Phantasy Star Online

Phantasy Star Online

TITLE: Phantasy Star Online
DIFFICULTY: Easy-Moderate
ORIGINAL IDEA: Way too much to list here; that's what I'm reviewing
LENGTH: 20-80 Hours
PLATFORM: Dreamcast (2000), Xbox (soon), PC (soon)
GENRE: Online Action RPG

Phantasy Star Online was the first online RPG for a console ever. It was also one of the few good RPGs to hit the Dreamcast (along with Skies of Arcadia, Grandia II, and Evolution II). It's also a very long game. When I say twenty to eighty hours, I mean on Normal Mode. After you beat Normal Mode, you have to complete Hard Mode and Very Hard Mode, each one taking longer than the last. And you'll only beat Normal Mode in twenty hours if you go on Leveling Up sessions only after you die, and don't do any of the sidequests, or care about getting special weapons.

At the very beginning of the game, you select a one of nine characters to play as. The characters are classified by species, training, and gender. They are as follows:

· Hunter + Human + Male = HUmar
· Hunter + Newman + Female = HUnewear
· Hunter + Android + Male = HUcast
· Ranger + Human + Male = RAmar
· Ranger + Android + Male = RAcast
· Ranger + Android + Female = RAcaseal
· Force + Human + Female = FOmarl
· Force + Newman + Female = FOnewear
· Force + Newman + Male = FOnewm

Forces are powerful Technique users, Hunters are great warriors, and Rangers are skilled in the use of long-range weapons. Newman have more Technique power and TP than other classes typically will, and Androids are ungodly in every way, are immune to most status problems, but can use no Techniques. Not that they need to, with such high attack power.

Probably the most confusing part about this game are equipment. You can hold thirty items, store sixty in the bank, hold 999999 meseta (the money in PSO), and store 999999 in the bank. There are basically six types of items: normal items, weapons, armour/frames, barriers/shields, units, and M.A.G.s. All kinds of items are generated randomly in stores, with a limited basis on your current stats.

Weapons are the confusing ones. All kinds of items except M.A.G.s and normal items have a rarity rating, measured from zero to twelve stars, twelve being the highest. In Normal Mode, you won't find anything more than a three-star weapon, unless you get the secret ten-star Delsabre's Buster, like me and many others have. Zero to five star weapons can be found anywhere, while nine-star weapons take some work to get, but it's the ten-to-twelve-star weapons that are a pain in the ass to acquire, but most everything you get in based on luck and luck alone. Weapons often have a certain value attatched to them. For instance, you might find a Sabre +9, or a Dagger +5. The higher the number, the better the weapon.

There are twelve different types of weapons, divided into three categories (Hunter weapons, Force weapons, and Ranger weapons). Ranger weapons include all guns (Handguns, Rifles, Mechguns, and Shots). Handguns and Mechguns can be used by all classes. Hunter weapons include close range weapons (Sabres, Swords, Daggers, Partisans, and Slicers). Sabres and Slicers can be used by any class. Force weapons include all wand weapons (Rods, Canes, and Wands).

Remember when I said 'The higher the number, the better the weapon.'? Well, it's not that simple. While a higher number of the same weapon means its better, but, as I said, Handgun, Mechgun, Rifle, Shot, Wand, Cane, Rod, Sword, Slicer, Partisan, Dagger, and Sabre are just series of weapons. There are many levels of each kind of weapon. For example, a level one Dagger is just a Dagger, one-star weapon, but seventh weapon in the Dagger series is the nine-star Bloody Art. The higher the level of weapon, the better. Go by numbers from there.

Some weapons will have elements 'junctioned' (after playing Final Fantasy VIII, I can't get the term out of my head) to them. There are eleven elements in Phantasy Star Online, with two to four levels of each: Heat, Shock, Ice, Bind, Panic, Draw, Dim, Charge, Heart, Master's, and Devil's. Sometimes, you will find a weapon called something like ???? Sword +3. The Element of the Sword can be discovered by your Tekker for a mere 100 meseta.

The last basic thing there is to know about weapons are three-hit combos. By timing the press of the A button (or X button, for a stronger, but less accurate attack) just right, you can pull off a two or three-hit combo of attacks. And about the A button X button thing, you can hit X for a stronger, butm less accurate attack that will take about half a second to charge. Your target will either have a red or yellow window around it. If its red, you're advised to hit the A button, but if its yellow, you should hit the X button.

Armour/frames and barrier/shields are no were near as complex as weapons. They are rated by the same rarity system. The only unique thing about them is that Forces can are restricted to barriers and frames, and not allowed to use armour and shields.

Units are a little more complex, but not as much as weapons. Units are basically accessories. They help you to resist certain spells or status problems, or build up certain stats. Units can only be equipped when an armour or frame with a unit slot is equipped.

Some units will be called something like Knight/Power ++ or Marksman/Arm -. The pluses and minuses represent more or less than the average type of that unit. Knight/Power ++ would raise your attack by two more than just Knight/Power, and Marksman/Arm - would increase your attack accuracy by one less than a normal Marksman/Arm.

M.A.G.s are a lot like a combination between raising a Pokémon and building up your limit in Final Fantasy VII. You equip them to yourself, and feed them recovery items to boost their stats and level, and they evolve, just like Pokémon. But they also have apocalyptic attacks called Photon Blasts, which you can build up by taking a beating. Once it reaches 100%, you can choose from one of three of your dreaded Photon Blasts.

M.A.G.s also have Preferences, rated by a number. The higher the number, the better the M.A.G., but that also means that they're picky eaters, and some items that used to be their favourite goodies may now decrease their stats.

The next thing I'll explain is your command bar. Y makes you talk, regardless of health or occupation. A is your main action button, but when in an Area, you can customise your command bar. Holding R will give you a second command bar. You can make the use of an item or technique on your command bar, along with attacks, heavy attacks, and elemental attacks, which only work if your weapon hs an element 'junctioned' to it.

The game consists of four worlds, each with a mean boss. They are Forest, Caves, Mines, and Ruins. You can only get to a new area by beating the current one.

In Phantasy Star Online, there are twenty-one Hunter Guild Quests, which are basically mercenary missions. You can get special weapons by doing certain quests in a certain order. Each quest is rated by a Tier. No quests can ever be accessed unless you complete all three Tier 1 quests first. Others are accessed by finishing 'prelude quests' or getting to a new area.

On to online play. When going online, you will interact with other players, many of them out to kill you, change your file, or just erase it entirely, all for the joy of making your life miserable. You must pick a lobby to play in, so that good old Pioneer 2 isn't crowded like Tokyo with PSO players. You also must form a team of four online players to go questing with. There are sometimes online tournaments you can participate in.

There aren't many downsides to Phantasy Star Online, but some of them include, other than your fifty-fifty chance of surviving a session of online play, the Black Screen Of Death, which will basically end your life...permanently. As in PSO file no longer on VMU. There are several rumours about its genesis, but most agree that it's just a glitch in the game. There are ways to avoid it, entire walkthroughs on Game FAQs for avoiding it. Also, because of the online play, this game can never be paused. And leveling up once takes around five hours. Other than that, I'd have to say this is the best game around for Dreamcast, even better than Shenmue. And I don't want any flamers berating me for thinking differently.

Shadow of the Sun's Reviews
Phantasy Star Online Reviews

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