So I decided to try something a little different. Seeing as I don’t really have that many games to review in the near future, I figured I’d try writing other types of articles, lists, vs matches, maybe even some retro reviews. Reviews will still be coming from me when they do, stuff like this is just for when I have no new games to talk about. With that being said…
I’ve always been interested in the games that very few people really talk about. Partly because I didn’t really grow up playing the popular games for the consoles I owned – for example, despite growing up with a Gamecube I only started playing Metroid Prime about a year ago – partly because it’s fun to play a game that very few people have even heard of. Because of my constantly growing interest, I figured that I’d put this useless information to use and make a series (if you can call a bundle of articles a series) where I talk about the games that perhaps should get more attention than they do. I decided to start on the Playstation 2 because it’s one of my favourite consoles and because there are so many games for the system that there are bound to be plenty that have gone unheard of.
Though before we get into it, a few rules to be stated:-
- I’m going to try and avoid talking about the more obvious ones that a lot of people already know about, so despite the fact that games like Psychonauts and Beyond Good and Evil definitely deserve more attention, a lot of lists like this have already talked about them so I’ll refrain from doing so.
- This list will not be relegated to just games exclusive to the Playstation 2, I will allow games that came out on other consoles to be on here, they will just be exempt from other lists in this series.
- Just because a game is in a popular series doesn’t mean that I won’t talk about it, if the game itself is unknown I’ll mention it.
With that being said, in alphabetical order so there’s no favouritism, here are 10 obscure PS2 games that deserve your attention.
1. Blood Will Tell: Tezuka Osamu’s Dororo (Sega, 2005)
So who here remembers Dororo, it was a manga written in 1967 by Tezuka Osamu (the same guy who wrote Astro Boy) that was adapted into an anime in 2019, one I highly recommend watching if you haven’t already. Blood Will Tell tells the same story (if the title wasn’t obvious enough), of a man named Hyakkimaru who had parts of his body and organs sacrificed to forty-eight demons known as Fiends by his father in exchange for dominance on the battlefield and peace within his lands, with a young girl name Dororo by his side, he hunts down these demons to try and regain his missing body parts as well as what humanity he’s lost. The game focuses on hack and slash combat with Hyakkimaru and stealth, puzzles and platforming with Dororo, and while some parts with Dororo will lead to a bit of frustration, both are very enjoyable. The combat is incredibly fun, using a katana for slower but stronger attacks, and being able to remove Hyakkimaru’s prosthetic limbs and fight with blades hidden beneath for much faster combos; there are also some ranged weaponry that you can use, like an arm that shoots bolts and a knee containing a rocket launcher. The part I love the most about this game is that when you kill one of the forty-eight Fiends and regain a body part, it not only adds to the story but it also adds to gameplay as well, allowing you to gain new abilities and powers as well as adding more to presentation, like adding colour to the environments when you regain your eyes, when it was just black and white before, it really makes you want to defeat all the Fiends and see how the game plays with all body parts regained. Both the gameplay and story will surely have you playing until the end. While this is one of the most expensive games on this list, it’s definitely worth picking up if you can find a cheaper copy, especially if you’re a fan of games like Onimusha and Devil May Cry.
2. Gungrave (Red Entertainment, 2002)
This is definitely one of the more simple games on this list, as well as one of the most flawed. Gungrave follows a character called Beyond the Grave, an ex-member of a group known as the Syndicate, who was revived from the dead and is out to hunt down the Syndicate to protect a man who goes by Big Daddy from the request of a girl named Mika and with the help of his reviver Dr. T. The game is a third-person shooter where you walk through corridors and small open areas and kill waves of enemies before moving on with a boss at the end of every level… and that’s basically it. You use a pair of pistols named Cerberus as well as a metal coffin – which can be used to perform a melee attack as well as special attacks when you charge up a gauge, like a rocket launcher or a barrage of bullets – to destroy your enemies. It plays more like a game that belongs in an arcade rather than your traditional shooter. And while there are plenty of problems like performance, movement speed and the fact that you can beat the game in a couple of hours, I still had a good amount of fun while playing it. It’s nothing extravagant nor is it trying to be, it’s just a bit of mindless fun.
3. .hack// Series (CyberConnect2, 2004)
When I hear people talking about the best JRPG’s on the Playstation 2 they’ll normally talk about Final Fantasy 10 or Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 or perhaps something like Suikoden IV if they’re into more obscure ones, though unfortunately very few talk about the .hack// series. The series takes place in an MMORPG called The World, you play as Kite who’s invited to play The World by his friend Orca, while playing they find a strange girl and get attacked by a monster named Aura, which leads to Orca’s player ending up in a coma in real life, with the power of an item called the Book of Twilight, it’s up to Kite, and the friends he makes through the story, to find out what’s happening in the game that causing players to go into comas. The entire series takes place on the main characters computer, where you can read emails and message boards and of course play The World, it honestly makes me surprised that they never released this game on PC. The gameplay and combat doesn’t play like a traditional JRPG, in fact it more closely follows the sort of real time combat that you’d find in MMORPG’s, where your characters continuously attack until given a different command. Many of the bosses are known as Data Bugs, which are (in context with the story) glitched to have infinite health, this is where you have an ability called Data Drain, which will cancel out the Data Bugs infinite health and can also be used on smaller enemies to transform them into rare items. The games also interlink incredibly well, the data you have in one game is easily transferred, meaning that you won’t lose any of the level progression you made in one game when you move on to the next. These reasons and many others make this one of my favourite JRPG series’ on the Playstation 2 that really deserves more recognition than it gets. Though a bit of warning, the further you get into the series, the more expensive the games get, so just keep that in mind if you decide to check this out.
4. Haunting Ground (Capcom, 2005)
I think we can all agree that the Playstation 2 had some awesome horror games. From Silent Hill 2-4 to Project Zero 1-3 (or Fatal Frame as most people know the series) there were a ton of great horror games, so many that some are bound to be passed over, including, unfortunately, Haunting Ground. In Haunting Ground you play as Fiona Bell, an 18-year-old who’s found herself trapped in a castle with her memories of how she got there hazy, with the help of a dog named Hewie she must escape the castle and avoid the denizens that want her dead. The game plays a lot like one of the games from the Clock Tower Series, where there’s more of an emphasis on exploration and puzzle solving and where you’re meant to avoid enemies as opposed to fighting them. One of the coolest mechanics is with Hewie the dog, who’s not only one of the cutest but also one of the most useful companions in any horror game, using him you’re able to retrieve items that you’re not able to reach yourself, fend off pursuers for a moment, get him to stay on something that needs to be held down, amongst other things. While unreliable at first, by praising him when he does something good and scolding him when he does something bad, he’ll become much more reliable as the game goes on. The pursuers are also really cool, in most games where you’re supposed to avoid attackers they mostly just chase and attack you because they’re a horror game villain and that’s what they’re supposed to do, in Haunting Ground however each enemy has a distinct reason for trying to kill you, really adding to the threat and story. They also play very differently, each one being more clever than the last and having gameplay elements that really adds to their fear factor. This is, in my opinion, one of the best and most overlooked horror games on the Playstation 2, if this game peaks your interest then I cannot recommend it enough. That being said though it is steadily increasing in price, so I suggest you get it quickly before it becomes too expensive.
5. Legend of Kay (Neon Studios, 2005)
Despite this game having a remastered version released in 2015, which was later released on the Nintendo Switch in 2018, it’s sadly still barely talked about. Legend of Kay is based within the land of Yenching which is populated by anthropomorphic animals, the mains ones being cats, pandas, hares and frogs, but then everything changed when the rats and gorillas attacked (sorry, couldn’t resist), led by Minister Shun, who now oppresses the rest of the clans and forces them to live under his rule. Taking the role of Kay, a cat who had his martial arts school forcefully shut down, you must fight these forces and make Yenching free once more. The game is an action platformer with more of a focus on combat. In Legend of Kay you’ll fight small waves of enemies – ranging from a number of different breeds of animal – with the occasional platform puzzle in between, while also aiding the denizens of the different towns you visit. The combat is very simplistic, there are no complex combos for you to perform and what button combinations there are are very easy to memorise, though despite the simplicity, the fast movement and having to maneuver around multiple enemies with the style of combat you have, the game still feels intense and rarely gets boring. The combos also really help to make the game more exciting, defeating enemies or destroying Zhiongs will increase your combo meter which will allow you to deal more damage to enemies and quickly jump towards them at the push of a button, this is also done during platform sections and adds that little bit more intensity to them. While there are flaws in the game, like the terrible voice acting, this is still a very decent game, nothing on the levels of Jak and Daxter or Ratchet and Clank mind you, but it is still very fun and at the very least deserves a chance.
6. Seven Samurai 20XX (Dimps, 2004)
Just like how Blood Will Tell is based on Dororo, Seven Samurai 20XX is heavily based on the movie Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa, to the point where it’s practically a retelling of the movie but in a futuristic setting. In Seven Samurai 20XX you take on the role of Natoea, a lone samurai travelling through a town that’s getting attacked by cyborgs and humanoids, he’s convinced by another samurai named Kanbei to help him find five other samurai and to help defend the village. The game is a linear fast paced hack and slash, which focuses on battling hordes of enemies as you explore the city. The main mechanic of combat is the use of your second katana, for a good chunk of the time you’ll be using just one sword while the other remains in its sheath strapped to your back, as you fight you Nitou-Ryu meter will quickly fill up overtime and once full you’ll be able to draw your second blade and fight using both, making the fighting much faster and a lot more satisfying. Combat in this game focuses mostly on the timing of maneuvers, push a button to either guard, dodge or attack at the right time, and you’ll be able to get a better advantage against your opponents and will fill up your Nitou-Ryo meter even faster. I especially love the boss fights, when you enter one it almost turns into a fighting game like Soulcalibur – with how you enter a small arena and how the camera angle is consistently to the characters side – and each one brings with it its own elements of challenge. Despite mixed reviews when it came out and it mostly seeming like a mindless button masher, I personally think that this is still a really fun game, while it’s still not as good as Devil May Cry or God of War it still doesn’t deserve to be overlooked, I very much suggest checking it out.
7. Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga Duology
While Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga does still have quite the cult following, it doesn’t have nearly as much notoriety as Shin Megami Tensei iii: Nocturne or Persona 4, which is a shame because outside of the Persona series this is my favourite Shin Megami Tensei game. At the time this was one of Atlus’ most ambitious projects, going for a more cinematic game than their previous titles, which is what led to them splitting the game in two. It contains a very intriguing and well developed story – that’s kind of a mixture between Tokyo Ghoul and Battle Royale – as well as likable characters and an interesting setting. The gameplay still follows the same turn based style of combat that the series is well known for, while also being more accessible to new players than Nocturne. The main difference between this game and others in the series is the human and demon forms that you take during battle, in human form you’re able to use firearms which is a weakness to some enemies, though you also don’t deal that much damage, while in demon form you’re able to do more damage and you can use your magic attacks. Aside from that you’ll be mostly exploring – and likely getting lost – in giant dungeons which will require a lot of figuring stuff out, slow progression and a decent amount of trial and error, though it feels really good when you do find out where to go and how to get there. As usual in other Shin Megami Tensei games, the combat can get very difficult, forcing you to try and be more conservative of your SP and items and being more tactful in your party as some will have attacks that the enemies are weak against while others won’t and vice versa. If you think games like Dragon Quest are a little too easy, I’d definitely suggest trying out these games, especially if you’re new to the Shin Megami Tensei series. Though if you’re gonna get these games be quick as, just like with Haunting Ground, these games are slowly increasing in price, so pick them up before they become too expensive.
8. Spartan Total Warrior (The Creative Assembly, 2005)
Of all the games on this list, this is the one I’m most excited to talk about and is one of the main inspirations of this series, as I grew up playing this game and it was one of the first 15 rated games I ever played. Spartan Total Warrior is a spinoff of the Total War series where you play as an unnamed Spartan defending your city from the blight of the Roman Empire who has taken over most of Greece with Sparta being its last line of defence The game is a hack and slash which plays more like a button masher than one where you perform stylish combos, in fact you only really have three attacks, a quick attack which targets one enemy at a time, a sweeping attack which lets you deal damage to multiple enemies but takes time to charge up and a bow and arrows for ranged combat. What makes the game super satisfying is just how many people you have to fight, in each level you battle and kill literally hundreds of Romans, some weak with little health and others with large defence that you’ll have to work around. You have a small pool of weapons that you gain very early in the game, which not only has different attacks and advantages but lets you perform different magic attacks like shooting out lightning or turning your enemies to stone for a short period of time. Aside from that you’re mostly just performing tasks, like protecting someone or a group of people from damage or trying to sneak around without getting spotted. The game is hard as nails as well, especially with some of the later Romans you’ll have to fight, which can lead to some frustration, though it’s never so bad that it’ll leave you unsatisfied when you finish a task that’s given you trouble (except for that one mission with Archimedes, *shudders*). I promise that nostalgia hasn’t blinded me with this game and despite being somewhat flawed it’s still a really fun game, you can buy it for dirt cheap as well so I seriously cannot recommend it enough.
9. Under the Skin (Capcom, 2004)
I only heard of this one recently, but when I did I knew that I had to add it to the list because how this game went under the radar I have no idea. You play as an alien named Cosmi, a three-year old from Planet Mischief, where it’s tradition that three-year olds travel to other planets to cause mischief and havoc, with Planet Earth being the most difficult as no one has ever succeeded there, after messing up very early on by crashing into a satellite, Cosmi finds himself in Coco City where his reign of mischief begins. In the game you play a total of eight missions, where you explore open areas and pull pranks on humans while collecting coins and competing with other aliens to see who can gather 500 coins first. To do this you scan other humans and disguise yourself as them, each human has their own inventory of items that you can use to pull pranks, from pins for people to step on to full on rocket launchers and tanks. Of course the people who you prank will become hostile so it’s definitely suggested that you swap disguises regularly as you’ll revert back to your alien form after two hits and you’ll get a game over if all your coins are lost. The levels are very distinct and each have their own flavour and gimmicks that makes no two levels the same, one of the levels is even Racoon City from the Resident Evil Series where you get to fight Nemesis, which was heavily promoted on the back of the game box. It even has a multiplayer mode, where you and a friend can battle against one another in one of the single player levels, it almost feels like this is where the main bulk of the game takes place as the amount of chaos that comes from these sessions really increases the enjoyment value of the game. This game unfortunately didn’t sell too well and wasn’t even advertised that much, which is a shame because this is a really unique premise, has aged incredibly well and is overall a really fun game. While it is very short, I still very much recommend it.
10. Zone of the Enders / Zone of the Enders: the 2nd Runner (Konami, 2001 – 2003)
Admittedly this is probably the most well known game on this list, it was made by Hideo Kojima after all, though let’s admit it, most people likely bought Zone of the Enders because it came with a free demo of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, which is a shame because these are really good games. Zone of the Enders is mostly about a battle between two powerful mechs (which are called Orbital Frames in this world), one of which, named Jehuty, you play as, or more accurately you play as its pilot Leo, who stumbles across Jehuty and is tasked by the Space Force to bring it back to their ship. The games are a combination of a third-person shooter and hack and slash (the fourth one on this list? I swear this wasn’t intentional), where you go into small open areas, explore and find items and upgrades, and fight other Orbital Frames laced throughout. As you play you receive a series of upgrades and different weapons for Jehuty to use, admittedly the move pool that you can perform with melee attacks in the first game is minimal – as you only have a single string of attacks – though in Zone of the Enders: the 2nd Runner you’re able to pull off a much larger number of attacks, as well as fight a larger variety of enemies, while in the first game there are only three (aside from bosses). The first game will have you exploring the space colony, going to different areas to kill enemies and find new upgrades and revisiting old areas to complete side missions, the second on the other hand, while still having the open areas, abandons choosing which area to visit and instead has you going to wherever the story requires. A lot of people say that these games are two of the best mecha games out there, and I can definitely agree, if you’re a fan of shows like Gundam or franchises like Pacific Rim I highly suggest you give these games a try.
Anime Amigo and Nerd Consultant
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