On March 4, 2000, Sony unleashed the successor to their wildly successful PlayStation on an unsuspecting world. Ten years later I’ve still got PlayStation 2 games on preorder. And to think I didn’t even care until 2002.
In 1999, I was still new to the internet video game press business, but that was okay, as it was still new to itself. I hooked up with an outfit called Videogamers.com (now very, very defunct) the year before, mainly because I lived in Atlanta, home of E3 1998.
A year later, E3 returned to its Los Angeles home, and rather than have the show covered by the members of our staff that lived in L.A., me and a sixteen-year-old named Joshua flew across the country on our own dime to cover the show. Perhaps I, at the age of 26, was there to represent the more mature face of Videogamers.com, a site where I was the only writer old enough to legally drink. At one point my editor-in-chief showed up at our hotel, and I had to run down the street to buy him beer. Good times.
While Sony announced the next PlayStation months before E3 1999, they didn’t bring much to the show, outside of upcoming releases for the original PlayStation. There was an impressive demonstration of the console’s new Emotion Engine chip, recreating the ball scene from Final Fantasy VIII.
The company also had Gran Turismo 2000, the game that would become Gran Turismo 3: A-spec, playable on the show floor, but it wasn’t running on anything resembling a PlayStation 2. If I recall correctly, and it’s been quite a while, they had Plexiglas cubes with the console’s guts inside of them. Cubes that would, on occasion, overheat. The game looked astounding, but Gran Turismo was never a franchise that got my motor running.
Sony had big plans, but it wasn’t Sony’s year. It was Sega’s. It was the Dreamcast’s year. It was the year Soul Calibur was all over the show floor, with arcade cabinets on hand to demonstrate how much better the console version looked. Sega announced a release date of 9/9/99, and a price of $199, much less than the debut price of its predecessor, the Sega Saturn.
I fell in love with the Dreamcast. Hell, everyone there fell in love with the Dreamcast.
By the time Sony released the PlayStation 2 in Japan, ten years ago today, I was content to sit in my living room, clunky-yet-comfortable Dreamcast controller in hand, listening to the reassuring and extremely loud whir of that console’s GD-ROM drive.
That’s not to say I didn’t feel a strong desire to possess a PS2.
As the console’s October 2000 release in North America approached, I began to experience the feeling of my stomach twisting in knots that I’ve since come to associate with the possibility of not having the latest gaming technology the moment it hit store shelves. I was reading everything I could about the console, poring over screenshots and what passed for internet video in 2000. Commercials like these did not help.
It got so bad that come October I was desperate to own Sony’s lovely new black and blue console. Unfortunately Sony had other plans.
Sony launched the PlayStation 2 in North America on October 26, 2000. No, let me correct that. Sony released approximately a dozen PlayStation 2 consoles in North America on October 26, 2000. Or so it felt. Parts shortages kept Sony from bringing sufficient numbers to the market to meet demand, and those that did show up at retail were grabbed by rotten bastards and sold on eBay for over a thousand dollars a pop.
The console’s solid launch line-up didn’t help my cravings. As a fighting game fan, the lure of Tekken Tag Tournament, Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore, and Street Fighter EX3 had me shivering with (mostly unfounded) excitement. Rockstar had Midnight Club and Smuggler’s Run. Namco brought Ridge Racer V. EA was there with SSX, which was probably the best game out of the bunch (we miss you SSX!). Unreal Tournament and Timesplitters scratched the first-person shooter itch. KOEI released Kessen, for some odd reason. There were even four role-playing games released during the console’s launch window, though none of them was Final Fantasy, so no one particularly cared.
And that really was my saving grace. There was no PlayStation 2 Final Fantasy title at launch. If there had been, I would have robbed a church, or sold my nephew on the black market, just to fund an eBay purchase. I suppose I have Square Enix to thank for not writing this article from prison.
Between some amazing Dreamcast games and the November release of Final Fantasy IX for the original PlayStation, I managed to curb my impulses.
In December of 2000, I re-discovered EverQuest, which didn’t go so well for me.
So when and why did I finally cave and buy a PlayStation 2? Once again, it was all Square Enix’s fault.
On December 20, 2001, the company previously known as Squaresoft released Final Fantasy X for the PlayStation 2. Unfortunately I was too poor at the time to justify the purchase of a bag of rice, much less an entire video game console, but a few months later I scraped up enough cash to pick up a used system and a copy of Final Fantasy X.
It was Final Fantasy X that reignited my love of console gaming, after a little over a year spent living on EverQuest and Mountain Dew. I played the game to completion over the course of four days, and then I scraped up some more cash and went back to the game store to make up for lost time.
The PlayStation 2 led to the purchase of an Xbox (Halo) and then a Gamecube (well I already had the other two, might as well). Those were the days of the console switch box, when I didn’t have a TV riddled with connectors for everything from my iPod to my toaster. My game collection grew to staggering proportions, but for the lifespan of my Xbox and Gamecube, the PlayStation 2 titles were always the most plentiful.
The PlayStation 2 will always hold a special place in my heart, as a gamer and, more importantly, as a hardcore role-playing game fanatic. Like its predecessor, the system was a haven for RPG titles. The Gamecube had a handful of solid RPGs. The Xbox had Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Dynasty, and Sudeki, which Maxim rated 5 out of 5 stars, establishing the men’s magazine as a really bad place to get game reviews.
The PlayStation 2, on the other hand, seemed to have a different RPG coming out every week. Strategy RPGs, turn-based 2D RPGs, real-time 3D action RPGs – even some of the most obscure, esoteric Japanese titles made it to North America on the PlayStation 2. I’ve got at least thirty PS2 role-playing games in my living room, and I’m nowhere near completing my collection.
The real beauty of the PlayStation 2, however, is that fans of any genre can make the same claim (though the Xbox might have a lock on the sports category.) Over the years the console has seen enough shooters, puzzlers, platformers, shmups, sims, strategy games, action-adventure titles, racers, and fighters to keep any gamer satisfied.
And now the console is a decade old. Ten years later, I have a PlayStation 2 in my living room and my bedroom, though they are both the streamlined slim models released in 2004. I’ve still got memory cards for the console lurking in every darkened corner of my apartment.
Many have moved on to the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii, but few (outside of those with the backwards compatible PlayStation 3 60GB model) have put their PlayStation 2 out to pasture. The new releases have slowed to a trickle, but they’ve yet to stop.
Ten years, and I’ve still got a PlayStation 2 game reserved at my local game store. Will my purchase of Sakura Wars: So, Long My Love be the last game I purchase for the PlayStation 2?
Somehow I doubt it.