9.6

Phantasy Star Online review
Phantasy Star Online

The good:

A wonderfully crafted fighting engine and brilliant 3d worlds to explore. Online play is incredibly addicting.

The bad:

Unfortunately a very short game that you can play on different difficulty levels. Hacking hurts online play.

Summary:

I bought my copy of PSO about 2 months ago and started playing it offline for about a week. I found it to be a pretty good game, but was kinda short, and didn't really hold my attention for too long after i defeated the game's final boss on normal mode. This all changed before too long, however... once i finally received my copy of a browser disc in the mail and went online, the way this game was meant to be played to be truly appreciated.

Now, i'm the sort of person that gets bored pretty easy from things, and nothing ever holds my attention for very long, but after going online, i've been playing this game for a full month straight, eating, sleeping, and drinking the game all through the process. There is no end to it's versatility, and it is the first game in years that has kept me up past my bedtime, prolly the first game in 10 years that's kept me up for over 2 days straight.

First, about the graphics. They're up to par with today's standards. PSO version 2 may take it beyond that point, but for now the graphics are really good, just nothing to drop your jaw over. The motion capture for some of the character's attacks are really a sight to see though, especially the acrobatic "dance" your character performs when placing a combo with daggers. The spell effects are very pretty to see, as well as some of the lighting effects in some areas. In the last stage, there are some rooms where a "poison cloud" effect takes place, layers of purpleish blue color, wave around and past your character. Beautiful to look at, but it drains your hp at every passing second.

The game is set up a lot like the PC's Diablo. Your character gains experience to go up levels, when you're fighting down on the planet, you use a "gate" type spell to take you back to the "town". In PSO, the gate spell is called "Ryuker" and the town is a gigantic spaceship carrying refugees called the "Pioneer 2". There are a multitude of weapons for you to collect, some very common, some ultra rare. There are special items you can find with special attributes, very similar to the magic weapons in diablo as well. Hunting down and finding these items on your own is one of the things that will keep you going for hours. The other thing that will steal your precious daylight is an ingenious little guy that hovers over your characters shoulder, called a "Mag". All the items you get in the game, "potions" and such, that if you were using them in a normal game, they would eventually go obsolete... you can instead "feed" them to your Mag, raising it. Depending on how your Mag is raised, it will evolve into different forms of mag, kinda like a Pokemon type thing. The Mag will do certain things for you in turn, also. It will add to your primary statistics, heal you, ressurrect you, boost your power and defense temporarily, and even make you invincible at times. Mags, for me, are the things that kept me hooked. They have since kept me and have not let me go.

The battle system in this game is very intuitive for an online based game. There are 2 strengths of attacks for normal weapons, a normal attack and a heavy attack. Some weapons have three, which adds a special attack to the crowd. You can "combo" these attacks together to form your own attack pattern. The normal attack will hit faster, doing less damage, but also giving you less recovery time after the combo is executed. The heavy attack, is slower and more powerful, with increased recovery time, but it also gives the monster some recoil when hit, stopping the monster in it's tracks for a split second. The special attack can be anything from casting a spell to adding an extra effect to the attack. It makes the core of the game more interesting, and less of a chore.

Once again, i will say that this is a pretty short game in a way... there are only 4 areas to play, each with their end boss, and after that, you can play the levels again on a harder difficulty. This may sound real boring, but the levels are huge, and playing the same areas over and over again doesn't really get annoying for a while. This game has almost limitless replayability because of the online play. Hang out and chat if you'd rather not fight. Trade for some rare items. Feed your Mag. Make some new friends and go fight, it's up to you.

The only bickering i have with this game is the hacking. I really hope Sonic Team can do something about this soon. People with Gamesharks and Xploders are everywhere, duping and hacking every weapon, item, and armor in the game (and out of the game), until there is no integrity to gaining items legitimately anymore. Anybody who is anybody will be happy to give you a rare item online, because most likely it is hacked, duped, or given to them for free because it WAS hacked or duped. Then there are also the Player Killers, who wander around killing other players with the intention of taking their weapons and Meseta (money). These factors can all be highly annoying while playing online, but then again, we are all still playing. With the addition of the pay to play system coming with PSO version 2, hopefully Sonic Team will be more able to crack down on hackers.

In closing, this is a great game, and i would recommend it to anybody (unless you happen to be socially reclusive). It has limitless replay value, and a stockload of new features coming in the new expansion coming out in a few months. If you haven't already taken the trip along with the rest of us Dreamcast owners, now is the best time to start. Join us! You'll be happy you did.

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