world tale with a few twists. While probably not the most acclaimed of the RPGs on the PS2, this one was my favorite on the console.

1. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Publisher: Konami
Developer: KCEJ
Genre: Action
Release Date:11/17/2004

To say Metal Gear Solid 2 was a disappointment to me was an understatement. While I didn’t mind playing Raiden, I found the villains to be uninspired, the story line wholly under-whelming, and by the end I cared less for the main character than ever. I was even less thrilled when the XBox got an updated version with more options and slightly happier when that same version popped back over to the PS2. So I wasn’t really all that excited to hear about Metal Gear Solid 3 at first. I was having more fun playing through the first MGS. But then I ended up picking it up about a month after release because of the positive buzz about it. I figured I’d give it a try. And I was more than pleasantly surprised. The game looked amazing, as these titles always do, it played well and I loved the 60’s cold war setting and the fact we were playing as Big Boss first starting out was a nice twist. While all of the Metal Gear Solid games have the over the top villains, and even rehash some key events, this one had us actually infiltrating from the beginning as opposed to just being dropped at the front gate and told to find another way in. It was also one of the tightest controlling games I’d played in awhile and the same can be said about the other titles in the series.

MGS 3 delivered what I wanted in an MGS title without going overboard and I found myself caring about the series again in a way that MGS 2 just simply couldn’t do. I’ll go so far as to say the best thing MGS 2 gave us was its game engine so the first game could get remade as the Twin Snakes on the Gamecube. If I had to take one title with me in my PS2, this would be the one. There was enough going on and enough hidden and extra bits to keep me busy for awhile. I don’t remember how many playthroughs it took me to find all those hidden frog things, but I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Breakdown
2000: 1
2001: 2
2002: 0
2003: 1
2004: 4
2005: 0
2006: 2
2007: 0
2008: 0
2009: 0
2010: 0

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