Shin Force | Sega Dreamcast Review

Shin Force
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Shin Force ~ Phantasy Star ~
 Phantasy Star Online Ver.2

Sonic Team
Jun. 6, 2001 (Japan)
Sep. 24, 2001 (USA)
3rd Person
1 offline 
1~4 online
Backup 15+30
      > 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  The Fire Dragon boss has been replaced by an ice breathing Sil Dragon.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 mode.

     > 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 is everywhere. 

     > 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...

     > The first thing you should realize is the title of this game is Phantasy Star Online Version 2 -- not Phantasy Star Online II.  Therefore, PSOv2 is entirely compatible with v1, while incorporating a host of new features, both graphic and gameplay oriented.  If you have and enjoy v1, then there is a very good chance the $3/month Hunter's License fee to play v2 will be worth it.  If you don't have v1 then shame on you.  Buy v2 before you miss another piece of Sega history in the making.  Finally, if you (understandably) want PSOII, then wait until it's created and released.
OFFLINE | Overall: 9.6 | Graphics: 9.9 | Control: 9.5 | Sound: 9.5 | Fun: 9.5
ONLINE | Overall: 9.9 | Graphics: 9.9 | Control: 10 | Sound: 9.9 | Fun: 10
~ Necromancer ~

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