6, 2001 (Japan)
24, 2001 (USA)
> When Sega announced the first Phantasy
Star Online (PSO), everyone was excited to see such a high profile
game with network capability. A short time after PSO's release, Sega
wowed gamers with the announcement that Phantasy Star Online Version 2
(PSOv2) was on the way -- sooner rather than later to boot! It's
taken a while for my review, and PSOv2 is finally available worldwide,
so put on your safety belts and get ready to rock!
> As is the case with PSO, PSOv2 can be imported readily. However,
in order to go online with the Japanese release, you'll need to register
with Dricas and access the Japanese Hunter's License website. This
is much more complicated than it sounds.
> PSOv2 includes all 4 areas (Forest, Cave, Mine, Ruins) from the original,
which are left fully in tact. With the addition of Ultimate mode
to PSOv2, Sonic Team overhauled the original 4 areas with new monsters
and textures. Some impressive highlights include the following: the
Forest takes place at dusk; the Cave has a realistic fog transition; the
Mine is brighter and bolder; and the Ruins look much more organic.
There's more though. The Fire Dragon boss has been replaced by an
ice breathing Sil Dragon. De Rol Le and Vol Opt got a face lift,
while Dark Falz remains largely untouched. That's not all as even
Pioneer 2 has been revamped to a daytime setting with new textures.
> Now for the completely new graphics. The first thing you'll notice
is that many of the new v2 rares look quite different, even though the
set of battle animations are the same. My favorite new weapon is
the FLIGHT CUTTER, which is based on ancient Japanese Ninja Stars, and
works like a slicer (naturally). Other interesting new weapons include
a HUGE BATTLE FAN (just what its name implies), FLIGHT FAN (fan shaped
slicer for females), TWIN BLAZE (gifoie spewing twin saber) and CRAZY TUNE
(a guitar shaped sword Raxel would be proud to wield). Sonic Team
also created 2 new areas within a special mode.
> Battle Mode contains the new areas known as Spaceship and Palace.
Each has a variety of maps depending on the rules you select. Although
it's too bad they weren't incorporated into the regular mode, these new
locales are quite impressive. The Spaceship's nicest feature would
be the holographic rooms. As for the Palace, its fluid waterfalls
are realistic and it's architecture is a sight to behold. Of course
the textures are completely new and appropriate. These areas must
be seen in action to be appreciated.
> Lobby Soccer is new, but no big deal at all. Battle and Challenge
modes are new, but I'll get in to those below. Ultimate mode is new,
much harder than Vhard, and has a Lv80 requirement for online play.
Otherwise, the basic gameplay of PSO is mainly unchanged for v2.
You still roam the lobbies, chat with players, and create games (both v1
and v2). The only major difference is that you become invincible
for a few seconds after being hit, which prevents enemies from chaining
hits on you. This feature was probably added due to the new Battle
> PSOv2 started with 4 battle modes, and has expanded to 8 at this time.
As mentioned above, you can't just combo your foe in Battle, which would
make it far too easy. The various rules for Battle mode include versions
where you play with or without your level/weapons/armor/items in tact.
Interestingly enough, you can also play through the regular areas, except
now you do damage to teammates! If beating up your friends doesn't
interest you, then team players might enjoy the new Challenge mode.
> To be perfectly honest, I'm not a big fan of Challenge mode. Yes
it's hard, and that's okay. In a nut shell, you play as a wimp with
nothing in an effort to finish 9 Quest-like levels fast enough to earn
an S-rank weapon that you can name. Other less impressive prizes can be
earned as well. Ostensibly, this sounds wonderful. However,
I think Challenge mode is flawed because you gain no EXP and the grand
prize (an S-rank weapon) comes with straight zeros in the percent department.
Even once you grind it to +99, an S-rank weapon is barely capable of doing
damage in Ultimate Ruins. For the time and effort you put in to earning
one, it should at least be 40% Machine and 60% Dark. In fact, some
S-rank weapons are woefully inadequate in accuracy, which means they should
come with 60% Hit as well. That's my beef and I'm sure lots of people
will disagree with me.
> Last but not least, v2 offers an array of new online Quests you can enjoy,
along with all your favorites from v1. My favorite is called Missing
Maracas, which falls under the Winback category. You're hired to
win back the Maracas from De Rol Le, while traversing the Forest and Cave
areas. Some mild puzzles and 5 new, selectable background songs (from
great Sonic Team games) are a big bonus! Another great new quest
is Towards the Future (TTF), where you fight in all four areas and take
on all the bosses. Sonic Team even added a couple of side quests
to TTF; one where you can control the Sil Dragon, and the other where you
can do a "Love Check" with your hunni. TTF is popular because you
can win some nice weapons/armor, which may have percents too! Obviously
Sonic Team learned something when it comes to earning weapons with percent.
> Sonic Team needed a soundtrack that could help justify huge amounts of
game-time on this epic action/RPG. Quite simply stated, they came
through with flying colors. PSOv2's soundtrack is largely the same
as v1 (which is awesome), except for two new Battle mode songs (which borrow
from PS1), the PSO Intro lyric version, and the five new songs in the Missing
Maracas quest (Sonic Adventure 2, Chu Chu Rocket, Samba de Amigo, Burning
Rangers, and NiGHTS). Never before have I played a game with such
an enthralling musical score from start to finish. Each activity
and area has the perfect tune to set the mood and background. Friends,
this will be very hard to top whenever PSOII is finally created.
> The sound effects are the same as v1 (which is great). Sound effects
are obviously done right when you can positively utilize them during gameplay.
Almost everything from the Sil Dragon crashing into the ground, to the
horrific sound of a Lilly wielding Megid, to a Red Sinow's Shifta/Deband/Healing,
to Dark Falz's death cry is done just right!
> PSO should be listed in the dictionary within the definition of the word
fun. PSOv2 adds a lot to a game with tons of activities to enjoy.
First off, there are 98 new weapons, 12 new armors, 19 new shields, 13
new mags, Lv30 Techniques (Force characters only), and 37 new items to
be acquired!!! Your ultimate goal is to reach Lv200 now, which means
earning more than 96 million experience points (44x more than Lv100).
You can chat with or without a keyboard in the lobbies, Pioneer 2, and
during a game. Making friends is a big part of one's PSO fun-factor.
Searching and mailing friends is easy too, once you've exchanged guild
cards. V2 adds the "Choice Search" option for finding new friends,
which is really cool. If that's not enough, then customize your own
chat symbols (which can be now be copied in v2) and chat shortcuts.
> Now that you're done chatting, it's time to make the first real choice.
Do you move to another country, ship or lobby? Do you play lobby
soccer? Do you join/make a v1 game? Do you join/make a v2 game?
If you choose v2, then you can select a difficulty (normal-ultimate), Battle
mode, or Challenge mode. If you select a difficulty, then you can
either play through all four areas (or any portion thereof), or select
one of the many online quests. Heck, you can even download quests!
> Of course when you're in a game, trading/giving/receiving weapons, items
and armor is beneficial. If that won't suffice, then patronize the
local shops for items, and to get your latest rare find tekked. Too
bad Sonic Team hasn't corrected the problem of rare weapons being way too
rare. That's not the only imperfection in "The Realm". Cheating
> Malicious hackers are truly just immature fools that can't imagine other
people having fun. Some cheating is okay though, in my opinion.
The reality is that your character might be corrupted either naturally
or via hacking, and one of your weapons might be lost to BSOD/FSOD, or
stolen. Your concern for these real possibilities can be calmed with
the knowledge that all can be recovered easily through cheating.
Lastly, since Ultimate mode is way harder than your newly improved v2 characters/weapons/armor,
cheating comes in handy to even up the odds a little with stronger weapons.
It's sad when you find legitimate v2 rares that do zero damage in the Ruins.
> It's time I wrap this review up. Most assuredly, PSOv2 is
the best value I have ever encountered. No other game has inspired
as much game-time, or been so easy to get into, yet infinitely replayable.
The online human connection can't be underestimated, as PSO is definitely
not as fun offline. Sega has pioneered another console genre in PSO,
and I'm sure others are likely to copy it...