> PSO Episode III (PSOe3) is being called "The Next Level
of Phantasy Star Online". Indeed, Sonic Team's latest
installment fits the bill. Gone is the action/RPG we've all come
to know and enjoy -- in comes a new strategy card battle system, complete
with card collection, deck management, and team-based battle tactics.
I've been looking forward to this review for some time.
> For those of you considering the import version, then consider getting
an Action Replay. Unfortunately, Nintndo
doesn't seem to like the notion of import game sales, as PSOe3 doesn't
have a standard English setting (like all prior PSO games
do). Enter the Action Replay, which just happens to
have a code to unlock the many English features Sonic did
put into the game. So if you have an Action Replay,
I'd increase the importability rating to 95%.
> From locales, to characters, to techniques, PSOe3's graphics
are just about on par with PSOe2.
The new areas are quite impressive, especially the sunset cliff one, with
the windmill that shaves sunrays. I was hoping for more (than PSOe2)
options in character customization, especially since your main character
is basically all vanity in this iteration. Too bad. Anyway,
your view of the action is adjustable, but I do wish that changes were
more flexible, and that it would affect each phase of combat. Lastly,
kudos to Sonic Team for having such a variety of great artists
create the card images, and an option in the game to see them in large
> Realtime battles are replaced with strategic card battles for both online
and offline play. You can choose from Story Battle (the CPU selects
the opponents and rules based on the story), Free Battle (you select the
combatants and rules), Random (the CPU randomly selects the opponents and
rules), and Tournament Battle (earn Meseta and more EXP). For a full
explanation of the Battle
Flow, follow the link. A maximum level of 999 is now
attainable, I would assume for both your online and offline levels.
Story Characters are divided into Hunters (friends) and Arks (enemies),
based on their heroside/darkside allegiance.
> Hunters can equip weapons, shields, and mags, while Arks can only use
a standard weapon (for the Story Character), along with the ability to
summon a multitude of creatures. Each character class (for both Hunters
and Arks) has its own Story Character card and standard appearance.
That means you don't use the character you created to do battle -- you
use a standard Story Character card. You can create various decks
of 30 cards (from a pool of your entire collection) to suit whatever class
of Story Character card you plan to use. Some cards will be available
for trade, while others (like S-rank and SS-rank cards) will not.
> Cards are split into 3 basic categories: Action, Assist, and Item.
Action cards are used to combo an attack or defend against one. Assist
cards essentially change the rules in many possible ways for varying lengths
of time. Item cards are things you can equip and monsters you can
summon. You earn additional cards for your collection by competing
in card battles. The better your rank for winning, the more cards
you earn as booty. For instance, an S-rank victory will yield a pack
of 9 cards. Winning battles also adds EXP to your level.
> When you go online, you can access the card lobbies as well as the PSOe2
If you jump to an Episode 2 lobby, you can also chat with
anyone. Other abilities include lobby animations, chat symbols, Episode
II / III Guild Card search, and various sound effects. Another thing
you can do is watch other people duke it out in a card battle, assuming
they allowed that when creating their game.
> At first I thought the sound was somewhat weak -- heh -- first impressions
can be rough. After spending 60+ hours on the game, I must admit
there are some very worthy orchestral tunes throughout the game.
I've especially come to like the intro song, which has vocals and a soft
flowing rhythm. Most, if not all, of the sound effects are taken
straight from prior PSO games (which is a good thing).
> I'll tell you straight up, my favorite type of strategy game would be
the formula of turn-based combat found in Shining
Force III. I would have given the Control and Fun a score
of 10, had PSOe3 contained that flavor of combat. Even
so, this game far exceeds even my expectaions for a card game. There
are a ton of cards (over 500), and a plethora of possibilities during combat.
the right premise, the right formula to take advantage of this genre's
inherent slow pace, the online interaction, and PSOe2 Hunter's License
to keep you coming back for more.
> This is not an action/RPG, rather, it's a strategic card battle RPG.
Compared to other strategy games, Sonic Team's card battle
system works very well and has lots of possibilities. I think the
drastic change in gameplay may be a good and complementary addition, since
you can use your PSOe2 Hunter's License to play both episodes.
I've had enough time on this game to say it's a worthy purchase, especially
for PSO fans looking for something different.
8.9 | Graphics: 8.5 | Control: 9.5 | Sound: 8.5 | Fun: 9.0