Relive The Phantasy!

There are some things that are special to me and one of those things is a game I cherish greatly: Phantasy Star Online. I loved this game since I was a child and I recently posted a review up of it. I honestly want to get people interested in this franchise since it means a whole lot to me. Sadly, Sega has stopped bringing Phantasy Star over to America. I honestly think Sega should bring Phantasy Star back to this country, it was just such a good game series!

So, for those of you reading this, I suggest that if you have a Phantasy Star game of any kind, you should take part in this project. Take a screenshot of your favorite Phantasy Star game and a moment that meant something to you. Then, send those photos to Sega on a specific date. I may have a problem with the way Sega is run nowadays, but I honestly think they can change and start bringing these games back to the shore. Maybe, if a lot of people sent in pictures of their favorite moments to Sega’s personal e-mail, we could get Sega of America to care again! If you’re on Twitter I suggest you use the hashtag #bringbackthephantasy Whether you are a fan of the original Phantasy Star series, Phantasy Star Online, Phantasy Star Universe, or even the newer games, you should show Sega that you still care. Even if Sega doesn’t care much about the Phantasy Star base in America, it’s still a worthy effort to try. I suggest sending all your e-mails to Sega on this date: July 23, 2016. This was the day the last update of Phantasy Star Online was released. Again, change may not happen but it’s good to talk about these things. Games are an art-form that I believe needs to be preserved. Whether they make new games or re-releases doesn’t matter to me, as long as Sega brings back the Phantasy.

Samuel Ash And The Blades Of Ginga Chapter 2

Short Story

Author’s Note: Some may ask the significance of the number “22” in the story thus far.I have used the number a lot so it’s an honest question to ask. Well, you see the number 22 is what I consider to be my lucky number. 22 was my favorite numbered channel as a kid, 22 was the best year of my life, etc. So, to me the number 22 has a positive connotation. I feel that when I put it into a story I’m infusing the story with my luck. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the story since it’s been in the pipelines for a bit!

Chapter 2: Training Day

Samuel breathed deeply, he didn’t know how exactly to phrase what he was going to say. “Well, you see… I joined solely to learn about Long-Sword’s pilot. I want to know who he is!” The holographic general stared at the young man in shock. “Long-Sword’s pilot? Why would you want to know about him?” Samuel sighed and looked at the general, finally making eye-contact with someone for the first time that entire day. “It is because of my family. Even since I was young I was bullied and abused because everyone thought my family was related to Long-Sword’s pilot, the man who caused the great tragedy. People think this way because my family lived on the exact same street as the pilot and also because my great-grandfather had a military background. On top of this, we are the only family on our street to have not taken part in the “Perfect Birth” program. My lineage believed a birth was perfect on its own!”

The general looked at Samuel and began to grit his virtual teeth. The Perfect Birth program was something Williams did not like to think about. It was a program set in place after Long-Sword’s betrayal and it was project commissioned by Williams’ himself. The project was meant to be used to alter human births so that the new humans wouldn’t develop any sort of mental problems or psychological issues. This was done so that the Long-Sword incident never happened again. Many families were against this as they felt their children were perfect the way they were.

Both Williams and the AI that now represented him greatly resented this decision. As such, those that became known as “Imperfect Births” were allowed all of the same rights that the new race of humans were. Samuel himself was an imperfect birth and ended up being born with “Aspergers”. It was a learning disability that results in some socially-awkward behavior from time to time. Samuel didn’t mind having it, in fact he thought that it made his life much more interesting. Williams stared at Samuel as he cleared his non-existent throat. “So, is there anything specifically you wanted to know about him?”

Samuel twitched his fingers around nervously as beads of sweat dripped down the side of his head. The sides of his face began to itch, something that happened often when he felt nervous or anxious. “Well… I want to know if I’m his descendant.” The general frowned, not exactly sure about what he should tell the young man. “And if you are related to him, what then?” Asked the general. Sam thought about the general’s question for a full minute, before uttering an emotionless response: “I’ll figure it out once I know.” The general blinked in confusion, right before breaking into laughter. This action confused Samuel greatly. “I see! You are definitely an interesting young man. Normally, asking that kind of question would get you court-marshaled. Heck, I can’t even give you that kind of information. Well, not at the moment anyways.”

Samuel scratched at his head in confusion. “What do you mean by that?” The AI let out a digitized cough in response. “I can only give you that info once you serve under the military for an entire year. Ginga and the other colonies need defending and the enemies are mounting attacks on a consistent basis. Our army needs the help of our candidates, who are the pilots of our Blades. Look, we need your help and you need ours. You’ve passed the performance tests, simply serve your duty for a whole year and I will provide you with the information.”

A whole year?! In Sam’s mind that was a bit too long, especially due to the constant threat of death this job entailed. Sam thought he should just leave, but then realized that there was no point. Sam would live with the constant thought of who Long-Sword’s pilot was. It would pierce his mind and soul until the end of his days, he would never know if the hero-turned-monster was his ancestor or not. Sam knew the price for this information was steep, but he needed to know. Sam knew he could not talk an AI out of a programming, so he decided to just roll with it. The young man took a deep breath and stood up straight. “Yes, sir! I will serve under this military outfit for the next year and I’ll hold you to this promise.” The AI nodded. “Don’t worry, I am programmed to keep my word. Now, I request you speak with our engineer, Thomas Seagull. He will get you set up with all the information you need.”

Sam nodded and turned to leave. As Sam turned to leave, the AI noticed Sam’s attire. Specifically, the top button on Sam’s shirt was undone. “Also, Sam, button the top button your shirt. I’m sorry if I’m being bothersome, the man who I was programmed to be like was a bit of fussbudget.” Sam smiled nervously and nodded. “S-Sure!” Sam didn’t like when people brought up his top button being undone. It wasn’t something he did to be a rebel, it just annoyed him greatly. Sam had his reasons for not buttoning his shirt, something he didn’t like other people knowing about. Sam then left the office and ventured out into the hallway. Sam traveled through the hallway into a large tube-shaped hallway. This hallway was made out of unbreakable glass and showed off the exterior of the station. Sam looked through the glass and into the vastness of space, entranced by the stars.

Shimmering comets soared through the dark vastness that was the galaxy, setting Sam’s imagination ablaze. Never had the young man seen such a glorious display of cosmic delight. Sam walked as slowly as he could down the hallway, drinking in the beauty of the scene around him. However, like all great things it eventually had to come to an end. Sam reached the end of the hallway and in the middle sat a rather large door. Sam opened the door and found himself in what appeared to be some sort of odd laboratory. Scattered bit of mechanical items were strewn across the tiled floor. Tattered blueprints covered in coffee stains covered the walls and bits of broken chalk were scattered across a gnarled chalkboard.

As Sam admired the weirdness of the lab, he was suddenly started to hear strange shuffling sounds. Sam turned his attention to the floor beneath him, which appeared to be wear the bizarre sounds were emanating from. Sam lowered himself onto his hands and knees as he slowly moved his head towards the floor. Once he was close enough, Sam heard bizarre sounds coming from beneath the tiles. Sam jerked his head back once he noticed the tiles starting to move. A strange vibrating circulated the set of tiles below Sam, causing the young man to back away. The tiles shook as if some ungodly being was tunneling through them. The tiles split apart as a large drill-like object burst through the tiled floors. Sam stood there in panic, fearing that the enemy was here and ready to attack.

Within moments, the tiles have been split apart by the drills. The tiles breaking caused a thin cloud of dust to circulate the lab. Sam covered his face as the dust and debris circulated the lab. After a few minutes it died down as a man emerged from where the tiles had once been. This man was lanky and stood at a height that was roughly 5 to 6 feet tall. He wore a lab-coat covered in dust and dirt and had a pair of musty goggles adorning his eyes. The man also wore a half-mask the covered the lower part of his face and possessed a head of curly black hair. The man removed his half-mask revealing the face of a rather handsome gentleman underneath. “I take it you’re here for training, I suppose?” Questioned the lab-coat-wearing man.

“Uh… Yeah, I am!” Replied the young man in a rather nervous tone, “I’m Samuel Ash.” The lab-coat-wearing man smirked and popped off his goggles. “I’m Thomas Seagull, head-engineer in charge of repairing the Blades. I’m also your instructor as well, due to some rather unsightly budget cuts. Regardless, it’s good to meet you, Sam!” Thomas reached his hand out for a shake. Sam twitched nervously as he moved his arm towards Sam’s. Sam gripped Thomas’ hand firmly as Thomas took notice of the amount of sweat emanating from his associate’s fingers and palms. “Nothing to be nervous about, Sam! I won’t eat you. I was just tunneling through the floors for… Some personal reasons.” Sam started to sweat even more. “P-Personal reasons?! Were you hiding a dead body in there?!”

Thomas paused for a moment as his lips twitched awkwardly, forming into an even larger smile. Thomas tried to hold back his laughter but broke out into a fit of hysterical cackling. “A dead body? Wow, that’s one hell of a conclusion to jump to! No, my friend, I am not a murderer or some kind of miscreant. This tunnel is actually a short cut I dug myself, it leads to my dojo. It is the classroom where I shall teach you all I know and it has centuries of history behind it.” Sam’s eyes opened wide as he stared at Thomas. “W-What is it?” Thomas tossed Sam a pair of a goggles and chuckled to himself. “Follow me and find out!” Sam shrugged and put on the goggle. Sam followed Thomas into the open hole as the two entered into the darkness of the underground. Sam was curious but at the same very afraid of where Thomas was leading him. He knew the only way he’d learn about the Blades is to follow Thomas’ lead, but was this man really all that trustworthy? Sam was about to find out.

 

 

Sweet As Syrup: Phantasy Star Online Blue Burst Review

There comes a time in a man’s life when he goes back to something that brought him such joy in his childhood. This could be to reflect on the nostalgic bliss of the franchise they love, or it could be just to have fun enjoying something they have long cherished. To me, Phantasy Star Online is a bit of both. I loved it as a pre-teen and had fond memories of it, and I still love it today. So, let’s you and me travel back to the long forgotten year of 2003 and reflect upon something I consider to be a grand treasure.

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Blue Burst sounds like some kind of delicious Kool-Aid flavor. (Image and game are the property of Sega)

Background

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, there are some things you need to know about this game. For one thing, it is available on Gamecube, Dreamcast, the original X-Box, and PC. Unfortunately, these games are immensely hard to find nowadays. Even if you do find them, you’d only be able to play the offline versions of these games. There is a workaround though, but it requires the usage of a PC. You see, due to the positive fan reception of this beloved series there are several fan-run private servers. These servers usually have the game available for download on PC.

Keep in mind, I DO NOT CONDONE PIRACY. However, you cannot find these games anymore and Sega will most likely never release them. I only support the downloading of the game’s installer as a way of preserving the game as an art-form. If Sega does re-release the original PSO games in some capacity, I highly reccomend getting the paid versions. As of now, the only way to play these games are through an installer or through buying copies with jacked-up online prices. Also, MMOs run on private servers tend to flare up anti-virus programs. Always be careful when downloading any program and be sure the source is trusted. There are many PSO private servers that are on the level but due to the coding of the program would most likely screw with your anti-virus program. I am using such a private server so I can give you guys a full examination of what the game used to be. The server I am using is Ephinea and I find it to be safe. Again though, always be wary of what you download. Scan files, look through forum posts, and make sure everything is fine.

Plot

Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst features three different episodes with different storylines: Episodes 1,2, & 4. What about Episode 3? Episode 3 is actually its own separate game entirely. The plot of episode 1 of PSO is that after destruction of the protagonist’s home-world, humankind (And robots and elves) set off into space to look for a new planet. The Pioneer Project is started and eventually the humans find a new suitable planet. Pioneer 1 settles on the planet named “Ragol” and all is good for a while. However, when Pioneer 2 tries to connect to Pioneer 1, a giant explosion occurs on the surface of the planet. Pioneer 2 loses contact with Pioneer 1 as a result of this. The Principal than decides to send down “Hunters” (Who are the player’s character) in order to find out the truth about this bizarre event. Once on the surface, you fight off the various species of wild-life and eventually happen across a mystery that threatens to destroy all of humanity.

Episode 2 tasks you with travelling back to Ragol to investigate a secret laboratory. You end up doing some VR training sessions before you are thrust into yet another death-defying fight against every gruesome creature Ragol can throw at you. Episode 4 is more of a mini-expansion and focuses primarily on side-content unlike the last 2 episodes. Episode 4 involves a comet nearly smashing into Pioneer 2 and you being sent down to investigate it. The stories in these games are mainly told through logs left by characters o by computer terminals found scattered about. It’s not an extremely in-depth or character-drive narrative, but it provides you enough incentive to go forth and adventure.

Gameplay

The bulk of what makes PSO so great comes primarily from its gameplay. PSO is an MMORPG, but unlike other competitors in its genre, it actually plays like a game. And yes, I know all MMOs are technically games but few of them play like PSO. Most MMOs drop you into a large open-world and task you with various fetch-quest missions. Sometimes, you’ll be sent into primary story missions but more often than not it’s just a bunch of aimless wandering and monster killing. PSO has some of those qualities but manages to be a lot different. For one thing, there are no large open areas. You are sent to various areas that basically act as linear dungeons. There are secrets areas and the occasional optional path, but not a whole lot to explore otherwise. In most areas, you need to kill all monsters in order to progress through the level. While that does seem lame, PSO’s areas varied and interesting enough so that it doesn’t get repetitive.

The areas pack a good amount of variety, such as having you traipse through a lush forest or trudge through a lava-filled cavern. There is never an area in the game I found to be that immensely lacking and the game managed to hold my interest throughout. The gameplay is also a departure from most MMOs. Unlike a lot of MMOs were you constantly press on hot-keyed buttons to cast spells or do special attacks, PSO is more focused on input based attacks and combos. You can do three types of attacks: Normal, Special, and Heavy attacks. Normal attacks are your typical attacks and do the lowest amount of damage. Special attacks are for weapons with elemental attributes, this allows you to perform attacks that draw upon an element like fire or ice. Finally, there are heavy attacks which hit like normal attacks but do more damage and usually have less of a chance to hit. Both heavy attacks and special attacks are slower than normal attacks and all three kind of attacks can be chained together into three-hit combos.

The best part of this game comes with its 12 different classes. All 12 classes falls into one of three different categories: Hunter, Ranger, and Force. Hunters are all around classes but lean more towards focusing on melee combat. Hunters can use sabers, swords, slicers, but can also use guns and staffs. Rangers are focused primarily on wielding guns and attacking from long-range while Forces can cast powerful magic spells. All 12 classes have different weaknesses and strengths and are quite well balanced. The game has a character creation system that isn’t really that robust if you compare it to games nowadays. For the time though, it had a lot more things to tweak than most character creation systems made in that period. Your character also has a pet that constantly floats over his shoulder known as a “MAG”. Your MAG can be fed items in your inventory to level up his stats. Much like the Chao from Sonic Adventure, you can get your MAG to evolve into various forms by feeding it the right items. There are also rare MAGs you can get in the game, some even being floating videogame consoles or characters from other games.

The game also features an online mode. This feature allows you to connect with many other players. Once logging on to the private server of your choice, you are brought into a virtual lobby. You can talk to other players, ask for advice, and do typical MMO interaction stuff. From there, you can start a room and set the parameters for the kind of game you want to play. The game has several dungeons and 4 different difficulties, so there is a lot of content you can partake in. The game has a level cap of 200, even though you don’t really need to level up that high. The Ephinea server also adds several features the original game didn’t such as an improved loot system and a new hardcore mode which gives you only 1 life to beat the entire game with. Ephinea is really the way you want to go if you want your experience to be the closest to the original game as it can be.

Visual Stimuli

The game has dated graphics and character models by today’s standards, but looked great for the time. The backgrounds are pretty dang good and have a fair amount of variety and the game possesses a nice beautiful soundtrack. Monster noises and sword slashes are spot-on and some of the bizarre growls and roars the creatures can produce can really chill you to the bone. The production value on the game overall are amazing and I highly recommend it to everybody.

In Summation

Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst is a great game, and I highly reccomend it. It improves upon the previous version (Phantasy Star Online Episode 1 & 2) and adds an additional episode plus some needed fixes. Blue Burst will not rock your world, but it’s generally a fun game to play with friends. Just be warned that this game is over a decade old and it may seem dated for its time. It may be difficult to get this game running for some people (Especially if you have an overprotective anti-virus like me) but it is totally worth it. With that, I can say this game is definitely sweet as syrup. While I do flip-flop on using rating systems, if I had to give this game a number it would be an 8.5/10. It’s fantastic and is still fresh and fun even years after its release.

Sweet As Syrup: Saturday Morning RPG Review

Nostalgia is something that can awaken a feeling in you, something you thought that you had lost long ago. A feel of joy, comfort, fear, rage, anger, or a combination of these emotions. Nostalgia is a powerful thing indeed, it shapes how we view things today or look back on old classics. A child born nowadays would probably watch something like Back To The Future or Ghostbusters and think that both of the films were lame.

It’s partially because they didn’t grow up with it, children today grow up with MineCraft and My Little Pony. It’s not that they don’t have refined tastes, it’s just something they didn’t experience fully. Even though I didn’t grow up in the 80s, I still did watch a fair lot of 80s movies and cartoons. I watched the likes of Ghostbusters, G.I. Joe, Care Bears, Back To The Future, Star Wars Episodes 4-6, and many others.

I honestly loved all these nostalgic properties back in the day and was surprised to find a game that perfectly encapsulated all of the stuff that I used to enjoy in one affordable and very fun package. I’m talking about Saturday Morning RPG, a game that takes you back to the 80s to relive the goofy cartoon and movie culture of the day. It features so many parodies and homages to the 80s, that one might even call it an 80s classic itself! It features a soundtrack by classic rocker Vince Dicola, a retro pixelated look, and an awesome combat system inspired by Super Mario RPG. Without further adieu, allow me to discuss an Indie game that I thoroughly enjoy, the game known as Saturday Morning RPG.

Plot

The game takes place in a fictional universe heavily inspired by 80s cartoons. The game starts in the dreams of Marty Hall, a pastiche of Marty McFly from Back To The Future. Marty recieves a magical trapper keeper in his dreams that gives him untold power. Marty wakes up and soon finds that he has the book in real-life! He uses these powers to fight bullies, defeat evil organizations, and even do battle against a parody of the Decepticons. The game has an episodic nature with about 4 episodes out so far. There’s a 5th episode on the way, hopefully sometime soon as I love these little mini-adventures.

The story itself is nothing to write home about, but it does bring a healthy dose of nostalgia. It’s nothing too hard to follow and has the occasional branching path here or there. Certain decisions you make in one episode may also transfer into another, which is pretty cool! Don’t expect a super in-depth story from this game, it’s just a simple lot that gets the job done.

Gameplay

The game plays very similarly to Super Mario RPG, almost exactly like it in fact. The game is played in a turn-based format, in which if you time your button presses you can dish out additional damage. Likewise, you can block incoming attacks and lesson the damage you receive in return. It’s a pretty good system and it’s fun to use. You also have access to a magic Trapper Keeper, that lets you use scratch-and-sniff stickers to gain bonuses in battle. You have a limited amount of time to scratch the stickers before battle, it’s kind of a mini-game in itself.

Now, the game itself is split up into 5 episodes and your progress between each episode transfers over. Certain actions you take in one episode transfers over to another. The 5th episode just came out after being in development hell for a bit, but it’s good to finally get to play it. Keep in mind, episode 5 is very bulky when compared to the other episodes but it’s still great.

Visual Stimuli

Probably the best part of the game is it’s art and music. The game boasts an 8-bit art-style yet blends it with 3D backgrounds creating a style similar to Super Mario RPG (This game is a lot like it, isn’t it?) The 8-bit graphics change to a 16-bit-ish style when you enter into the combat proper. The music is probably the best part of this game, in all honesty. The soundtrack was composed by legendary 80s musician Vince Dicola and it sounds great. Vince captures the 80s and old-school JRPGs immensely well and the entire track-listing is fantastic. Heck, some episodes even use entirely different soundtracks than the other episodes. The Christmas episode uses an entirely new soundtrack and it sounds great.

In Summation

If you’re looking for some classic 80s cheese, look no further than this game! It takes that 80s style and runs with it, providing a lot of laughs and fun battles along the way. It’s a bit on the short side but definitely worth buying. Episode 5 definitely packs more content into the game, which is much appreciated. Honestly, this game is worth getting. I also need to point out that there are physical releases for the game, but unfortunately only about 1980 copies were made. And of course, limited release hoarders snatched ’em up before anyone else could. The best way to go with this game is digital. I reccomend the PC version, but most versions are probably the same. The game usually goes on sale for a couple of bucks to one dollar, so I reccomend nabbing it when it hits that price.

I won’t give this game a rating, because I feel like a rating system kind of demeans the point of enjoying something. Because let’s face it, you can’t put a number on how much enjoyment you got out of using the swing-set as a kid, can you? While I am abandoning the traditional rating system, I can definitely say that this game is as sweet as syrup!