Soft Modding a PS2 Slim in 2018: First Impressions
First Impressions After a Day with the Modded PS2 Slim
Today’s been a roller-coaster. In a previous tutorial I walked you through modding a PS2 slim. I was up until 3 AM writing that guide, since every step of the way I ran in to a wall that wouldn’t let me proceed and had to troubleshoot and Internet-search my way out of it. I took good notes through, finally got the guide polished and uploaded for the benefit of the world, and went to sleep.
So this morning, after being woken up by my kids and my cat after only around 4 hours of sleep I thought “this will be worth it. Today’s the day! Today I’ll get to reap the rewards of all of that hard work I spent last night modding away in the basement.”
Ugh, USB 1.1
I’ve been playing around with different ways of playing game ISOs on my newly softmodded PS2 slim all day. I found out that the USB ports on the front of the PS2 slim are USB 1.1, which should come as a shock to no one. My unit was manufactured in 2004, and although USB 2.0 was released in 2000, the PS2 doesn’t really use its USB ports for very much typically, aside from the occasional special controller. The 1.5 Mbps USB 1.1 spec is painfully slow.
Slow USB ports on a PS2 doesn’t typically matter, unless you try to play ISOs from USB devices at 1.5 Mbps speeds. Smaller games like 2D fighters are not a big deal. I tried Capcom vs SNK and that seemed to work fairly well. Load times were a bit long… ok, they were very long, but it was still fairly stable. Since I didn’t want to nuke any of my external hard drives after reading that USB play is far from stable and playing across a LAN from a network share is the way to go, I decided to forgo USB completely and go that route. Hey, it’s what everyone recommends, so what’s to lose?
100 Mbit Ethernet vs 1.5 Mbit USB 1.1
So then, let’s fire up OpenPS2Loader and set up that Ethernet goodness! I carved out some space on my NAS and threw some PS2 games on it. I create an SMB share with read and write for guest access. Back on the PS2 I fired up OpenPSLoader, and plugged in some IP settings.
I had an odd issue where for some reason my PS2 wouldn’t pick up DHCP information from my firewall. I could plug the exact same cable in to my Raspberry Pi and get a DHCP address instantly so I wasn’t sure what was going on. I hard-coded IP information instead, and then ran in to another snag.
Under the SMB Server section, Address Type is by default set to NetBIOS, but has an IP address in the Address field. I thought this was odd, since the whole point of NetBIOS is to use names and not addresses. I hate using NetBIOS for anything, so I changed the address field to the IP address of my NAS and for the life of me I couldn’t get it to connect. Turns out you have to change NetBIOS to IP instead. If I were to write this application, Address would read Name instead of Address when the Address Type setting was set to NetBIOS, but whatever. After changing it to the above, it still wouldn’t read my files. Hmmm. I wasn’t getting a connection error, but there was no games in the list either.
Turns out the application automatically creates folders on the SMB share for you the first time you connect to it. All of my ISOs were in the root of the share. Among the five folders it creates are a DVD and CD folder, and your DVD or CD images have to be in either of those folders depending on what media they were ripped from. Additionally, they have to be named with a specific naming convention.
On each disc is a file in the root with a number as an extension. These files typically start with SLUS, or SCUS but not always. I had one start with PBPX for some reason. Anyway, they’ll be named like this: SLUS_XXX.XX where XXX.XX are random numbers that are uniquely assigned to each game. You need to open each ISO file to get its unique name, and then rename the file with that name. For example, my God of War 2 needed to be changed to SCUS_974.81.God of War II.iso. You must have the correct number at the beginning, followed by a period, followed by a string, followed by .iso. Renaming all of those took a while, but then they showed up.
Enough Setup – Time to Game!
“Alright, great” I thought. All this hard work will now pay off. Up until 3 modding this thing, all day to run an Ethernet cable through my basement and through a damn wall to my PS2 to get it network connected because USB 1.1. sucks, messing around with the NAS and the PS2 trying to troubleshoot why networking isn’t working properly only to find it was due to a confusing UI. But now, now it’s time to play some games!
Some games listed as being compatible either refuse to load, or load to a tittle screen or intro movie and crash. God of War 2 starts off working well enough, until I tried to start the game and Kratos turned his back to the camera, at which point it crashed. Guilty Gear XX Accent Core played flawlessly through 3 matches and then crashed to black loading the 4th match.
Needless to say I didn’t really want to get in to any game that could take some serious time… say an RPG or something of that magnitude. The system works, games load, some even play (for a while), and that’s all great, but the stability to use this thing as a long-term solution just isn’t there for me. I don’t yet trust it. At all.
I think if you were going to do this and stick it out as a long term solution, having a fat PS2 with the add-on network adapter and an internal hard drive would be the way to go.
On the positive side, I did find an active community of PS2 modders that still exist. I also had some fun trying to get this all to work. Don’t get me wrong, it was exhausting and frustrating trying to do that swap trick 30 times before it worked, hoping to not damage my optical drive in the process. Once it did work though it felt like an achievement.
I also found a better solution if all you want to do is play your old games. Or play games from other regions that you were never able to play on physical hardware… which is the case for me. Japan got so many awesome shoot em ups that we didn’t. Ready for it?
PCSX2 is a pretty damn good PlayStation 2 emulator for Windows, Linux and macOS. It runs everything I’ve thrown at it at full speed, and even has the benefit of upscaling polygonal games. It can even run ELF binaries directly, so you’ll have no problem running any sort of creative PS2 homebrew stuff that you might stumble across. You can grab it here: https://pcsx2.net/download/releases.
It’s a shame that this couldn’t have worked out better, and it was fun exercise, but it’s probably for the best. The PS2 hardware doesn’t look that great on modern TVs, even with component video – which is how I have mine hooked up. The ability to easily sync a PS3 controller with a PC and play with PCSX2 is great though, and being as it’s an emulator it provides some great benefits.
I just got done with a buttery smooth 60 fps lap around the track in Gran Turismo 3.
It looks much better in motion. Haha.
If you’re still reading I hope you learned something from my journey over the past couple days. It’s been fun.
If you enjoyed this tutorial and would like to see more, please feel free to share this article on social media, comment below letting me know what else you’d like to see, and follow me on Twitter @JROlmstead.