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Game Profile
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
PlayStation 2
PUBLISHER:
Konami
DEVELOPER:
Konami TYO
GENRE: RPG
PLAYERS:   1
RELEASE DATE:
March 06, 2001
ESRB RATING:
Teen
IN THE SERIES
Shadow of Destiny

RELATED GAMES
Aggressive Inline
ICO
World Rally Championship
Pride FC
Shadow of Destiny
 Written by Adam Woolcott  on November 19, 2003

Overlooked ? The Best PlayStation 2 Games You've Never Heard Of:


One of the perks of owning a PlayStation 2 is the vast library of games that comes along it. Hundreds of titles are available for the PS2 ? many good, many bad, and many in-between, all fighting for your gaming time and dollars. As such, many games, even outstanding ones, go overlooked in the pile ? well received, highly rated, it doesn't matter; with so many games staring you in the face each time you visit your local game store, it's a simple fact that some will end up criminally ignored and earmarked for the bargain bin. There are numerous others, but these are 5 of the most underrated PS2 games around ? and if you can find them, they won't cost much, making this double the fun ? great games, at a cheap price; plus you can be that cool kid who didn't buy Backyard Wrestling.


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Aggressive Inline (read full review)


Since Tony Hawk's Pro Skater brought extreme sports games to the PlayStation in style, nearly everyone has tried to emulate the THPS magic that's preserved the series for the last 5 years. Perhaps no other extreme game captured that magic like Aggressive Inline does ? and possibly surpasses it.? Up and coming developer (well, until they damaged themselves with the pathetic BMX XXX) Z-Axis lived up to the potential shown in earlier works such as Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX and Thrasher: Skate and Destroy with this inline skating game, carefully mixing in the THPS style with some tricks of their own that have wormed their way into other extreme sports games, such as Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4.


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The huge, well-designed levels (that only got larger when you unlocked the key to other courses) with dozens of objectives that range from simple to controller-smashingly hard is really only the tip of the iceberg here; the trick system is brilliant and extremely user friendly, and the RPG-esque leveling up for the different skater attributes is leagues better than collecting icons or buying stat points, and much more accessible. The best part though? The total elimination of the timed run, as the Juice meter lets you skate as long as you want, as long as you keep doing tricks. Only when you're assigned a timed run for an objective must you ever deal with a clock.


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Granted, Aggressive Inline was damaged by the overflow of extreme sports games in 2002, and also was hurt by the fact that oft-maligned publisher Acclaim was responsible for the title, but it's still unfortunate that Z-Axis' finest work was totally blown off, be it for PS2, Xbox, or GameCube ? despite very high review marks across the board, from almost all the major game media outlets.? It's still readily available in many bargain bins, so check your local store to see if they have one of the most overlooked PS2 games around, and prepare to be stunned by the quality of Aggressive Inline.


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World Rally Championship (read full review)


Here in America, racing is synonymous with NASCAR. While CART and the IRL occasionally make the headlines, NASCAR might as well be the only racing circuit around, as its popularity has risen to insane proportions in recent times. Unfortunately, this means rally racing, which is in many ways racing at its purest, is delegated to the late night timeslot on Speedvision, unable to gain an audience, as the audience is probably in bed by the time WRC airs. Thankfully, rally fans do have some luck, when a great rally game reaches our shores from the rally capital of Europe. While Colin McRae Rally gets the most notoriety here (and for good reason, as the games are typically excellent), there are others, most notably the official game of WRC, World Rally Championship. Developed by Evolution Studios and published domestically by BAM Entertainment (SCEE published it in Europe, but SCEA passed on publishing rights here), WRC is as authentic a rally game as you'll find on any game console, let alone the PlayStation 2.


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Featuring nearly every rally in the season schedule and almost all the drivers (the lone exception seems to be Colin McRae himself, for fairly obvious reasons), WRC is a lengthy game that will challenge and sometimes scare the crap out of you, especially when you take a corner at 80mph and see nothing but a nasty cliff on the other side. The battle is against the clock, and no actual cars to compete with on-screen, but the action is still just as intense with these conditions. The varying terrain and its ability to change how the cars react to your controls is as real as possible, creating hours of gameplay depth, mastering each of the different terrain and dealing with outside forces like spectators and mother nature's wrath.


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The dismal sales of WRC unfortunately have cost us a chance at the sequel, which thus far has remained only in Europe. While BAM didn't print many copies to begin with, WRC was a dismal sales story, despite solid reviews and good word of mouth. As such, WRC isn't particularly easy to find, which is a shame, because as a bargain bin purchase, it would have offered hours of gameplay for a very low price. If you enjoy racing games and find this laying around somewhere, I suggest picking it up ? it's better than many other PS2 racers that have sold more copies.


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Pride FC (read full review)


Pride FC is essentially the Japanese version of the US's Ultimate Fighting Championship ? only in sprit though. Instead, Pride FC takes place in a traditional boxing ring instead of the octagon, and the emphasis is more on kickboxing, instead of fists. THQ and Anchor (the developer behind the underrated WWE Raw 2 for Xbox) made a gallant attempt to recreate the Pride environment on the PlayStation 2, and succeeded, despite the lack of gameplay options and thus replay value. As mentioned in the original review, Pride FC has an engine that should make WWE fans plead for it to be used in a PS2 grappler, but on its own Pride FC is a great game, especially multiplayer, despite its replay flaws.


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Where Pride FC really excels is in its presentation, which is among the best around. Authentic ring announcements, entrances, and theme music, along with an EA Sports-esque overlays that scream authentic. The in-ring action is fast, as most matches will only last a few minutes, making the game better suited to a 16-player Grand Prix mode for parties, as the single player gets worn out fast as the lack of a career mode ruins solo activity. On the other hand, the game is polished and plays excellently, and only seems to tease its true potential thanks to so many lacking features.


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Thankfully, unlike all the other games on this list, Pride FC is very easy to find, and actually hasn't hit the bargain bin yet. Once it does though, Pride FC is a worthy buy, especially if you're looking for a great party game that can involve up to 16 people in an intense tournament like the Pride FC Grand Prix.? It's a perfect way to pass time fighting, especially if you need a change of pace after all the WWE Smackdown tournaments you've hosted.


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Shadow of Destiny (read full review)


One of Konami's first PlayStation 2 games is also one of the most unsung games on the console. Developed by the team that created the Silent Hill franchise, Shadow of Destiny brought PC-style adventure games to the PS2, in solid fashion. As Eike Kush, a young man who has this habit of dying a lot, you must go back in time, whether it be only a few years earlier or over a thousand years prior, and change the events that lead to his death, be it by changing the name of a particular movie, convincing a man to not plant a tree in a particular spot, even preventing a death 20 years prior that changes the scope of the present.


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The thing about SoD is the lack of action. There is no violence, aside from the cut-scenes where you die, and Eike carries no weapons whatsoever. Instead, the only weapon is your own mind, figuring out the trick to fixing the present day, altering the world Eike has time traveled to at the same time. Along the way Eike will meet many important characters, and his actions can affect them in the long run, altering the fate of others as well as his own. Destiny (known as Shadow of Memories abroad) is a cerebral game that you don't see much of anymore, and it was done extremely well. The multiple paths and endings (6 in total) greatly enhance the gameplay, and earning the EX ending (by beating the game 5 different ways to get the first 5 endings) is the ultimate prize.


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As an ignored 1st generation PS2 game, Shadow of Destiny is a rare find, even in used condition, as the game didn't get a widespread release.? Even so, gamers looking for a surprisingly good adventure game that is very original and inspired will find an awful lot to like here if they can find a copy of this unheralded gem. The lack of action aside from puzzle solving might not work well for impatient gamers, but anyone who is willing to set aside a few hours to travel through time and solve your own murder mystery, Choose Your Own Adventure style, will surely enjoy Shadow of Destiny.


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ICO?(read full review)


ICO is a strange case. Ask nearly any hardened gamer about ICO, and they probably own it and love it. It received loads of great reviews and the word of mouth was incredible. Yet, despite that, ICO never hit it big, and as such stands as the biggest name in any overlooked PS2 game list. Be it silly boxart, bad advertising, or just bad timing (releasing the game the same day as Silent Hill 2, and a month prior to big 2001 games like Devil May Cry, Grand Theft Auto III and Metal Gear Solid 2 probably didn't help), ICO failed to garner the fanbase the game deserves.


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There are many ways ICO shines. From the stylized and beautiful graphics that still shine today, to the brilliant puzzle layout, and everything in-between, ICO had nearly everything going for it. While the game is low on combat, the occasional encounters were decent enough and happened at the worst possible time for ICO and his companion, Yorda. Yorda is the wild card in the entire game, as you must escort her through the castle the game is based in and help her escape the clutches of evil, as well as escape yourself, as ICO was banished there. The entire game is engaging and smart, with intelligent puzzles and imaginative levels as well. Words can't accurately describe the quality of the game, as ICO is a game to be played, not read about.


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It's unfortunate then, when you realize that ICO has pretty much vanished from store shelves. New copies are impossible to find, and even used ones are tough to come across, as people snap them up before they can't find it anymore. As such, ICO is a game that's a must play, the highest recommendation on this list, but it'll take plenty of searching (aside from eBay) and scouring to find a copy for yourself. Unquestionably though, ICO is worth the search, and what's on that CD-ROM will grip you for hours on end, and surprise you to boot. It all makes you wonder just how this game failed to live up to its sales potential.


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Final Thoughts

While we could go on for hours discussing overlooked games (even if many are lost causes, such as the nigh-impossible to find Rez), the 5 above are some worthy (and varied) choices from a vast selection. With everyone caught up in the new games in the 2003 holiday season, it's probably not a good time to go searching for unknown gems, but if you're short on cash and want some high-quality PS2 software that you've perhaps never played or heard of, this is a good place to start. Even better, you'll be doing the game industry a favor, as your dollars will help send a message that it doesn't have to be an established franchise to be good.



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