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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Published by: SEGA
Developed by: Sonic Team
Genre: Online RPG
Players: 1-4
Rated: T (Teen)
Release Date: October 30, 2002
Written by:Matthew Prunty











On-Line Gaming has always seemed like a far off dream for dedicated Nintendo Fans, but that dream has become a reality with Sega's Phantasy Star Online: Episodes I & II. Commonly called PSO, this ground breaking game sports both online and offline multiplayer capabilities. PSO is the first game to harness the power of Nintendo Gamecube Modem and Broadband Adapters. Open your eyes and get ready to leap into a world of fantastic weaponry, unbelievable monsters, and fierce battles- the likes of which Nintendo fans have never seen.

Phantasy Star was launched in 1988 as an offline RPG for the Sega Master System. Five sequels, some of which were never released in the United States, quickly followed it. Fans interested in the origins of the series should check out the Phantasy Star Collection, which came out for Gameboy Advance in late 2002. In December of 2000 the series made the jump online. The original PSO was available for PCs and the Sega Dreamcast, and the 2002 GCN Version sports a number of improvements - including offline multiplayer play, an improved character creation system, and important changes to the network itself.



Simply put, you are an explorer. You have been called to investigate strange occurrences on the surface of the planet Ragol. You start off as a weak beginner, but as you continue you can become an immensely powerful warrior. You can go to the Hunter's Guild to find numerous quests that you can complete. They range from escorting a girl through a cave to find her butler to helping a legendary warrior kill his 10,000th monster. By completing these quests, you receive Meseta - the currency of Phantasy Star Online. With Mesesta, you can buy weapons, armor, and items that can help you on your journey to find the source of evil. As you continue through forests, caves, mines, and ruins, you eventually reach the source and destroy with the power you have gained. For an RPG like PSO, it may not be the best, but it does the job.

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It was night the before Christmas,
And all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even a mouse.


Well, except me. I was dreaming about what Phantasy Star Online was going to like. I had heard it played like Diablo II, one of my favorite games. I didn't get a wink of sleep that night, and paid the price the next day. I could only sit there four five hours playing the game until midnight, at which point I fell asleep on the couch. I couldn't believe how great and addictive this game was after the first ten minutes of gameplay. Here is an in-depth analysis.

You begin the game with Character Creation. This system is so detailed that you could play the game for months and never run into a character quite like yours. There are three character Classes to choose from are the Hunter, Ranger, and Force, with four subclasses within each category, compared to the Dreamcast version's three. Naturally, each class has its strengths and weakness. Rangers, for example, are highly skilled with handguns and rifles, but they tend to have low attack stats. Forces, on the other hand, can use all manners of spells, but have low health. The other class, Hunter, is strong in close range combat and has the highest attack rating. However, they aren't skilled with ranged weapons (guns) or techniques (spells). Then you can select from four different subclasses including HUmars (Human Male Hunters), RAcasts (Robot Male Rangers), and FOmarls (Human Female Forces). Once you have selected your class, you can customize your character to your heart's delight by tinkering with body size, hair, headgear, facial expressions, and plenty of wild PSO outfits.



The main station of PSO is a massive spaceship called the Pioneer II, which houses merchants, hospitals, and your guild. Online, the Pioneer II serves as a king of lobby where players from all over the network can form parties, swap items, or just shoot the breeze. Once you leave the Pioneer II, you will encounter bizarre worlds of fire, ice, natural plant life, and more. It's like having an entire planet in you GCN.

PSO combat is in real time, so you'll need a quick trigger finger and cat-like reflexes. Luckily, there is an almost endless supply of unique and powerful weaponry at your fingertips. Whether you're blasting an enemy with an Ice Rifle or laying them with your Dim Saber, which steals HP while inflicting damage, there's a weapon that suits your style. You can only win some of the rarest weapons through exhaustive online game play so players will be sure to come back for more.

One of the most powerful items in Phantasy Star Online is your MAG. Your MAG is a robot that hovers over your shoulder. Though it may be weak at first, you can level it up by feeding it different items. If your MAG reaches a certain level, it may transform into a different type. MAGs in the Dreamcast version looked like Sega Saturns and other wacky items, so who knows what you could find on the Gamecube.

Of course, none of this means much without an understanding of online play. PSO runs on a network operated by Sega. To get online, you will need to buy either a Modem or Broadband Adapter for your GCN. You will also need Internet access at your home (through either a dial-up connection, DSL, or other service) to use them. PSO users will also pay a small fee to Sega (Currently set at $8.95 a month) to access the network. Sega also added some downloadable games that you can play on your Gameboy Advance. Players can also use special GCN Keyboards to communicate with fellow teammates during game play, although they are VERY hard to come by. Finally, Sega has made a number of changes to its network security so hackers won't be able to alter the world, as they did in the Dreamcast Version. Get ready to explore, fight, and chat, and commiserate with a whole new world of friends with PSO.

You wouldn't think that a game with online in the title would work offline, but Sega has a surprise in store. You can play and complete Phantasy Star Online offline. Also, the weapons, items, or experience you gain offline will transfer to the Online Arena. It's a good way to learn about the world and the combat system, although you can't truly experience PSO until you're playing with new friends from around the country.

Along with single play offline, there is multiplayer also. There are two ways to enjoy this feature of multiplayer mayhem in PSO. You can either go online and form a party or you can invite up to three friends over for an offline adventure. If a friend has already created a character, he or she can simply pop in a Memory Car and transfer the data to your game. At the end of a session, you can return to a player's original memory card complete with whatever items and experience they may have earned. One obvious advantage to online play is that players get their own television screen instead of having to share one screen. But you'll save time and effort by simply talking to a friend next to you rather then typing out a message.



No matter which way you choose to play, you're guaranteed to be both awed and challenged by the strange new world that awaits you in Phantasy Star Online: Episodes I & II.

The graphics are average - nothing really special, but good enough to keep you playing. They aren't good as Starfox Adventures or Metroid Prime, but you can tell what different items and people in the game are. That's all I need. The game has great variety with enemies such as Flowers all to Demon Centaurs. All of them are well done and the game runs very smoothly.

The music for this game is amazing. From the very first Character Creation screen, I was amazed at the music. It fits right into the game and is very appealing to the ear. While the songs are often complex, you might be humming them in your head hours after you force yourself to turn off the game.

The sounds of the game are equally appealing, mainly just the light saber-like sound of you swinging your sword though. There isn't any voice acting in game, its all text. Its runs smoothly, no glitchy, buzzing of beeping. That aspect goes for both the sound and music. Very well done and very, very nice.

What are you thinking? You get a game like Phantasy Star Online for the replay value. With two different games, four difficulty levels, and over eight different worlds put this RPG way ahead of the rest. For an RPG, replay value is rarely a strong point. Phantasy Star simply crushes all of its competitors.

Personal Thoughts
With its only weak points being Story and Graphics, Phantasy Star Online: Episode I & II blows away all the competition. With great multiplayer capabilities, including online play, PSO is also one of the most revolutionary games currently available for the Nintendo Gamecube.

8.5/10

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