Hidden Gems: PS2


After a frankly appalling start where it had no decent games and was basically getting its arse handed to it by the Dreamcast (in gaming rather than sales terms) the PS2 finally hit its stride with the release of Grand Theft Auto 3 and went on to dominate that generation.

A superb catalogue of games followed with everything from huge AAA blockbusters to quirky cult hits available and the PS2 sold well until relatively recently. Especially compared to its successor.

Anyway, here’s our buddy Danny from The PS2 Vault to guide you through the cobweb-covered depths of his PS2 collection.

Urban Reign (Namco)

Urban Reign PS2

Urban Reign

Urban Reign is the undisputed king of PS2 multiplayer in my household without a shadow of a doubt. While this was made by Namco, of Tekken and Soul Calibur fame, for some reason the game never really took off despite some positive feedback from gaming critics. Never the less this still remains the PS2′s best scrolling beat-em-up to date but that’s not particularly hard with competition like The Bouncer.

What did me and my friends like about this game the most? The gameplay! The controls are simple to understand yet they reward people that take time to learn them. In fact the controls are so good they eliminate button mashing, Ah now I see this game has your attention. Now add a crap load of characters and some of the smoothest animation you’ll find from that generation (but what did you expect from the makers of some of the best 3D fighting games around?).

While Urban Reign does has some flaws, the game will keep you entertained with or without friends. The single player can be a little repetitive but it’s ten hours long which is long enough to give you some decent value for money on that front. If you have a multitap for the PS2, I highly recommend buying this game as it’s one of the best for the system regardless if you like fighting games or not.

 

Crimson Tears

Crimson Tears (Spike)

Crimson Tears is an action-oriented dungeon crawling RPG made by Spike, the people who now own the Firepro Wrestling IP, and the game was published here in the UK by Capcom.

The game is a pretty basic affair. Some will criticise it for its repetitive nature but games of this type generally are quite repetitive anyway. While the game has wonderful cell-shaded graphics and has some nice anime-inspired cut scenes the levels were randomly generated and always flat which was a little bit of a turn off for some reviewers. The game does have a lot of content though, there are plenty of weapons, equipment and fighting techniques to unlock as well as some wacky costumes which make your characters seem more like Capcom characters if you catch my drift.

While this game is fairly simple, it’s an awful lot of fun and quite challenging too. The combat works thanks to the game’s simple but tight controls and fantastic animation. There is a story but it’s not very deep and is there purely to give the player a reason for beating up the bad guys. Thanks to the game being very underrated, it can usually be found for a cheap price. Well worth checking out if you like Diablo-style hack and slash style RPGs.

 

Spectral Vs. Generation

Spectral Vs. Generation (IGS)

The PS2, believe it or not, was a mecca for 2D fighting games thanks to its wonderful range of titles and it’s decent controllers which were suitable to play such games with. While many games like Capcom Vs. SNK 2, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Guilty Gear X2 Reload and King of the Fighters XI get a massive amount of praise from the PS2 2D fighting game community one game that get’s criminally overlooked is a game called Spectral Vs. Generation which was a 2D fighting game based around two strategy RPG franchises Spectral Souls and Generation of Chaos (which came out on the PSP here in the UK).

Essentially this plays like any modern day 2D fighting game although the controls are more like Guilty Gear where the player has three progressively harder strike buttons and a kick button. Most of the characters in this game are well animated and from the previous Spectral and Generation games. Most of which happen to be demons or human looking warriors each sporting their own fighting style, there is no repetition of characters in this game so there is no Mortal Kombat-style colour palette swapping going on here.

While the presentation is wonderful, the best thing about the game is the gameplay which is simple enough for the average player to understand while being deep enough for veterans to get their teeth stuck in to. The moves are not too complex and it’s pretty easy to set up combos with a little bit of practice. For a budget game Spectral vs. Generation is one of the best hidden gems for the system and can be found very cheaply on eBay.  If you like fighting games I highly recommend this title.

 

Bombastic

Bombastic (Shift)

Quite frankly this is more addictive than it has any right to be and is the little-known sequel to the Devil Dice games. Essentially you are this little demon thing and you go around matching explosive dices for example matching three dices with the value of three and four dice with the value of four and so on. Once the dices explode anyone caught in the explosion will be killed and any dice that has a lower value number than the exploding dice will be ‘lit’ and will explode soon afterwards.

The game makes the player think in ways that they would not normally do in a puzzle game which is good. I put this down to the highly original concept. Bombastic has plenty of unlockables and also has a decent single player story along with time trial and survival modes but the best mode is the quite frankly awesome multiplayer mode which can be played with either humans or the computer or a mixture of both just like Bomberman.

Overall I would highly recommend this game to anyone because it’s great fun and it bombed (urgh!) in retail. Hell even GAME were selling this title new at £5 a pop just to get people to buy it, it was that underappreciated but the game is well worth a look.

Stella Deus

Stella Deus: Gate of Eternity (Atlus)

Stella Deus‘ theory to gaming is ‘keep it simple’ and it works for the most part. After playing RPG games like Disgaea. this was a joy to play this game because it was easily accessible even to a novice of this type of game. It also helps that the game has a wonderful storyline with some great character design throughout which is a must for any game of this type.

Atlus did a really good job with the presentation as well. It almost has a Guilty Gear style vibe to it and even rivals Disgaea’s fantastic presentation it looks and sounds that good. Of course the terrain is still made out of those blocky cubes that we all know and love RPGs for but to be fair they do look a lot nicer here than in most other games of this type which is always a bonus. Something I did notice the other day was that the music in Stella Deus was done by the same guy who did the music for Gradius V (just thought you might like to know that).

While this game is fairly traditional it does feature a crap load of extra content. Additional side missions are always a welcome addition to any game thus it’s been said that the game will give you fifty hours of tactical role-playing gaming pleasure. You can pick this game up pretty cheaply now so I would highly recommend buying this right away.

 

Frequency

Frequency (Harmonix)

Ever wondered what the makers of Guitar Hero did before their breakthrough guitar playing hit? Well Frequency was their first ever game and while the game’s sequel Amplitude normally gets more praise (it’s a pretty well hidden gem too) Frequency for me will always be the better title because it was easier to get into and the choice of music was much better.

So how does the game work? Well, think of a normal rhythm style game but played in a tunnel like Tempest and you essentially have Frequency. Picking the right route is the key to success here and not missing a note will mean that the game will fill the rest of that particular instrument for you for that one sector while you go off and do the other instruments. There are also power ups in this game as well which help with scoring and can even help play the instruments for you.

The game looks quite trippy, not Rez-trippy but trippy enough to get you in to the groove of the game. While the game was fun to play single player you could also play the game with three other friends providing you had a multitap and some friends obviously but if you don’t you’re in luck because this was one of the first PS2 games to be playable online with the PS2′s network adaptor.

Overall this is a must for anyone who is a fan of rhythm games. Although saying that many will state that Gitaroo Man is the best rhythm action game without a doubt this in my mind easily rivals it for the top spot.

 

Drakengard

Drakengard (Squaresoft)

Do you remember a game called Lair for the PS3? It was a game that was heavily hyped up to the gills because it was a Dynasty Warriors style game that allowed you to fly on a dragon, blow some shit up with it then jump off to go in for the kill with your man. Everyone was really excited about this until people found out it was actually pretty shit but the idea was cool never the less and this is where Drakengard comes in because it’s the same game but made by a small Japanese company you may or may not of heard of called Squaresoft.

This game got panned pretty badly because of the same reasons that the original Dynasty Warriors did and while both games are rather enjoyable Drakengard did add a whole lot of interesting ideas to the table the main one being that you could ride a dragon and blow shit up.

The graphics are actually pretty decent all things considered and the sound was excellent but you would expect that from Squaresoft. While you generally only controlled one guy (as supposed to Dynasty Warriors which gave you a choice of 40+ characters) you could find hidden weapons and level them up by using them. The more you use them the better they become and you unlock more powerful magic or them which was a nice touch

Overall if you liked games like Dynasty Warriors and you fancy a challenge (because this game is hard) then this game is defiantly for you. It’s actually a rather enjoyable experience although the series was pretty much killed off by the game squeal which was nothing more than an expansion pack to this game, shame.

Castle Shikigami 2

Castle Shikigami 2 (Alfa Software)

When I found out that Castle Shikigami 2 was released by some budget American company with English subtitles for one fourth the price of the original Dreamcast version how could I refuse?

Castle Shikigami 2 is one of the DC’s best shoot-em-ups and it happens to be one of my favourites as well. You are given a choice of eight characters, each with two variations which play differently to each other. The characters are very well realised and have a lot of character to them although you will soon discover who are the easier characters to use but each character has their own scoreboard so it cool.

The best thing about the gameplay in Castle Shikigami 2 is that it rewards risk. Fly closer to bullets and your guy or girl will become angrier and their shot will power up. Keep killing people with maximum shot power to earn more medals and more medals mean a lot more points. It’s a simple system really but I like it a lot because it makes the player focus on what’s important in these types of game, the shooting and the positioning of the player.

Overall I cannot recommend this game highly enough. it’s really cheap on eBay and if you are fortunate to have a PS2 that can play imports this is well worth looking into because it’s one fantastic game.

Driven To Distraction

Driven to Destruction (Atari)

This is another game that me and my friends really enjoyed playing multiplayer. While most people think that Flatout was the only decent Destruction Derby style game to come out for some time Driven to Destruction was also a very good DD style game and it had a little bit more of a realistic tone to it than the aforementioned Flatout series.

The game played more like the original Destruction Derby than any other game of this type but with a bit of a graphic facelift and more gameplay modes which were a hell of a lot of fun. It’s also worth mentioning that you can make custom spray jobs in this game using the game’s ‘spray paint’ option which was cool and that after a while the car that you were driving would get so nackered it would be unusable and thus you would have to buy a new one.

The damage modelling was also very good on this game. It was not overly exciting (I mean there were no massive explosions or any of that kind of thing) but the cars did bend and deform just like you would expect them to in a real demolition derby. The handling was also pretty good too, none of my friends when playing this four player VIA multitap had any problems steering the cars when we played so I guess that’s a plus point.

Overall this is a great game for anyone who like combat driving games. It’s actually a riot to play with friends and it’s not bad in single player either as the races and events in the game are generally interesting enough to keep the players interest for some considerable time. This game is also pretty cheap now so it should be easy to get a hold of this hidden gem.

Fantavision

FantaVision (SCEI)

FantaVision for those who were not early PS2 adopters was a launch title that centred around setting off pretty looking fireworks across a nice cityscape.

While the description above may seem a little simple, and lets face it a tad dull, the game really comes into its own when you actually start playing it as it’s probably one of the most original titles to hit the PS2 which is saying something considering how old it is.

The game had a decent single player mode but puzzle games of this type are always better played with a friend so I highly recommend checking this title out if you have friends over on a regular basis.

Overall there is not much else I can say about this game. It’s got a simple premise and while the inital idea of the game is pretty simple the added factors of bonus stars and chain reactions give the game enough depth for it to be worth mastering. This in my mind it no doubt a forgotten gem as many who own the PS2 were not around at the time of its release to fully enjoy this great title.

You can find out more about PS2 stuff generally by following Danny’s excellent blog The PS2 Vault.  Cheers, Dan!

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