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    Sunday, March 7, 2010

    Happy Birthday PS2!

    March 4th marks the ten year anniversary of Sony's little black wonder, and inspired by other accounts of the console I wanted to share my own experience.

    The PS2 was one of only two consoles I've bought at launch (the other being an N64). I've read stories about shortages at launch but I had mine preordered months in advance and it arrived as expected in the beginning of the second month of my freshman college year. None of the launch titles interested me so I didn't order any with the system. I was intrigued by the console's ability to enhance the graphics of PS1 games, and it was a noticeable if not mindblowing effect. Within a couple weeks I realised I needed to have a real PS2 title to show off the system and I picked up Tekken. The graphics were indeed a step up from the previous generation. I remember being in awe of the shiny, curvy new polygons and deep, 3D backgrounds. Tekken's intro movie also looked beautiful (I didn't realise at the time such movies were entirely pre-rendered files).

    The PS2 served me well throughout my college years, with some big gaming enjoyments along the way. Final Fantasy X was of course a huge moment. The powerful narrative, the first-time inclusion of voice-acting, the graphics, the music, and an energetic new battle system combined to make it one of my favorite FFs to this day. Metal Gear Solid 2 delivered a Hollywood-caliber espionage story that, even if it largely dropped its star character, lived up to the promise of its predecessor. Soul Calibur 2 brought my circle of friends back together for more fighting game goodness that had begun with Super Smash Bros on the Gamecube. Gran Turismo 3 streamlined the series into a next generation experience that refined the core concept of realistic racing.

    It was about this time, a year to year and a half after purchase, that my PS2 began to wear out. A well-documented issue with the disc-reading laser lens claimed first the systems ability to read DVDs, then PS1 games, and then gradually PS2 title after title began to read errors. I read online guides and opended up my system to tinker with no miraculous results. There was a period of about half a year or so where I couldn't play much else than a handful of the newest games for the system. Luckily a friend of mine came through with a replacement PS2 shanghaied from a deadbeat college roommate and I was back in the game. This system would eventually begin to fail too, and as of this moment I am on my third PS2 system, a brand new Slim bought two months ago.

    Towards the end of the system's time in the spotlight there were some true gems. Final Fantasy XII was a graphical marvel on "aging" hardware, if a bit incoherent in terms of story. Really, for me, the shining moment in the systems twilight time was Shadow of the Colossus. I had seen a puzzle-fiend friend play through ICO and swear up and down its brilliance. The game was breathtakingly beautiful and haunting, though my brain having trouble with the most basic of puzzles I never got into it. SotC immersed me in a beautiful, simple, powerful world that was sublime in its simplicity. The massive "boss battles" were stunning and beautiful, but at the same time I spent hours just riding around the massive world and taking in the gorgeous scenery. I never wanted SotC to end, and one of these days I'll jump back in for a replay.

    There are still games being released for the system, even as it's no longer Sony's flagship. I've heard the recent Odin Sphere is amazing, and Nippon Ichi among others continues to port the vast backlog of Japanese RPGs. Barring the multiple failures of my PS2s I've had a wonderful experience with the system and I hope my current console lasts long enough to enjoy its stellar titles for years to come.

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