Five PS2 Games You Still Need to Play
We are coming to the end of an era: within the next year, if not sooner, most major gaming retailers will stop selling PlayStation 2 titles. But before you put your console out to pasture, here are five PS2 games that you absolutely must play, if you haven’t already.
5. Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves (2005)
Although the Sly Cooper series was never exactly obscure, it was too often overshadowed by more popular PS2 games in the action-platformer genre such as the Ratchet and Clank and Jak and Daxter series. In Sly 3, the series’ titular gentleman thief is after the Cooper Vault, the treasure horde his family of thieves has been gathering throughout the generations, which has been taken over by his nemesis, Doctor M. Featuring the stealth platforming elements that are series trademark as well as tons of minigames, Sly 3 also expands the number of extra characters you will play as beyond Sly’s two main allies Bently and Murray. Perhaps most notably, Sly 3 has several 3D levels (using a pair of included 3D glasses), which, though not perfect, are still an interesting experiment, particularly in light of how much of a role 3D is expected to play in upcoming titles. While you may be skeptical at first, Sly 3’s experiments with straddling different genres are successful enough that it really does deserves a place in any collection of PS2 games.
4. Katamari Damacy (2004)
This title had no shortage of attention in gaming circles when it came out, but it is not hard to imagine that many gamers looked at its bizarre, cartoonish graphics and trippy soundtrack and said no thanks. If you are one of these gamers, this is your last chance to play one of the most original and truly fun PS2 games ever made. Katamari Damacy‘s story is a little hard to explain: basically, you play as the Prince, the inch-tall son of the King of All Cosmos, the latter of whom has decided to knock all of the stars out of the sky for no particular reason as the game begins. Using your katamari, a sort of spiny ball, you go around rolling up random objects to turn into stars. The true fun of Katamari Damacy is its sense of proportion: there is something deeply satisfying about starting out rolling up mahjong tiles and coins and ending up rolling up islands and clouds. And even if you feel strongly turned off by its aesthetic, it couldn’t hurt to give this PS2 game a shot while you can. Chances are you will be glad you did after the fact.
3. Okami (2006)
Okami tells the story of the Japanese goddess Amaterasu, who navigates through various Japanese folktales in the guise of a white wolf. What makes Okami stand out from other PS2 games is the unique tool the player uses to interact with the environment: the Celestial Brush. Using it, players temporarily freeze time and use a literal calligraphy brush to draw shapes and symbols that change the world. For example, if the player finds a barren tree, a cherry-shaped brushstroke will make it burst into bloom. The Celestial Brush is also your primary weapon: when facing an enemy, you can draw a sharp vertical line to create a sword stroke or a squiggly line to rain down lightning bolts on your enemy. In addition to its gameplay, Okami is also one of the most visually attractive PS2 games out there, with cel-shaded graphics modeled on Japanese sumi-e woodcuts. And with its epic yet humorous story, and a cast of amusing characters, the 40 plus hours of gameplay will slip by before you know it.
2. Ico (2001)
While many gamers have played and loved its spiritual sequel, Shadow of the Colossus, many never got around to trying out the original, in part because it was one of the first crop of PS2 games created, and was quickly buried beneath other titles. Ico is about a small boy of the same name who is locked away in a forbidden castle for bearing a mark of evil fortune among his people: a set of bull-like horns. Here, he meets a strangely glowing girl named Yorda whose mother, the Witch of the castle, is attempting to kill, in order to steal her youth and beauty. As Ico, you lead Yorda by the hand through a series of environmental puzzles, all the while defending her from malicious shadow-creatures with nothing but a stick. With lush backgrounds and a rich soundtrack that will make you forget you’re playing a PS2 game, Ico is definitely a title you need to play while you have the chance.
1. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES
The Persona series had the unfortunate circumstance of coming out near the end of the PS2’s release cycle, with the result that many gamers who would otherwise have played it were already busy with next-gen titles. But make no mistake, even if its graphics are very much of its generation, Persona 3 is one of the best times you’ll have playing a game once you give it a try. Following a transfer student at a Japanese high school, Persona 3 is a unique hybrid: it is both an RPG and a social interaction game. During the day, you meet with friends, participate in clubs, and romances the various girls in your life. But during the night, you use a supernatural ability called Persona, a creature summoned from the depths of your psyche, to fight against the Shadows, malicious creatures who inhabit the Dark Hour, a “hidden” time during which most people are “transmogrified” into coffins. Persona 3‘s characters are as deep and engaging as any you’ll find in a novel, and its combat as fast-paced and addictive as that in any other RPG. The FES edition of the game (short of “festival”) also features a system for making customized weapons, new social interactions for the day time, and an epilogue to the original story called The Answer, where you play as the robot-girl Aigis. If you can only play one game before letting go of your PS2 good, there is no doubt that this is it.