The Nintendo Entertainment System isn't the only piece of top-selling hardware to celebrate an anniversary this month. Sony's long-lived PlayStation 2 has passed the decade mark as well. It's certainly showing some longevity, as not only can you still buy a new PS2, there are a major glut of older games still readily available for it (and a few new titles if you shop around and your expectations are low). 1UP's Retro Gaming Blog can't let the moment pass without exploring the ten greatest things about the PS2, and while some of those reasons are technical in nature (5.1 surround sound built into the console, PS1 compatibility, etc.), I'll skip down to the end of the list to share this much more important entry with you:
1. It Marked the End of Gaming's Classic Era
The PS2 is perhaps most remarkable for the way it sat astride two very different eras of gaming. This divide has nothing to do with the bit count of consoles and everything to do with methodologies. You see, the PS2 brought the classic age of gaming -- the one defined by the likes of Nintendo and Sega -- to its close, while ushering in the modern era embodied by HD consoles. The classic development approach employed by the predominantly Japanese companies that ruled the console market reached their acme on PS2, resulting in classic masterpieces like Metal Gear Solid 3, Final Fantasy XII, and Monster Hunter. Yet those processes don't mesh well with the PS3 and Xbox 360 and modern gaming PCs, which is probably why so much the old guard seems more comfortable working on the PS2-like PSP and Wii. The lower cost of development for PS2 games also gave us the aforementioned artsy games like Ico, and weird little experiments like Mister Mosquito, crazy vanity projects like Unlimited Saga, and a host of other games developed in a world without focus groups. As the PS2 began to fade away in 2005, so too did a 20-year legacy of games for games' sake, supplanted by a new age of conservative design and development by committee.
The business certainly does seem different these days, doesn't it? On a more personal note, I'm having a hard time getting into the tenth anniversary spirit. I only bought a PS2 four years ago, so to me all of those great titles like Ratchet & Clank and Grand Theft Auto III are still in somewhat semi-recent memory. While the games themselves feel dated compared to the PS3 experience, they don't seem that old to me. It's all a matter of perception. Meanwhile, now that the PS2 is ten years old, does that officially make it a retro machine from a bygone era? The NES anniversary already left me feeling old, and now this PS2 milestone isn't helping.