Next-Gen to Prev-Gen

Originally, I bought the PS2 for a few specific games that were not available on my “main platform”, the Xbox. At the time, I figured that me and my Xbox- live crew would naturally make the progression from Halo 2 on the Xbox to whatever was like Halo 2 on the Xbox 360. Between that, and the periodic Madden roster update sequel, I’d be all set.

Things never go according to plan. For various reasons, after a long run of a little more than a year, the Xbox live crew dissolved. It just became too hard to get everyone together at the right times and get them all playing the same game. As a result, my interest in online gameplay pretty much dissolved. Without a regular crew, you are stuck playing deathmatch against randoms. And random people on the Internet are almost always assholes. I don’t know why, that’s just how it is.

Microsoft didn’t do themselves any favors by launching the 360 the way they did. You still can’t walk into Target and buy a 360 Premium system (today my Target had two Core, aka “retarded” systems), and the games have been coming out in a slow trickle. To make things worse, the Xbox has been declared dead, so there is nothing to do on that machine either.

What Microsoft has done is make the original Xbox collect dust, and made it impossible for me to think of a reason to buy a 360, even if I could find one, which I can’t. Great job.

Instead, I’ve been playing the PS2, and to my surprise, I like it more and more.

As a pure hardware platform, the PS2 really only has two things going for it.

1. It’s small and cute and quiet.

2. The dual shock controller is the perfect controller, except where you want the long travel analog triggers that the Xbox has.

Everything else about the machine is pretty pathetic. It lacks raw processing power, lacks decent mass storage, and even the best rendering that I’ve seen on the machine combines a fuzzy sort of soft focus with a staggering amount of jagged shimmering aliasing in high resolution textures. It’s truly horrible to look at.

The funny thing is, as I used the machine more, these problems receded into the background. I even found that I like the stupid memory cards more than I thought I would. Being able to back up save files is nice, even if juggling multiple cards is stupid.

I also noticed that even when playing older games, I started to subconsciously block out the horrible quality of the rendering, and instead I would see the game as it would be in my mind’s eye. Almost like the way Neo decodes the gibberish characters of The Matrix at the end of the movie.

In any case, the games demand more attention than the hardware’s technical limitations. The PS2 library covers arguably the widest variety of game types, and it thus allowed me to break out of my Madden and shooter world. From platformers to JRPGs to freaky horror shows to music games, I’ve played many more types of games than I had before. In particular, I never played action and platformer games on the Xbox because I found the controller to be tiring. Even the relatively light action in Jade Empire was painful. I find that these games are much easier to play with the PS2 controller. The size of the pad and the position of the buttons is just less fatiguing for me. Who knows why.

This expansion of interests inevitably triggered the final stage of every dork hobby addiction: collecting. The huge back catalog of PS2 games makes this almost irresistible. For example, various reissues let you follow the progression of the Japanese RPG from its inception all the way to the clothing-based battle systems of Shadow Hearts and Final Fantasy X-2. I got Silent Hill 2 for the PS2, and Pete showed me the original Silent Hill for the PS1 just in time for the movie. Every trip to the Target now brings with it the temptation to pick up some cheap title just to see it. I even picked up another Metal Gear game even though those never have any chance of being any good.

It does not need to end here. I have that old TV that isn’t going anywhere, the perfect thing to hook up to an old PSOne, or Dreamcast, or SNES. Having never played any of the old games, I can probably iterate this process nearly endlessly while the waiting for the next wave of consoles to actually become worth owning.

Of course, things never go according to plan. I could always fall into Oblivion. Maybe the Target will have Premium systems tomorrow.