The PS2 turns 20 today! It was this day in the year 2000 that the PS2 first released in Japan (it would later come to North America in October of that same year). It seems like just yesterday I’d saved up enough money to go buy the console for myself. Of course, paying for the console didn’t leave me with any extra money, but I was just happy to have the new Sony PlayStation. The second one! The one that was even better than the first. I played my old PS1 games on it via backwards compatibility. I watched DVDs because I now had a TV and console in my bedroom. And then eventually, I’d start an ever-growing collection of my own games for the platform.
If the original PlayStation laid the foundation of my love of console gaming and PlayStation itself, then the PS2 cemented it. I’ll always have a vivid history and love of Final Fantasy VII (and VIII), but when Final Fantasy X came along? Whew, a full voice-acted Final Fantasy with incredible graphics? It was unbelievable (and he will always be “Tee-dus” for me). Final Fantasy XII? Again, I couldn’t believe how far things had come for this series.
The PS2 era holds some of the most beloved PlayStation series and exclusives. That was the generation of the “buddy platformer,” games like Ratchet and Clank, Jak and Daxter, and Sly Cooper. In fact, I remember Sly Cooper being the game I had rented (remember when people rented games from video stores?) and was playing after I moved to a new town and hadn’t made any friends at my new high school yet. When the local neighborhood kids came over (read: were forced to go be friends with the new kid because their moms said so), I was actually a little miffed that I had to turn off the game to go hang out with them (they ended up being a good group of friends and I don’t regret losing a bit of progress by not saving. I mean, I ended up getting the Platinum on the PS3/Vita remaster too).
Just look at how many beloved series from the PS2 era that fans are demanding return in some way, or are being remastered, or given sequels. Kingdom Hearts began its life as this crazy concept on PS2; a game that combined Final Fantasy with Disney. I remember hooking up my PS2 through a VCR and manually recording portions of its cutscenes to a video tape for some school project of some sort. I don’t recall what the project was (I think it was some English project on a Midsummer Night’s Dream?), but I do remember leaning into my love of the PS2 and its games, and wanting to share that with my unappreciative teachers and classmates.
Guitar Hero began its life on the PS2, kicking off an incredible age of plastic instruments and rhythm games. It also brought so much great music to my attention. In fact, video games in general really became a place I unconsciously turned to for new songs. The PS2 was full of games that licensed music for their soundtracks. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 was my favorite game of the series (thanks to the revert enabling insane trick combos and runs). Great music and an incredible evolution of the extreme sports genre of games. SSX Tricky too. This was the peak era of gaming magazines, either subscriptions or just seeing if your local store’s magazine section had the latest issues yet.
I remember wanting more games for my PS2 and being that new games were expensive, went crawling through discount bins in search of good deals. It was in one of these bins that I found Timesplitters for less than 10 bucks, which kicked off my love for that series. This week saw the release of Shadow of the Colossus for PS Plus, the PS4 version that saw its original vision played out on the PS2 years ago.
Being a Mormon kid growing up in Utah, I wasn’t allowed to play M-rated games, but the PS2 being my own console finally gave me a bit more freedom with what I was able to play; probably because my parents were largely clueless to the whole “video game” thing overall, but I’d also like to think they thought of me as mature enough to make my own decisions about what to play. Metal Gear Solid 2. Grand Theft Auto III. Devil May Cry. This was the console that gave us God of War. Twisted Metal: Black. It simply had an incredible lineup of titles across all genres that are fondly remembered to this day. Ask anyone their favorite game or series or video game memory, and there’s a good chance it leads back to the PS2 in some way.
One final goofy anecdote I’m a little embarrassed to admit:
True story: After I first bought my PS2, I didn’t have any games for it, but I kept the console between my bed and nightstand and would reach down as I fell asleep and twist the PlayStation logo on the disc tray back and forth. https://t.co/9XzwPN8up1
— Chandler Wood (@FinchStrife) March 5, 2020
The PS2 was such a defining console for my life. It solidified my love for PlayStation, for video games. The nostalgia it and its games hold for me is unmatched, even to every other PlayStation console. I can’t believe we’re 20 years on from the day the black box inside the blue box release. Happy 20th birthday PS2, and thank you for everything.
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