Ok, it’s no secret to anyone out there; I don’t like RPGs! I do not see how anyone can sit there for hours on end watching FMV look-alike characters getting slaughtered by opponents who use the cheap all out attack (cough, Super Nova, cough, Final Fantasy series, cough) over and over again. Not to mention that I hate having to stay in one small area all day beating foes that cheaply pop out of nowhere in order to get a high enough level to beat a boss. I will admit that some RPGs I do enjoy (Grandia 2 instantly comes to mind), but most of these types of RPGs I can’t stand.
Fortunately I had a chance to play the Diablo series by Blizzard, and do enjoy them. Maybe it’s because I don’t have to sit through any stupid command menus, and I can beat my enemies quickly instead of enduring one more Super Nova attack. It was an action/RPG that I could easily get into.
When I heard that Sega will be releasing Phantasy Star Online, and it would look and play like Diablo, I really looked forward to it, even though some publications (EGM) decided to trash the Diablo concept. I guess they wanted another Final "Phantasy" piece of crap that I know I wouldn’t like. Well, as far as they are concerned, too bad! I’m glad that PSO is done similar to Diablo, only much better.
A lot of people have also criticized PSO for a lack of a story. That suits me just fine too. However, the back-story is impressive. The Earth is at death’s door, and the Pioneer Project, the search for a new habitable world, is formed. That planet Ragol is found, and Pioneer 1 is sent to colonize it. When they were done, Pioneer 2 was sent in with the first wave of colonists. However, there is a communication disruption that causes a mass explosion on the surface. Players, called "hunters," are sent to the planet to find out just what happened on Ragol.
It might not be much of a story after that, but who the hell cares? What this game is about is not character development, or seeing whose spell can last the longest, it’s about getting together with people around the world and kicking some monster ass. I’ve seen SegaNet provide me with a decent round of football, as well as one great deathmatch, but I’ve never seen it provide a game where I can work with online players rather than compete against them. Thank God though, because it works splendidly.
Upon connecting to the PSO world, you can access various ships (or servers), which each have about 20 blocks to get on. From there, you just access the ship’s computer to either join a team or make one on your own. Up to four players can team up on one party, and it really helps the game a lot. In the 35+ hours I have spent in PSO as of this posting, I have spent about 30 of them online, and I have got along well with everyone I teamed up with. We shared items, kicked monster ass, and even distributed what are called "guild cards," which allow players to catch each other when they are online, and send them internal messages like in ICQ.
I have noticed considerable lag spurts, but fortunately they don’t affect the monsters, just your teammates. That way, a monster won’t pop out on you and kill you instantly. I am also pleased with how the game controls. Button actions are displayed similar to that in Zelda 64, where each button can be configured to do a certain option (with the exception of the Y button, which is always to talk if you don’t have a keyboard, and that unfortunately cannot be changed). Menus can be accessed while the game continues via the D-pad, so the game is virtually unstoppable.
Not only that, but the game is gorgeous. Whether it is the lush green forests during the early stages or the futuristic interior of Pioneer 2, nothing fails to impress me graphically. This could be one of the Dreamcast’s most beautiful games!
There is so much I can tell about this game, but unfortunately, I can’t, as I’m still looking myself. PSO is an experience worth enjoying while the Dreamcast still has some life left in it. Even Sega backing out of the Dreamcast doesn’t prevent me from giving this game a 5 Gem rating. If anyone ever wants to locate me, just look for me as Jericho-Q3J. I’m usually located on the Oberon servers.