Phantasy Star Online: Episode III
Sega/Shin Force
Phantasy Star Online: Episode III

Sega/Shin Force > Elite Series > Phantasy Star (Series) > Phantasy Star Online: Episode III

Phantasy Star Series Phantasy Star Online: Episode III C.A.R.D. Revolution :: Reviews
Sonic Team
Import / Domestic
Nov. 27, 2003
March 2, 2004
June 11, 2004
3rd Person
1-4 (offline)
1-4 (online)
1-32 (tournament)
BB Adapter
     > 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 format!
     > 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 lobbies.  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. PSOe3 has the right premise, the right formula to take advantage of this genre's inherent slow pace, the online interaction, and PSOe2 Hunter's License compatibility to keep you coming back for more.
Bottom Line
     > 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.
Overall: 8.9 | Graphics: 8.5 | Control: 9.5 | Sound: 8.5 | Fun: 9.0
~ Shinobi ~



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