The official fix for PSO addicts. - Review By Retrovertigo - Page 1/2
When Sega first announced the development of the first Phantasy Star Online,
I was a skeptic. I've always felt that series that reinvented themselves,
and took their original format and changed and altered it almost beyond
recognition, were destined to become ambitious failures.
I'm also skeptical when games borrow popular franchise names to use with new
spin-off games that really have no relation to the original game's concept
and genre. Mario Party, Mario Golf, Mario Tennis (for
the Nintendo 64 and GameBoy Color), Dr. Mario 64, Mario Kart
64, Sonic Spinball, Sonic Shuffle, Chocobo Racing
(characters from the Final Fantasy series), Final Fantasy Tactics,
Pokemon Snap, Pokemon Pinball, are all games that are based on
popular series but really have no relation to the original games. I'm not
saying that these titles were failures, as a matter of fact, many of them
were great successes. Reviewers and gamers alike loved the gameplay of
N64's Mario Tennis, but would gamers even consider buying Mario
Tennis if the game didn't have the popular Nintendo characters? Would it
have the same success and praise if generic characters were used? Probably
not. It was the Mario name that got people interested. As a matter of
fact, Mario Tennis on the GameBoy Color barely uses the Nintendo
characters, yet borrows the popular franchise name.
I was convinced that a great Sega RPG franchise would be tarnished with the
release of Phantasy Star Online, because it was developed in a
completely different style than the RPG series from the Master System and
the Genesis. Sega announced that PSO would be a single-player
experience (with up to 4 human controlled partners online). It was also
going to have a third-person perspective, with faster more
action-packed gameplay than Phantasy Star's original turn-based
format. I immediately thought to myself, "Oh no! They're going to ruin a
great series, by trying to profit off of a franchise name." However, as
more information about PSO surfaced, it seemed more and more like a
legitimate title. To make a long story short, I ended up picking up this
game on its release date, and loved it!
When Sega announced that Phantasy Star Online Version 2 was in
the works, my skepticism began to surface again. "Version 2?" I asked
myself. It sounded like an upgrade that I might apply to an application
like the PC MP3 player WinAmp or one of the bazillion upgrades to a PC game
PSOv2 has just been released, and despite the cynicism I had about
the new game, I went to pick it up on its release date. Interested to know
what I through about PSOv2 after I fired it up in the Dreamcast?
Read on and find out.
4-player online goodness.
The aspect of the first PSO that impressed me most was that it was a
completely different multiplayer experience compared to what other
multiplayer games have offered. When I used to think about the term
"multiplayer," the first thought that would come to my head was "death
match," and competing with others online to see who can get the most kills.
PSO was the first game that changed my perspective of "multiplayer".
Players online were not fighting with themselves, they were fighting
side-by-side against computer-controlled opponents. Online mentality was
different as players were kind and looked out for each other, even trading
or giving more powerful items to inexperienced "newbies" and teaching them
the ropes of the game. It was a totally new online multiplayer experience,
and the attitude was completely different from what I was used to. I grew
up with online gaming with games like Doom, Quake, Duke
Nukem 3D, and Unreal where people were very competitive against
one another, at times, resorting to insults whether they were winning or
I'll take a moment to mention the original game and how it works. A lot of
people are familiar with the blockbuster PC action-RPG games Diablo
and Diablo II. Phantasy Star Online is very similar to
Diablo's gameplay style, but with a very impressive 3D engine that
really throws out some impressive visuals for the Dreamcast. The game is
fast-paced and the combat is real-time, which offers an element of strategy
because you really will have to retreat to heal yourself if you start
getting overwhelmed. Accessing a menu while in a monster-infested area will
not pause the game, and it's important to make sure you're in a safe
location when scrolling through your items.
Sonic Team is by far the most impressive developer for the Dreamcast, in my
humble opinion. The graphics on their games never disappoints. When I
first bought the Dreamcast, I wasn't sure what to expect, but what I saw
blew my mind. The demo for Sonic Adventure which was included with
the Dreamcast console, has some of the best graphics I had ever seen on a
console or PC at that time. The graphics, especially the textures on Sonic
Team games like Sonic Adventure, Sonic Adventure 2, Ecco
the Dolphin, and Phantasy Star Online were phenomenal, and
Phantasy Star Online Version 2 is no different. The game looks
exactly like PSO, but includes new areas and creatures that will
continue to keep your eyes happy. In my opinion, even though the Dreamcast
is dying, its texture quality will outlive the inferiority of the texture
quality of the impressive polygon-pushing monster that is the PlayStation 2,
no matter how long it dominates the market.
Great textures, sweet lighting, and cool items add to the PSO goodness.
Like most true RPGs, that fashion themselves from the pen-and-paper games
like Dungeons & Dragons, PSOv2 lets you create your own character,
each with their own strengths and weaknesses. You begin by choosing from
three different character classes. The Hunter is proficient with blade
weapons and excels in close-range combat. The Ranger is proficient with gun
weaponry and excels in long-range combat. Lastly, the Force character is
proficient with techniques (magic) and is best suited for combat support.
You also pick your species: human, newman, and android. Which all have their
own unique attributes, such as accuracy, hit points, magic points, etc. You
can customize your character's features from their clothing style to their
body type. You can choose to have a tiny waif-like character, a massive
towering mammoth, or anything in between.
Although, PSOv2 prides itself on its wonderful online play, it is
very playable offline as well. As a matter of fact, playing offline helps
build up your character's experience and obtain items, as you don't have to
worry about sharing anything with party members, but you don't have the
support from other characters.
PSOv2's offline mode is exactly like the prequel, however new modes
of difficulty are available once you complete the normal single player
experience: hard, very hard, and ultimate modes. It's even possible to
achieve level 200, which must take a lot of time and devotion, as my
original PSO character was only at level 25 and it took me 40 hours
to get that far!
It's important to point out, while I'm talking about my old PSO
character, that it's possible to import your original PSO characters
into PSOv2. However, there are some repercussions. If you have any
illegal items, they will be deleted. Apparently, if you're character's
experience exceeds level 100, you will be reset to level 100. Once you port
your character to the sequel, you will not be able to use it with
PSO, so keep that in mind. It had been awhile since I last played
PSO, but when I brought my character over, all of his items seemed to
be intact, and all items and meseta that I deposited were there as well.
I've also read a few reports online that claim it's possible to import a
character from the Japanese version of PSO to the U.S. release of
Next: More Good, The Bad, and The Final Word