Back in 2001, I purchased my very first Playstation 2. A magnificent beast it was, with its Atari like design and blacky-blue aura. From a decent DVD player to a spectacular gaming console, it served me well until the Summer of 2004 when a leaky roof in a dodgy rental combined with electricity to blow it to bits.
It was at that point I learned of the fragility of the device. I quickly went out and purchased one of the limited edition “Platinum” models, which still entertains me with replays of Final Fantasy X and Beyond Good and Evil to this very day. I love my PS2, but I know it is coming, sadly, to the end of its lifespan, suffering from age and drive issues.
Siliconera reports that Sony has patented technology for software emulation of PS2 titles. So now, I beg. Please Sony, save my PS2! (Library)
The Playstation 2 has a library of almost 2000 games, making it, after the PS1′s epic showcase, one of the largest available. Plus, thanks to developers like Atlus, quality titles are still being released. It’s a great time to pickup some classics, due to the bargain basement prices and the sheer number of games still being manufactured. If you are in the market for a console, the PS2 slim is also widely available, although generally considered inferior to its brethren.
So if all of this is still available, why am I bugging Sony to release software emulation? Because adding compatibility to all PS3s (and hopefully, future consoles) would cement the ability for gamers to always access, at the very least, the previous generation of software. Ask any budding retro connoisseur about his maniacal attempts to keep his Sega Genesis or Atari 2600 in working condition. He’ll mumble something about a lack of parts, then probably weep softly over his NES that refuses to read Excitebike.
Anyone who has been collecting hardware within the past 20 years knows the score. Without constant cleaning, spare parts on hand and intricate knowledge of solder, its very difficult and time consuming to keep old consoles humming. I should know. I have a total of 15 working consoles in my personal collection, including a Master System, Atari 2600 and NES. If it wasn’t for eBay, Chinese manufacturers and some fantastic community contacts, I’d be in trouble.
The PS2 will, like the PS1, eventually stop being sold, and, eventually, working consoles will become more expensive and harder to get a hold of. Ironically, consoles with optical drives tend to have shorter lifespans then their cartridge predecessors, due to more complex moving parts, and much rarer spares. PS2′s in particular are known to have a notorious fault which kills the drive, due to the constant spin most games use to save on loading.
At this point, it becomes more and more likely that emulation will be the general victor in the battle to beat electronic aging.
Backwards compatibility is always a contentious issue, and one involving a constant stand-off between gamer and developer. Microsoft worked hard to allow the most popular of its previous releases to work on the 360, even when faced with a backlash from gamers regardless of the number it converted. Sony, controversially, removed the PS2 Emotion Engine Chip from all but its launch model to save cash, putting gamers in a position where newer consoles were actually inferior.
Since then, many had been crying out for a software solution. Part of the Emotion Engine chip was already software emulated in the original PAL PS3 consoles, while the PS2 GPU, a much more difficult piece of hardware to emulate, was left in. In later consoles, both were removed. The question, really, that remains is – Has Sony managed to complete the chain? Can it replicate it’s younger son using the PS3′s grunt alone?
It’s certainly not impossible. PCSX2 is a completely software emulator that has successfully managed to reverse engineer the complex systems that made up the PS2. While a few bugs exist, its entirely possible to run a game like Final Fantasy X, with full sound, graphics and control at a decent frame rate. One can only imagine how it could be improved by Sony themselves, especially with a powerhouse like the PS3 engineered to be dedicated to the task.
As console become more complex, so does the task of keeping them alive for the halls of history. If the PS2 took almost 7 years to successfully copy, how long might the PS3, or the PS4 for that matter? Will we eventually reach a point where a digital footprint cannot replace its hardware brother? Or are we destined to forget the gaming past, and simply just keep looking forwards the future?
I, for one, hope it doesn’t come to that.