Review by Sprock
"Sony's prime time."
Although Sony was the new kid on the block during the 1990s when it came to developing video game consoles, beginner's luck helped to propel them to the top of the industry. The PlayStation was a fine and well-rounded console, featuring disc-based technology and a game library that conquered practically every genre. The system had a few technical shortcomings, mainly in regards to faulty and breakable hardware, but it was nonetheless a fine asset to any gamer's collection. Factoring in a few mistakes made by competitors Nintendo and Sega, the newcomer Sony was able to become the new king of the gaming industry. But the company knew that in order to retain its lead in the market, it would need to utilize the latest in cutting-edge technology. With Sega already prepared with their final breath, the Dreamcast, and the PlayStation being inferior technically to the Nintendo 64, Sony aspired to churn out their next console ahead of the competition. With a well-thought-out name, the PlayStation 2 hit the markets at the beginning of the 21st century. And while it suffered from a few issues that reeked of a rushed development, Sony's sequel console was perhaps even more of a sensation than its predecessor.
Like the previous PlayStation, this second console comes with two available models the original model and the Slim, which was released much later in the system's lifespan. The original version is black and rectangular, able to be positioned on its side or whichever direction you find most convenient. This model also comes with a built-in CD and DVD player, which was considered a big plus in a time where DVDs were finally in full swing. The problem? Not only is this version unattractive, but also it's incredibly delicate. While the Gamecube and the Xbox can survive a four-story drop and still work fine, the PlayStation 2 can hardly survive a four-feet one. Additionally, a few systems have reported overheating from time to time, and disc errors are annoyingly common. Fortunately, the Slim is a much more reliable model, and while it costs more dough, its additional reliability is worth every extra penny. While it's still probably not a good idea to throw it off your balcony, the Slim is a sleek model that is much more portable than the original model and can also be positioned in any direction.
The controller is similar to the Dual Shock model used for the PSX, which was a fine controller in the first place, so gamers will not only feel comfortable with the grip, but they will already be accustomed to the button layout. For those unfamiliar, the controller contains two analog sticks, a control pad, and buttons both on the front face and on the top shoulder. The grip is designed so that it can easily slip into any player's hand regardless of their hand size. The only real key difference between this and the PSX controller is that the buttons are sensitive to how much pressure you place on them, which influences actions in certain games. In regards to accessories, the PlayStation 2 utilizes memory cards just like Sony's first system did, and you will not be able to save game data without them. If you are made of cash and this is too much of a hassle for you, however, you have the option of buying a hard drive for the original model. There are also third-party remotes available to control CD and DVD playback, but this is nothing that cannot also be done with the controller.
Like the PSX, however, what makes the PlayStation 2 such a successful console is its immense and diverse software catalog. RPG's were a huge sensation on the first PlayStation, and mainly thanks to Square (who has merged with Enix at this point), this console continues Sony's strong showing in the RPG department. It goes without saying that the Final Fantasy series will appease fans of the genre, but you also have some very strong showings from such titles as the Kingdom Hearts and Dark Cloud series, Star Ocean, and the Suikoden games. The system also has the best titles in the Grand Theft Auto series, while action adventure fans will really dig the God of War and Devil May Cry titles. Racing gamers will want to check out the Gran Turismo games, and of course, the Guitar Hero franchise also got its head start on the PlayStation 2, which is definitely worth checking out for gamers who like addictive non-traditional titles. The system even has its share of good shooters, ranging from Contra to numerous multi-platform titles. Speaking of multi-platform games, the PS2 has a ton of them, although they suffer technically in comparison to other consoles.
Additionally, the PlayStation 2 is backwards compatible with the majority of PSX titles (everything worth playing, anyways). Those games will only run on PSX memory cards, however, so bear that in mind. In regards to online support, this first round of online gaming was a decent effort by Sony, being completely free of charge in spite of offering fewer features than Xbox Live. Yet in spite of its software wonders, the PlayStation 2 suffers a bit in regards to technical power, particularly in comparison to its competitors at the time. The system's graphical power is nowhere near as sharp as that found on the Xbox or Gamecube, often featuring many jagged edges and blurriness abound. As mentioned earlier, multi-platform titles will run much less smoothly on the PlayStation 2 than on the competition's consoles, with abundant framerate issues and unbearable loading times. Fortunately, the audio is crisp and runs in stereo, but no surround sound support is offered. CDs and DVDs sound perfectly normal when run on the system.
The original PlayStation may have taken the gaming industry by storm, but its sequel console goes above and beyond. It may not be the most powerful system of the time period, but it makes up for it with its robust game library and extra features. The original model had its share of flaws, so those looking to purchase the console for the first time will no doubt want to seek out the Slim. The controller remains fine, with Sony going for the approach of playing it safe with a controller that worked perfectly the first time around. The system itself has a few technical quirks, but the game library is the system's main showing point. What was a fairly respectable showing with the PSX's choices of games expands even further with the sequel system. If backwards compatibility were not enough, the span of genres the PlayStation 2's titles cover is unfathomable, keeping any gamer satisfied. All in all, the PlayStation 2 is a worthwhile investment that offers the best of Sony's efforts.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 03/17/08
Game Release: PlayStation 2 Hardware (US, 10/26/00)
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