It may be hard to believe, but exactly ten years have passed since PlayStation 2 was first released in Japan, on 4 March 2000.
Although certain avid gamers continue to bemoan some of the lesser titles that have been piled on the system in its twilight years, PlayStation 2 has become one of the most influential consoles in gaming history. The very fact that it has stuck around to last as long as its Japanese parent company said it would – which incidentally is far longer than any of its original competitors – is a testament to the ambition and overall execution of this 21st century entertainment system.
When the system first arrived there was an inimitable excitement around it which went beyond just that of the gaming faithful. In fact, excitement was so rampant that there were even fears that the console was powerful enough to launch an Iraqi missile attack.
It had DVD video capabilities, supported 5.1 surround sound and had the ability to display game worlds with stunning detail, thanks to the console’s custom-made Graphics Synthesizer and Emotion Engine chips. And the fact that all this fitted into a black box about the size of two phonebooks was all the more impressive. It was the first time a console felt like it was designed to complement the physical living space, rather than merely being a piece of awkwardly coloured plastic casing hiding high-tech witchcraft.
But it wasn’t just the console that was exciting; the raft of upcoming next generation games had people rooted to the spot when footage was shown on television. Early games from the PlayStation 2 campaign trail include: Tekken Tag Tournament, Dead or Alive 2, Dark Cloud, TimeSplitters and Zone of the Enders.
Clips of a Subaru Impreza and Toyota Celica rumbling along racetracks in Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec showed off the system’s graphical and lighting potential. Hideo Kojima’s long awaited sequel to his PlayStation espionage epic, Metal Gear Solid, was also a major attraction during the console’s infancy. And Final Fantasy X proved that pre-rendered cutscenes weren’t just a bit better in the next generation, they were now just as cinematic as Hollywood’s breed.
After a single year PlayStation 2 was already home to gems, such as Grand Theft Auto III, Devil May Cry, Silent Hill 2, Final Fantasy X, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, ICO and Jak and Daxter: the Precursor Legacy.
As developers became more accustomed to the tools, they unlocked more and more of the system’s potential. PlayStation 2 has played host to some truly remarkable titles in its ten years. Everything from vast open world landscapes, to the technicolor beauty of Rez, to the moment-to-moment thrills of Burnout 3. On top of all this, PlayStation 2 was part of the era when gaming truly gained mass social appeal. Titles like EyeToy, SingStar and Buzz! helped to break down the barriers of what people normally perceived as a video game. And though its online service was the poor cousin to Microsoft’s superior Xbox Live, Sony made PlayStation 2 a connected device, producing hits like SOCOM that paved the way for the future of the industry.
When that small charcoal black box was first revealed to the world nobody really knew what to make of it, and nobody could have predicted the enormous legacy it would leave upon not just the games industry, but the home entertainment industry. PlayStation 2 was a tremendously versatile piece of technology and will remain an important part of consumer electronics and gaming history for many years to come.