Thursday, 26 November 2015

My Playstation 2 Collection + Top Five PS2 Games

I make no secret of the fact that the Playstation 2 is my undisputed favourite console of all-time. It's a system that played host to such a staggering choice of software across most every genre imaginable so there is so much to choose from. While this naturally means that there are a lot of awful games (believe me, there are legions of shit PS2 games that would have a grown gamer weeping with depression) there is also a monstrous number of both classics and generally great games.

There are in fact, more good games than most people can afford to dedicate shelf space to maintaining a quality collection which is also a concise collection is one of the toughest tasks out there. The following pictures show my current collection but I have owned, played and completed probably double the amount in the images below. Some were genuinely good games but I can only afford to keep the absolute cream of the crop when it comes to PS2 games that I enjoyed. What follows is my collection of games that I would absolutely 100% play again + games that I've yet to start (which thankfully, is a notable minority next to finished/played games).

Sensible Soccer is very playable and a lot more fun than some would have you believe. Haunting Ground is a very unique survival horror by Capcom that actually trumps the Resident Evil titles of the same period in my opinion - very underrated. Rumble Roses is just blatant, perverted fun.

JRPG's! Feel the Gust/Nippon Ichi love in this image. These games are steadily rising in price and didn't sell in huge numbers anyway but there is some fantastic Japanese-styled role playing action in anything by Gust or NIS. The Kingdom Hearts games are uterly superb and were a surprise of the generation. Who thought Square x Disney would actually work? There's also some Vanillaware and Atlus love going on in this photo!

JRPG's Part 2! Soul Nomad belongs with the NIS stuff in the previous picture really. The Xenosaga trilogy, both Ar Tonelico's and Mana Khemia 2 are all NTSC-U releases which is fine as my machine is a region-free debug unit . Quite crucial really as us PAL gamers really got shafted here in Europe with some of these games. We received both Ar Tonelico's but the first had a very limited release by 505 Games (and commands a fair bit of money now) and both are not very good conversions, plagued by flicker, 50Hz video modes and even translation errors! These US special edition boxsets with artbooks and music CD's are much, much better. NIS were nice enough to give us a special boxset for Mana Khemia but the sequel remained exclusive to the US so again, getting this boxset was essential as I really rate the original. Rounding off a trilogy of stinginess with another, erm, trilogy, Namco had the bizarre notion to release only the second Xenosaga game in Europe! Nutters.

Some retro compilations (a big strength of the PS2's library) here. Taito Legends 2 is probably my favourite thanks to the inclusion of Puchi Carat, Cameltry, Darius Gaiden, Puzzle Bobble 2 and Cleopatra Fortune amongst others. The five Grand Theft Auto games stole criminal amounts of my time over the years and remain sensational fun despite being unable to hide their age today. God Hand deserves a mention for...well, just because it's God Hand!

A selection of awesome fighters that I've spent a lot of time with and continue to do so. The Fast and the Furious is a bit of a hidden gem of a racing game that doesn't tie itself into the films too much and is all the better for it.

Another random selection. The Timesplitters games are probably my favourite FPS', Spiderman 2 remains the definitive way to 'be' Spiderman in my opinion and the Destroy All Humans! duo are absolutely hilarious doses of mayhem and humour. Death By Degrees is one of those games that was panned, resented and forgotten about but I think it's a great game! Michigan is a bit of a cult classic and certainly not a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination but there's nothing else like it.

A small selection of NTSC-J fighters. This is probably the main area that I still wish to expand into because there were so many exciting fighting games that didn't leave Japan. The PS2 port of Third Strike is probably the jewel in this set and I got it at a reasonable price. It did come out over here on the original Xbox as part of the Anniversary Collection but on the console with the worst controller d-pad for fighting games!

So that's my current collection but what are my favourites? Well, choosing is extremely tough as I've already sold anything that isn't essential to me so I have a lot of affection for everything pictured here. There are five games that do stand above the rest though...

Playstation 2 Perfect Five

1. Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
It's sometimes difficult to remember how mind-blowing the size and funtionality of San Andreas was off the back of GTA III and Vice City. The game introduced an enormous, multi-terrained map with four distinct areas, its own mountain (great place to drive a car off!), proper planes, vehicle modifications, character stats, swimming...the list just goes on and on. This was a game that could consume you and refuse to let go. Even once the story was put to bed, there was practically unlimited fun to be had in simply exploring the map, performing insane stunts in vehicles, engaging in mindless rampages and generally just messing about. The much more polished and expanded GTA IV and V have really made San Andreas look ancient from an aesthetic viewpoint but as people often say, it's what's on the inside that counts and in the case of San Andreas, time definitely hasn't performed a fatal drive-by on the fun factor.

2. Yakuza 2
Sega's Yakuza series is one of my favourite modern franchises. The first game was an absolute revelation in the way it provided a living, breathing Japanese city to explore. It's the kind of game that makes you want to visit Japan for real. It was also the kind of game that made me genuinely sad to see the end credits roll. You care for the characters and miss the setting once it's all over. Thankfully, Sega were kind enough to release the sequel during the PS2's twilight years (3 more games followed on the PS3) and it was better in every way with an additional city to explore and generally more of everything. The series was billed by some as a Japanese GTA but in truth, it's nothing like Rockstar's flagship series. It did however, immerse me just as much as San Andreas and - dare I say it - I actually fell in love with Yakuza 2 just that little bit more.

3. Valkyrie Profile 2
I didn't play the original Valkyrie Profile due to it being a) a US exclusive and b) very expensive but I was sold on giving the sequel a try based on the art style, norse-inspired world and fabulous visuals as we had come to expect from Square Enix. The fact that VP2 plummeted in price very quickly also helped. What I found was a beautiful RPG with an involving battle system, engaging plot, great characters that weren't overly cliched (or sexualised) and stunning music. It's somewhat criminal that this game was so good but then made so little impact and still sells for only a few quid on the second-hand market. It isn't for everyone, granted, but if you want an RPG with Square's production values that doesn't have a Final Fantasy logo on the box, you could do so much worse than give Valkyrie Profile 2 a chance.

4. Odin Sphere
My first taste of Vanillaware's majesty and an action-RPG that I adored from start to finish. Much has (rightly) been made of the gorgeous hand-drawn 2D characters and lush game world but such observations overlook the enjoyable 2D beat 'em style gameplay, endearing characters and genuinely emotional storyline tying them all together. There are various endings to collect but this is a game where you'll want to fight for them all. The HD re-working currently being prepared by Vanillaware for the PS3, PS4 and PSVita will be a must-have purchase for those in the know.

5. Persona 3 FES
I took a complete gamble on Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 for the PS2. It was an RPG set in a Japanese high school with students that battled monsters (called Shadows) by night but engaged in ordinary social activities by day. This was one of the last games that I bought off the back of a positive review and boy was I glad! The characters and their voice actors were so likable, the story was genuinely gripping and the game structure of attending school, socialising then engaging in the actual bulk of the RPG battling by night was unlike anything I'd played before - this was a JRPG breaking the mould of what I'd previously been exposed to (the soundtrack is phenomonal too). Atlus later released the 'FES' edition which is highly revised with new content, new music and a brand-new post game story, making it the definitive, must-have version of the game. Like Yakuza, this was a game that made me want to know more about Japan and its customs/lifestyle but it also oozed charm and 'cool'. Let's also not forget that these two releases really kickstarted the Persona love here in the West where widespread releases/localisations of the series are now expected.

So that's my collection and top 5. If you'd like to leave any comments or even let me know YOUR top 5 PS2 games then please leave your comments below. I'd love to know which games are considered the best by everybody else!

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