Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Five exclusive PlayStation 2 games you should own

With the recent arrival of the PS3, there hasn't been a better time to get a PS2. Unlike Microsoft and Nintendo, the PS2 has yet to be abandoned, a testament to its versatility - despite it being the weakest in terms of raw power of all the last-gen consoles. New games are still being released for the PS2, such as Rogue Galaxy, Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria and Atelier Iris 3.

With many early adopters trading in their PS2 collections, pre-owned PS2 games are increasingly becoming widely available. Just yesterday I saw a guy trading in his almost mint condition copy of Shadow of the Colossus. Inspired by Richard's take on PS2 games, I decided to write this up. It's only five games though as I am just too lazy and tired (shakes angry fist at politicians who thinks British Summer Time is a great idea)!

5. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater / Subsistence
Kojima Productions, Konami (£10-£15 / £25-£40)

The thick forest setting is quite a departure from the mainly urbanised setting of previous Metal Gear games.

While Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was a great game, but if you can afford it, Subsistence is the definitive version to get. With an improved 3D camera (the same one to be used in the upcoming Metal Gear Solid 4), massive amount of additional content and other bonus stuff usually included in a "director's cut", as well as the first two games in the Metal Gear series - both based on the superior MSX 2 releases, there really isn't any point in getting the flawed (but still awesome) Snake Eater.

Snake Eater is set in Russia during the Cold War and centers on Naked Snake (Big Boss), a CIA operative sent to rescue a weapons researcher. Unlike previous Metal Gear games, Snake Eater begins with Snake infiltrating the enemies territory through the jungle, a far departure from the usual urban environment of previous Metal Gear games.

Subsistence also contain Metal Gear Online, and if online multiplayer rocks your boat then go get it. Take note however that the North American server for MGO will shut down next month. It is possible that the European servers would go before the year's end too, so beware. Regardless MGS3 is a solid 3rd person stealth shooter with an amazing plot. It also host what is arguably one of the most memorable boss fight in video gaming culture.

4. ICO
Team Ico (In-house), Sony Computer Entertainment (£15-£35)

ICO's architecture is a marvel to look at, even through the dated visuals and ugly textures.

ICO's failure as a commercial item is a sad affair. To be fair, part of the blame can be attributed to SCE's reluctance to market the game properly, but even then it isn't entirely their fault. Such risk taking can only go so far in a video game market dominated by uninspired titles. Even despite the recent reprinting, the only place to purchase this game today is eBay and online stores dealing with niche products.

At the age of twelve Ico, the game's protagonist who was born with a pair of horns, was taken in by warriors to a castle where they locked him up, offering him as a sacrificing token to keep evil at bay. The boy escapes from his casket. He soon finds Yorda, a fellow captive in the fortress, and together they work together to make way out of the massive fort, solving kindergarden easy to brain busting difficult puzzles and occasionally battling wraiths and ghouls as they progress.

It's only fault lies with the camera system, which sometimes hamper our ability to marvel at the inescapable beauty of ICO's architecture. The graphics of ICO may seem primitive by today's standard (even back then the lower polygon was somewhat against it - this was a PS1 game), but don't let that fool you as the visual design are still outstanding. The gameplay, surreal atmosphere and architecture is just as majestic as when it was when released. ICO is a beautiful game, and a highly artistic one at that, even down to the surrealist art cover.

3. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
Level-5, Square-Enix (£15-£30)

There never has been a Dragon Quest game where Akira Toriyama's character designs are blown to video game life so realistically, giving the group of protagonists much charm - something that their next-gen photo-realistic counterparts lack.

There is hardly any difference between Dragon Quest VIII when compared to the near two decade old DQ III. Apart from the graphics and plot, nothing much has changed. Battles are still very much and combats are done through the traditional turn based system. This is very much a love-hate game, and it is entirely up to the gamer whether he likes his gameplay old school or otherwise.

The plot is the simple but effective 'once upon a time' and 'they live happily ever after' kind, and can take a massive 70-80 hours to complete (and that is just for the main quest). The game begins with you, the nameless royal guard known as the hero, who has travelled to Farebury, with a mysterious companion known as Trode, hunting for a mysterious jester known as Dhoulmagus. The jester, armed with a magical sceptre, has unleashed a curse upon the kingdom, cursing everyone within including the king and the princess. Only you, the hero, remained unscathed and it is up to you to rescue the kingdom.

Where the game truly shines is the graphical overhaul, all thanks to Level-5. The cel-shaded look is stunning and the overworld is amazingly huge. It compliments the game very well.

Dragon Quest VIII features an excellent translated script as well as brilliant voice acting by European actors.

2. Final Fantasy XII (review)
In-house, Square-Enix (£25-£35)

XII is the first Final Fantasy numbered game to introduce a hybrid turn and menu based combat system. I hope they keep it.

Final Fantasy XII is the direct opposite of Dragon Quest VIII. It eschews jRPG traditions for new innovations, even more so than the pitiful Final Fantasy X-2. Unlike X-2 however, they got many of the new and old stuff right.

The plot, built over from Final Fantasy Tactics' political unrest of Ivalice (although in a different time line), is an acquired taste, as it lacks the individualism of the more popular (but in my opinion over-rated) Final Fantasy games. It is still on an epic scale, providing much relief in the overcrowded angry teens as protagonist RPG market. Final Fantasy XII highlights that there are still people within Square-Enix's internal development team intent on progressing a stale genre and introducing new gameplay ideas.

1. Shadow of the Colossus (review)
Team Ico (In-house), Sony Computer Entertainment (£15-£30)

SotC's visual design is not unlike that of Ico's, with washed out pale colours and majestic architecture.

Ignoring the lack of frame rate and the occasional camera reset, what you have here is the spiritual successor to Famitu Ueda's Ico, times ten. The plot is shamelessly simple. A young man known as the Wander (or Wanda in Europe) has travelled far with his faithful horse Agro to arrive at a temple in the middle of a barren land. In order to restore the life of a girl, he was commanded to slay 16 fabled ancient creatures. You then spend the entire game travelling, climbing, killing and repeating the process ad nauseam, minus the nausea bit.

Travelling through the desolate landscape, said to be the size of Tokyo, is a surreal experience.

Shadow of the Colossus isn't any conventional platforming game. For one the game consists of only 16 'enemies'. And second, the platforming levels are the giants themselves. There are no dungeons to traverse upon, no minions to battle through, just the pure adrenaline rush scaling the giant beasts, admiring the view from the top (and holding on), then slaying them.

You will often feel insignificant when battling any of the Colossi, but not so much after you slay each one of them.


There you go, five fantastic exclusives that I recommend you get. Five games that makes owning a PS2 worth it, even if those are the only five games you will ever play.

Other recommendations:

Yakuza (SEGA)
Suikoden III & V (Konami)
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 1 & 2 (Atlus)
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (Nippon Ichi)
God of War (SCEA)
Devil May Cry 3 (Capcom)
Okami (Clover)
God Hand (Clover)
Soul Calibur III (Namco)

Next week, five exclusive GameCube games you should own... or maybe the Dreamcast...


RichardAM said...

I debated when writing my list whether all the games should be exclusive or not, because while Timesplitters and Burnout were exclusive to begin with, they've now become multi-platform heartthrobs. But that's the case with a lot of IPs nowadays.

It's interesting that you included both of Fumito Ueda's titles though. Ico's absolutely legendary, but i've only just started playing SotC.

Jon said...

I thought about that, but if any good games can be bought on another console, then there is no point in getting a XXX console.

SotC and ICO are both amazing and if Team Ico can produce anything similar to either of those, a PS3 would be on order (as long as it costs below £300).

Anonymous said...

Great list. I too have just statrted playing Sotc. Amazing first colossi.