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Adding a Hard Drive to My PS2

I always kind of debate on whether project posts like this should go here or on Blogging Intensifies. On one hand, it’s a Video Game related post and project. On the other hand, It’s also kind of an electronics and technology-based project. This one, ended up here.

One of my “on the list” projects has been to upgrade some of my old consoles. Two specifically, at least initially, are the PS2, and the Wii. The Playstation 2 was always a favorite of mine, though considering how much it sold it was probably a lot of people’s favorite. I played mine the most during my time at college. I always liked to joke about how I had put 100+ hours each mastering Grand Theft Auto 3, Final Fantasy X, and Metal Gear Solid 2, then upgraded all of those for another 100+ hours each mastering GTA Vice City, Final Fantasy X-2, and Metal Gear Solid 3.

I have, somehow, ended up with several Wiis. Though my original Wii had the CD drive go out on it. Funny enough, I also have several fat PS2s, though I have only have ever really used my original one. Having spares means screw-ups are more acceptable.

Anyway, the first of these upgrade projects I have decided to do is my PS2. The plan for the PS2 was to add a Hard Drive to it and load games that way. A hard drive has the benefit of, being less prone to failure (see also, the Wii’s CD drive) and being faster for loading games. I did some research on this and came across this video:

Which I decided to go with. A friend of mine suggested a slightly altered route, modding an official PS2 drive adapter to take a SATA drive, but I decided to just go with a 3rd party one built for a SATA drive. The main difference is the 3rd party ones, don’t have a network adapter. I really have, no real interest in putting my PS2 online. If I change my mind, I can always swap it out later. These devices are pretty cheap. I expected to pay a lot because the only comparable I have is when I have priced out Dreamcast network adaptors, which are super hard to find and and always go for a LOT.

Too bad there isn’t a cheap 3rd party option there.

There are some drive compatibility lists, but I have a bunch of old smaller drives floating around, so I decided to just wing it and hope for the best on that front. So the upfront cost was just the 3rd party SATA hook-up and the memory card with the loader on it.

I will probably also eventually pick up another larger memory card later, for save games.

Buying the stuff was the easy part.

Getting it working was a bit trickier. There aren’t really any instructions for any of this included, so a lot of it comes down to looking for guides online, which are often inconsistent with each other, sometimes old and outdated, sometimes referencing different overall techniques, which are not always cross-compatible. The first step was making sure the drive would work. I decided to use one of the spare PS2s and not my original, for a few reasons. One, my original is model 30001, and both of the others are model 50001. The Amazon page for the drive adaptor I used, implied the included memory card loader would not work for a 30001 model (it was wrong, more later). I also figure if I break something, it may as well be one of the spares.

Now, a little history on these spares. A while back, I tried to set up a way to play PS2 games on a PS2 and maybe do some streaming. I didn’t manage to accomplish this because each of the three gave me different trouble, though I forget exactly what that trouble was. One I believe doesn’t power on at all, I want to say one didn’t output video. The PS2 I chose to do my testing, it turns out, the front panel doesn’t work. It didn’t recognize the memory card or the controller. So that PS2 was not going to work for this.

These two spare PS2s, I bought them something like 15 years ago from a garage sale, I want to say $10 for the pair. I remember the seller said her son had had them when he was deployed over in Iraq or Afghanistan or something. One of them, on the top, has “Don’t touch or die” written on it. I could always paint this up or get a decal or something, but for now, I didn’t want to use that one, so I just used my OG 30001 model PS2.

Also, the other spare is still slightly buried in a tote, and I didn’t want to dig it out.

Fortunately, the Amazon listing was wrong, the loader worked fine. I poked around in the menu and managed to format the drive.

Now it was time to load some games.

Which ended up being the hard part.

There are several options for loading games, I don’t entirely get the difference beyond, “PS2 uses a screwy Hard Drive Format.”. I decided to start with Winhiip, which was the first one I came across as a suggestion, even though it is apparently considered “out of date”. All of these processes are basically “out of date”, and presumably worked at some point for someone. My thoughts were, this is a 20-year-old console, how out of date could it be, and this one lets me bulk load ISOs. I loaded a subset, of games, then hooked everything up to make sure it was working. A few short minutes later, I was in a game, running off the hard drive, everything was working fine.

I pulled the drive back out to finish loading everything else. The loading was a little slow because I was loading the ISO files from one PC, off of a network share on another PC.

With everything loaded, I went through the process of getting artwork for everything and loading it to a USB drive, then hooked everything back up.

Except, now it was not working. The drive did not even show up at all. I returned it to my PC and it didn’t show up there at all either. A lot of these drives I have lying around are old and second-hand, and generally too small to be really useful. They are slightly prone to failure. After some frustration, I gave up and started over with a fresh drive. This time I used HDL Dump instead of Winhiip, because it’s supposed to be more reliable. I noticed it adds a bit more data to each entry as well. The downside is, It only works, one ISO at a time. I found a bulk loader someone had made, but for some reason, the drive doesn’t show in the bulk loader scan.

I also connected my USB SATA adapter to the remote PC directly to avoid the slowness added by the network transfer. It also had a lot more free hard drive space to dump a pile of ISO files into. After several days of running one game at a time, I finally had everything loaded… Again…

This time, it loads up just fine in the PS2, except for one oversight on my part. HDL Dump had this box where you could fill in a name. Sometimes it automatically filled in, others it did not. I mostly just, ignored it. Which means many of the games have meaningless names now on the PS2. There is a mechanism to edit and update it natively, thankfully, but I don’t know which game is what without actually loading it up. Which means loading the game, waiting through several opening bumpers, making a note, resetting the PS2, then entering the name with a tedious on-screen keyboard. I strongly recommend filling int he name box on the PC as the games are loaded.

Very strongly.

I also have all these art assets downloaded to add but it’s not clear where they go because the system seems to have several different launchers and I can’t decipher which one uses them. Frankly, a list of names works just fine for now, I’m not even sure just how much I’m going to use this whole set up in the long term. I do want to explore options again for doing video capture again, I think part of my issue before is that I was using some really old capture devices and composite video. I really need to just invest in something that takes Component and/or HDMI input.

Review – Final Fantasy X (PS2, PS3, PS4, PC)

PS2 – 1 Player

Don’t ask me why it says “X” instead of “10” up there. I guess its just to keep with the idea that all FF games can be abreviated with three letters. Maybe people are just too lazy to put the 0 on the end. Actually it’s probably because everyone knows any name with an “X” on the end is automatically cool. Think about it, we have Malcom X, Jason X, Samurai X, Xyxex, the list goes on. This is one game though that is slick even without the tag-on “Cool X”.

Before we get started with detail, I present some minor trivia. To save HTML coding time I pulled out my FF8 review and just changed all the text and image links. On a semi-related note, if there is a game FFX is more like it’s FF8. Both are the only two FF games so far to use realistic character designs all the way through. Both have a massive “cheat” through the use of limit breaks. Both don’t really have levels. FF8 does, but it’s the Junction system that makes the difference in the end. Until FFX came along, FF8 was the best in the series. Also they both have the same characters!

Ok, ok, stick with me here. Look at Rinoa and Yuna, side by side, same person right? How about Tidus and Squall? Hey hey, you can’t fool us by dying youtr hair blonde boy! Rikku could easily pass for Quist’s younger sister. Wakka and Zell? Hey didn’t we try the hair dye trick once allready? If Lulu isn’t Edea munis the mask and backback thing, I don’t know who is. What about Kimari then. Well uh, I suppose he’s sort of the love child of Red XIII and Yuffie, I mean FF7 isn’t too far off from FF8 right?

Now if FF8 was unbalanced by how strong you can get, FFX has flipped off the scale and is rolling away by now. It starts out a bit difficult at times, but once you fill the Sphere Board with everyone, well, even with your Weakest characters every battle is a simple matter of mashing the Fight Command. Also for the first time you can break the 9999 barrier on HP, and Damage. Not that you’ll need to to finish the game. In fact the end is allready probably the easiest end boss in any FF game to date. For one, the true end boss only has one form. The final battle afterwards is so easy you could beat it with your weakest character with none of the sphere board complete, given enough time. Honestly it’s a feature I could do without, though by that point I could kill everything in one hit anyway. I don’t think any of the final fights caused any damage before I kicked the shit out of them at 99999 a hit. Consider that isn’t just 99999 a round, that is 99999 from three people with Auto-Haste and a speed stat around 200. So for every one attack the enemy dishes out that’s like 10 or so hits of 99999 each. Or more.

Now there is some challenge here. You see there is this Battle Arena. That is where the REAL bosses are. Basically it’s chock full of hidden enemies with several million HP each. The problem here is that most of these bosses can be finished off with the same strategy of casting auto life then attacking. For the most part they all have some sort of gimmick weakspot to thier strategy. Honestly the hardest one, Nemesis, broke down to about an hour of attacking and wasn’t hard at all. I may be wrong on the names but Neslug and Thu’Bin were considerably more of a challenge than Nemesis was. I mean to kill Neslug you had to be able to deal over a million HP in one attack in order to kill is otherwise it would pull into it’s shell and regenerate completely (3 Mil HP total).

I mentioned this game doesn’t have Levels. That’s one of it’s big “new features”. Thing is, it DOES have levels. it just doesn’t keep track of them. After each battle you gain AP that go towards Sphere Board points. For each Sphere Point you can move one space on the Sphere Board to gain stats. These are all just fancy names for levels. In the end it breaks down to a lot of busy work for the same +2 Str and +3 Dex you would have gotten anyway for making it to level 5 (etc). The idea here is that you’ll be able to customize your characters. Anyone can learn Black Magic, you just need ot get to that point on the board. If you complete it, you’ll have a powerhouse specialty fighter that is faster than greased lightning and can cast all sorts of White and Black magic. The problem is that there are locks all over the board. Chances are you won’t be able to deviate from a characters preset path till about halfway through the game. Also after two plays through, I’ve found you won’t complete a characters initial path till around the end of the game. At this point you’ll be needing around 20,000 AP to gain an S-Level. Don’t worry though, there are multiple tricks to gain AP quickly and the enemies in the final dungeon are fairly easy for around 3-4 S-Levels per battle on even the strongest characters.

But where would a Final Fnatasy game be without mini-games. I can’t say I’ve ever been too fond of mini-games myself. They always come off as useless filler. It’s like the characters suddenly decide to take a day off from saving the world so they can play some sort of lame Chocobo/Moogle themed race/guessing game/shooter/whatever. Also the prizes are usually pretty useless. Not in FFX. Oh no, if you want to outfit all of the fully powered (read:useful) versions of the ultimate weapons you’ll have to complete every mini game in this baby. Not only that but in order to get materials for customizing perfect armor easily, you’ll have to complete the battle arena. But wait! There’s more! You see, FFX has the hardest, most excrutiating mini games in ANY game EVER. LEt’s start easy. The Cactaur Hot and Cold game is not that hard. Be sure to save between each cactaur and you’ll be able to catch them all without being caught pretty easily. But how about say, dodging 200 lightning bolts. Another one that in the end wasn’t that hard. You just NEED Enc-None and decent reflexes. It takes about 20 minutes to do this if you find a spot with consistant lighting strikes on the map. Now on to the worst couple. Butterfly Racing. Run along a tree and catch blue butterflies. Sounds easy right? You have a time limit though, and there are red butterflies that initiate combat. Not to mention that in this 3D world it’s pretty much impossible to tell where the butterflies actually are and if you hit even one red butterfly or deviate from the EXACT path you’ll come up .1 seconds short of winning (every time). After say, 20 or 30 runs you should have the path memorized enough to make it throught this thing.

Now for the final big offender before we get into the one fun mini-game. Chocobo Racing. Anyone who has played this game knows that Chocobo Racing is impossible. The chocobos steer like drunk blind cripples, the birds appear right on top of you all the time and unless you hit the exact pixel of the Balllon you won’t pick it up. Did I mention you have to complete this game with a time of 0 seconds? It takes about 36 seconds to run the race, if no birds hit you and you just run it. Each bird subtracts 6 seconds (3 at the end, 3 in actual run time) and each baloon adds 3 seconds (at the end). so you have to pick up at least 12 baloons without getting hit plus 2 for each bird you hit. Sound complicated? You bet! Difficult? Absolutely. This game requires no skill. You’ll play for 500 runs and get times varying from 2 seconds to 2 minutes. Eventually you’ll finally manage to get lucky and all the birds will be gone and the baloons will all be right in front of you and you’ll get the perfect time of 0 seconds. Thing is at this point this victory will feel empty and hollow as it came from no amount of skill on your part.

Now we are getting a bit long here, but there is one more point to touch on. Blitzball is the main mini-game of this game. FF8 had Triple Triad, FF9 had Tetra Master, FFX has Blitzball. Basically it’s underwater soccor (that’s Underwater Football for you Brits) and while it starts out a bit difficult, once you dump the entire original team and recruit a few good players you’ll be dominating the sport. The only problem with this game is that you have to win somewhere between 50 and 1 billion matches for all of Wakka’ Limits and Ultimate Weapon pieces to come up. I’m pretty sure the numbers are random so you could be playing a LOT of Blitz. As fun as it is for a while, it gets REALLY old after about 200 games.

Basically te point here is, that you should own three games for PS2. Metal Gear Solid 2, Grand Theft Auto 3, and Final Fantasy 10. Everything else is just garbage filler. Then for 2003, be sure to pick up Metal Gear Solid 2.2, Grant Theft Auto 3.2, and Final Fantasy 10.2 (Kingdom Hearts or I suppose Final Fantasy 10 International). man I see a trend here. Here’s hoping 2004 briungs MGS3, GTA4, and FF12. What, you say I missed FF11? No, Square just decided to skip making a good game for that one.

Review – Disgaea Hour of Darkness (PS2)

PS2 – Atlus – 1 Player

Lately I haven’t been the type to buy games until they’ve been marked down at least twice. However for some insane reason I picked this game up very soon after it came out based on one person’s recommendation. Sounds like a mix for disappointment personally but in the end it was a good idea.

For the most part I really hate these grid based Tactical RPGs. Final Fantasy Tactics was frustratingly boring/difficult/lame after like 4 battles. This game is ten times the game FFT was. The battles are much quicker for one thing, especially if you’re replaying old matches for experience. Also you can move all your characters on one turn, something I really hated in FFT. Though I must admit after a few days of regular playing it gets a little old. I find eventually become a bit tired of this game and become distracted by other games or other things going on.

However, the game is easy to come back to, and the charm picks back up almost immediately. This game is a very good “filler game”. That is to say, it’s something good to pick up and play for a week or so when you have nothing else to play.

Anyway, how about some information on the game itself. You are Laharl, son of the late Lord of the Underworld, your mission is to defeat everyone else and become the new Overlord. It’s about time someone made a game where you play as the “villain”, or at least the less than heroic character. As you battle through various locations eliminating other contenders for the throne. You’ll gain several of the characters you encounter to your party to assist you in combat.

You’ll need more than just the story characters though if you want to make quick work of things. Any of the characters in your party can recruit followers from a large list of characters. New classes and upgrades of classes become available as your existing characters gain experience. One minor complaint, It would have been nice if the class upgrades would have gotten new sprite (graphics) instead of just recolors, but I suppose that would have made things a little too confusing.

You can also recruit any monster you’ve battled before, but the cost of doing so is generally excessive for as weak as they are. If you want monsters, the real way to do it is to capture them. If you’ve weekend a monster in battle you can pick it up and toss it into your home base panel. If the monster is weak enough and the party members in the panel are strong enough, you’ll capture the monster.

It doesn’t take an eternity to gain levels either. I once made a new level 1 character and had her kill a very strong (weakened) monster and she gained 19 levels in one fight. She was ready to battle along side my stronger characters in no time. Which is really nice since otherwise I’d have had an essentially useless character that late in the game. Also this is the only RPG I can think of where levels go into the hundreds and thousands.

Speaking of levels, you can level up a lot of things. All your characters have regular experience levels of course. Each character can also level up their special abilities, magic spells, and weapon skills for each weapon type. These levels are dependent on how much you use the skill or weapon. Weapons and items themselves can be leveled up as well. You enter the Item World and fight through maps repeatedly. Each map cleared is a level up for the item/weapon. Along your trip through the item world you collect Residents. The Residents are special monsters that give bonus status effects to weapons and items. Once you’ve collected a Resident you can also move it to another more useful or more powerful item.

There is also the Underworld Senate. You can bring bills to the Senate for things like “Better items for Sale” or “Stronger Monsters”. The probability that they will pass depends on your favor with the senators. By bribing the senators with items you can gain more favor. Also if you’re strong enough you can challenge the senators that vote against you to a battle. You can also take tests to increase your level in the senate.

Back to the core of the game, battles. Like I mentioned, they are fairly quick and generally easy. They do get more difficult in the later worlds, but there are some easy tricks you can use to gain levels quickly. One of the main gimmicks in battle are the colored Geo Panels. Random squares on the map will be colored one of several colors. There are also colored Geo Stones lying around the maps (Note: Not every map has Geo Panels). The stones add affects to the colored panels. For example, a stone may have the effect “Recover 20%” and it’s sitting on a red panel. This will cause every red panel to recover 20% of the HP of any character on that space. The Geo panels also affect monsters, so some strategy has to be used sometimes. There are a ton of different effects from “Enemy Boost” to “Warp” to “Invincibility”. Also you can initiate massive chain reactions by destroying Geo Stones on the Geo Panels. These chain reactions are often the only way to gain bonuses on some maps.

Also, in battle characters will often initiate combination attacks with nearby characters. If done correctly it’s possible to do many more hits of damage than you would have done with single attacks. Also you can toss monsters or heroes around to help cover more ground. Monsters can be combined into stronger monsters for more experience as well.

The plot is generally bizzare. I imagine it may possibly turn some people off, however its excessive strangeness almost makes it come off as more of a parody than anything. The silly episode previews, advertising titles like “Super Dimensional Gal Etna” are amusing. Overall the story is prety solid as well. Flone’s constant moaning about Love gets old after a short time though. You spend the first half of the game trying to become Overlord, then the later half concerned with actually being Overlord, and other plots. This game also features a new game plus feature, which is something you’ll probably need if you want to unlock everything.

Overall this is a great fun RPG. I havn’t really found too many RPGs outside of Final Fantasy that were that great. This one is definitely a winner.