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   PlanetDreamcast | Games | Reviews | Phantasy Star Online Version 2
    Phantasy Star Online Version 2
The official fix for PSO addicts. - Review By Retrovertigo - Page 1/2

Phantasy Star Online Version 2 Logo

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 like Half-Life.

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.

  • The Good

    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 losing.

    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 PSOv2.

    Next: More Good, The Bad, and The Final Word

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