This was the magazine ad, that I stumbled upon when I heard of Phantasy Star Online for the first time. A game built on the back of a classic Sega RPG franchise that shared the same first name and took inspiration from a certain story of empires, Jedi, and galaxies far far away. It was quite colourful for what it was, and I was enthralled with it. Putting my Human Hunter to work on Ragol to uncover a truth decimated hours on end for my Dreamcast. Here’s the joke: I never played Online with it until 3 or 4 years later, on a laptop through Blue Burst – the episode 2 of Phantasy Star Online. A lot has changed since then.
Phantasy Star Online has gained a lot of popularity over the years. Blue Burst, Universe, and Portable series, were hits post its conception (I don’t talk about C.A.R.D. No one should). Phantasy Star Online 2 came out about 8 years ago and garnered the same notoriety as its original shot. With its popularity intact, in the East: Sega’s attempt to bring Phantasy Star Online 2 to the West might be of the same effect.
ARKs is a planetary discovery team sent forth to find habitable planets. Your character is a new recruit, all the ready to kick ass and find planets to settle on. Along his journey, he meets friends that can join on expeditions. With a more sinister plot and a rumoured old foe lay in wait, the ARKs teams set out, knowing almost very little of the doom that follows.
The game’s smoothness is apparent. This game literally screams from the get-go that Sega levelled up the experience on PSO2. Everything feels way faster than expected. 60 fps from an online RPG. It’s already frantic to a point, during the raids, that this is the fastest title in the series next to Universe. Everything is vivid while this continues. Action is a focus, but the RPG roles follow within the customisation. Each planet runs this way without much slowdown except for the lobbies. It’s hard to tell that PSO2 is an 8 year old game when it’s running nearly as fine as it allows.
The gameplay factor is enormous. Literally a night and day form from its former games. Battle palettes are back. Subpalettes offset the item inventory with nearly 8 extra slots for them and class power-ups. Before, everything was straight forward in Phantasy Star Online, but in 2: let’s just say it’s this 10x. Each class has an augmenting skill tree, photon arts, and 2 or so specific weapons per class. The Gunblade seemed to be the standard-issue weapon. For instance, I have about 11 photon arts in Braver. With a 95 level cap per class, there’s grinding to be done on the weapons end still. Photon Arts now increase stats or affect other abilities. Super armour, speed, attack power, etc. Quite a welcoming touch. Especially for those who love to solo blaze through areas. There is a subclass that unlocks later on in the game, which gives players a second class to upgrade at the same time. You aren’t settled to just one class, but you can try out the 9 base classes. Each classes thing is that there is not many real handicaps within the game.
The 3rd stage, before boss battle line, seemed to stay to a point. But… there’s a catch. Instead of the classic 4 people party locked in, stages are considered as open lobbies to a point, or password locked areas. The most I’ve seen was probably 8 or so people in a section. The areas are quite bigger than the original, with enemies regenerating, varying from sizes and areas. The Emergency Code points randomly appear, challenging players to act quickly and complete tasks. Whether it’s killing a certain enemy type, helping an NPC out, or collecting information. The game diversifies the feats within exploration. Even fighting against mid-bosses hella early is up for grabs.
Being able to summon people, that you’ve played within parties, as NPCs, nearly ruined this game for me in terms of joining an alliance or getting my friends. Even NPCs, that have been met within the story, can also be called to battle from the Campship. Compared to PSO, even when you do solo the exploration, you are never truly alone on the field.
Mags are also back, but a bit more robust as much as other things. Changing form and the like, these guys still amplify skills. Skill rings are new, and the skill tree adds more complexity to ones’ build. As such, no two characters could be alike.
There are several things I have issues with in Phantasy Star Online 2. The lag in the lobby seems to be one of them. I was nearby for one, caused by a certain huge streamer and jumping around. Sometimes, the amount of systems, within PSO 2, feels a bit staggering to say the least.
Phantasy Star Online 2 is well on its’ way to winning the hearts of its Western audience more quickly than babies coming out of the Harry tribe. What the Online RPG does from the jump, releases many features, play modes, et al, without any waiting, clearly indicates the severity of a “play how you like” format. With some small shortcomings, Phantasy Star Online 2 still shines brighter than its’ 2000 predecessor. Until the NA version ascends, I’ll be on the JP ends, brushing up on lyrical statements.