I’ve made it no secret that I love Phantasy Star Online, it’s a really good game that means a lot to me. I have a long history with this series and I want to share that with you guys! My love for Phantasy Star Online started along. I was only about 9 or 10 when I read through this one videogame magazine. I can’t remember what gaming magazine it what, or what particular issue the article was featured in. Regardless, one article caught my attention: A review of Phantasy Star Online.
The article described the game and how it was an “MMORPG”, or Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. I had never played an MMORPG before, so this immediately caught my eye. The article went on describe several hints and tips for the game such as “Striking the Rag Rappy before it flees makes it drop a item”. I had no idea what a Rag Rappy was, which made me even more interested in this game. What really sealed the deal was the picture featured in the corner of the article. It was a screenshot from the game featuring a guy with a lightsaber-like weapon fighting a large gorilla-like monster next to what appeared to be some sort of ruined building. I was both intrigued and sold on the premise, but lacked a Sega Dreamcast. Unfortunately for me, there was no way to play PSO.
This changed a couple years later, when I got my hands on a Nintendo Gamecube. One of the games for said console was “Phantasy Star Online Episode 1 & 2 Plus”. It was like the original Phantasy Star Online, but with a massive amount of new content, plus features that were previously only usable online could now be used offline! I asked my parents to buy me it, which they did. I played that game before and after school each day, enthralled by the unique sci-fi universe that game presented. The best part was that the game boasted a large variety of weapons to use again monsters. This included gigantic swords, handguns, magic staffs, and even heavy artillery. This armory also included the aforementioned lightsabers, which was just called “Sabers” in the game. The sabers were one of my favorite weapons in the game, mainly due to their designs.
Keep in mind that at the time I was playing this, Star Wars Galaxies was in its infancy. On top of that, Galaxies was a bit too much for my outdated. So, the only way to play an MMO with lightsabers in it, was to play PSO on my Gamecube. To be honest though, PSO was more than just lightsabers. It had several levels of pure dungeon-crawling bliss, as well as both couch-multiplayer and online-multiplayer gameplay. Since I didn’t have a stable internet connection and no way to pay monthly fees, I would often just play the game with my friends when they came over. There would also be times when I played the game solo, just to fully soak in the world and all it has going for it.
There were even times I would play the game with my friends and they would trade me rare items for my rares. I feel they scammed me though, by trading me a Brionac for my Soul Eater scythe. To be fair, anyone could get a Soul Eater, but I just find it annoying that the guy was so lazy that he couldn’t do the quests to get the weapon himself. It’s the laziness that bothers, more than the actual scam itself. Anyways, PSO stood out to me as a good game to play on my own or with friends.
I loved PSO and wanted more of that good sci-fi fantasy action. At this time I didn’t use or know about Wikipedia, so it was difficult for me to research games outside of Gamefaqs or the occasional videogame magazine. However, I would soon discover the next PSO game and have my view on this series forever changed. It all happened on December 26th, Boxing Day. My family and I went to Future Shop in order to scoop up some sweet deals. That’s when I discovered it: Phantasy Star Online Episode 3: C.A.R.D. Revolution. I was so pumped, this was the new Phantasy Star game I had been waiting for! Except… It wasn’t.
PSO Ep. 3 was a spinoff of my the original PSO, that also acted as a sequel. The game was huge departure from the original PSO, as it was now a card game. You could still play it online, but real-time combat was switched out in favor turn-based card game combat. I’ve review Episode 3 already, so I won’t go into too much detail as to why I dislike it. I’ll just say that it was disappointing to me as a Phantasy Star fan.
After that, I didn’t touch Phantasy Star for a few years. By then, my family and I had moved away from my hometown and into an all new city. When first starting out there, I lived with my family, I had few friends, and no job. This resulted in me diving into the bargain bin at a local EB Games for something to whet my whistle. That’s when I found Phantasy Star Universe, a game I had never played before. Sure, I had heard stuff about Universe, but it wasn’t overtly positive. Despite this, it was 20 bucks for a game that was in good condition. So… How could I say no?
I bought Universe, struggled to get it running on my PC, and was disappointed with the results. Universe had a forgettable story, unlikable characters, and a lack of rare item drops. While I did enjoy the gameplay, I found the game lacking in side-content. I was annoyed with Phantasy Star this point. I found that I had wasted my cash on both Episode 3 and Universe. I gave up on the franchise for a while due to these events. Heck, I stumbled across Shadow of The Illuminus, an expansion pack for Phantasy Star Universe. I walked past this game and never looked back. I felt like the series lost its magic and I didn’t want to waste cash on new games.
I do regret this action though, as I’ve been told that Illuminus is actually really good. Cut to about a year later and Phantasy Star Portable 1 comes out for the PSP. I become intrigued, especially after watch the announcement trailer. I pick the game up, and to my surprise, I loved it! It felt like the older PSO games and focused less on story and more on gameplay. Character customization was great, there were plenty of items to collect, and the okay-ish voice-acting was saved for the few cinematic cut-scenes in the game.
My love for this franchise was restored! At this time, I did something I hadn’t done in years: Check PSO-World for news on new games. Back when I was hardcore into PSO, I would go to this site for tips and tricks, as well as news on new releases. When I went to this site, I discovered that a sequel to Portable had already been released in Japan. Best of all, it was coming to North America the very next year!
I wait patiently over the course of several months, which felt like an eternity to me. After all that waiting, Portable 2 was released. I made my way down there and picked up my copy of the game. I became enthralled in this game, due to the impressive amount of content and the customization options. The story was fairly entertaining as well, though it’s not something I’d rank as my all time favorite story. I hope to review both Portable games in the future, but for now I’ll say that these two games brought back my interest in this series.
So, I waited patiently for the next Phantasy Star game, but… It never came. Sure, Japan kept getting Phantasy Star releases, but America was out of luck. We never got the official sequel to Phantasy Star Online over here, nor any of the spinoff games that came after. Phantasy Star Nova was also not localized here, due to Sega thinking that the fan-base for these game is no longer there. That isn’t true, in actuality this game series has a ton of fans. The problem is that the fans couldn’t really deal with the weird way Sonic Team handled the online servers. People didn’t want to play online, which lead to a lack of interest in that mode. It doesn’t help that Sega didn’t advertise the Portable games at all and just expected them to sell, just because it’s Phantasy Star.
So, the years pass without a new game and with my interest in the series gone. My PSP 3000 died so I could no longer play either of the Portable games, resulting in me selling off the games. I moved on with my gaming interests and focused on playing different games such as Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Divinity. Come 2016 and I had mostly forgotten about the series… Until I discovered the Ephinea private server for PSO. I played this version of the game and was able to experience the online portion of PSO for the first time!
I made new friends, discovered new items, and was at last able to explore Episode IV in its entirety. After this, I emulated Phantasy Star Zero as I found that they no longer sold copies. I found that copies of this game were a bit hard to come by, so I had to emulate it if I wanted to give it a shot. Turns out, this DS prequel to the original PSO was pretty grand. It felt like classic PSO, but used some of the improvements of Universe. This resulted in a game that felt both fresh and retro at the same time.
And that’s my history with this franchise thus far. This series means a lot to me, as it there during those tough times in life. Those times where I felt like giving up, I just played this game and it renewed my confidence. I know that sounds cheesy, but PSO was a game that I used as a good game to let off steam. When I was bullied, or lost a friend, or was just disappointed with something, I would play this game to cheer myself up. I’ve changed a lot since those old days. Completed college, got a job, made several new friends, as well as being introduced to a ton of new games that aren’t Phantasy Star related. While I don’t think I’ll ever quite be done with this franchise, I can say that my passion for these games will continue for years to come. And with that, I leave you with this: