The PlayStation 2 was released on March 4, 2000 in Japan, making this week the year it can officially drive in some states (albeit perhaps before 10PM with a parent in the passenger seat). America finally climbed aboard the Sony “moneytrain” later that year on October 26.
The console was a revolutionary hit, bringing in a quality level of graphics that only the Dreamcast could compete with at the time, and it ended up selling over 155 million consoles worldwide.
Even more impressive than its graphics, though, was an astounding 1.52 billion games sold over the course of its lifetime with a grand total of 10,828 games in different regions throughout the world. Very few consoles could claim to have been such a hit with only the Nintendo DS and Game Boy able to take swipes at the PlayStation 2’s claim to dominance.
And man, was that menu screen sweet, or what?
Despite the sweet memories, the PlayStation 2 didn’t always have the best of times. The first year alone is rather infamous for slow burn of quality games. Remember when the Dreamcast sported a better lineup than the PlayStation 2? Those were the days… the days of Stretch Panic…
Of course, that all changed in the fall of 2001 once the super lineup of ICO, Metal Gear Solid 2, Devil May Cry, Grand Theft Auto 3 and Final Fantasy X took the PlayStation 2 to a whole new level, knocking out the Dreamcast within a year and securing Sony’s supreme dominance for the entire sixth generation. The poor Xbox and GameCube barely even got a chance to shine.
Before that holiday season though, a few hits scattered the landscape. Onimusha: Warlords, Twisted Metal: Black, Zone of the Enders, Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil, and these few games that eager fans picked up to quell the pain of waiting for a change.
Ron bought The Bouncer and Dark Cloud
I can’t remember the exact date I bought a PlayStation 2, but it was definitely during the summer of 2001. I know I bought it from Funcoland, but I also started shopping at EB Games because I secured a subscription to Game Informer. My first issue had a review for ICO, which was a September release that year.
Thankfully, I missed most of the slow months still being up to my neck in my need for PlayStation JRPGs. It took the allure of Squaresoft to bring me aboard to the sixth generation of consoles with the release of… ugh… The Bouncer.
Boy oh boy was I a young and loyal fanboy in those days.
On the contrary, my memories of The Bouncer are quite nice. History remembers Squaresoft’s beautiful beat ‘em up as a critical failure, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I played through the game multiple times. RPGs cursed me with the urge unlock every character in multiplayer and pump up the three main fighters to maximum stats.
I remember one of the big complaints being that it was too short for a Squaresoft game, the symptom of a gaming critic’s disease I call “Parasite Eve syndrome,” but that was actually a saving grace. Unlike Squaresoft’s long RPGs, The Bouncer encouraged many playthroughs to see all of its story, and a longer playthrough would have been too much of a drag.
I also remember out of our three stars – Sion Barzhad, Volt Kreugar, and Koh Leifoh – Koh was my favorite. He had the worst stats, but his flashy Taekwondo moves put the others’ to shame. He was also voiced by Steven Blum, who I soon would recognize as the voice of Spike Spiegel and every other anime character of that archetype.
Oh boy, the early 2000s anime boom.
I haven’t gone back to play The Bouncer since that summer, but yeah, from what my memory tells me, I had a good time.
Thankfully, I also snatched up the original Dark Cloud to hold me over until the holidays. Sony hyped this game as the PlayStation 2’s “Zelda killer.” That was a bit of a missed mark, but it was still a fun little action RPG with two gameplay modes that balanced each other perfectly. Very ActRaiser-ish in that regard, if we are talking quality “year one” games.
On one hand, our hero has been tasked with rebuilding the world. Villages across the globe have been destroyed, and their elements lie locked away in randomly generated dungeons. Finding the kidnapped villagers shows that each has a specific way they want the village rebuilt, and a lot of the fun comes from accommodating for everyone to make a perfect town.
I remember diving from an aerial view down into the actual village was like… “Whoa. Next-gen is here.”
Then there were the action segments, diving through these randomly generated dungeons, uncovering villagers, houses, weapons, magic, items, and other odds and ends. It was “procedural generation” long before it became hip to use the term, and now I can see just how far ahead of its time the game was.
Of course, it got a little repetitive as well with its shallow combat, and I didn’t beat it. The holiday season came around, and my mind was blown by those games instead. However, without it, I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate Dark Cloud 2, which came much closer to being the “Zelda killer” Sony wanted.
Yeah, then The Wind Waker came out, and that notion vaporized into thin air.
Again, my first two PlayStation 2 games were not hits, but thanks to the years that followed and backwards compatibility, it definitely stands as my go-to “desert island console” with its entire library of PS1 and PS2 classics to keep me sane.
Eric waited for Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec
Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec was where my love affair with racing games truly began. I’d played Gran Turismo and Gran Turismo 2, of course, but the third entry in the series was the big one.
Like Ron, I was big into anime at the time. I’d just discovered a show called Initial D. In case you somehow haven’t come across it through its many anime versions, its live-action Hong Kong adaptation (which is a surprisingly fun movie), or its presence in arcades all over the U.S. (and elsewhere), Initial D is a show about a bunch of men and some women racing Japanese sports cars.
Cars were never a big part of my life growing up. They were just things people use to go places. Initial D was the first time I started to figure out how interesting they could be. I still have a lot of affection for the core set of vehicles from that show, and they’re often some of the first ones I’ll pick up in modern racing games; the Toyota AE-86, the Nissan Skyline GT-R 32, and the Lancer Evolution are still some of my favorites.
I’ve broadened out significantly since then, but I’ll always have a soft spot for the weird angles of late 80s sports cars – even supercars like the Ferrari F40. I’m not going to try to pretend that the driving in the show is super realistic, but a lot of the discussions about the way the mechanics of driving work are on point.
I couldn’t afford the PlayStation 2 when it hit. Plus, the Dreamcast was a way better system. I was super sure of that. Like, the PlayStation 2 had jaggies and EA Sports games and stuff. I was a hardcore Sega fanboy. The Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec bundle is what finally pulled me in, though something would’ve gotten me in eventually.
Going in with my newly obtained knowledge about cars – understanding of how different drivetrains and wheels can affect grip and weight distribution, when to start braking and accelerating, and other things like that – totally changed the game for me. Instead of being a nightmare, the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was a blast. That was the first real-world track I’d ever tackled in a game, and it’s one I still enjoy racing in Forza Motorsport 5 today.
Without Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec and a little help from anime, I don’t know if I would’ve ever ended up the fan of racing games I am today.
If you bought a PlayStation 2 in its first year, what games did you pick up along with it? If you were lucky to avoid this first year, what did you buy in the following years?