Sweet As Syrup: Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution Review

I thought since I talked about the original Phantasy Star Online game a few days ago, I’d talk about the spinoff. I have mixed feelings on this game. I appreciate that they tried something completely different for this game, but to me it just failed to impress. It did have a lot of parts that I enjoyed, but at the same time the game had a tendency to drive me up a wall with the way some of its content was presented.Without further ado, I present to the fine ladies and gentlemen reading this blog a game that I find to be middle of the road. Now, I shall discuss Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution.

Need To Know Information

Phantasy Star Online Episode III was released exclusively for the Nintendo Gamecube. It changed genres from being an MMORPG to being an MMO card-game for this installment. The game ties its plot to the original 2 episodes, so its best you play the other games in the series to get a good idea of the plot.

Plot

The way PSO Episode III presents its plot is much different than the last 2 episodes. The plot of this game takes place 21 years after Episode I and II and features you once again travelling down to Ragol. Episode III is split into three different chapters. The game starts you off by giving you the option to select between two different stories to follow: The “Heroside” and the “Darkside”. The Heroside follows a group of government-appointment officials know as Hunters trying to fight off a group of anti-government terrorists known as “Arkz”. In Darkside story, you take control of Arkz in an attempt to overthrow the government. The third chapter acts as a melding of the two stories and serves as the bookend for the entire story.

The bulk of the plot revolves around a new system put in place that digitizes monsters and items from the previous games into C.A.R.D.S. which stands for “compressed alternate reality data”. Both the Hunters and Arkz fights using these cards. The plot itself is told through static image cut-scenes which had a tendency to bore me upon first watch. I didn’t find them to be that drastically entertaining and I couldn’t get invested in the primary characters due to them being stereotypes. There wasn’t a single character who’s name I could recall after playing through the game. I had to look up online what their names are because I completely forgot what they were!

Gameplay

The most interesting part of PSO Episode III is its gameplay. Unlike previous games in the series (Which were action RPGs) this game is a strategy-based card-game. You build a deck of cards in the game and gain cards by completing missions which awards you with booster packs. The mechanics of this game take a while to get a hold of. Both Arkz and the Hunters  use C.A.R.D.S. You are tasked with rolling some dice at the start of each match. This determines how many “Action Points” (or AP) you will have each match. You rely on these action points for several things such as summoning new monsters or equipping new items to moving your character across the battlefield or using special attack cards. There is also HP which acts as your character’s health bar. In similar games of this nature, if you drop to 0 hot points you lose. The system, while being a bit convoluted at first, is actually quite fun to use. It’s fun toying with deck combinations and trying to find the right balance of cards to use.

While both Arkz and the Hunters play similar to one another, there is a great difference between how they play. Arkz summon monsters to aid them in battle. This allows Arkz to send their monsters to attack their enemies and control the battlefield. The main weakness of Arkz is that players have to manage both their character and their monsters. The Hunters play differently and use cards to summon items and weapons. These items act as protection but also stat boosters for those characters. If an item gets destroyed, the Hunter takes 1 hit point of damage. A hunter can always summon more items, but if he gets attacked with no items equipped then he will take an extreme amount of direct damage.

You can also create a character using the character creation from the past game. Unfortunately, character creation is pointless this time around. You see, you are a “commander” which means you don’t actually take part in battles. You select one of the game’s 24 characters to represent you in the combat section. Your custom character is entirely pointless, only good for running around the station and structuring card decks. That’s it! This always annoyed me, especially because it renders the character creation almost entirely pointless.

Worse than the pointless character creation system is the way the missions handle difficulty. You see, a lot of times it seems like the enemy CPU rarely makes mistakes. If you aren’t careful, they can easily corner you and wipe out on the later missions. The bosses are worse as a lot of them just break the rules or have unfair stat advantages. Sure, the Phantasy Star series always had the occasional hard-as-nails boss fight with each game. However, almost every boss in this game is a chore to get through, especially if you don’t have the right cards. All in all, I found myself rather mixed on the gameplay. It was fun, but there were annoyances with how certain features were implemented that kept me from fully enjoying it.

Visual Stimuli

PSO Episode III uses the exact same graphics engine as the last game. You can tell since the models are starting to look even more dated at this point. It isn’t the worst though and it isn’t really a pain to look at either. It gets the job done and looks nice enough. The music is still pretty good even though a lot of it is recycled from the last game. The hand-drawn stills that appear as the game’s cutscenes look great. It makes me wish they were animated due to how amazing the artwork on them were! The character designs I felt were weak though. They just felt like generic templates, kind of like the ones used for side characters in the original game. Aside from that, presentation-wise the game looks well enough and sounds fantastic.

In Summation

This game is okay, but it has a lot of problems that are sometimes annoying to deal with. It’s fun but the graphics could use some work and the missions have a tendency to take a little too long. The game plays completely different from the previous game, which bothered me as a kid but not so much anymore. I still love this game and it has some fun strategy gameplay. The story of this game isn’t the best and kind of forgettable and the game is pretty grind-y. And despite not being able to make my own character, I had a fun time. Despite all that, I can’t say that this game was sweet as syrup. It just lacks so much when compared to the last time. If I had to give it a score, it would be 6.5/10. I only reccomend it if you like trading card games. I can’t reccomend it to Phantasy Star fans though, since it doesn’t play like any other game in the series and feels lacking. Go ahead and give it a shot, it’ll be a fun distraction at least for a few hours or so.

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