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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sonic Team
Genre: Card RPG
Players: 1-4
Rated: T (Teen)
Release: March 2, 2004
Written by: Matthew Prunty

March 8, 2005 - The Phantasy Star series dates back to 1987 with the game known as PHANTASY STAR, a game that would spark the spawn of several Phantasy games known for innovative Gameplay, expansive stories, and character building quests, and would be regarded as one of the best RPG series. When Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution was first introduced at last year's E3, a game that, lots of gamers were a little skeptical as a result of the fact that the game was a member of the ''Card-RPG'' genre. But soon it would be regarded as a continuation of one of the greatest RPG series.

Once you pop in the disc into your GameCube, and select a new game file, you are immediately thrown into the story. You start out on Pioneer 2 (but 21 years later). The story is told of what took place on Pioneer 1 (via scrolling text). The actual story of P.S.O. Episode 3 takes place on Pioneer 2 with researchers and hunters longing to tuck the surface of Ragol to complete the Human Migration Plan that went unfulfilled in the previous journeys (P.S.O. Episode I & II). After the intro to Episode 3, you will be introduced to a few setup configurations (that only appear the first time you play the game) and a slick interface with some stylish menus. Character creation is just as in depth as Episode II and I. You have a choice of three classes and four different characters for each class. The appearance of the character you choose can be changed in just about any way imaginable. The story progresses on from Episode I and II nicely -- I do not want to spoil anything -- with some brief, but cool cut-scenes that introduce you into one of the greatest games available for the GameCube.

Gameplay in Episode 3 is set up very well, with few discrepancies (battles ten to take a while to complete, and at times they can be rather boring). Learning how the card system works takes about a half hour (depending on if you are a quick learner or not), because after your first battle, you would pretty much get the jist of how the battles work. Before a battle sequence can begin, you and your opponent must take turns rolling a dice (whoever has the highest number, goes first). After the rolling of the dice, your are given 5 cards out of your deck with the option of swapping out cards you don't want to get new ones (this can only be done once, so decide carefully). After both parties complete that, the party that got the higher roll for the first attack will start. You will then roll two dice, but both will be rolled with one press of the A button. One roll value represents your attack amount for that turn, and the other represents your defensive amount. If it happens that the defense value is higher than the offensive, the numbers will be switched.

Once you have your values for the current turn, you will be able to equip items or summon monsters depending on what side of the story you are playing in. Each card that you use in battle requires a certain number of attack points to be summoned or equipped, so you can't just equip or summon your strongest cards every turn because you may not have enough attack points. Once you have used your cards, you will be able to move. Moving also takes attack points to do, every space that you or one of your monsters move on the battlefield requires one attack point, and you can only move a certain maximum number of spaces depending on your character/monster's Move stat. After you have moved, you can attack with you weapons or monsters, but to attack, you need to use attack points. Most attacks only require one attack point, but more powerful cards or cards using combos require two or more. When you attack, your opponent will have the chance to use a defense card if they have enough points to use it. Monsters themselves can't use cards, so it is up to their master to protect them using their own cards. If the amount of added defense is equal to or greater than the damage amount, the attack will miss, causing no damage and a waste of attack points for the attacker. Also, if you are in a battle with a partner, certain defense cards can be used on your ally, who is important because most team battles in story mode only require you to kill one member of the opposing party, so defending for a weakened partner can actually save the battle. After your turn is over, your opponent repeats the process, and the battle continues on in that fashion.

On a graphical note, Episode III is a step above Episode I, but falls onto the same level as Episode II. Some of the creatures that appeared in Episode I looked much better, and some of the creatures from Episode II had a few touch-ups as well. The vast environments from Episode II return; the battlegrounds (all of them) have tremendous graphics (in one form or another)..

One of the coolest areas in this title graphically is that in one level, you are in a huge windy cave with tons of lush greenery where there is soil. The coolest part is, the wind picks up individual pieces of pollen from everywhere, and each spore acts like it has its own life floating wherever it feels, and when the wind picks up, all of them blow in a certain direction. It is really an amazing sight to see when you play in that level, the developers must have really put a lot of work into it. The characters you see in the game look the same though, no real touch ups for them. Special weapons that everyone knows and loves make a big return in this game as well, they have never looked better and they are easier to find than in Episodes II, and I, which is a great thing. One of the drawbacks to the graphics of Episode III is that when you use the guns, you don't see the photon bullets that emit from the games when they are fired. One nifty feature that was added to the game takes place between battles, where you would see some comic-book style cut-scenes to display what's going on in that scene. What I mean by that is there will be one small picture in an area of black showing what's happening, and text will be viewable on the bottom of the screen, which you will scroll through. Once you scroll to a certain point, another image will appear, showing what's going on again. The entire screen will fill up this way, and sometimes there will be multiple pages of visuals. It really is nice to see when the feature is in action, and I think it improves the game a lot. The only problem is that they only appear in a few certain missions.

The sound for Episode III was done pretty well, with a few tunes that will have you hooked, but quite on level with the rest of the series. The sound effect took a huge nose dive, where each weapon pretty much sounding the same (with each respected class) when you fight with it, and the creatures still making those pitiful grunts and yells when in battle. But on the positive side of things, there were only about two themes from Episode I and II, allowing for a great deal of diversity (slow and acoustic, and upbeat with synthesizers) in the music. So whatever music you are in to, Episode III will have something to suite your tastes.

Responds quite well, even though the GC joysticks are a bit touchy.... During a battle, you really will only be using 4 buttons, unless playing multiplayer online. The forum buttons are A (for which you choose your selection), B (cancel your selection), X (shows details during item selection), and R (which displays the details about a specific card). But a nifty feature that they added to the control scheme is the ability to return to the main title screen, even during the game. You would hold down R, X, and START, and it will take you back to the main page.

Online: Tournaments, Free Battle, View Battle, etc. Offline: Story Mode (Heroside & Darkside), Free Battle, Multiplayer, etc. And that's just getting started. To some, that may not seem like a lot of ''modes'', but it is to me. Online and Offline Card Levels (up to 999, shortened to CLv in-game) are separate, so that's twice as much building up you can do, and with well over 400 cards, it'll take quite awhile to finally build up a complete deck.

Personal Thoughts
Episode III is an under hyped game, but is surely a GameCube gem. Episode I and II players will not want to miss this one as it wraps up the Phantasy Star Online story, but new players to the series who are skeptical about the ''C.A.R.D.'' part of the game, fear not! I was in the same situation as you at one point and all I had to do was open up my mind and not be afraid to try something new. I certainly do not regret. This is the best Phantasy Star Online game.


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