Phantasy Star Online
Phantasy Star Online (PSO), released in 2000, was an online title for Sega Dreamcast. PSO was also later ported to Microsoft Windows, but this version was only released in Asia. A bugfix/upgrade edition was released the following year, entitled Phantasy Star Online Ver.2. Phantasy Star Online Episode I&II was later released for Nintendo Gamecube.
It is a part of SEGA's Phantasy Star series of games that began in 1987. The game has been followed by Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II in 2002 (Japan) and Phantasy Star Online Episode III in 2003 (Japan)/2004 (Europe).
The game itself is a simple hack'n slash type Role Playing Game where you slay monsters, level up, buy new equipment etcetera. Episodes I and II differ from many previous games of this genre by offering a real-time, rather than turn-based approach to combat - and seamlessly integrating this with the exploration/plot development aspects of the game. Episode III reverted back to a turn-based combat system.
Unlike the rest of the Phantasy Star series, PSO's prologue starts on the planet of Coral (possibly a splinter colony from the Algol star system). Coral was becoming unsuitable for life, so a pair of colony ships, Pioneer 1 and Pioneer 2, were sent to the planet Ragol, thought to be uninhabited by intelligent life, to colonize it. Pioneer 1 reached Ragol safely, and contructed a colony there. But when Pioneer 2 arrived seven years later, a sudden explosion engulfed the Pioneer 1 colony as they attempted to communicate. The Player(s) take the role of Hunters, mercenaries/bounty hunters/troubleshooters sent down to the source to determine the cause of the explosion, and find any survivors.
Episode III takes place twenty-one years after Episodes I and II. Pioneer 2 is still orbiting Ragol, its people still not yet allowed to come down to their new home. A group of Hunters and other citizens have become dissatisfied with the actions of the Principal Government, which they have come to see as corrupt. They have fled down to the planet's surface, and formed the Arkz, an Eco-terrorist-like group that seeks to expose the government's corruption, and keep them from overdeveloping the planet for their own gain.
The plot details of Episode IV, soon to be released as part of Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst, have not yet been disclosed.
Phantasy Star Online has three character races, and three Character Classes. This combination of race and class(and gender) are used to initially identify their character, and provide a template for their appearance.
- Humans -- As normal for most RPG's, Humans have no real advantage or disadvantages. Well balanced and can be any class.
- Newmans -- Probable descendants of Rika from Phantasy Star IV, Newmans are genetically-engineered elf-like people. They're not that physically strong, but are good with Techniques(magic). Newmans can be HUnters or FOrces. Newmans will regain lost Technique Points (TP) over time. Older Phantasy Star games use the spelling of "Numan."
- Androids -- Intelligent robots with a human-like design. Physically powerful, and immune to most status ailments(poison, paralysis, etc...), but cannot use Techniques at all. Can be HUnters or RAngers. Androids are always aware of nearby traps and can even set their own. Health Points (HP) recovers over time.
- Hunters -- While all the classes can collectively be called "Hunters," in this case, it means a focus on melee attacks. Hunters are excellent close-range, and can generally take a hit while in the thick of things. Can use Sabers, Daggers, Swords, Partisans, Slicers, Handguns, and Mechguns.
- Rangers -- Rangers are hunters with an emphasis on ranged combat. Not as strong or tough as Hunters, Rangers prefer to fight from a distance. Can use Sabers, Slicers, Handguns, Mechguns, Rifles, and Shots.
- Forces -- The spellcasters of the game. Like most Spellcasters, they're not very good up close. Can use Sabers, Slicers, Handguns, Mechguns, Canes, Rods, and Wands.
A character's true class is a name symbolizing their race, class, and gender:
- HUmar -- Hunter, Male Human
- HUnewearl -- Hunter, Female Newman
- HUcast -- Hunter, Male Android
- HUcaseal -- Hunter, Female Android (*)
- RAmar -- Ranger, Male Human
- RAmarl -- Ranger, Female Human (*)
- RAcast -- Ranger, Male Android
- RAcaseal -- Ranger, Female Android
- FOmar -- Force, Male Human (*)
- FOmarl -- Force, Female Human
- FOnewm -- Force, Male Newman
- FOnewearl -- Force, Female Newman
(*) These three classes did not exist until Episode I & II for Gamecube.
The pivotal plot character, Red Ring Rico, would be a 13th class, HUmarl (Hunter, Female Human), were she playable. A cheat code does exist to play as her, however.
Communication between players is achieved via a combination of direct 2-line text entry, Symbol Chat and Word Select. As PSO online servers support international co-operative play, the Symbol Chat and Word Select features encouraged players to attempt communication with others, regardless of language.
Symbol Chat allows the player to define a collection of symbols within a speech bubble, in order to convey an emotion or simple instruction. These symbols could then be invoked via a player-defined shortcut, or accessed via an in-game menu.
Word Select acts as a limited phrasebook, allowing sentences to be constructed through a hierarchy of menus. Once complete, a sentence is automatically translated into the configured language of other nearby players, thus bridging the language gap encountered in cross-cultural multiplayer games.
Keyboard users may also trigger a number of gestures during chats in the online lobby.
Modes of play
The first two episodes of PSO (excluding the original Dreamcast version prior to the Ver.2 revision disc) offered the following game modes:
- Story mode
This is the plot-driven bulk of the game, in which a player or group of players fight through a number of levels spread over four distinct areas. Each area has a boss at the end. Upon defeating the final boss, the credits roll and in some cases, an extra feature will be unlocked.
In addition to the Main story, players can also take Hunter's Guild sidequests, which explore the lives of Pioneer 2's citizens, and further delves into the backstory behind the game. The rewards for these sidequests are the Meseta(money) for the job, the chance to explore the stories behind Pioneer 2 and meet some intresting NPCs, the opportunity to get special weapons that can't be found anywhere else, and of course, whatever weapons, experience, and Meseta you can get while fighting on these missions.
- Challenge mode
Challenge mode resets all participants back to level 1, and requires the team to reach a predefined point in a series of specially-designed levels. Players may only die once, so teamwork is encouraged; if one player is disqualified, the entire team also fails the challenge.
- Battle mode
This is a deathmatch mode. In this mode, players are permitted to attack one another. A team may play the normal game while able to attack allies (as well as monsters) to create their rules, or they may play one of several predefined sets of battle rules.
Offline vs Online play
Despite the 'online' in the title, all games in the Phantasy Star Online series except Blue Burst may be played offline, allowing the player to develop their character between online sessions. Some versions (PSO Episodes I&II) also support split-screen offline multiplayer modes.
A third chapter in the PSO saga, Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution was released for the Nintendo GameCube. The battle system in this episode differs from that of first two episodes, and reverts to the traditional turn-based battles common in games such as the Final Fantasy series and originally popularized as a major video game genre by Dragon Quest. However, the turn-based battles are presented in the form of a dice/trading card game similar to Yu-Gi-Oh! or the [[Pok�mon]] trading card game.
Episode III includes the same monsters and characters of episodes I and II.
- Phantasy Star Online Network Trial Edition (Dreamcast) 2000 (Japan)
- Phantasy Star Online (Dreamcast) 2000 (Japan) / 2001 (USA and Europe)
- Phantasy Star Online Ver.2 (Dreamcast) 2001 (Japan and USA) / 2002 (Europe)
- Phantasy Star Online (Windows) 2001 (Japan) / 2002 (rest of South-East Asia)
- Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II Trial Edition (GameCube) 2002 (Japan)
- Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II (GameCube) 2002 (Japan and USA) / 2003 (Europe)
- Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II Version "1.1" (GameCube) 2002 (Japan)
- Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II (Xbox) 2003 (worldwide)
- Phantasy Star Online Episode III C.A.R.D. Revolution Trial Edition (GameCube) 2003 (Japan)
- Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II Plus (GameCube) 2003 (Japan) / 2004 (USA)
- Phantasy Star Online Episode III C.A.R.D. Revolution (GameCube) 2003 (Japan) / 2004 (USA and Europe)
- Phantasy Star Online Blue Burst (Windows) 2004 (Japan)