Since 1997's original Phnatasy Star the series has grown into a long time running online role-playing game. In 2006 on the latest console hardware we have Phantasy Star Universe in a complete online, and offline role playing experience. Let's see if Rieko Kodama original design can still shine as bright in Phantasy Star's new cluster of stars.
It's been a long time since I've really gotten into a Phantasy Star game; actually I remember having a great time with the original on my lovable Sega Master System. Times have changed, and even from the Xbox's Phantasy Star collection (Episode I & II), I haven't been grabbed and taken in like my memores of the original game. Phantasy Star has the lengthily lore to make for a great story, but it has always been a little old fashioned with the interface and combat system. It is unfortunate that Phantasy Star still lags a bit, and hasn't come out of its Dreamcast spin, but this doesn't mean you can't enjoy this immense role playing experience.
One thing you should know up front is that you'll be paying if you want to play online. Set up like most online MMORPG's the prices are acceptable and the game experience can span months and years. In Canada we have to shell out $ 14.99 a month over Xbox Live to game online. If you have a PC or PS2 you can still hit up Phantasy Star Universe incase you haven't jumped over to Microsoft's console just yet. Not long ago Xbox Live had an open beta that was online for a few weeks, so many of you might already have an idea of how this system works.
The Phantasy Star Universe single player game has the same personality as the online adventure. You can visit several different planets charged with an engaging storyline emotional drama you could expect from a Japanese role playing game. Phantasy Star is set deep in its own science fiction with a poor man's collection of species. More variety would do wonders for the Phantasy Star world instead of the three that have been around for a while, that is the elf-like humans, the beasts cat like creatures, and the robotic androids. If they could bump a few species in, Phantasy Star might feel more intergalactic like a universe rather than an unoriginal anime inspired world.
In the Phantasy Star Universe you take on the role of Ethan Waber, a kid who talks first and thinks later. Ethan ends up working for the Guardians who are an elite group of solders that are Phantasy Stars world police of sorts. Ethan who never expected to become the very thing he rebelled against finds himself and helps save the world across the solar system. Ethan, along with the rest of the cast has strong personalities that unfortunately have to deal with some shallow over dramatized writing. Even with a little soap in our Phantasy Star opera the story is good at slowly reveling which becomes oddly interesting and compelling. Phantasy Star Universe isn't for everyone, but those who want to get it will find a deep and involving world.
Combat comes in the form of button mashing, while there are so tricks to the game with force techniques, special moves and upgrades, you'll be mainly pounding the X button. For old school gamers who still love the basics this might do, but when compared to all the games that have been released it feels a little light. Winning a battle online with a group of strangers is still entertaining and rewarding; it's just too bad the system hasn't been updated to today's standards.
Phantasy Star Universe isn't the easiest game to get into and if you really want to get the full experience you'll have to devote some series time to the Sonic Teams Phantasy revision. If you're thinking of playing online, double your free time, and then you might find the magic that is Phantasy Star. The whole experience from the navigation in the game, to the menu systems feel dated and definite need to be refined. Phantasy Star Universe really feels clunky and outdated and that's really a shame. No matter how much I played Phantasy Star and tried to get into the experience, the good points would be forgotten because of all the tedious running around and hack n' slash gameplay.
The Dreamcast still lives on because the graphics and audio in PSU seem to be touched up from Sega beloved Dreamcast console. Don't get me wrong the graphics are in no way, bad, they are more like average and dated. I'll be the first one to pronounce my love for the Dreamcast system, but when you're dealing with a two console jump we need better visuals. The graphics and sound effect department isn't helping the already dated gameplay, and the visuals just help tie the old school feeling together. On some of the later levels the characters and weapon design starts to get a little more interesting which is a nod towards Team Sonic's creativity, but unfortunately the creativity doesn't match the presentation and quality of the overall project. If we get another Phantasy Star lets hope the rebuild the whole system ground up.
Phantasy Star Universe is still holding on to its roots and needs to be dug out and replanted. Online, or offline the Phantasy Star experience feels a little generic for today's standards. If you're a die-hard old school Phantasy Star fan you might enjoy the familiar paint on the walls, but others will quickly know something is missing. If you need that MMORPG feeling on your console this is your only option so far, so make the best out of it until the next developer tries its hand at cashing in on the online RPG phenomenon.
Gameplay: 6, Graphics/Sound: 5.5, Innovation: 5.5, Mojo: 6. Final: 6 / 10
Reviewed by DowntownJimmy | 11.20.06
The Adventure: Experience a deep and moving story in the single-player story, then combine forces with your friends to go online in an epic journey of discovery and exploration.
The Battles: Engage in real-time battles utilizing a unique combo system as you fight against a host 220 different enemies! Utilize 200 variations of more than 20 different weapons for melee, technique, and ranged combat. You can even use the power of the Photon Arts to obliterate your enemies.
The Characters: Customize your character however you like using precise measurements, an endless color palette, and outlandish outfits. Level up and quest for the perfect unique item to make your character your own