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Top 10 PS2 Games
Feature Column by Matt Burawski
March 21, 2001


Though Sony has made no official announcement or declaration, the pushing back of many 'A' titles for Playstation 2 has turned March into sort of a "re-launch" — a chance for Sony to do right by what many people feel they failed to do on the official PS2 launch. With the supply of consoles now meeting the demand, Sony has the potential to easily sell hundreds of thousands of units more if things are done right. And most important of all, this second time around, PS2 will have one thing to get very excited about, more than the DVD capability, more than the backwards compatibility, and more than the blue LED light — the games.

So to do my part as a mindless Sony fanboy in a country oppressed by the foolish Dreamcast loyalists and the pathetic Xbox and Gamecube holdouts, I’m going to be writing two mini-features: One to show 10 games already worth getting excited over, and one to show 10 games that will easily bring the PS2 to its predecessor’s level of gaming glory. In general, the games listed will be titles more for the hardcore gamer, as I don’t know too much about the sports titles on the system. Anyway, to start things off, here are 10 reasons to buy a PS2 that most lucky owners have already been experiencing for some time.

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Put simply, this game combines the appeal of the Tony Hawk games, the N64 title 1080, and an attitude that’s distinctly its own. SSX has a distinct arcade style to it, making things fast, aggressive and over-the-top. It’s loud, it’s colorful, its graphics are amazing for a first-generation title and in the sheer fun category, it more than delivers. The first title I played on my PS2 was SSX, and I still go back to it occasionally this day to raise the experience points of one of the many boarders or unlock some new costume or board. Just as Dreamcast had Sonic Adventure and Soul Calibur on launch day, so did Sony have SSX, among other titles, to become instantly classic and make you remember why you paid $300 and waited in a 10-hour line. And just as a side note to those gamers who would prefer a realistic snowboarding title with well-known licenses and physics and may whine about SSX’s style: Konami has already released a lesser-known but quality title called ESPN Winter X Games Snowboarding that’s sure to please where SSX may sometimes fail.

2Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore
Get more info on this game here.

I’m not sure about the hardcore in DOA2 Hardcore,considering that the PS2 edition went so far as to even change the name of all alcoholic beverages to "mixed drink" or "fruit juice," but I am sure that I love this game. It doesn’t have the extreme intricacy of Tekken, and interestingly enough, that becomes one of its best qualities. This is a fighting game anyone can play, and do quite well at, but it still requires lots of time to truly master. With flawless graphics that improve over the DC version, a solid fighting engine, and bouncing … uhh, and a solid fighting engine, DOA2 makes the system already one worth purchasing for any fighting game fan. And if DOA2:HC doesn’t convince you of that, then look to another title by the name of…

3Tekken Tag Tournament
Get more info on this game here.

Note to all Dreamcast fans who repeat the same anti-aliasing joke over and over in calling this game "Tekken Jag Tournament" in between pretending they have a girlfriend and fantasizing about their pet Seaman: Get over it — Namco actually made this game jaggie-free for the US release. While Ridge Racer V’s polys remained painfully jagged, TTT lacks that problem, allowing focus to be instead on the gameplay. If you’ve played Tekken 3, the formula is the same. The main addition is the tag mode and the obvious graphical update. Tekken 3 was one of the best looking titles on PSX, and rightfully, TTT is already looking startlingly good on PS2. If a complex fighting engine featuring reversals of reversals of counters of reversals is your kind of thing, then no series does it better than Tekken, and no Tekken installment has ever looked this sweet.

4Armored Core 2
Get more info on this game here.

I’ll admit right off that Armored Core 2 has problems. The graphics, though better than PSX, aren’t amazing. Two or three levels demonstrate awful slowdown, and the same is seen when you fire 20 or more missiles at a time. But when you’re customizing your own mech down to every single detail and then flying that same mech against an AI that often fights as well as humans, you quickly forget about graphics. AC2, perhaps until Zone of Enders for PS2 comes out, will always easily hold the title of my favorite mecha game. The customization of every single part, extension, and option surpasses previous games in the series and makes other mech series’ customization, such as MechWarrior, look like a joke. The combat itself is amazingly fast, involving frantic mid-air missile duels, agile dodging of laser fire and grenades and desperate blade fights when all ammo is depleted. In intensity, it really doesn’t get much better than this; every second of movement or weapon fire counts. The game improves so much over previous installments that this will easily please any fan of AC. With more than 30 missions, 60 arena fights, 200 parts and a 2-player mode, there’s really no question in buying this, so long as you like big robots, have patience to learn the difficult-but-appropriate controls and don’t mind a challenge.

5Sky Odyssey
Get more info on this game here.

One of the first games I really enjoyed on N64 and SNES was Pilotwings. In Sky Odyssey, there’s an experience that is similar, but at the same time so much more. With multiple play modes, 10 planes that handle with the perfect balance of realism and enjoyment not all that dissimilar from the PC title Crimson Skies and goal-driven missions that simulate an array of real-life scenarios, Sky Odyssey is absolutely a title worth looking into. The graphics are not impressive, but this is another case of that really not mattering. The gameplay is there big-time, and you’d be doing yourself a favor to forget the definition of anti-aliasing or processor bit-mapping megahertz voxelation for a moment and just play this sleeper hit.

6Star Wars: Starfighter
Get more info on this game here.

While LucasArts once had a pristine and dependable record for excellent games, the recent batch of Star Wars titles have shared much in common with Episode 1: They just plain suck. Yet surprisingly enough, Star Wars: Starfighter is worthy enough to fit on the shelf with Tie Fighter or X-Wing, and not Force Commander or Jedi Power Battles. Take the gameplay of Colony Wars, improve the graphics tenfold and include the Star Wars license, and you can begin to imagine what this game is like. Control is intuitive, the sense of scale in the enormous battles is startling and missions to unlock as well as a hidden 2-player mode provide more than enough reason to get this title. If you’re a Star Wars fan, get it. If you like space shooters, also get it. If you like both, stop wasting time reading this and go buy it already.

Get more info on this game here.

Strategy has never been console gaming’s strong point. One reason is that controlling scores of units by controller is more aggravating than tactical, and the dual shock certainly wasn’t designed for micromanagement. Traditional RTS or turn-based strategy would not work well on the PS2; fortunately, the only traditional part about Kessen is the history that makes up the game’s plot. Koei has somehow designed a game that is perfectly controllable on a console, and yet still requires thought-out strategy and good leadership to achieve victory. While the game is admittedly a bit short, difficulty levels can be unlocked after completing the two campaigns, allowing you to add a challenge that often isn’t there on the default easy mode. In presentation, Kessen is cinematically beautiful. The DVD format is exploited in the form of lifelike FMVs, and to compliment these FMVs, the actual in-game graphics are kept to the same lofty standards. Battles of hundreds of individually acting soldiers are a common occurrence, though you won’t be spending time to stop and watch them. A more exciting war plot could scarcely have been conceived in fiction, and I’ve never seen a game before where history adds so much to the atmosphere. Kessen may not have the depth of the similar PC title Shogun: Total War, but Shogun would have been impossible to control on a console, whereas Kessen works just fine.

Get more info on this game here.

Though it seems like I’m making a lot of disclaimers for the graphical quality of these titles, it must be kept in mind that PS2 is not easy to program for, and that many developers had very little time to get their game in by launch. Compare PSX’s Jet Moto to PSX’s Final Fantasy 9, and you can see how the first few titles of a system say nothing of its potential. That said, I’ve got to say for Summoner too that the graphics are by no means next-gen. While there are some visually rich moments, the load times, poor textures and maddening overworld map make the game, at first impression, irritating. Then you start to experience the battle engine and story, and you realize Summoner is an RPG that can’t be discarded as just a technical blunder. The game holds a wealth of innovation, and the storyline has some impressive twists — something most RPGs fail to pull off anymore. Summoning gigantic beasts to fight for you never gets old, and the combat engine’s chain attacks keep things more interactive than the often-passive active-time battle system of Square. I’d still suggest renting Summoner first, but before you make your judgement, play a few hours. Chances are, you’ll be hooked into the story enough to just plan your snack breaks for the loading times and forget the flaws of this gem.

9Madden NFL 2001
Get more info on this game here.

I don’t know sports titles. At all. I don’t even like them. But PSX’s successes as a console and Electronic Arts’ success as a developer are painful proof of just how many people love these games. Madden NFL 2001 takes the same formula the series has always been using and compounds it with amazing visuals and improved physics. The feel to the game is right, even to someone with as little sports game experience as me, and the graphics are one step nearer to having characters out there indiscernible from reality. If you like football titles, you’ll be purchasing this for PS2 no matter what.

1034,908,203,948,802 or so PSX games
Check out the PlayStation web site.

There are other good games I could cite for the system — evident by the fact that I had to narrow down a list of twenty-some games to choose 10 — but I couldn’t list the reasons to own a PS2 without mentioning the unparalleled PSX library. If you don’t already own a PSX, don’t balk at the idea of playing games from an older system. PSX is the second incarnation of the SNES, in that both not only have a ridiculous amount of game variety, but a large and solid collection of must-have unique titles. And for those of you who already have a PSX, PS2 does provide minor graphical improvements to the old titles, not to mention faster loading times. Plus, it will allow you to give away your PSX to a younger sibling to continue the proud generation of socially awkward hardcore gamers, and that’s an act worth any cost.

If these aren’t reasons enough to purchase a PS2, then watch for my article on Ten Upcoming PS2 Games. This system’s potential hasn’t even begun to be tapped, but come March, we’ll start to see the titles that make this system worthy of anyone’s $300.


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