Having just talking about the oddity that was the Batman OnStar commercials, I thought I’d discuss another oddball advertisement. I’m of course talking about the often forgotten original trailer for Phantasy Star Online. Back in the day when a game was coming out, you were usually given a trailer that was mostly gameplay. Nowadays, you have all these cinematic trailers for games that tell you little of the game itself, aside from the setting and plot.
However, in the 90s and 2000s, trailers for games would actually talk about the games! Wish trailers were like that nowadays. Regardless, PSO’s original trailer was really out there, and was coated in the late 90s cheese. So, today I thought I’d review a commercial and talk about the original trailer for PSO.
The trailer in question starts with that classic Phantasy Star Online music, coupled with the Sonic Team logo. Honestly, PSO’s soundtrack is so amazingly solid that it would be a crime to not attach it to every single commercial for the game. The game then has several voice actors saying random words as the appear on the screen. Most of them relate to the game, but at one point a person says “Not Fighting”. Yeah, fighting is like 95% of the game. Not fighting is never an option, unless you’re in the lobby or you’ve cleared out a room of monsters.
Still, the game seems to say it as if the option to not fight monsters is a thing, which it isn’t. One of the last keywords they say is “A New World”, which will never stop being cheesy to me. I mean, you couldn’t come up with a sillier line even if you tried! I still love the line, despite its rather awkward delivery. Speaking of awkward, time to get into the obligatory narration about how amazing the game is!
The trailer then cuts to a person hooking up a Dreamcast, while a narrator with a strangely intense voice talks about how awesome PSO is. This guy sounds really campy and over the top with his delivery, as if he’s trying to be the narrator for Dragon Ball Z or something! After a bit of narration, we cut to an explosion on the planet known as “Ragol”. I’ll be honest, the way soundtrack is framed here makes this moment fairly intense.
We then cut to the logo for the game, before getting into more over-the-top narration. This guy deserves a medal for making a Dreamcast game feel like some kind of momentous event! We are then given a jumble of concept art, intermixed with gameplay from the actual game. The narrator then refers to the game as “the world’s first network multiplayer consumer RPG”. This description makes no sense, as MMOs have existed for a long time before this. I think what he meant to say was “first massive multiplayer RPG on a home console”, which would’ve been far more accurate.
This guy goes to make more wild claims, like how the gaming population is “the entire population of the world”. This is probably one of the most insane claims ever made, especially because online gaming was such a niche market at this point. It’s more than likely a fair bit of countries didn’t have access to stable internet at this point, so online gaming on a global scale wasn’t as developed.
The narrator then tells us that he wants to us to “enter the world of ultimate network gaming”. I’ll be honest, this is one of the few claims he has said so far that have made sense. PSO is ultimate network gaming, at least in my eyes. It’s fun with friends, and certainly enjoyable. Playing online is fun too, if you can past everyone stealing your items.
However, the trailer then goes back into complete insanity. The narrator than says “we want to give you the experience of travelling to different planets”. Uh… That isn’t a thing in the game. You only ever travel to one planet, which is Ragol. You can travel to other planets, but that’s only in the spinoff “Phantasy Star Universe”. Universe itself didn’t come out for several years after this, on top of being in a completely different continuity.
The game then talks about communicating with other players for a bit, before recounting the explosion from earlier. The best line the narrator gives is this: “Just what happened here? To find out, you’ll have to communicate and cooperate with people logging in from all over the world!” Again, this is not true. You do have to figure out what’s going on, but you don’t need to team up with other players to do so. In fact, if you tried asking them what’s going on, they’d probably spoil the whole plot for you.
In fact, it’s recommend that you play the story mode in offline mode first. Why is this? Well, various logs left behind by “Red Ring Rico” detail most of the plot. You won’t see these logs if you play online, so you’re missing out on large chunks of the plot. The narrator then says “You’ll solve numerous intricate puzzles!” Wait, what puzzles? This game has puzzles in it? Well, to get certain areas, there are a few switch puzzles. Most of these are optional though, and usually just lead to extra item boxes.
The narrator then details how you have to communicate with other players again. Man, this guy really loves to stress the “communication” aspect of this game! One part I like is how the narrator details how “language barriers have broken down”. This is actually something completely true about the game, as each dialogue option you can use is translated into multiple languages. So, you can say “hello” in English and it be translated into cultural equivalents for people who speak other languages.
The line that really encapsulates this game is this: “The world of Phantasy Star Online lasts for an eternity!” This pretty much sums up the game in a nutshell. People are STILL playing the original game, and its various spin-offs and sequels. The narrator then goes back to gushing about how amazing the game is, and how you can play it for “as long as you want”. Sadly, you can’t really play the game at all anymore, unless you use private servers or have the console versions.
The narrator then proclaims the game as an “unlimited adventure fantasy”, before going over all the “groundbreaking” features of the game one more time. Then he starts talking about how PSO has an “online population open to the entire world”. Again, not everyone had dial-up at the time. So, it was mostly open to the large countries with stable internet, if you can even call DSL stable.
Our narrator finishes off the trailer with this line: “Phantasy Star Online! The gaming revolution comes in the year 2000! The door to the future, the door to freedom.” Gotta love that cheesy ending line, designed to send chills down the spine of any avid video-gamer in the late 90s and early 2000s.
So yeah, that was the original trailer for PSO. I’ll be honest, I kind of like this commercial. I like it mostly because it’s so bad it is good. It’s cheesiness is what makes it so entertaining! I’ll be honest, they seemed to get several facts of the game itself wrong. They made the game sound like it was some godly masterpiece of gaming. While it’s true that this is my favorite game of all time, it’s not the “ultimate gaming experience”. Still, the commercial did get some things right. At least it was entertaining, unlike a lot of other game trailers today…