Phantasy Star Online Episode 1 & 2
Sega and its star development group Sonic Team are bringing both the first true role-playing game and first online title to GameCube with the release of Phantasy Star Online Episode I & 2. The Dreamcast-born online RPG whisks players away into a fantastical online world where they can meet up with three of their friends over a 56k modem or broadband adapter to conquer evil. In contrast to the Dreamcast's Phantasy Star Online and semi-sequel Phantasy Star Online ver. 2, the improved GameCube version has all-new content including two exclusive new character classes and all new worlds to explore. Episode I & II is likely to be GameCube owners' first available choice for an RPG experience, and certainly an online RPG. So this is not a title you want to overlook.
- Meet with people from around the world to do battle online
- Episode I brings content from both previous Dreamcast gmea
- Episode II makes the new title more than just a rehash, featuring brand new levels, weapons and quests
- Custom create your character's appearance, abilities, and more
- Choose from three races of characters including human, newman, and android
- Three exclusive new character classes
- Explore six diversely-themed worlds
- Boldy conquer the new beach and mountain territories
- Four-player splitscreen offline mode
- Meet in a central lobby area where you can trade items, engage in Lobby Ball matches, or duel one-on-one
- First announced online title for GameCube
- Progressive scan support
- For use with 56k modem and broadband adapter
Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II breathes new life into the franchise of old (previously on the Sega Genesis) by letting gamers experience the fantastical world online. The original Phantasy Star Online was released for the Dreamcast in January 2001 in the United States. Because Sonic Team didn't quite get to implement everything it wanted to the development group decided to release a second version of the game. Meanwhile, behind the scenes Sega was strategizing to become a multiplatform developer and Nintendo would soon see the powerful publisher bring titles to GameCube. At E3 2001 in May Sega officially announced its lineup, which included Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II. The company demonstrated an early revision of the game to show how easy it was to get it running on GameCube as well as to visually prove it is a working title. Currently already released in Japan and on its way to the U.S. in October 2002 release, it looks like Sonic Team has done the impossible, bringing GameCube owners a respectable RPG and, more importantly, their first online title.
Episode I & II pits players in a futuristic world with six diversely themed areas. You can explore areas with visual elements reflecting caverns, ancient ruins, lush forests, and castles -- these are from the Dreamcast version. New to the GameCube version are the Episode II elements, massive areas themed after a beach and a verdant mountainside. The key gameplay element is that you can band together with up to three friends online to engage in real-time battles, casting spells, changing weapons, and supporting your team. You'll, of course gain increased experience, earn items and explore the massive environments. As noted, the battle system is real time, so you will not have the option of spending time strategizing attacks in a turn-based environment. Attacks vary from straight up sword slashing to projectile weapons like guns. All of this is dependant on what type of character you create at the beginning of the game.
Fortunately, character creation is a fairly simple process. You can choose from three different races including human, newman, and android. Each main character is also divided into three classes: Hunters, Rangers and Force. Each character is classified directly in their name, with it being prefixed by HU, RA or FO. Brand new to the GameCube version, there are four character types per class instead of three. Following, we'll detail each of the known classes and subtypes.
Their skill is in fighting or, more specifically, close-range combat. These are your sword-wielding, dagger-stabbing, fist-fighting bad-asses here, a favorite amongst Phantasy Star fanatics. Subtypes include the following:
- New: HUcaseal
As you might guess by their name, Rangers are the long-range attackers. They will utilize rifles and other weapons capable of attacking from a distance. The subtypes are as follows:
- New: RAmarl
Then we have the force (FO) members of the cast. Often tall and more elegant, they have the ability to cast spells. The subtypes are as follows:
- New: FOmar
Of course, don't forget that Sonic Team has added two new character classes to the mix. We don't have any screenshot or movie evidence of them yet, but stay tuned and we'll let you know as soon as we uncover them. Characters are stored on the despicably undersized GameCube memory cards, leaving room for up to four character saves per card. In all, the game requires a total of 25 blocks of memory from your card: three for the game's system file, 11 for the character file, seven for your Guild card (a sort of virtual ID card which is used by other players to identify you Online) and four for the network settings.
Also new to PSO Version 2 are a one-on-one battle mode and Lobby Ball, which you can take part in with your team before you go into battle. The one-on-one mode is probably one of the biggest features we're looking forward to in the game, as it finally allows players to battle each other in two new arenas. Up to four players can join the fray in battle mode and you can edit the rules to the arena limiting players to melee weapons, ranged weaponry, or even unarmed combat. Also with "Ultimate Mode" experienced players of PSO can enjoy an additional difficulty level. PSO players will be able to access the Ultimate mode difficult only if they're level 100, and they'll be able to level up their character all the way to level 200.
By now we're sure you're wondering, can you connect online and play with owners of the Dreamcast version of Phantasy Star Online Version 2? Sadly the answer is no. With the new characters and other additional options exclusive to the GameCube version, this isn't possible. Not to mention the technicalities of connecting two different home consoles complicate things. The fact that the game will go online is impressive on its own. And it will do so supporting both the 56k modem and broadband adapter.
In terms of GameCube technology, Episode I & II is a little disappointing. It's true that it runs at a fast framerate even with the four-player mode, but the art style has so much potential to be brought to life by the power of the GameCube hardware. Instead, it is very easy to tell that Sonic Team simply cleaned up the graphics engine it used for Dreamcast to crank out some crisper textures, bigger draw distances, and an all-around smoother look. By no means does it look bad, but it can't help but be compared to more visually impressive GameCube software that we've seen.
On the upside, HDTV users can benefit from a cleaner picture thanks to progressive scan support.
Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II is an important title to GameCube because it is both an RPG and an online title. In both areas GameCube is sorely lacking, even a year after launch. The franchise has received a pretty intense userbase in both Japan and the US, and a new version with exclusive character classes should be enough to appeal to fans. Hopefully we'll see an equally impressive online community with the GameCube release. Gamers looking for this one, and we recommend you do, can look out for the U.S. version to be released late this October.
source IGN Cube
Number of Players