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Phantasy Star  (DS) artwork

Phantasy Star (DS) review

"Allow me to make one thing perfectly clear: Phantasy Star is Phantasy Star Online, only it's not. "

Allow me to make one thing perfectly clear: Phantasy Star is Phantasy Star Online, only it's not.

...Okay, so that wasn't clear at all.

What Phantasy Star is not, however, is a prequel to Alis Landale's grand Sega Master System adventure to overthrow the dastardly King Lassic. Fans of the original series hoping that this game would be a return to the Algo system are in for a very rude awakening.

But fans of Sega's online efforts with the Phantasy Star series are in for a treat, with a few minor setbacks. Just like Phantasy Star Online and Phantasy Star Universe, Phantasy Star 's biggest appeal is playing online, but thanks to the never-welcome Friend Code system, playing Phantasy Star on the internet loses one of its most welcome features: the ability to meet total strangers and form friendships along the way. Instead, you're limited to three modes of online play. First, you have the ability to play with friends whose Friend Codes you have registered. Communication isn't limited in this mode, but instead of using a keyboard on the touchscreen to chat, you have a Pictochat-esque interface. If you have friends like mine, prepare yourself to see a lot of dicks being drawn on your screen while playing. The second mode is Free Play, where I spent most of my time with Phantasy Star . Unlike the previous option, Free Play's communication is extremely limited, to the point that you can only pick from a small assortment of phrases. Luckily for most gamers, if you're playing with a Japanese player, their phrases are automatically translated into English. However, the most disappointing aspect of Free Play mode is the fact that you're forced to rely on a matchmaking system in order to form a party, and quite frankly, the matchmaking sucks. You can wait for up to 5 minutes to finally be thrown into a party with one other person. Finally, there's the Play Alone option, which is almost pointless. It lets you know when a friend logs in (and lets your online friends know that you're online) but outside of that, it really serves no purpose to playing the game online.

At this point, I've used 360 words to bitch about the game's networking and haven't really mentioned anything about the game itself. As I said at the very beginning, this game is practically a carbon copy of Phantasy Star Online. Fans of that game will instantly know how to play, with the 3-slot ability panel that you can customize as you wish and rotate with the simple press of the R button, to picking between one of the game's three races and three class specializations. But a few changes have been made to the classic Phantasy Star Online formula, most of them for the better. The biggest change you'll notice is that you now have an evasive roll that you can set to your ability panel. No longer are you forced to let an enemy knock you on your ass just so you can get yourself to safety and heal up! Also, nearly every weapon now has a Photon Art associated with it. By simply holding in your attack button until the icon changes, you can unleash a powerful attack that uses up a small chunk of your magical power. Furthermore, your magic spells are subject to this same charging ability, so you can either toss yourself a Resta to recover some lost HP, or charge it up and watch it become Alresta, which will heal everyone in range for a slightly boosted MP cost. It adds a layer of depth to Phantasy Star that simply wasn't present in Sega's original online offering.

Unfortunately, some changes were made that simply shouldn't have been. In the original Phantasy Star Online, the ability to learn new spells and use new weapons was limited by your statistics. This was changed in Phantasy Star to a simpler system where new equipment and spells are limited by your level. What this does is remove any real diversification between the different classes until near the end of the game. Why use a Force (the series' definition of mages) to keep you alive by using Resta at Level 1 when both Hunters and Rangers are capable of the same feat?

Thankfully, once a party is put together, online play is fun, albeit a bit repetitive. Instead of the measly four areas offered in the original PSO, PS offers seven. Each area is randomly generated and consists of rooms packed with monsters and traps to overcome. Fans of PSO will instantly recognize some species of monsters, like the iconic Rappy or even a beast called Booma Origin, but most of the foes you fight are unique, like a giant pink pelican that lives in the swampland area and attempts to squash you with its massive girth, or a missile-launching mech that transforms into a vehicle and tries to run you over, PS is rarely at a loss for memorable enemies... Especially the bosses. You'll be in awe the first time a massive octopus emerges from the murky depths of the swamplands and spins the entire circular stage in an attempt to evade your attacks. And one can't forget the iconic battle against a dragon, which has become something of a tradition in the online Phantasy Star games. You'll have to use every last inch of the football field-shaped battlefield in order to avoid its many attacks, including one where he swoops down on you while spinning. And of course, like all online Phantasy Star games, you'll get copious amounts of loot for taking out enemies, and since each party member sees only their personal item drops, you don't have to worry about being greedy in the face of other players. Take it all!

Unfortunately though, you'll be forced to depart from the online game at specific intervals in order to unlock new areas in the regretfully underdeveloped offline story mode. Your character will take the starring role in the story that begins with the investigation of why a certain mysterious figure is attempting to destroy ancient ruins from all over the world. It's not particularly interesting, and the three characters that join your party over the course of the story (and the HIDDEN CHARACTER that joins after completing the game) are inherently one-sided. You have the happy go-lucky Newman (aka elf) girl that has a crush on the overprotective "big brother" stereotype but refuses to realize she does. This duo is balanced out by the CAST (aka robot) that's serious-minded and thinks logically. Except when he almost gets killed and you have to lug his head around until finding a suitable robot body to attach it to, whereupon he develops a country-western accent for a thankfully small portion of the game. To add insult to injury, there's what appears to be a nice selection of sidequests that you can accept at the hub town, until you realize that every single sidequest in the game follows the same pattern: go to the area, kill everything in your path, fight boss at the end. And yes, the boss at the end is the same every time, regardless of what quest you choose.

But when completing those dull quests, you'll at least be listening to some good music, especially the battle themes. Entering the desolate marshlands sounds cold and lonely, just like it should, and when monsters suddenly POP UP!, the music shifts to a rousing battle theme without skipping a beat. Each battle theme is custom-tailored to match each area, so none of the music ever truly feels out of place. Furthermore, the game is a graphical treat to the eyes, using some of the best 3D that the DS is capable of cranking out. While it'll obviously never be completely spectacular thanks to the hardware, there are many little graphic details, from calmly falling snow while battling a raging Yeti in the Snowfield, to an artificial waterfall coming from a pipe in the background of the power plant stage, a discerning eye will be able to pick out quite a lot of nice graphical touches.

However, this game will truly only appeal to fans of Phantasy Star Online that want some new areas to play through and a new storyline to experience. While there's a lot to like about Phantasy Star , it degrades quickly into a title that will become repetitive and boring, especially if you're looking for a new game in the original series, like the zero in this game's title heavily implies. Sadly, it just isn't there.

But at least you can beat people to death with a Nintendo Power magazine.

espiga's avatar
Community review by espiga (February 05, 2010)

Espiga likes big butts, and cannot lie.

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Suskie posted February 06, 2010:

Phantasy Star Nullset?
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Genj posted February 06, 2010:

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zippdementia posted February 08, 2010:

Okay, I have a couple suggestions for this review. This is some straight-up criticism, so don't take it too harshly, please.

First of all... clarity. If you find yourself pointing out in your review that you haven't been clear or that you've used too many words to talk about something, chances are you need to go back and fix it and not publish it as is. Calling out the deficiencies in our own work is really a cop-out from having to figure out a better way to say things.

Secondly, you're in a tough spot with this review because you're playing a game that (as you yourself state) isn't that fun or interesting. This leaves you with figuring out how to talk about it without putting your audience to sleep. The general answer to this is to use humour while describing the game's inadequecies or show places where the game is so bad that it's naturally humourous. An alternative is to mention the good first, getting the audience drawn in with excitement, and then crush them with the weight of reality when you show how little of the game is actually that good.

What happened to me while reading this one is that I felt you lost interest in writing it and just sort've published it. That might not be the correct sentiment, but it's what came across to me because of the above mentioned issues.
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bluberry posted February 13, 2010:

fuck you suskie I was going to say that.

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