I've owned a lot of gaming systems over my lifetime but none have impacted me more than the PlayStation 2. Growing up with that system in a constantly expanding and evolving time for video games really shaped the way I view the medium today. In honor of the best-selling video game system of all time (as of this writing), I wanted to pay tribute to come of my favorite video games on the PS2. And since I just cosplayed Sly Cooper, I know just where to start…
Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus
Sly Cooper is the most recent PS2 game I’ve completed (alas, I have to finish Persona 3). I spent my senior year of college sitting cross-legged in front of the TV with my housemates cheering me on as I tried to live up to my family’s legacy and re-attain the history of the Essence of Sneak, the Thievius Raccoonus. Basically, it’s a game where you play as a thief raccoon who runs around the world stealing treasures. It’s a cool mix of an action-adventure and puzzle game; you need to fight enemies, traverse difficult terrain, and collect keys to unlock doors to get to your goal.
I had low expectations going into this game. It came out in 2002 and, as a young and avid PS2 player, it never came across my path. How good could it have been? Well, really good actually. I was extremely surprised by the ease of the gameplay. For being old, it isn’t clunky; Sly moves really well and you are able to fly through the map effortlessly with his iconic hook. Speaking of Sly, he’s a very versatile character. He gains an exciting library of skills throughout the game that makes him feel developed and allows new aspects of gameplay to constantly and organically emerge. I also enjoyed the variety of game mechanics; each boss had an individual gimmick which made each battle different and memorable in its own way.
After playing the first one, I gave the second one a try but never finished it. It played differently than the first one in a way I didn’t like. I think I didn’t give enough time between games, but will definitely try to complete the trilogy on my second playthrough. After putting together my cosplay, I feel obligated.
Final Fantasy X
I’ve spoken a bit about this game in the post that inspired me to start this blog. FFX is in my top 2 favorite games of all time (it fluctuates between this and P5). This is the game that opened my eyes the power of video games and their ability to tell inspiring and impactful stories. It is also the first turn-based RPG I ever played, influencing my young mind and making that playstyle my favorite in all of video games.
I need to replay this game and write a post about it, which will probably end up being a Love Letter. This game speaks to me in so many ways. It’s a video game, it’s a piece of art, and it’s an enthralling emotional roller coaster that had be in its grasp from start to finish. I try to play it every couple years (2010, 2015) and excitedly await my third journey through Spira. I don’t want to give too much away because I want you to play this game. It’s a bomb. And it truly is beautiful.
Kingdom Hearts II
Again, the inclusion of this game is not a surprise. You all know I’m a Kingdom Hearts fan. I think I wrote two articles on it in one week when KH3 was about to come out. Kingdom Hearts was my gateway into video games but KH2 is known far and wide as the ultimate installment in this convoluted series. And I agree for a lot of reason: great gameplay, an exciting story, amazing music, way-too-fun characters, and a heart bigger than the one on its cover. I remember when my family beat the game for the first time. With Xehenort finally defeated there was cheering and laughter, only to be followed by a sacred silence as we watched the final cutscene. Seeing the shine of the realm of light reflect on Sora’s and Riku’s faces as they finally walked through the darkness home was a big emotional hit. When the credits rolled, we were exhausted. What a crazy ride that was for some 8th graders. What a way to have your eyes opened to the power of video games.
One of the biggest factors for me is that I rarely play story driven games more than once. My siblings and I played KH2 countless times. One time, we even raced a friend to see how could beat the game first (he won, John doesn’t sleep). It’s hard not to keep coming back for more. Sora’s personality and playstyle are infectious; the worlds he lives in are expansive and hold secrets. The Square Enix ridiculousness is a major bonus (who knew my Disney movies could be so edgy?) but the additional, darker dimensions is an innovative way to rediscover your childhood films.
Through all the smoke and haze of the crazy Kingdom Heart franchise, KH2 continues to shines. That speaks volumes for a series that is known for being anything but Simple and Clean.
I finally realized why I had such an obsession with Egg Mania.
It’s Tetris for children.
Egg Mania: Eggstreme Madness is a silly 2002 children’s game where you race to build towers to escape a flood. It’s a simple P V P split screen game where Tetris-like pieces fall from the sky that allow you to ascend to a hot air balloon. Get there first and you win the level— get defeated and your cute egg avatar drowns. There was also another game mode that was the exact opposite of the standard play; instead of building towers, you throw bombs at your opponents to destroy theirs with the last one standing being victorious.
Again, it’s a silly game, but as a child I could not stop playing it. My siblings loved to play the bomb mode but I would always complain. The tower building levels were so much better. Looking back on it now, it was obviously the birth of my life-long Tetris obsession. I’m surprised I never realized it before!
On every other PS2 list, you will never see this game. But in my Tetris heart, it will always be one of the top dogs that gave me my start to loving puzzle games of all shapes and sizes, even if they actually are just about some rotten eggs.
Shrek Super Party
Most young adults have vivid memories of long, intense nights destroying their friendships with Mario Party. I have similar memories, but through a different vehicle. I was not a Nintendo kid, so I had the most hilariously amazing Mario Party ripoff: enter the 2002 (did everything get released in 2002?) release of Shrek Super Party.
If you’re wondering why they have such big heads, don’t worry about it. Just let it happen. This is a low-budget, low-quality Mario Party parody that has you swapping bugs, racing scooters, pea-shooting beans, and ramming barrels into each other. And it’s ironically— and unironically— an extremely entertaining game. You may be thinking that this choice is heavily dependent on nostalgia, but you would be quite incorrect. My friends and I still have Shrek Super Party tournaments, we still turn into stink bugs and fart on flower petals, we still throw glass bottles of milk at each other. It’s a game that weirdly and surprisingly holds up. It’s kind of bad, but that makes it fun. It’s super frustrating, but the sting it leaves feels good. I’ve been playing this game for 15 years and it has never gotten boring. That’s a testament to the outrageousness of Shrek Super Party.
Should you go out of your way and buy it? Maybe not. But if you just happen to get the opportunity to play this game, give it a spin. Enjoy the madness that will ensue.