On January 4th PlayStation 2 production ground to a halt worldwide, nearly 13 years after this best-selling home console was released on March 4th 2000 in Japan.
This somewhat sentimental event got me reminiscing about the glory days of the PS2 era, and reliving some of the highlights of my journey with the console since I picked one up in March 2002 alongside the European launch of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.
The PS2 would soon become home to a number of remarkable RPGs including the likes of Final Fantasy X and Kingdom Hearts, although two of the system’s greatest role-playing games – Persona 3 and Persona 4 – would only be released towards the end of the decade!
I was fortunate enough to play most of the PS2 RPGs that caught my eye over the five or so years that the console was my primary games machine, but nevertheless there were still a few titles that fell through the cracks either due to being unavailable in South Africa or difficult to source.
So without further ado, here’s my list of the top five PS2 RPGs I wish I’d played:
Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories
- As a huge Kingdom Hearts fan I was sad to learn that this game was never released outside of Japan and North America. While I played the Game Boy Advance title on which Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories is based, the PS2 version features 3D graphics, voice-acting and additional content that would have made playing through the game again an absolute pleasure. Thankfully this title will be included in the upcoming compilation Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMIX for PS3 so I can still get to experience it provided Square Enix releases it outside of Japan.
- The original Grandia for the Sega Saturn and PSone was surprisingly captivating given its crude polygonal environments and sprite-based characters and enemies. I sunk dozens of hours into that game and was left wanting more when the credits eventually rolled. The sequel for Dreamcast, PC and PS2 was therefore an enticing prospect and I remember looking at early screenshots thinking that I couldn’t wait to explore the colourful, quaint towns depicted in them. Sadly I never got around to playing Grandia II as it came out at a time when games like Grand Theft Auto III, Metal Gear Solid 2 and Final Fantasy X were keeping me glued to my PS2.
- This title is yet another example of a seemingly awesome RPG that was never released in Europe. Although I had never played a Suikoden game, I was seduced into wanting this game by the great reviews it received from US outlets and the handful of ‘2002 RPG of the Year’ awards it won. Suikoden III’s story told from multiple perspectives was apparently one of the game’s most notable features, and I also remember the graphics looking great for their time.
Dark Cloud 2 / Dark Chronicle
- The original Dark Cloud was one of the major titles revealed before the PS2’s launch. By combining tried and tested gameplay elements from The Legend of Zelda series with basic city-building features, Dark Cloud was a great demonstration of what the PS2’s hardware could achieve and boasted pretty sharp graphics for the early 2000s. It was also prolific Japanese developer Level-5’s first game and was released at a time when the company and Sony still had a very close partnership. I only ever played the demo for Dark Cloud was my interest was sufficiently piqued to want to play the sequel – a desire that grew even stronger when I first laid my eyes on its beautiful cel-shaded graphics and saw all the high review scores it was getting. Sadly it saw a limited release in South Africa and by the time I had enough money to buy it, it was already absent from store shelves.
- This title is another cel-shaded, Level-5 developed game that came to Europe in 2007 in Director’s Cut form. While there were other science fiction RPGs for PS2 such as the Xenosaga series and Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, Rogue Galaxy was the one I was most tempted to try out due to its stylish visuals and expansive world seemingly filled with an unending supply of excitement and adventure. I saw it in the bargain bin once at BT Games but by that time I had already moved onto PS3 and questioned whether I would find the time to play it.
Which PS2 RPGs do you feel you missed out on during the console’s heyday? Let us know in the comments.