Seems like everyone’s having an important birthday this month! The NES popped out in October exactly 30 years ago in North America, and now the PlayStation 2 is joining it with its 15 year birthday. The best selling console of all time launched on Oct. 26, 2000, although I doubt you’ll find anybody who happily remembers that day. Despite the unrivaled success it would go on to achieve, the console’s launch is not one to inspire that much sentimentality.
In fact, it is often derided as one of the worst launch line-ups of all time for a major console. Maybe the original PlayStation has it beat, but nothing on this list of games screams “Buy me!” or “Greatness Awaits!”
Armored Core 2
Dynasty Warriors 2
ESPN International Track & Field
ESPN Winter X Games Snowboarding
Madden NFL 2001
Midnight Club: Street Racing
Orphen: Scion of Sorcery
Q-Ball: Billiards Master
Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2
Ridge Racer V
Street Fighter EX3
Swing Away Golf
Tekken Tag Tournament
Wild Wild Racing
Alright… time to cherry pick here. This is tough. I know that From Software has been all “hip and now” for the last half a decade, but I sometimes wonder how many of its newer fans ever suffered through its early days back when it made pure junk. I mean, I’ll never have anything bad to say about the old Armored Core games, and Armored Core 2 was about as solid as the franchise ever really got.
But then we see stuff like Eternal Ring and Evergrace, both bait for the JRPG crowd, and you really have to wonder how this company turned it all around seemingly overnight.
Dynasty Warriors 2 would evolve into something bigger and better that still lasts until even today. For better or for worse, the formula for the Musou genre started here, and Dynasty Warriors 3 would come around a few years later to polish it up a lot and make it even more popular. The rest is history as Tecmo Koei most recently carried it into licensed games like Hyrule Warriors and Dragon Quest Heroes.
I also remember really wanting to check out Orphen: Scion of Sorcery, but that was because the anime was popular at the time.
If I were to pick any quality titles out of here, I would have to give Bandai Namco some credit. Every next-gen console needs a racing game to show off the hardware, and Ridge Racer V filled that gap nicely and even kept its relevance after Gran Turismo III: A-Spec debuted, providing a light-hearted arcade racer alternative. Tekken Tag Tournament’s popularity also lasted for quite a while, even after the main Tekken games started coming out.
And then there is TimeSplitters. This was back when we drew much larger distinctions between PC shooters and console shooters, and TimeSplitters was solid for what it tried to bring to consoles. Of course, its sequel was even better and many forgot about the predecessor which made it all happen in the first place.
I guess I was a bit fortunate that I missed out on the PlayStation 2 launch, still stuck in my PlayStation JRPG fanboy days. The PlayStation 2’s launch might not be the most horrible group of games of all time, but keep in mind that these were running against the PlayStation, which was still cranking out masterpiece JRPGS deep into 2000, and a yearlong stockpile of excellent Dreamcast games such as the unfathomable SoulCalibur. To say that the PlayStation 2 made a poor first impression would be an understatement.
But hey! Zone of the Enders launched to some praise the following March and introduced everyone to Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty through a pack-in demo. The first Dark Cloud gathered some momentum as a quality title in May before ICO came out in September and blew all those who played it away. After that, the quadruple punch of Devil May Cry, Grand Theft Auto III, Metal Gear Solid 2, and Final Fantasy X turned the tide, and Sony suddenly became everyone’s favorite again.
I suppose I should come clean and admit to upgrading for the sake of The Bouncer, so who am I to judge these horrible launch games, right?
At least everyone from Sony to Capcom, Konami, Square, and Rockstar caught onto DVDs and brought their A-games a year down the road. I mean, just look at that second holiday line-up, and you’ll understand why I was always so hesitant to buy into the PlayStation 4’s whole “Greatness Awaits” thing. It’s because it already kind of happened. The PlayStation 2 thundered back from a rough year, and I still get the shivers thinking about that unforgettable holiday season.