So. I fell out of love with computer games a few months ago. It’s all a bit weird really. I’ve gone from a gaming obsessive that wanted to make games a year ago, that raced home from work in time to do things like ‘grind mats’ and ‘enchant capes’ before a ‘Tier 9 25 man raid’, to a relatively un-gamey chap. I don’t really read EDGE Magazine anymore, I rarely can be bothered to hear what (the excellent) Eurogamer.net has to say about the industry and I watch Gametrailers.com reviews once in a blue moon. I most certainly don’t play WoW. Yet here I am, looking at my Playstation 2. Thinking what a masterpiece it is, thinking how it wouldn’t be caught dead in a bar with his younger, uglier brother, the PS3.
I’ve not been sleeping. 3 days now and so gaming in the bedroom it is, and that’s why the PS2 is out in all its angular, low resolution glory. I’ve only been playing one game, Final Fantasy XII. I dabbled when it first came out. In fact, I pirated a Japanese version and used an online translator to play it because I simply couldn’t wait. Naturally, that didn’t last past an hour. I owned it when it got its eventual PAL release but something stopped me playing it. I don’t remember what. Probably involved panic attacks at uni (later identified as a caffeine allergy!). Well, I’m playing it now and that’s no lie. It’s utterly epic. Mesmeric and, oddly for something from the stoic old fellas at Squaresoft, it’s entirely refreshing!
This isn’t a review so I’ll stop my rambling soon but I have to say – the combat system is beautiful. So deep and rewarding, so forward thinking and, like the PS2 to the PS3, so much better than its newer relative. That being said there’s no denying Final Fantasy XIII is beautiful to look at, but it’s a hollow beauty, like fancying a shag but not falling in love. Sexy but not pretty. Final Fantasy XII on the other hand is a pinup girl you’d also take home for Sunday Lunch with your Mum. You can feel the effort in every pixel, polygon and texture. Every sound effect, every camera angle, every bloody EVERYTHING. I actually find it hard to think of another game that can do this, my closest bet is The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask which has oh so very much in common with what makes this Final Fantasy the most beautiful of all time.
It’s also got a banging story. Again, a breath of fresh air. This time you’re not the star of the show. You’re just an extra. If I could remember what you call the people in a theatre production that are in charge of pulling the curtains I’d say your character was analogous to that. Anyway, enough. The game’s old, you know what it’s about I should think. Excellent political intrigue, back-stabbings and war. Not angsty feelings or bloody Gaia Theory.
Now we get to the reason for this post’s title. I couldn’t help but feel that the game’s designers wept when they got the game off their dev kits and onto crappy Standard Definition TVs and this feeling lead me to discover something magic on the internet that isn’t Emo Amy dressed up in a bunny outfit on Youporn.com. Nope, it’s PCSX2! As the name suggests it’s a PS2 PC emulator. Oft skeptical but always willing to try, I downloaded it and stuck FF12 in the PC drive (after unplugging my spare hard drive, swearing a lot and pulling the kitten out of the PC chassis twice). A bit of fiddling with settings and ‘click’ it loaded… Fuck me it works. It really works. 50 frames per second at 720p. Blimey.
Now THIS is how Final Fantasy XII should look. It’s startling what a good job the emulator makes of upscaling the graphics. I can only assume that it’s got a lot of nice textures to work with in the first place that were, as I had previously thought, buried under the fog of pixelly old TV resolutions. I mean, just look…
Remarkable if you ask me (remarkable as in for an old PS2 game, not remarkable as in Lucy Liu’s face).
And so, now all I need is a PS2-to-USB adaptor so I can play with the DualShock controller and I’m away (although I need to get my save game across too if I want to play FF12 where I left off).
Encouraged by my geeky findings I booted up Metal Gear Solid 3 and Shadow of The Colossus too. Here are some more screen grabs for your delectation.
and here is a picture of Lucy Liu’s face for comparison also.
UPDATE: It turns out Eurogamer.net actually used the emulator for an ICO and Shadow of The Colossus comparison. See the videos here (or just keep looking at Lucy Liu, I don’t mind).