It was in Steves living room,
where I had my first encounter with the Phantasy Star epic. I stood there and watched him
insert the cartridge into SEGA Master System as he took me through the basic premise of
the game. He ran the control while images, menus, battle systems, and dungeons, from the
first U.S. console RPG filled the small T.V. sitting on his mothers coffee table.
It feels poetic
that SEGA was able to produce one final Phantasy Star on its own hardware, bringing the
revolution it had helped start to the next level with online game play, and making
Phantasy Star Online one of the coolest games on the Dreamcast. It was the promise of this
game on the horizon that prompted me to go ahead and purchase the DC when it did its
mid-life price drop a few months ago.
Star Online quickly breaks itself from the traditional storyline of the original games and
follows a looser strain, appearing to take place after the last game, but this is never
set in stone and is left up to ambiguity. If youre a hard-core Phantasy Star fan
then this game will have a hard time competing with your nostalgia; however, some of the
elements are there from the old games: organics, technology, some teleportation to other
places, hunters, and a seemingly high-tech civilization. Also, much of the items have
stayed the same, so if youre one of the fortunate few youll have an easier
time learning the specialty names.
unfolds when an explosion occurs after your ship attempts to make contact with Pioneer-1,
the first ship sent to the planet. Your character is asked to investigate the cause of the
explosion and report back their findings. Needless to say, a pretty loose storyline.
the first things youll need to become familiar with is the completely changed
battle-system. Instead of the clean line-up of your characters facing their enemies (I
remember the blue-grid style), youre in real-time combat, both in online and offline
mode. As youve probably guessed, this can cause some problems, especially if
youre alone, being attacked, and trying to switch to a better weapon. Of course,
this is also one of the major attractions. The new system puts a different and pleasant
spin on classic RPG battles. Screw the turn-based system, this is an action-RPG.
the monsters you encounter dont prove to be too challenging if you progress steadily
in your levels either online or offlineit doesnt matter; rather, they become
more redundant and, after a few hours of game play, become predictable regarding where
they appear and the actions they perform. Graphically speaking, some of your enemies are
stunning and immense and actually quite hard to beat, forcing you to develop a strategy or
go online and join a team to complete certain portions.
you take that plunge into the online world, youll be able to team up with players
from around the globe and converse with them using either an on-screen keyboard or a
physical one. SEGA ensured that there would be no language barriers by building a rather
unique real-time translation engine, which makes it easier to organize parties to move
through each room. Due to the abundance of monsters in each area, youre forced to
play together as a team. Hopefully, youll find some good players, not ones hoping to
steal all the treasure from the room while you and the others battle it out.
the game is enjoyable once you figure out the nitty-gritty of the online community, after
you have made friends it is pretty cool to arrange a meeting time, via the Guild cards
youve hopefully traded with the other players, to do some more questing. This also
serves as an avenue for replayability. Instead of playing through with one character,
its also fun to create characters with different classes to battle through the
gamethats if you can hold multiple saves on your VMU.
of the game is centered around Guild Quests youre able to go on in either mode.
These quests range from dealing directly with the storyline to doing some type of
side-quest for a client to earn a bit of cash. In isolation mode (offline), the quests
quickly become repetitive, not with what youre tasked to do, rather in the areas
through which you must perform these tasks. Granted, there are number of them available to
you through the game, but this does not negate their inherent weakness when played alone.
Quests are earned by completing others, gaining in level, or progressing through the
why the four stars you ask? Aside from the infinitely troublesome aspect of the
games security, my nostalgia was too great an adversary and won out over this new
style of Phantasy Star. I still yearn for the hard-core Phantasy Star story. And
theres absolutely no reason youre going to convince me of that justifies the
fact that if you enter online play with a copy of PSO, nobody else can ever use that copy
to create a new online account, and you cant play it on another DC. So whatever you
do, dont go out, pick up PSO, run over to a friends house all stoked to play,
load it up, take it online, and then go home for dinner. If you do that, youve
essentially just bought your friend a copy of PSO. And you can forget trading it in at
your local video game store or buying it used for that matter. Its especially
sad when you think of how PC titles like Everquest, Asherons Call, and Ultima, to
name a few, dont have this problem, and that has even spawned a whole industry based
around selling existing characters and accounts.
One note to SEGA: dont wait so long next time to develop another Phantasy Star,
oh, and while youre at it, now that youre strictly a software development
company, why dont you release a Shining Force sequel(rumored to be in production)?
If SEGA continues with the Phantasy Star series, hopefully returning more to its roots,
then it could very well become the Final Fantasy killer. Buy this game and lets wait
to see how the next generation of RPGs plays out.
P.S. Feed your MAG often.