In the late ‘90s I wrote a weekly syndicated column for The Oregonian and its sister newspapers focusing on home technology, gadgets, and video games. This particular story focused on a complete review of the Sony PlayStation2 console, on its launch day.

“To Your Stations”

Today Sony unleashes its next big thing, the PlayStation®2 (PS2). Looking more like a spy gadget than a videogame system, the indigo box gives way to a sleek black console that fits stylishly into even the most high-end home entertainment system. Functional in either horizontal or vertical tower positions, once powered-up, the violet indicator light shines like a beacon from the front of the dark machine, as if to scream, "Welcome to the Future!" The startup screen with its kaleidoscopic images and soothing sound of ocean surf is mesmerizing entertainment in its own right.

With such a grand entrance, it's easy to understand why demand for this game system has exceeded supply on its first day in America. More than just a videogame machine, this new device plays DVD movies, features high-speed network connectability, and will serve as Sony's on-ramp to the Internet. What follows is a primer for those who are considering buying a PS2 or those lucky enough to have scored one.

The Games: A Mixed Bag

As a videogame machine, the PS2 is unparalleled in its graphic capability and raw processing power. But it's up to game designers to make full use of that power by delivering revolutionary and enthralling entertainment. The good news is that 27 games are available for the PS2 at launch, and the better news for your wallet, is that only a handful of these are worth shelling out the $50.00 admission price.

One reason for the dearth of games that make the grade is the virtual non-existence of first-party (Sony published) titles. Editor-In-Chief Frank O'Connor of Daily Radar, a popular video game website, speculates that Sony backed-off its game releases in order to let the third-party (non-Sony) publishers send out their games in a less-competitive environment. But come next year, O'Connor expects to see an onslaught of first-party games. Sony official Molly Smith clarifies the company's strategy, "Our intent was not to give third party publishers an edge, but we are fortunate that there is a plethora of high quality products from third-party publishers. We support these publishers, which is in keeping with our view of PlayStation 2 as a conduit to a wide variety of entertainment, and not just one game or one type of electronic entertainment."

The only must-have game in the bunch that puts to shame the top games on Sega's competing Dreamcast machine is the slick snowboarding fantasy with a techno beat, SSX. This game is almost as fun to observe, as it is to play. The next best title for the system is Madden NFL 2001, characterized by both an entertaining jaunt for first-timers and a deeply realistic game for pigskin connoisseurs.

The other 25 titles tend to have far less universal appeal, with fighters such as Tekken Tag Tournament, Street Fighter EX3, and Dead or Alive 2 topping the list for teenage boys, role-playing games including Summoner and Evergrace filling the void until a Final Fantasy game graces the system, joy rides such as Ridge Racer V, Midnight Club: Street Racing, and Smuggler's Run feeding the need for speed, and the gory action-shooter Unreal Tournament enables more than one PS2 to be linked together in a network for multiplayer gaming.

A Bright Future for a Dark Box

Tired of buying a game system, only to have it become obsolete in a year's time? You may be in luck. According to its executives, Sony's future plans for the PS2 include modem capability and broadband connections to the Internet beginning next year. The intended applications of this technology are far greater than just web browsing or multiplayer gaming, as Sony plans to leverage their movie studios, music studios, and vast library of video games for download. To make this work, Sony will require the purchase of a separate modem that will slide into the empty hole in the back of the machine, in addition to affordable high-density hard-drives for storing downloaded movies, songs, and games.

(full story available by request)