Sony recently announced PlayStation Now, an upcoming subscription/rental service that will stream PlayStation games directly to PS4, PS3, tablets, smartphones and even certain TVs. It's certainly an interesting prospect, and a major step forward to a possible future where games are streamed directly to you, rather than being bought at retail or downloaded. Only PS3 games will be made available initially, but over time PS2 and PSX games will be added to PS Now's library.
Yesterday we revealed the 20 PSOne games we'd love to be able to stream to our devices. Today we're stepping one generation forward and looking at the 20 PlayStation 2 games we think would be perfect additions to the PlayStation Now library. Which ones would you chose?
This brilliant, but commercially unsuccessful motorcycle sim was created by Polyphony, the makers of Gran Turismo. As you might expect, this two-wheeled racer very much follows the look, feel and format of its four-wheeled counterpart, and it even shares its tracks (apart from an exclusive new track, Circuit Ricardo Tormo).
That's not necessarily a bad thing, however. Tourist Trophy does an amazing job in capturing the physics and feel of motorcycle racing, and because of that it does take some getting used to. Racing on familiar tracks is actually a blessing in disguise. Firstly, it lets you concentrate more on learning how to extract the maximum potential from whichever one of the game's 135 different bikes you're riding, and secondly, it makes it a little easier to learn the new racing lines and braking points that you take on a bike - which are often very different to those you've learned while lapping the same track in a car.
Whether you're racing scooters (don't do it around the Nurburgring unless you have all day), or riding a full-on racing bike, Tourist Trophy is superb. Just don't expect to get on it and clock up record times immediately. This this might look like Gran Turismo from a distance - but it's a whole new ball game.
This request could become moot if the best possible scenario happens and Square Enix follows up the Final Fantasy X HD Remaster with FFXII. Fingers crossed! But if not, I'm all in favor of having access to my personal favorite Final Fantasy game without having to dredge up an old PlayStation 2 and deal with how poorly that system works on an HDTV. It's such a fascinatingly abstract take on the RPG -- simultaneously mellow and demanding, with its hands-off combat approach and unexpected encounters with free-roaming high-level creatures. Love this game. But yeah, and HD Remaster would be better, if only so we could get the International Zodiac Job Version localized into English....
And here's where I tip a little out for another wonderful, but now defunct, JRPG series. The Shadow Hearts series rose and fell during the PlayStation 2's reign. Shadow Hearts is an odd duck, being that the series takes place in an odd offshoot of real-world places in the early 1900's. Despite the real-world genesis, Shadow Hearts is often quite weird and irreverent at the same time. The second game in the series, Shadow Hearts: Covenant, features as party members puppeteer Gepetto, a wolf, the daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, and a vampire luchadore named the Grand Papillon. Yeah, it's pretty weird.
All three Shadow Hearts games feature the interesting Judgment Ring mechanic: every attack includes a spinning ring controlled by player like the Wheel of Fortune. Players had to time their button presses to stop the spinner in certain areas on the ring corresponding to hits, misses, and critical strikes. Each character and attack had a different ring to deal with, but by time player had gotten farther in the game, it wasn't uncommon to be able to hit the critical area with each strike. Overpowered? Probably. Fun. Definitely.
Shadows Hearts: Covenant was the second game in the series, following the first Shadow Hearts and preceding Shadow Hearts: From the New World. Sadly, the license holder, Aruze, doesn't seem to have any interest in making another game, or even making console games period, so Shadow Hearts will remain firmly in the past.
As much as I've enjoyed Atlus's more recent offerings, I really wish they'd go and make me a second Nocturne. While you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who would claim that the Persona games were built on rainbows and kittens, I found them positively ebullient in comparison to Nocturne. To begin with, the Persona games had you trying to stop the apocalypse. In Nocturne? The game starts with the world ending. Which really should tell you something about Nocturne. (And the intellectual property at large really.)
In practice, Nocturne doesn't deviate far from the standard Shin Megami Tensei. You fight with demons, you negotiate for their attention and you spend a lot of time navigating complex ideologies. But Nocturne felt bleaker than the rest for me. Banter is at a minimal, laughter virtually non-existent.. People exist as camps, pulling at the protagonist and one another. The ideas that Nocturne approach were strangely uncomfortable: what does anyone want in their heart of hearts? I'd go into detail but I'm hoping this blurb intrigues someone into picking the game up, regardless of whether we see it on PS Now and, er, I'm going to go now.
Before there was Guitar Hero (and Rock Band), there was Frequency - and it was good. Basically, it's an arcadey beat-matching/music remixing game that's visually entertaining and hugely fun to play. Its music is an awesome dose of mid- to late-90's electronica, and it packs some seriously banging tunes that run from trance to trip hop.
Although its 2003 sequel Amplitude is technically better and more polished - and indeed has bigger-name songs - this first game from Harmonix has a certain underground feel that works incredibly well, thanks to most of its songs lending themselves perfectly to the kind of dynamic remixing the game offers.
The original Dark Cloud was hailed, possibly by delusional fanboys, as a "Zelda-killer." It was no such thing (Zelda is still alive and quite well today, thank you), but it did offer a fairly interesting world-building mechanic amidst its good-but-not-revolutionary action. The sequel did a great job of refocusing the entire concept, with sharper action, a more interesting story, gorgeous graphics, and a fun crafting mechanic that allowed you to create inventions with items at hand and surely influenced the likes of Dead Rising and the upcoming Alien: Isolation. Dark Cloud's creators, Level 5, would go on to bigger and more famous things (Dragon Quest, for example), so playing the Dark Cloud games is kind of like listening to a major band's early works, before their breakout hit. It's the Bleach to Professor Layton's Nevermind, if you will.
Pete: I absolutely adore Dark Cloud 2 -- or Dark Chronicle, as it's also known -- and more people need to play it. That's all I really wanted to say on the matter.
This phenomenal game makes perfect sense for PS Now's pause-and-save-anytime-anywhere format. With its vast landscapes and sometimes tricky boss battles, being able to stop the game whenever you like and pick up from where you left off will be a welcome feature.
I'd love to rediscover this game's beautiful, desolate landscapes and enjoy its haunting, disturbing story once again - especially if Sony makes available the more recent, graphically updated version.
Capcom recently announced Breath of Fire VI as a city-building, pay-to-win mobile game, meaning that Breath of Fire as a brand is pretty much dead and buried. Dragon Quarter was the game that killed it. But don't read that the wrong way -- Dragon Quarter was also a brilliant game. It's just that it had so little to do with the previous Breath of Fire titles that the whole thing kind of stalled out; the older games were too straightforward to survive in the harsh world of the new millennium, but fans didn't necessarily want the series to become a grueling survival simulation set in a dystopian underground world, either. Dragon Quarter has a bad reputation in some quarters because of its place in the franchise, but don't listen to the naysayers; as a Breath of Fire game it may be a little offputting, but it's one of the most inventive and ambitious RPGs ever made... and for the sequel, the Dragon Quarter team simply replaced the turn-based fantasy combat with real-time zombie action and called it Dead Rising.
I'm definitely up for revisiting the GTA game that revisited the 80's. Loved it the first time around, and I'm sure I'd have just as much fun the second. I really like the way the story progresses, and how you slowly, but surely build up your empire. By the time you reach its bullet-ridden conclusion, you really feel like you've made it and become a true Kingpin.
Who needs to get all the Mega Man X games on Virtual Console when you can get them in a single package here? Why wait for Capcom to do piecemeal releases?
Mega Man X Collection brings together Mega Man X 1 through 6, with the additional Mega Man Battle & Chase that no one asked for. I own this game on PlayStation 2, but for some weird reason the game won't output video over component cables (possibly an issue with a 240 resolution signal on HDTVs), and I'm not going back to composite. So I just have this game sitting here that I can't play. Sadness and popcorn.
Does MMX Collection need to be explained? It's Mega Man X. It's the best Mega Man. It's got Zero in it. And for your clarification, my preferred order from best to worst is: X, X4, X3, X2, X5, and X6.
I can think of few things I'd rather do for 90 hours than stream one of the greatest RPGs of all time.
I like almost all of the Onimusha games, but my favorite by far is the second one. From the get-go its pacing is great, with game mechanics being introduced in a very clever way that never really feels like you're learning - but simply making progress. Likewise, the storyline starts out innocuous enough, but then begins to ramp up with increasingly strange locations and more outlandish enemies.
Ultimately, the whole thing holds together perfectly and delivers a really rewarding experience that's challenging, but never frustrating. This is one of those games I'd love to see updated, but since that's unlikely to happen, having it available on PS Now would be awesome.
This obscure little gem never made its way out of Japan, but it's a load of fun. Players take control of a futuristic soldier with a special energy-based grappling hook, fighting through wild, high-flying battlefields by swinging around along tiny points and gunning down giant robots and airships in the process. Imagine Bionic Commando '09 minus the stupid, stupid story and inexplicable no-swing radiation zones, or maybe the Sky Temple boss battle from Twilight Princess expanded into an entire game and you have a good sense of what Chain Dive is like. It's pretty rad! And it doesn't require much understanding of Japanese, either.
Some may disagree with my choice, as this slot would either have gone to SSX Tricky or SSX 3. I went with SSX 3, which is the perfect blend of everything the SSX series had to offer during the PlayStation 2 era. More tracks, better graphics, and a far better UI scheme than Tricky or On Tour. SSX 3 had all the crazy Uber Tricks and characters we'd come to expect from the SSX series, without the crazy Neon stylings, different boards, and incessant "TRICKY" music playing of the previous title.
Probably my favorite part of SSX 3 is the fact that it's one big mountain. Sometimes as a relaxing aside, I'd just go to the top and ride all the way down to the bottom. Also, the addition of the board press and handplant mechanics really opened up the trick system for veteran SSX players. SSX 3 feels "pure" in a way that SSX Tricky or On Tour doesn't.
Either game is great, but SSX 3 definitely edges out Tricky for my personal win.
PlayStation 2 is quite likely the all-time greatest platform for arcade game compilations. Three different Midway collections, two volumes of Capcom classics, Namco Museum 50th Anniversary, the best of SNK, two compilations packed with Taito games, and the Atari Anthology offer an absolutely astonishing range of golden age classics. Add in the Japanese-only Tecmo Hit Parade, and you'd have a streaming arcade to die for.
The Burnout series was freaking amazing from beginning til end, but Burnout 3: Takedown was the high point of the formula. Takedown was when crashing and racing both held onto their strengths and differences, coming together into a great game. Burnout Paradise was still great, but the open-world definitely meant more racing and less crashing. Paradise's Showtime mode was a decent try as a Crash Mode replacement, but it lacked to the focus of those previous modes.
Jaz: Seconded, thirded, fourthed and oh hell yes fifthed. I think this is when the series hit its sweet spot of madness, mayhem, and out-and-out insanity. After that, it got overly-messed with and lost some of its focus. But here? It's everything you need and nothing more.
Na na na na na na na, Katamari Damacy! It's funny how bloody catchy certain things are. Those lines probably meant nothing to the folk in the audience who escaped Katamari Damacy's roly-poly grasp. But those who knew and loved the game like I? You're probably humming the tune right now. Aren't you? I loved Katamari Damacy. Loved it like a fat kid loves a triple-fudge sundae cone with sprinkles on cone. The idea was so simple: you're this teeny, celestial being charged with the peculiar job of rolling up ... things. Big things, small things, things that could potentially run screaming away from you.
Katamari Damacy's graphics were weird and stylized, the music infectious as the zombie plague. And the rolling was amazing. I remember the first time I nudged my Katamari out of a house and into a street. I was struck by the fact that the domicile I just pinioned to my ball of stuff was, in fact, this frighteningly large environment I once ran about in. My mind was blown when I later realized I could bloody well roll up the country I was in too. Hilarious, zany, completely over-the-top and one of the best parts of my childhood. Make this happen, Sony.
Mike: Quick question: What was the last Katamari game you actually played, if you played any? The first? We Love Katamari? I don't know anyone who's purchased and played Beautiful or Forever. The problem with every Katamari game since this first one is they're all the same. They all feel like expansion to this original title. And you can't recapture that first time when you sat down in front of the game to hear that distinct theme. Or the first time you and your Katamari scaled up. Or those wonderful interludes with the King of All Cosmos. Katamari was a perfect moment in time that needed to be put away and brought back a decade later. It needed restraint on Namco Bandai's part.
Despite being hugely popular in the late 90's, skateboarding games seemed to have punched themselves out by the early 00's. Perhaps because by the time this fourth installment of the Tony Hawk franchise was released, the series had so thoroughly explored the art of skateboarding, it left little room for improvement.
While I'm sure the graphics won't be as good as I remember, I'm confident that the game's controls will be just as tight and the gameplay just as fun as it was when I first played it just over a decade ago. I don't think I've touched another skateboarding game since then - so hopping on my virtual board and oiling my rusty skills again sounds like a rather entertaining prospect.
Most people don't remember the Mark of Kri at all. The game was developed by Sony Computer Entertainment San Diego and remains one of my favorite PlayStation 2 games. The game blends stealth action, great combat, and an excellent Don Bluth-style cartoon aesthetic into a single, great package. The Mark of Kri is pretty accessible for new players, but really diving into the game rewarded hardcore action fiends with a satisfying experience. In fact, I don't think I've seen the Mark of Kri's innovative combat system used anywhere else: the right analog stick was used to mark enemies, who then were mapped to specific face buttons. The system allowed for fluid and freeform group combat, even if you could go through most of the game in stealth.
I also love the focus on Polynesian culture for the hero, Rau Utu, and the enemies he's up against. Mark of Kri was such an original game, but sadly, the sequel, The Rise of Kasai, seems to have tanked any possible future for the series.
This one's a tad tricky to describe. It's a platform game, but one whose sum of its parts is far greater that its whole. It's never really clear what you're supposed to do, yet you make progress without having to be told. Its story is articulated with minimal use of language, yet still delivers a satisfying punch. And its gameplay is filled with great moments, and few frustrations.
The only negative for me is that ICO isn't the most challenging game out there, but it's extremely compelling while it lasts and its conclusion is... well.... I'm not giving it away. If you don't know - you really need to play this so you can find out.
The USgamer video team has also put together its own list of PS2 games that it wants to see. Definitely worth a watch, if only to remember how absolutely, utterly crazy Katamari was....