The PlayStation 2 is now 20 years old, which is making me feel really old too. Back then things seemed simpler, didn’t they? For me, it was the end of high school and the start of university life, and my PS2 was a pretty steadfast companion. Seeing the console hit 20 had me strolling down memory lane, thinking of some of the games that I invested a lot of time into. Probably too much, if you ask my parents. Here are a few games that kept me entertained, having fun, or helped me deal with some other serious stuff going on in my life. Also, who knew I was so into sport style games?
That massive 8MB memory card
Do you remember having to look after your blocks on your PS1 memory card? Then suddenly you jumped to PS2 and it had 8MB of space. It was massive by comparison and now instead of juggling those 15 blocks around, you could back them up into a PS2 memory card, then retrieve them for use later. Suddenly you went from 1MB of space to 8MB, which meant saves you were hanging onto for a rainy day could get moved off for new games. There was nothing worse than losing RPG saves because you needed blocks and this helped with that.
Ah yes, snowboarding. As a teen living really far away from any place with enough snow to do this, it seemed exotic and fresh. Get ready to pop some sick tricks, grind rails and race to the bottom of the hill. Finding the right skater to match your style as you hit the powder meant I played this game a lot, listening to someone call out the names of your tricks taught me a lot about what is what too. It was the beginning of having someone actually talk in a game, which until that point I had only seen in a few PC games. I also learned the problem with having your PS2 vertical when playing SSX. I played the game so much that the disc started to scratch slightly in the upright position.
I am pretty glad that consoles don’t offer any sort of time logging because Tekken 5 would have a pretty hefty hour count. When playing Tekken 3 on the PS1, everything just felt so much slower than playing it on an arcade machine. (Yep, Newcastle used to have a pretty well kitted out arcade.) Then the game hit the next generation of consoles and everything sped up, meaning reflexes were more important and those graphics just looked so good! Unlocking every character and also getting the cinematics for finishing the game with each character took quite a bit of effort, and it felt all worth it to unlock things. From the oddball humour of Heihachi and Kuma, to ninjas riding the top of fighter jets and monks punching through mountains, the game had it all.
What crazy person decided to mix Final Fantasy and Disney? It might sound like something that doesn’t work, but there are many fans of this amazing franchise which mixed Disney characters together with JRPG heroes and made for some amazing stories, both for the cameo characters as well as the new additions. Seeing some of my favourite Final Fantasy characters with different graphics and a little more story was a treat and in a time with limited internet access, it was like having a brand new anime series to binge.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3
Yep, another sport-related title! THPS 3 gave you these amazing areas you were dying to explore and very little time to do so. The clock was ticking and you had a list of objectives to do. Some of these were easy to work out and then work on, like getting a high score or finding where all the letters making up SKATE were in the level, then getting all of them in a single run. Others were more complex, requiring you to explore the map and try a few different things until you work out exactly how to break, trigger or reach some arbitrary goal. Oh, and playing a lot meant unlocking superheroes too, yay!
Final Fantasy X
I left this one for last because not only was it really special and probably the most time invested in a single game (World of Warcraft has beat that record now), but it is really personal too. Back in a small town in KZN, getting games was quite a pain. We had one store that was primarily for selling games, the rest of your shopping was done at CNA or Game. It also sometimes took months for big releases to make it our way, so when my Mother said a friend was travelling to the UK, I asked if she could find and buy Final Fantasy X for me, because I knew it would be PAL and I wouldn’t have to wait for stock to finally reach my sleepy hollow.
This was arranged months in advance, and my excitement for the game was quite intense. I would sit on my dial-up internet and try watch tiny clips online of gameplay, blown away by how good the graphics looked in the game. Almost as good as the cinematics of other games, how could they do that?
Then I got sick. Like… really sick. It was my Matric year and I was missing school and after the third course of antibiotics didn’t get rid of infection in my lungs, things started requiring x-rays and MRI scans to find the problem. While I was sick it was too difficult to hold a breath in, which was a change from someone who had been doing lifesaving training at the local swimming pool. Scans led to panic, which led to more scans and a trip to Durban to the hospital for surgery. The doctor said it would be pretty simple, thanks to me being young and bones being supple. Yeah, about that. I still have a hernia / hollow in my chest where a section of rib was removed after it broke, and being in the car from Durban to Newcastle while your chest feels like two open halves that move independently over bumps was a right pain.
I got home and my Mom was waiting for me, with a copy of FFX. I got into bed and the controller was put under the duvets so that I could reach the controller without moving too much. For quite a while I couldn’t roll over or sit up without help. Playing FFX helped me focus on something besides pain, and the game would continue playing music when paused if I got too tired to continue. Exploring Spira was what I did instead of moving around, my new family keeping me company as I bubbled in and out of consciousness.
I still think fondly of my PlayStation 2, and I still have the console and most of the games in storage, just in case the desire strikes to load up an old save and go save the world again.