Inside Pulse 12

Adieu, Playstation 2 – Mohammed Al-sadoon

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.Ace Combat Zero
2.Pro Evolution Soccer 5 (aka Winning Eleven 9)
3.Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
5.Tales of the Abyss
7.Ace Combat 5
8.Kingdom Hearts
9.Tekken Tag Tournament
10.Final Fantasy XII

During the time the Playstation 2 was released, I was a diehard Gamecube supporter and was to remain so for many years doing the fifth console generation (It was the fifth right? I already forget those silly classifications anyway). I didn’t hate the PS2 or anything but as a Nintendo fan I had to pick up the Gamecube first and save money to get the competing console later. It turned out I didn’t get a PS2 till around late 2004, a little less than a year before the Playstation 3 would come out and I basically blitzed through as much games as I could in that time. So it’s no surprise that most of my list are games released later in the console’s lifespan, which is why you find weird choices like Ace Combat 5 and Zero But not the universally loved Ace Combat 4 because I never had the chance to play that game!

Keeping that in mind, here are my picks for my personal favourite Playstation 2 games:

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

As Final Fantasy X was an early title for the PS2, I missed playing it (thankfully it seems) and since I abhor MMORPGs, Final Fantasy XI was also out of the question. Therefore, the twelfth edition of Final Fantasy is the first played since IX back on the original Playstation (The fact that PS2 games came on a single disc was also kind of strange).

Was the battle system a little iffy? Yeah it kinda was. Were Vaan and Penelo poor main characters? Pretty much, but everything else in the game was spot on. Graphics, voice acting, music and the setting were all top notch. Also, I’m biased because Ivalice is basically an Arabian Nights version of the original Star Wars Trilogy.

AND FRAN HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH MY DECISION YOU PERVERTS! Why is she the most remembered character from FFXII anyway? Her voice annoyed me to no end.

#9 Tekken Tag Tournament
Publisher: Namco
Developer: Namco
Genre: Fighting
Release Date: 10/25/2000

Wait! Didn’t I say I got into the PS2 era very late and therefore Tekken 4 or Tekken 5 should be on the list and not the earliest Tekken title on PS2, right? Fighting games are multiplayer games and since I’m such an antisocial hermit, the only times I can be persuaded to actually go out and play videogames with people is if they had a videogame I want, like say a brand shiny new Playstation 2 with the newest (at the time) Tekken game. Once I got my own Playstation 2, generally I used it to play single player games.

But TTT is a milestone for the Namco 3D fighting series, it’s the first time that graphics on a console were actually better than the ones at the arcade! It had the most amount of characters of any Tekken game at the time (Can’t wait for TTT2). Sure, they had less moves to compensate for that but I’m a newb anyway and enjoy bashing buttons so it didn’t matter to me anyway.

#8 Kingdom Hearts
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Disney Interactive/ Square Enix
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: 09/17/2002

While the Kingdom Hearts series has now devolved into an incoherent mess thanks to Square Enix’s habit of turning their games into yaoi fanfiction but I digress, the first Kingdom Hearts was a really good game for it’s time that went straight for your nostalgic jugular with as many old Disney and Square references and characters it could mash into a single semi coherent storyline and that was okay for me. Through in some button mashing Action RPG gameplay and you have a game that’s simple, fun and cute at the same time.

If only Square Enix kept those factors in mind when designing all the spin offs and sequels with pertentious names like 352/2 Days, re:coded and Birth by Sleep.

Still, it’s unfair to judge the first game in the series by what happened to it in the future and the first Kingdom Hearts still stands on it’s own as a great game.

#7 Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War
Publisher: Namco
Genre: Arcade Flight Sim
Release Date: 10/24/2004

I grew up on an Air force base as a child and regularly saw training manoeuvres and patrol flights from a very close perspective. I guess that’s why I’ve developed such a love for Combat aircraft and why the Ace Combat series is one of my all time favourite game series ever.

Like I said, I never had the chance to try Ace Combat 4 so number five was my first flight game on “next gen” consoles and I was blown away. Moving from Ace Combat 3 (as good as it looked for its time) to Ace Combat 5 was like going from Super Mario Bros to Super Mario World in a single sequel. Besides the graphics, Ace Combat 5 features the largest amount of playable aircraft in any Ace Combat game with over 50 birds to strap your butt cheeks into.

The characters were somewhat lame but the stroyline was epic with heavy use of mythological references such as the twin super weapon submarines “Hrinfaxi” and “Scinfaxi” (look them up) and the near legendary status your squadron achieves by going from “Wardog” squadron to “The Ghosts of Razgriz”.

Sadly, with the switch to HD consoles and the massive amount of time and resources it takes to make new content, we may never see 50+ aircraft in an Ace Combat game ever again. (As evidenced by AC6’s measly selection of 16)

#6 Okami
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Clover Studios
Genre: Action Adventure
Release Date: 09/19/2006

Okami was not Clover Studio’s last game (that honour would go to God Hand) but it’s definitely the game that left the best legacy (because they quickly pimped Viewtiful Joe into mediocrity) and that is most remembered.

Remember how every console FPS was labelled as a “Halo Killer”? Well, Okami was labelled a “Zelda Killer”, mostly by Playstation fanboys who wouldn’t play Zelda anyway. Let’s be honest, Okami was not as good as Zelda but it was still a damn beautiful game with great characters, play mechanics, story and one of the most striking visual styles of any game in the last decade.

At least unlike other Clover productions, Okami has a happy ending and is getting a great sequel in Ã…Å’kamiden.

#5 Tales of the Abyss
Publisher: Namco
Developer: Namco
Genre: RPG
Release Date: 10/10/2006

Like many people, I got on the Tales bandwagon after Tales of Symphonia was released on the gamecube (Because it was like the only RPG on that system). So I’ve never heard of Tales of Destiny or any of the older titles. Of course, Namco has this annoying habit of NOT releasing Tales games in English so the next title in the series was skipped (Tales of Rebirth) as were some spinoffs I didn’t care about. The next game was Tales of Legendia and it was pretty mediocre.

At this point, I bothered to actually read up on the series’ release schedule and found out it was just Namco’s cash cow that they pimp year after year for quick cash and summed up that Symphonia was a simple high mark in the series (like how the GBA Sonic Rush titles are the sole redeeming factor in Sonic’s recent career) and moved on.

Except everyone kept bugging me that Abyss was hands down the best of the entire series so I gave it a go and by god they were right!

Mechanically, the game is very similar to nearly every other title in the Tales series but what set this one apart from the rest is a couple elements crucial to RPGs: Characters and Story. Tales of the Abyss has some of the most likeable characters in any PS2 RPG. You honestly feel for these characters and annoying characters like main character Luke eventually man up and you feel as though a younger family member stopped being a pussy and grew some balls to face down the school bully.

It’s even funnier if you’re playing multiplayer with everyone choosing a character they relate to.

#4 Bully
Publisher: Rockstar
Developer: Rockstar Vancouver
Genre: Action
Release Date: 10/17/2006

I originally greatly disliked the Grand Theft Auto series because their control systems sucked ass and ruined what were some very fun games for me. When San Andreas FINALLY decided to add in a lock on button, I turned into a full on Rockstar fag. All I wanted them to do was take the Grand Theft Auto formula and apply it to as many settings as possible. Imagine my surprise when they did exactly that with Bully! (And later on with Red Dead Redemption).

Instead of guns you had to rely on your fists, slingshots and bottle rockets to accomplish tasks as varied as swindling a man into date rape with the lunch lady and killing a giant man eating plant. It might all seem very extreme and weird but Bully has the tightest and most interesting script of any Rockstar title (and that’s saying something) and Jimmy Hopkins is my second favourite Rockstar protagonist (Second only to RDR‘s John Marston, and that’s because he’s a badass cowboy).

It was re-released on Wii and Xbox 360 as Scholarship Edition so you have no excuse not to get it now!

#3 Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
Publisher: Rockstar
Developer: Rockstar North
Genre: Action
Release Date: 10/16/2004

As I mentioned above, San Andreas is the first GTA title to have halfway decent controls and therefore is my favourite. The fact that it took Rockstar 6 years to copy the lock on feature from Ocarina of Time just boggles my mind but in the end they got around to it.

Other features that made me go “Why didn’t they put this in before?” is the ability to actually swim instead of die by touching water as well as the ability to climb. These additions finally turned the rough diamond that was the Grand Theft Auto series into the hope diamond of videogames.

But by far the most impressive new feature is how they nearly tripled the size of the last game and done away with load times between areas, a significant technical achievement that was so profound I can not imagine how open world sandbox games can function without it.

#2 Pro Evolution Soccer 5 (aka Winning Eleven 9)
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Genre: Sports
Release Date: 10/2/2005

If you asked me to name my favourite videogame franchises of all time, Pro Evolution Soccer would definitely place very high on the list, perhaps at number one even. Which is why I make it my mission to review every PES game that comes out every year starting with Pro Evolution Soccer 2009. In fact, a test review for PES2008 is what got me this job on Diehard GameFAN in the first place!

Anyway, enough of the history lesson; Pro Evolution Soccer 5 is arguably the best simulation footy game ever created (The other contender being Pro Evolution Soccer 6). I can’t really explain why this is, it just FEELS right. The passing, the dribbling, the shooting is all spot on and when you make a mistake, it’s YOUR mistake not the controls or the AI or the controller itself because they’re all simply extensions of yourself. It’s almost as if you were drawn into the Matrix and are controlling the game with your own mind.

The game was also released on Xbox and PC but try playing a game with 8 way directional control on that monstrosity that was the Xbox controller, or better yet with a keyboard. In addition, the Playstation 2 version had free online in contrast to Microsoft’s Xbox Live system.

#1 Ace Combat Zero : The Belkan War
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Namco Bandai
Genre: Arcade Flight Sim
Release Date: 4/2/2005

Wait… Ace Combat Zero is my number #1 Playstation 2 game? Arguably the worst Ace Combat game on the PS2? Yes,And let me explain why.

I’m a history buff and I love military history in particular. I was one of the very few people that was actually upset that Call of Duty 4 ditched the World War II setting for a modern one. That’s right, remember the glut of WWII games that everybody loathed? I revelled in it’s exotic delights like a a fat man downing way too many cheeseburgers.

Documentaries are all I watch on TV, so imagine my glee when the story of Ace Combat Zero is told in a documentery style, with a journalist interviewing all the aces you have defeated in battle and them regaling us with old war stories and their perspective on your character, the legendary “Demon of the Round Table”.

Unlike the other AC games, you have way more ace squadrons to fight and they’re given way more backstory than ever before and they’re brought to life not by CGI but actual human actors. Sure, they don’t give Oscar winning performances but the fact they’re actual human beings makes the story more “real” than any videogame I’ve played. They’re so many different characters as well; The old gruff veteran Dietrick “Boss” Keller, The sly strategist Bernhard “Owl” Schmit , The noble Knight Dimitri “Blue Heron” Heinreich and many more. They basically cover every Fighter Pilot trope out there.

The final touch on this amazing delight of a videogame was the spanish inspired soundtrack that made every dogfight seem like the climax of “Top Gun”. Go onto youtube and search for the “Zero” track from the game, which is the final boss battle theme and treat your ears to epicness.

And THAT’S why Ace Combat Zero is not only the best Ace Combat and Flight game I’ve ever played but also the damn best Playstation 2 game I ever played.