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   PlanetDreamcast | Features | E3 2001 Coverage | Phantasy Star Online - Gamecube

Phantasy Star Online - Gamecube
Sonic Team's first foray into Nintendo-land. - by digitaltaco

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The success of Phantasy Star Online is truly a marker of how far online gaming has come on the consoles. The title has brought Sega gamers from all over the world together in a way many never thought possible. So you can imagine our surprise when we saw PSO for Nintendo's Gamecube playable at E3 2001. Will Sonic Team be able to bring Sega and Nintendo fans together as well?

The latest feature, and the one being showcased in the playable demo, was the new four-player, split-screen mode. Much like when playing a game of PSO online with your Dreamcast, four players can play through the levels at the same time in the Gamecube version. But now, all four players can sit in the same room and play together.

As a gamer who, in most cases, downright loathes split-screen gaming, I'm happy to report that PSO actually works out very well as a split-screen game. You alway know where where every player on your team is because you can look at their screen. It's easy to communicate because your friend holding the controller is sitting right there. And there's no need to type because you can simply talk to one another. Although I think the typing aspect of PSO is actually one source of fun.

The Gamecube controller performs fantastically in PSO. The button layout on the controller is unlike most other modern controllers, but strangely, it seems to have been made with PSO in mind, even though that cannot be. The A button, which is large and sits in the venter of the right side of the controller, is large, and functions as the main attack and action button. BenT commented on the pleasure of having the large "A" button to keep your fingers positioned properly. And everything works just as you'd expect it to. The Gamecube controller just happens to be very comfortable, so it works out great.

The main variable which is still quite hazy now is online play, strangely enough. According to Sega's representative, whether or not online play is kept in the game will be based on whether or not Nintendo get's their network plans ready before the launch of the title. If not, four-player, split-screen will be the only substitute. I asked the rep if we could expect a name change if the game was not playable online. He said it would be likely, but wasn't sure.

It should be noted that though there will be a few new features, the game shown was Phantasy Star Online, not Phantasy Star Online Version 2. When I asked if any elements from Version 2 would be added, the rep said it was a possibility, but for now, it's just normal PSO.

So all in all, Phantasy Star Online for the Gamecube is looking great. It was quite a surprise to see the game running on the beautiful, big, Dolphin dev kit at the show, and even more surprising that we got to play it.

Back to E3 2001 Coverage

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