Phantasy Star Online

Phantasy Star Online

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 5/8/2003 for Xbox  

Quite a few years ago SEGA made an RPG named Phantasy Star for its Genesis console. I can’t remember much about it but I do remember something about a hot chick with horns and something about an epic storyline and an effeminate-looking make lead. The game was apparently successful enough to spawn a few sequels that by my recollection, were actually quite good. A decade or so passed until SEGA finally decided to resurrect their seemingly defunct series and thus Phantasy Star appeared on the Dreamcast.

There was a twist though, the game would be far more epic than the previous entries, so epic that it could only be contained in the online realm. Interestingly enough the game was successful despite the unpopularity of the Dreamcast console and thus a sequel was born. A year or so has passed and the game has found a home a next generation console. Now that it’s actually on a system that sells, the world will be able to discover what so many people already know, that Phantasy Star Online is in fact one of the most impressive and addictive titles to hit the scene in quite some time.

Forget everything you know about the Dreamcast endeavor because those days of instability and shakiness are long gone. Let’s say this as bluntly as possible, Phantasy Star Online is more addictive than crack. If you thought EverQuest was addicting then you obviously haven’t played Phantasy Crack Online. Your sessions will usually start out as “hey let’s just play for a while to kill some time” and will evolve into “dammit, I need to level up just one more time! I’m so close!” Six hours later and you’ll be wondering to yourself exactly where your day went.

Much of the game remains unchanged with the main change coming in the controller layout. You still have three primary buttons, two attacks and the communication button. Communicating is much easier now thanks to the Xbox headset communicator. Instead of having to type out lengthy and verbose statements with the virtual keyboard you can communicate with your peers on the fly. This makes playing the game much more engrossing than ever before because you’ll never have to take your eyes off the action to tell your buddy that you’re in the need of some help. An added negative though is that participants seem to have a penchant for breathing into the mic, guess all the excersing to and from the fridge has left them short of breath.

As stated you have the two attacks, one is a quick attack while the other is a more focused attack. When you begin you select your character class (which basically boils down to easy, medium and hard difficulty). The easy class features warriors proficient in close quarters, medium has rangers that fire projectiles while the hardest features wizards. Obviously beginners shouldn’t jump into the game with the third class as they will have their proverbial asses handed to them.
It requires Xbox Live just to play it but then again, why would you want to buy this game if you didn’t have XBL in the first place? It’s like buying a game and complaining that you need to have a controller to play it. In order to get in on the fun you’ll have to purchase a hunter’s license and as a nice method of implementing the Xbox Live network, it charges it to the credit card that you used to sign up for XBL. This means that you won’t have to go through a long and arduous process just to get into the action. Currently the game retails for $39.99 and comes with two free months, each additional month costs $8.95.

After signing up you’ll be able to venture off in to the game world. Online play is where it’s at as it successfully mimics the Dreamcast game, except there are far more people online. I noticed that the network code was far more stabilized and thus, the game was much more fun.

Since this includes Episodes I and II, it’s like getting double the action. The single-player mode still exists but new to this game is a single-console multi-player mode. Up to four players can go at it on one system but the end result isn’t as entertaining as the online aspect. It’s actually pretty bland and meager overall and probably won’t receive much playing time from the hardcore fans.

This is basically a direct port so the visuals are really starting to show their age. Enemies popping up from thin air, sparsely decorated landscapes and washed-out textures are the order of the day here. However, they’re not too detracting and they still hold up quite well for a game that is a few years old. The second episode does look pretty good and appears to be a step up from the GameCube version ofthe game. Although the game supports progressive scan the impact is miniscule.

If you’re on the fence when it comes to purchasing this game consider your dedication to it. It’s not the type of game where you can just play it in small sessions, it’s very addictive and will drawn you in for hours at a time. The commitment is even larger when you realize that you have to pay a monthly fee just to keep your character active. However, if online RPGs are your bag than this should be a no-brainer. There are plenty of players online and plenty of new updates from the game’s developers. It’s an excellent title that will please vets and newcomers alike.
If you have a choice the Xbox version is the way to go. The inclusion of voice communication makes a world of difference, especially when it comes to preserving the flow of the game. However, if you grew tired of the game on the Dreamcast you'll probably want to move on, there's not much for you here.

Rating: 8.3 Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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