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Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II Review for Xbox

Get ready to become someone else, shed your normal life and join the Hunter’s Guild. Grab your photon sword, holster your laser pistol, and prepare to embark on your missions, fellow Hunters side by side. Welcome to Phantasy Star Online.

When you start a new game, you have the chance to design your character; first choice is what class of character are you going to be? A hunter is formidable with all types of melee weapons, from ‘lightsaber’ style Photon Sabres to huge swords and scythe. Ranger’s choices of weapons are guns, rifles and the like, up to rocket launcher style blasters. The third choice is a Force character, these are magicians through and through, can learn all the spells in the game, but are weak health wise, and lack a lot of attack power. Basic weapons can be used by all character classes, so don’t worry if you fancy a bit of gunning and slicing to spice up the mix.

Your next choice is which of the 4 types of your class you want. As an example I shall say I chose a Hunter… 1st is Male Human, average all round, can learn a range of attack spells, and a few support spells (such as heal). 2nd is Female Newman, the Newman race are a cross between humans and a slight alien breed, on average they have slightly better magical abilities but slightly weaker attack power. (For example a Newman Force character is the best at magic, but weakest when it comes to attacking face to face.) Your 3rd and 4th choices are Android’s one male, one female. Robots, no matter what class they cannot cast magic. But on the plus side they have great attack, defence or sometimes accuracy. In general I find the Android’s a good character to start off learning the game with. You don’t have to worry about spells, and you have the advantage of not being able to be poisoned, and you can automatically see ‘hidden’ traps in the game too, which to a regular player would just blow up in your face without you realising.

Next is your character appearance, you have on average 5 different face to choose from, 10 hair styles for non robots (and any colour/shade) 18 costume designs (more for a robot) different skin colours, and you get to pick your general proportion too. Want to be short and fat? Tall and thin? Somewhere in the middle? You decide. There are so many possible designs for a character in this game, I’ve see a Cloud Strife running around, a Sephiroth, and even a Grey Fox! Then it’s the simple task of assigning your character a name, and you’re off, teleported to Pioneer 2, your base of operations. As a side note, depending on your name (each character has a hidden numerical value) you get one of 10 Section ID’s. This is like your zodiac sign, and slightly alters the randomness of the items you find.

On Pioneer 2 you have a shop centre, containing 3 traders, weapons, items (such as health ‘potions’ and spells), and also an armour shop. A hospital to heal your wounds. You have a bank where you can store your money, called Meseta, and any items you wish to keep stored for the time being. You have the Hunters Guild where you can get quick missions, such as find this, kill that, protect me while I get information on… and you have the main teleport down to the planet Ragol… the main guts of the game.

Offline you go through the game, killing the various alien bears, panthers, cute little yellow chicks in the early forest levels, to ninja like robots in the later space station style ‘Mine’ levels. At the end of each main level you fight a boss, and then teleport back to Pioneer 2. As you complete each level you can teleport back to the beginning of the level, and you will to gain more and more experience points. It’s as simple as that really, use your swords, blades, pistols, fireballs, and ice blasts to kill all that moves. Pick up all you can carry, and then sell what you don’t want. But ONLINE it becomes a whole new game. You trek through the game all the same but with a team of hunters by your side. Laser shots flying, Force casting their healing powers, rangers blasting away, it feels so good to have a helping hand. You soon make friends as you would with any online game, but as you work as a team here you soon find yourself comparing weapons, swapping rare items, and if you’re lucky enough you might come across someone with spare weapons or two to give you. It feels worth while to give someone a weapon you don’t need, and see them slice and dice to their full enjoyment. It is possible to have up to 4 players split screen on one X-box too, but it doesn’t feel the same as crossing the country to fight aliens.

The control system works well as you assign what you want to your X, A, and B buttons. Normally these would be light, medium and maybe heal. Holding the R trigger, flips the 3 slots over, leaving you 3 more actions, your favourite three spells for example. Pressing Y allows you to type messages, and even send simple similey’s which you can customise yourself. A combination of Y and the R trigger allows you to quickly swap weapons, use items and spells without the need to bring the menu up all the time.

There are many items to collect during the course of the game, health potions, magic disks (how you learn spells) various weapons, from simple daggers to double-ended light sabres. Each weapons has different stats, some are better against machines for example, others do 6 hits instead of the regular 3 hit combo. Swapping and changing items, and equipping them is simply done by bringing up your inventory you can see you map, all your items, all the various online friends list, you can even write messages to others playing PSO. The downside though is you cannot pause the game, not even offline, but it hasn’t actually come up as a problem personally.
Each character is given a MAG, this is like your own individual pet, you feed it items and it grows as you gain experience, and it helps you gain attack power, and it slowly charges a power attack depending on your character class and what you feed it.

There are some other online modes, but these are really just a simple football game, and the option to battle each other over the course of a level. There are various missions you can down loads from X-Box Live too. The whole online experience is fantastic though, you can join teams, create your own, set up a password to allow friends in, you can set different difficulties depending on your experience level, you can even dance, wave and bow to each to other among other actions, very funny…

There are some downsides though, which may put some people off though… for one you need X-box live to play this game, that or just have a gamertag saved on your hard drive. To play online you need to sign up to what is known as the Hunters Guild, it costs approximately £5.95 a month, and from what I understand it pays for the up keep of the servers etc. You get the first 60 days free though. Second problem is the highest combo is basically 3 buttons presses, and you soon get the timing perfected. It can get repetitive, but hasn’t put me off once.

Overall this game has the possibility to take a huge chunk out of your free time, because you’ll just want to finish the level, and the next, and then see what’s behind this door, and I’ll just kill these, and you carry on and on. Make friends, swap or sell items, become a Hunter and see how addicted you get.

Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II




Simon Pell


Simon Pell has 11 posts and counting. See all posts by Simon Pell

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