written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
I remember this launch well, it was the Fall of 2000 and I was in my senior year of High School (wow this really feels like it was ages ago!). Anyway, at the time I was working part time at a Tux Shop (mostly to get a free tux for prom) that was inside the Sears at my local mall, I was right next to the electronics department so I was always in the “know” when shipments would come in (of course the 10% Sears discount helped a little bit). The point is, even with that edge, I was forced to wait through shipment shortages and damn near instant sell outs of this console. There were some reports that some retailers wouldn’t even sell you the console unless you also bought a memory card, extra controller, and game. This would turn originally buying the console for $299.99 into an almost $500 investment just to have the new system, luckily Sears wasn’t doing that… though I still damn near spent that much getting the extras. The PS2 still ranks as the number one best selling gaming console of all time, reaching over 150 million units sold world wide. When the PS2 first released, the Sega Dreamcast already had a year head start and the iconic Xbox (complete with super huge controller) and the Nintendo GameCube followed suit a year later. Even with the classic characters and franchises from both Sega and Nintendo’s consoles and the superior graphical performance from Xbox, the PS2 still reigned as king of this gen. On what would have almost been 13 years since the PlayStation 2 was released in Japan, Sony ceases production for this console. Dreamcast was the first to fold in March of 2001, with Xbox and GameCube both ceasing production in 2007. The PS2 outlived the last to cease production by more than 5 years, that’s gotta say something about this little black console.
I still fondly remember the first games I bought; Midnight Club Racing, Ridge Racer V, Silent Scope, and SSX. The launch lineup really isn’t a good indicator for the console, at this time most of the games I was playing were RPGs and at this point, there weren’t many RPGs available yet for the PS2. Instead I was catching up on a few PS One RPGs like Wild Arms and the subsequent rereleases of SNES era Final Fantasy games. The texture smoothing was a nice added feature, making games like Vagrant Story look pretty damn good… but games like Metal Gear Solid suffered from looking overly blurry and damn near unplayable with texture smoothing on.
I remember this was also my first personal DVD player, back in 2001 DVD players were still pretty pricy, the PS2 made them affordable and much like how the PS3 was touted as a gaming console AND an affordable Blu Ray player back when it launched at a staggering $600 MSRP. Though our household had a DVD player before the release of the PS2, I still was slowly building up my own personal DVD library at home.
Over the years I was a certifiable Sony fan boy, sure I owned the other consoles and if there was a game that was only released on Xbox (Halo) or GameCube (Mario anything/Legend of Zelda), I picked that up, but anything multiplatform I generally picked up for the PS2. At this time, Xbox had the shooters while PlayStation 2 held on to many of the RPGs. Sure the PS One era was great for RPG fans, Final Fantasy VII made RPGs a certifiable hit on American shores, and while many JRPGs would stay on the Japanese side of the pond, we got a wide variety of games ranging from household names like the Final Fantasy series and Dragon Quest to more obscure series like Atelier Iris and Rogue Galaxy. RPGs ran rampant on the PS2. One game I remember pouring hours into was Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. I remembered Star Ocean: 2nd Story from the PS One era and fondly remembered how much I loved that battle system (even though the voice acting was pretty horrid).
Before we end this, let’s touch on a game I spent countless hours with just causing mayhem… Grand Theft Auto III. The GTA series stood as a system seller for the console and GTA: San Andreas sits as the best selling PS2 game of all time. I remember when GTA3 first released, this was one of the reasons to own a PS2, this game was epic and at the time such a huge world to play in. Countless other games came along in this era of gaming, many memorable and many not so memorable. But you can’t deny what a huge benefit it was for Sony to have the GTA franchise as an exclusive, even if only for a time being.
I look back at the library of games I’ve played, all the worlds I’ve had the pleasure to visit. I’ve done everything from face down hordes of rampaging Heartless to playing my own part in a Mafioso swan song. Gaming ate up a large chunk of my teen years and early twenties, thing is… I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve played the hero countless times, sometimes played the villain, sometimes ran down pedestrians. Point is, the PlayStation 2 played a very major part of that, I can’t begin to point out all my favorite moments, but as I bring this to a close I fondly remember this console, you had a great run and I look forward to any other console that intends to attempt the same lengthy lifespan.