Today marks the 20th anniversary of the PlayStation 2, which first went on sale on March 4, 2000. Admittedly, I didn't get my hands on the machine until some months later, when it finally launched in the UK in November the same year. But it proved to be one of the best consoles ever made, and for me personally, I don't think it will ever be bettered.
I won't pretend that I can remember how I got my hands on the hottest piece of tech that Christmas. I only know that I owned one at launch, which probably means it was my poor dad who forked out for the big black brick as an early birthday present; and for that, I'll be eternally grateful.
I was hooked on video games at an early age and the somewhat unfortunate fact is that when you're named 'James' and love playing video games, you naturally get coined 'Games James' by your two older brothers and it becomes a thing.
When Sony released the PS2 in November of 2000, I was nearly 13 years old. During my formative years the majority of my favourite games comprised of Crash Bandicoot, XCOM, Final Fantasy 7, Metal Gear Solid – mostly single-player experiences that I delved headfirst into on my tod.
By comparison, I think I remember the PlayStation 2 most for being the first console where it felt like a collective experience for me; where my obsession, that had been mostly self-contained to my own bedroom and single-player games, was shared with the friends I was making at school.
Whilst it's easy to look back and remember all the cool quirks of the console, such as the loading screen made of towers that represented your save data, or the – at the time groundbreaking – feat of being backwards compatible with PS1 games, I look back with fondness for the PS2 because of the times I spent playing it with my friends.
At the time, it became 'the thing' to transport the PS2 wherever you went; that's despite it being a massive brick that required backpacks of steel to haul back and forth. I can still recall the massive 'THUD' you'd hear whenever you got to your destination as you attempted to 'gently' put the bag on the floor.
Yet despite the heavy lifting and constant process of moving TV units to plug it into the back, I can vividly recall the days, evenings and every huge session spent playing with friends. Normally with a multitap and DualShock wires strewn across the floor.
Whether it was collectively enjoying the bonkers multiplayer modes of TimeSplitters (so many monkeys), or the endless number of matches playing Pro Evolution Soccer 4, 5, or 6, (quick appreciation for Inter Milan's Adriano, and his astronomically powerful left peg); it's the time I spent with friends that sticks to mind the most when I look back on the PS2.
And this isn't to say the PS2 didn't have great single-player games. Far from it. This is the same console that saw GTA stepping into the 3D era, and several high profile titles got their big breaks, such as God of War, Ratchet & Clank and Devil May Cry.
The PS3 that followed might have had better graphics and a bathtub full of ducks . The PS4 may be the leading console at the time of writing and still releasing incredible gaming experiences and stories. But for me, the PS2 was the king and shall forever remain the best console of in Sony's lineup.
Maybe I'm wrong. By all means, tell me in the comments if you disagree. But it did sell over 155 million consoles worldwide, and that's also hard to ignore.
Happy Birthday PlayStation 2, you were (and still are) the best.
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