The Top Shelf: Special: The Ones That Got Away

Welcome to The Top Shelf, a weekly feature wherein I sort through my extensive PS2 collection for the diamonds in the rough. My goal here is to narrow down a library of 185 games to a svelte 44: the number of spaces on my bookshelf set aside for my PS2 collection. That means a whole lot of vetting and a whole lot of science that needs to be done, ten games at a time. Be sure to check out the Case File Repository for more details and a full list of games/links!

Last week we completed the preliminary round of The Top Shelf, whittling down the initial list of 185 games to 19 for-sure candidates and 70 "maybes" for the second round to scrutinize. Before we resume the elimination process, however, I wanted to take a moment to hold a candlelight vigil for the PS2 games I never got to play. Even with the large quantity of games I already own, there were plenty more out there I had my eye on: just goes to show how massive the PS2 library was, even if I tend to stick to a handful of genres.

For the most part, the reasons why I don't own these games are obvious: either the game was never released in the UK, or was only released in limited quantities. However, the "PS2 on PS4" range has given me hope that many more of these will become available eventually. That is, if Sony decides backwards compatibility is worth a hoot.

Here's ten games that, in a just world, would be part of my collection and would've been featured in the first round's elimination process:

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Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil (Namco, 23/02/2001): The first Klonoa, Door to Phantomile, is an excellent example of a game I only eventually got to play thanks to Sony's diligence in putting up older games for defunct systems on their PSN service. It's a remarkable 2D platformer with some 3D visual trickery involved, and a series I'd completely slept on during its original release to my chagrin. Presently, its sequel has yet to be added to PSN and UK copies seem to be fairly rare.
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Okage: Shadow King (Zener/SCEI, 15/03/2001): Okage Shadow King, conversely, is a game I will get to play sometime in the future because it was added to the PS2 Classics range on PS4. It's the European debut of the game also and we've seen a few cases of that recently, most notably with Suikoden 3: what was, for the longest time, the only Suikoden game unavailable in Europe. Okage doesn't seem like a particularly remarkable RPG, but hey, I'm happy to support this practice of atoning for localization snubs of the past.
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Katamari Damacy (Namco, 18/03/2004): In some respects, I'm not sure I need to play the original Katamari Damacy any more. Obviously, it was very important to the Katamari Damacy franchise as well as video games in a more general sense, but subsequent games in the series have hewed very close to the original's blueprint. I've played two Katamari Damacy games to completion (We Love Katamari and Beautiful Katamari), and their similarities were striking. Plus, the PS3 game Katamari Forever works as a "best of" of the previous games - the series was definitely running on fumes by that point - so I can probably revisit a big chunk of the original's best levels in HD if desired. Still, it remains a sore point that the original Katamari was denied to us Europeans. (And denied again when it was added to the PS3's digital marketplace except in Europe.)
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Grandia III (Game Arts, 04/08/2005): I'm a big fan of the first two Grandias - the second game is currently in my second round reserves list, which I'll create later this week - and while the third game isn't rated quite as highly, I was definitely looking forward to more of the series's fantastic tactical combat engine and epic-length story. Nope. Didn't get this one in Europe either, nor did we get the PS3 digital version. I'm going to have to start investing in US PSN gift vouchers...
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Tales of Legendia (Namco, 25/08/2005): I know this is a point of contention with a few Tales-superfan friends of mine, but Bandai Namco seems happy to just forget Legendia exists. It probably underperformed because they were trying something so very different and surreal with this particular entry in the venerable real-time RPG franchise. I'm determined to play every Tales game eventually (well, except maybe Tempest), so I'm hoping Bamco come to their senses and find a way to bring this to modern audiences, either adding the PS2 game to the digital marketplace or remaking it in the fashion of something like Hearts R or the Symphonia Chronicles. Legendia has its proponents, dang it. They're out there.
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Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm (Gust, 29/06/2006): We're starting to get into the realm of RPGs that did see European releases, but came so late in the PS2's lifespan that they were thin on the ground and never seemed to drop in price. Atelier Iris 3 is the third and last game in a trilogy of alchemy-based RPGs, the first two of which I own and adore. Iris 3 apparently went for this mission-based structure that didn't review as well as its predecessors at the time, but it's still bad form to leave a trilogy two-thirds complete like this even if they don't actually share a story/world. While I doubt I'll ever see a remastered trilogy - Gust's been remaking their PS3 Atelier games, but not these ones - my only other recourse is to find a PS2 copy in the wild at some point.
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Wild Arms 5 (Media.Vision, 14/12/2006): Same deal here. I loved Wild Arms 3, enjoyed Wild Arms 4, and have listened to this rad boss track from Wild Arms 5 several times. No dice on the game itself though; if it ever did come out in Europe, it was in extremely limited quantities. Considering we've yet to see another of these Western-styled gun-toting RPGs, I want the fifth game for a sense of closure more than anything else. At least Media.Vision are still around - they're behind the similarly "guns & fantasy" Valkyria Revolution, the localization of which is out later this month (June '17, for those coming here late) - so there's hope for a remaster. Of course, they'd probably have to remake the other four games first...
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Soul Nomad & the World Eaters (Nippon Ichi Software, 15/02/2007): I'd be remiss not to mention the only PS2 NIS SRPG I don't own. Soul Nomad has a slightly darker tale than its peers, with fewer comedic instances, but it's like Wild Arms 5 and Grandia 3 above: I enjoyed the previous games enough that I'm sure I'd still enjoy a slightly weaker-received entry, and they just happen to be the last games I need to complete the set. I'm not generally a collector type, but it's still a little vexing to leave gaps like that.
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Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy (Gust, 29/05/2008): You didn't see Mana Khemia, a side series of the Atelier games, during the first round because I actually own the PSP version instead. Mana Khemia does the Persona thing of balancing traditional dungeon exploration and item creation with a highschool dating sim, where you can use free periods to hang out with a member of the extended cast and potentially increase your standing with them for various gains. I particularly liked Mana Khemia's cast of characters, so I've been eager to jump into the sequel at some point. Alas, unlike the first game, no version of Mana Khemia 2 has ever been made available to Europe.
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Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier (High Impact Games, 03/11/2009): The chances of a PS2 game released in 2009 doing well was a forlorn hope, I suspect, so whatever prompted the developers of this game to chase up Naughty Dog's highly regarded series with this very late entry is anyone's guess. The game was rated well enough, but I wasn't able to find a PS2 copy in time. If I really wanted to play the game there are cheap pre-owned PSP copies everywhere, so that's always an option. Right now, though, I'm hoping it joins the rest of its brethren on PS4 as part of this push to get whole Jak franchise remastered.

And here are ten runners-up. While I'm less eager to run out and buy these at present, I'm keeping my eyes peeled regardless.

  • Everblue (Arika, 09/08/2001): Everblue 2 was great, wouldn't mind checking out the first if possible. Curiously, it's the only game on this list that saw a European release but not a North American one.
  • Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht (Monolith Soft, 28/02/2002): I didn't care for the second episode, but that's largely because it dropped me in the middle of a very complex tale without a parachute. I'd like to give the excellent Monolith Soft the benefit of the doubt and start this series over, if possible.
  • Chulip (Punchline, 03/10/2002): Another non-EU game I was fortunate to pick up from the PS3 store via US Amazon vouchers and have yet to try. Didn't review well, but a game this singularly odd deserves a look.
  • Tales of Destiny 2 (Wolfteam, 28/11/2002): Like Tales of Legendia, only this game was never localized into English. It follows directly after one of my favorite games in the Tales series though, so if I can ever get my hands on a fan translated version...
  • Arc the Lad: End of Darkness (Cattle Call, 03/11/2004): Big fan of Twilight of the Spirits. End of Darkness didn't do quite as well critically, but I'm sure I'd find something about it to like. That goes for all the PS1 Arc the Lad games also.
  • Growlanser Generations (Career Soft, 07/12/2004): Growlanser's another series that has passed me by - there's simply too many JRPGs and not enough time - but Generations is a US-only compilation that combines the second and third games in the series, so that seems an ideal place to start.
  • Radiata Stories (tri-Ace, 27/01/2005): I've been following tri-Ace's output for a while, with usually mixed results. Valkyrie Profile Lenneth and Silmeria were fantastic, Star Ocean 3 was a mess (though I am revisiting it for this feature), Infinite Undiscovery had its charms though it was a bit uneven throughout, and eventually I want to try to understand Resonance of Fate again. Radiata Stories is probably another one of their lesser games, but it's still a big gap in my PS2 JRPG library.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 (Atlus, 27/01/2005): I'll be sweeping this one up depending on how much I enjoy the first Digital Devil Saga, which is the only one of the two I own on disk and is on the quota of games to check out in the second round. Fortunately, Saga 2 is both available on PS3 and in Europe, so there's little barrier to entry here. I just hope it doesn't require me to transfer a save for the maximum benefit.
  • Drakengard 2 (Cavia, 16/06/2005): This one's a definite maybe. I really didn't care for Drakengard 1, but after Nier (and Nier Automata, which I definitely have to get around to soon) I've been a bit more motivated to check out the tangentially-related Drakengard games. This one lacked Yoko Taro's involvement though, so it's low on this particular wish list.
  • Raw Danger! (Irem, 30/03/2006): Both Raw Danger and its predecessor Disaster Report have been on my radar for a while, as the sole representatives of Irem/Granzell's larger Zettai Zetsumei Toshi series to be localized for the West. The "disaster survival" genre's not a particularly populous one, so I'm curious to try them out someday. Here's hoping the fourth game, which was previously cancelled due to the Fukushima Incident hitting too close to home but has since been put back into development, will see a localization also.
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