I don't even know where to start with this one...i just love the arcade-y look of it, it improved on the first one in lots of ways (skipping wait-times is a big one),the score is one of the best of all time (IMHO at least), the characters (weird and cheesy but also with a solid emotional core). what impressed me most though is the world-design: where in Shenmue 1 Ryo's hometown Dobuita was very easy to familiarise with, Hongkong seems impenetrable (played it a lot and I'm still not sure which quarter connects to which quarter through which path. you feel a bit lost in this huge metropolis and there's allways something new to find), every NPC has a clear function apart from just filling the world with a mass of window-dressing (shopkeepers know where to find people, pedestrians lead you to places, etc), the quicktime events (and i hate QTE's) put you through the same things (in an abstract way) Ryo is challenged with - they feel meaningful. I haven't even mentioned Kowloon or Guilin...LOVE this game!
Final Fantasy IX
The systems alone would be enough to boost this into my top 10, but the characters and the world they inhabit push it over the edge. If Shenmue 2 didn't exist, there would be no debate about what my favourite game of all time would be. Love the towns, love the overworld map. 10/10
Syphon Filter 2
I'm honestly not even so sure about this one (some days i like MGS1 more), but SF2 is probably one of the most beautiful memories i have of my favourite console generation ever. When i think of PSX/PS1 i think of Syphon Filter 2. just all around great level design (and it starts with a bang..rocky mountains..the tunnels and the bridge..oh baby!!!), the awkward but endearing running animation of Gabe Logan, the TASER (oh my dog the taser <3)....Action-Stealth PERFECTION!