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Phantasy Star Universe (PC) artwork

Phantasy Star Universe (PC) review

"Phantasy Star is one of the older RPG series out there. Many are the people who look back with fond memories on the aging Sega Genesis classics, and remember RPGs that could compete with the SNES's much larger library. "

Phantasy Star is one of the older RPG series out there. Many are the people who look back with fond memories on the aging Sega Genesis classics, and remember RPGs that could compete with the SNES's much larger library.

That's why it's interesting that Phantasy Star Universe is, in fact, not an RPG. Instead, it is a brawler, albeit one with levels and stats. There's not much to the gameplay, two or three buttons for attacks. Monotonous mashing. Pressing a single button to execute a super move that you will use over and over and over. You beat down a roomful of strange creatures that have somehow developed biological lightsabers only to do it again in the next. Things quickly settle into a rhythm and never really get out of it.

Thankfully, unlike the previous installment of the online branch of the series, there are actually a large number of places to go. Whereas Phantasy Star Online had four zones, and eventually four more in the expansion, Universe has many many more. There are still four main zones, but each one brings with it a slew of minor areas, each of which usually has several missions. From dark and gritty sewer levels, to forests with happy little trees, to strange Japanese temples, to ancient ruins and space ships, you will run the gamut of mission locales. Many of which have enemies unlike the others, both in design and execution. Quirks such as the robots that explode when they die in one last attempt to bring you along help to keep things at least marginally fresh, but they do all boil down to basically the same thing. Kill enemies, get keys, move on.

It doesn't help that there are really only two mission objectives. Kill everything, and kill everything including a boss. Varying objectives would have gone a long way towards making the game less monotonous.

The area that saw the most expansion was the community. Each player has their own room, which other players can enter with impunity. You may choose to decorate your room with any number of things, be it astroturf or a model train. Now that synthesis plays a vital role, with all the best weaponry being acquired by building it through materials found rather than by getting drops, player run shops dominate the interm between missions.

Yep, there sure is a lot more stuff in Phantasy Star Universe than there was in its predecessor. Or at least there would be if Sega allowed you to access it. It's all on the disk that you spent money on, you just can't get to it until some vague time in the future when Sega decides to unlock it. It seems silly to lock off content strictly for the sake of building tension, especially when it's all there already.

So what do you do when you've exhausted the online content and are awaiting the next patch? Well, you could play Single Player. This time around, Sega actually included a quest complete with a story, characters, and progression. Something to burn a few hours on a rainy day. Unfortunately, that's about all that it's good for. The AI is downright laughable, the quest is short, and the story is forgettable. Really, it feels like an afterthought. To be fair, it probably was, but that doesn't really excuse it.

If you were a fan of Phantasy Star Online, by all means, give PSU a shot. It expands on the PSO formula, bringing enough new features to the table to justify the upgrade. Large numbers of environments, enemies, weapon synthesis, and an actual single-player mode are all things that add a new luster to an age-tarnished formula. However, if you aren't a fan of absurd amounts of grinding, or are simply looking to replace another MMO with a sci-fi counterpart, PSU won't get it done. It's simplistic almost to a fault, and just seems small when compared to the other big boys.

dragoon_of_infinity's avatar
Community review by dragoon_of_infinity (January 16, 2007)

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