The PS2 is the most successful console of all time. More than 150 million units were sold and around 3800 games were released over its 13-year lifespan. Thanks to its success, games of all genres flooded the market. There are top 10 lists of PS2 games all over the internet and there is a general consensus as to what they are. In this article, I aim to shine a light on some lesser-known titles. The following 4 games deserve your attention and deserve to be remastered on PS4.
Free Radical Design developed Second Sight in 2004. It was the developer’s third game, the first outside of the Timesplitters series and the first to feature a narrative spanning its entirety. The narrative is really where the game shines. Second Sight follows John Vattic, a researcher who wakes up in an isolation chamber with no memory of who he is or how he’s acquired powerful psychic abilities. Vattic’s quest to determine the unknown unfolds through both past and present events. Flipping between past and present keeps the story consistently engaging, as well as the gameplay.
In the game’s present, Vattic must wield an ever-growing arsenal of psychic abilities to thwart his enemies. He gains these abilities at opportune moments for utilisation and the level designs facilitate aggressive or stealth-based play styles. Conversely, past events mainly involve third-person shooting. The shooting feels great and it’s easy to cycle between enemies. I particularly enjoyed using the sniper rifle as you remain in third-person, which strangely is very uncommon in third-person shooters.
Another aspect of Second Sight that shines is the artwork. The characters and their animations are delightful, they have the same cartoon-esque flair as the models in Timesplitters. The facial animations are really well done, even if the voice acting that goes with them isn’t quite as appealing.
Second Sight was released to very little fanfare in 2004. This was mainly due to a lack of marketing, which a new IP sorely needs. It reviewed at an average of 7/10. The game does suffer from an unwieldy camera and occasionally throws in what feels like endless waves of enemies, however, for all that it does right, I would really like to see Second Sight remastered on PS4.
Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future
Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future is the year 2000’s reboot of Ecco the Dolphin, released on the Sega Megadrive/Genesis in 1992. The Sega original was a challenging 2D underwater action-adventure game. It was complete with an out of this world story, heavily Pink Floyd influenced soundtrack and puzzles to baffle players of all ages. Defender of the Future transposed these features (bar the soundtrack) into a stunning 3D environment. There hasn’t been anything quite like it since.
David Brin, an accomplished sci-fi author, wrote Defender of the Future‘s story. In Brin’s fiction, dolphins and humans had lived in harmony and fellowship for 500 years. They had set out to peacefully explore space, but a race only known as ‘the foe’ forced the majority to evacuate Earth. Ecco was one of the few remaining dolphins. Through happenstance, Ecco becomes the only one who can alter the Earth’s past, to save its future.
The story is dramatically narrated at key points and is brilliant in its absurdity. The alteration of the past and its gradual recovery by Ecco’s deeds make for some interesting world-building. Later stages feature abandoned underwater buildings and machinery in polluted waters. This is in stark contrast to the first chapter’s levels, where underwater exploration is tranquil and bursting with colour.
The soundtrack, devoid of Pink Floyd, is exceptional. Each piece perfectly complements the associated level and atmosphere. The sound design is also worthy of note. The dolphins make realistic sounds that convey emotion corresponding to their dialogue. Sarcastic dolphin is one of my favourite sound effects out of any game.
It takes a little time to get used to controlling a dolphin. But, after ten minutes of free-play in the first level, it feels completely natural. Ecco swims with the tap of the X button. He can turn sharply, reverse and leap out of the water with simple inputs.
A key aspect of the game is its puzzles. There is much fun to decipher puzzles in Defender of the Future, which require some out of the box thinking. However, there are just as many that are poorly explained, which left me stumped on a number of occasions. I would love to see Defender of the Future remastered on PS4, but only if they provide puzzle difficulty options!
The Thing is a direct sequel to John Carpeneter’s 1982 survival horror masterpiece of the same name. Unlike so many licensed games, The Thing honours and even builds upon its source material. Whether you’re a fan of the film or not, The Thing is a terrific game in its own right.
The 2002 game follows Captain Blake, a member of the Special Forces. He is sent to discover what had become of the film’s research team in Antartica. The beginning of The Thing is dedicated to this discovery. Fans will enjoy the references, such as MacReady’s voice recording, whereas newcomers will get a taste of how The Thing physically and psychologically invades its prey.
From then on, the story is its own beast. Blake takes it upon himself to reinforce the Alpha team after communication with them is lost. But little does he know the scale of horror that awaits him, and what humanity is capable of.
A fairly unique aspect of The Thing was its team management. Throughout the game, Blake meets people of different professions who can join his party. They serve useful functions, such as solving environmental puzzles while Blake runs, guns, and incinerates. So far so standard. The unique aspect is managing their trust in Blake. Trust levels can reach rock-bottom if you fail to respond to fearful outbursts. Timely shots of adrenaline and ammo offerings are a must to prevent suicides or being killed yourself.
Graphically, it was very impressive for its time. The environments are true to the film and create a chilling atmosphere. There’s a good mixture of tense exploration and guns blazing sequences. There’s also the constant fear of teammates turning into ‘things’. With a couple of tweaks to the AI, The Thing would be perfect remastered on PS4.
Gitaroo Man is, without a shadow of doubt, the best music-rhythm game in existence. If I could only have one game remastered on PS4 from the console’s entire library, this would be it. Without further ado, please join me as I wax lyrical about a game starring a young boy and his dog attempting to save Planet Gitaroo with…a Gitaroo.
We’ll start with the story. As mentioned above, Gitaroo Man follows a young boy (U-1) and his dog (Puma). U-1 happens to be the last legendary hero of Planet Gitaroo, but he’s no born hero. When he learns of his legendary status he reacts with disbelief and is terrified of every enemy encountered. Though you’ll be ready to forgive his fear as the people and creatures he fights are bizarre, to say the least.
Let me introduce some of these characters and scenarios. The second level begins with a down-trodden U-1 having to master his emotions to stop keyboard-UFOs from synth-ing everyone to death. The fourth level has U-1 and Puma desperately trying to outmaneuver a space-shark, which in the next level transforms into a master of reggae. The colourful, wacky designs are wonderful to behold whilst striving to lay down the perfect rhythm.
This leads me on to the most important part of the game, its gameplay. Most levels in Gitaroo Man have three phases: charge, attack and guard. The charge and attack phases require you to follow a trace bar with the left analogue stick and hit the notes on time, whereas guard mode requires specific button presses at the right time. Though this may not sound difficult, Gitaroo Man has a steep difficulty curve and the way it alternates between modes means that you have to stay attentive. The satisfaction that you get from finally overcoming a level is incredible, and the satisfaction from going back and mastering it is tenfold.
Just as important as the gameplay is the music. Among some of the genres featured are jazz, pop, metal, and flamenco. Each song is an absolute auditory joy from start to finish. If you haven’t heard any of Gitaroo Man‘s music, I must strongly urge you to listen to both versions of The Legendary Theme. Amongst all the silliness (which I’m not belittling) are these two gems that encapsulate U-1s journey from underdog to hero. A hero wise enough to act not with violence, but with the simple love of spreading gorgeous music.
What Do You Think?
I think it’s a travesty that so many PS2 games are relegated to the past. For me, Gitaroo Man will always be a sore point and I absolutely will not rest…until Sony sees the error of its ways. I’m especially saddened that PaRappa the Rapper has been deemed worthy of remastering, a game that musically, mechanically and stylistically doesn’t hold a candle to Gitaroo Man. I’m also saddened that they ‘remastered’ the PS3 title Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, but that’s an entirely different story (which you can read about here).
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about these overlooked titles. Did you play any of them? If so, would you want to see them remastered on PS4? What other games from this era would you like to see remastered? Let me know in the comments below.