Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The 25 Best Playstation 2 Games I've Ever Played: 15-11

Well, over the past two days, we've had what I would like to consider a decently balanced list of titles, with no particular kind of game dominating the proceedings (though I am sure if you are looking carefully, certain trends may seem to be emerging).

As we inch closer to the top, the titles will likely start becoming increasingly recognizable as well.

Remember the two general rules I am following for this list: 1) No Sports Games (Motorsports are the exception) 2) Only one game per franchise.

What made the list today? I guess you'll have to read on to find out.

15. Guitar Hero II: Games that require an additional peripheral are generally lame. Anyone who had an NES can attest to that, because for the most part, they just seem gimmicky. The Guitar Hero franchise is one of those rare exceptions, as the controller developed by Red Octane is integral to the enjoyment of this game. While later games in the series have more licensed and master tracks, in this second installment, most of the key features of the franchise were already present. As the first game in the series that I played (I ended up with a nice little collection of them afterward), it does have a sentimental place in my heart. This is also the title with Free Bird so that is a plus. I think of all the entries on this list, this is probably the most party oriented, and it is a title which lends itself to casual play, while at the same time also having features that reward players that put in the time to reach mastery. If you pick it up and play it, you only have to commit as much time as you want to, even if you just want to play a song or two. The fact that this game and the related Guitar Hero Encore: Rock the 80's were Harmonix's last hurrah with the series before moving on and developing the competing Rock Band series, makes this entry a little bittersweet. If you would have told me that a rhythm game would have made my top 25 list last year, I would have laughed, but I am not laughing any more.

14. Disgaea: Hour of Darkness: OK, I am not going to lie... when compared with the other games on this list, Disgaea isn't the prettiest of the bunch with its sprite-based graphics and the simplicity of its cutscenes (I mean, they are just various images of the characters showing emotions, and a limited set of them at that), but even from the start, I knew this game was going to be special. Most tactical role playing games (and role playing games in general) take themselves way too seriously. This is not a problem with Disgaea, which aside from a few tender moments, doesn't take itself seriously at all. It is also not above breaking the fourth wall about the genre as it does its thing. And much like Hot Fuzz did for buddy cop movies, in its own winking way, it ends up being better than the genre it is critiquing, though this trend was more evident in later games in the series and other related titles from NIS America in this universe (like Soul Nomad, La Pucelle and Makai Kingdom). And the game features a cast which, from the onset, doesn't seem like your traditional protagonists. Why? Well, the setting is the Netherworld, the main protagonists are Laharl, the Demon Prince of said Netherworld, a petulant preteen boy, his sarcastic female vassal Etna and a naive, love-obsessed angel named Flonne who was sent from Heaven to assassin Laharl's father. And these are the good guys in all this! Aside from the untraditional story elements (and the multiple endings), there is another feature which makes this game unique. The traditional maximum level for characters in RPGs tends to be 99, and the Final Fantasy standard is 9999 for damage. Disgaea throws those two limitations out the window and lets things get insane. They didn't set the maximum level at 99 or 999... they set their level limit to 9999, and no, those levels aren't easy to come by. Put it this way, to beat the game the first time around, the average level for the people in my party was about 55, which meant that I could have put on 9944 more levels before maxing them out. And this isn't including the ability to transmigrate a character either (basically starting them off back at level one to change their class with a decent proportion of their stats, which means that in theory you might be able to level up to somewhere in the neighborhood of 28500). Of course, if you can level up that high, then the damage you can do is also off the chart. There are people who have recorded characters dealing damage in the tens of millions. If you are into it, the whole thing turns into Math Porn. Indeed, this is a game with a very long shelf life.

13. Hitman: Blood Money: This game is part of the reason I was so disappointed with the movie Hitman. I've played every game in this series that has appeared on the Playstation 2, and this is the one that was the best of all. The second game in the series was censored, and the third, Contracts, featured revamped missions from the first game, so it wasn't entirely original. As the series title suggests, you play the role of a hitman, a bald superassassin referred to as Agent 47. Each assignment generally involves taking out a single individual, who morally, was generally a very bad person, so you don't feel really bad for taking them out. Now, you could just go insane and kill everyone, which I admit on some missions, might be easier, but the more satisfying route is figuring out ways to eliminate your target and only your target without anyone getting suspicious. The beautiful part of this game is in the pursuit of that goal, you have a lot of creative options if you look around the that environment. When I first started playing this game, I used to peruse the IMDB board for it, and I enjoyed reading the solutions that other players came up with for particular missions, because more often than not, they were radically different than mine, and yet we both achieved the same goal without getting spotted and with no collateral damage (which is a feature of other titles in the series I admit). But in this case, the game had a much grander story than the previous episodes, and I think that, along with some of the new additions like the Notoriety system, put this one over the top. And even when a mission went awry (like the first time I tried a particular mission involving a wedding in the Deep South), it can still be rather memorable. I thought the post-mission newspaper report about the crime was also a great feature.

12. James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing: Bond games are a hit or miss proposition. Sometimes you end up with something like the divine Goldeneye, and sometimes you end up with 007 Racing which can be called a disappointment at best. Everything or Nothing is very much in the former category. Featuring the principle cast of the Brosnan Bond movies, including Dame Judi Dench, along with Willem Dafoe, Shannon Elizabeth, Heidi Klum and Mya (along with Richard Kiel's Jaws), Everything or Nothing is in essence the Bond movie producers should have made instead of Die Another Day (and narratively it is better than The World is Not Enough too, and before you ask, yes, Shannon Elizabeth beats Denise Richards in believability as a scientist). It even had the customary pre-credit action sequence (which was a playable level), and since Mya is in the game, she also contributed the title track. Utilizing a third person perspective, this game has everything you would expect from a James Bond-inspired experience. Chases, shootouts, gadgets, a little stealth and a villainous scheme which puts it on par with some of the better Bond films. I mean who hasn't looked at Willem Dafoe and thought that he would be a good Bond villain (all the actors also have their likeness in the game, so it really is Dafoe as Nikolai Diavolo, Russian industrialist and student of Max Zorin). I am not going to really disclose anything else about the plot because half the fun of watching a Bond movie is seeing how things develop. However, I will note that one of the levels has to do with a preventing a particular set of events from happening, and after the game was released, those events happened anyway, so it was in a way strangely prophetic. I am willing to say that this is the best James Bond game since Goldeneye.

11. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater: Before I played this game, my last foray into the Metal Gear universe was back on the NES with what is considered to be the non-canon game Snake's Revenge. But even though I was not conversant with the entire mythology of the Metal Gear Solid saga, I was still able to appreciate this prequel on a narrative level, despite the fact that I know there are references that went over my head. Telling a story of a secret operation in Soviet Union during the post-Kennedy assassination 1960's, Snake Eater tells a great tale, and does it stylishly as well. The addition of camouflage and wilderness survival techniques gives this title depth, and the cast is filled with people who make their living doing voice work for animation, so they are all very capable in their roles. I was especially impressed with the James Bond-style opening sequence, which I thought really set the mood for the game to follow. Of course, if you don't like cutscenes, this is clearly not the game for you, as there are a lot of places where long cinematics play. I mean a lot. As someone who doesn't mind them, I liked how the story progressed, and it seemed like a much more cohesive plot than the game that preceded it. Put it this way, I can tell you exactly how Snake Eater went down to the detail, but with Sons of Liberty, things get a little fuzzy because it got weird really fast at the end. The gameplay was exceptional, and I really can't find any glaring faults with it. I mean, I would watch this story as a miniseries without hesitation, and I appreciated the twists and turns it threw at me as a player.

Tune in tomorrow for the first half of the top 10.

The Top 25 PS2 games I've Ever Played
Number 25-21
Number 20-16
Number 15-11
Number 10-6
The Top 5


Lee Sargent said...

Is James Bond giving Jaws a nipple cripple in that screen shot?


MC said...

Yeah, it does look like that... hehe.

Arjan said...

I thought the gun for Timecop (ps1) wasn't all that lame.

I've still got Hitman for pc lying around..maybe if I've got some time this weekend..

Mayren said...

the hubby is playing Disgaea on the NDS and he likes it. His review was short and sweet expressing that it was a game with good mechanics, short but nice cut scenes and a decent game he can play more than once.

MC said...

Arjan: I am still shuddering from the Power Glove.

Mayren: There are much bigger baddies off the beaten path of the story as well.

Lee Sargent said...

No love for the power glove???

But now you're playing with power!

MC said...

I don't think anyone has love for the Power Glove.

Semaj said...

Snake Eater: Probably one of the best MGS games I've ever played.

Hitman: Never played it, but loved the score to this series.

James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing: We talked about this before. I love simply watching this game on Youtube. Where does this game fit in the James Bond timeline?

((and before you ask, yes, Shannon Elizabeth beats Denise Richards in believability as a scientist))

What's funny about the comparison is both Elizabeth and Richards are pretty much at the same dead end points in their careers.

And I'm saying this even though I still like Elizabeth.

MC said...

As I said, I think it would fit in well as a replacement to Die Another Day (the original Q isn't in it, so it would fit right into that spot).

Shannon Elizabeth hasn't made herself look really desperate as of yet. I mean, she is enjoying the poker, so I don't begrudge her that, and actually I sort of have respect for her decision to pursue that instead of getting a reality show, which she might have been able to pull off.