Phantasy Star Online I & II Plus
Addictive simplicity. *GS DESCRIPTION WRONG*
***FIRST OFF THE DESCRIPTION IS WRONG! THE DESCRIPTION GAMESTOP PROVIDES IS FOR EPISODE III, NOT I&II. EPISODE III HAS A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT GAMEPLAY MECHANIC***
Phantasy Star Online is a great example of a game that does what it does well. With no pretense or delusions of grandeur PSO delivers a solid and fun sci-fi rpg that will have you slaying Rag Rappys for months, possibly even years to come. As long as you have some friends to go with you.
The first thing you should know about PSO is that this is a simple game, but you are going to need a strategy guide for some very basic reasons. From the very start PSO looks forward and, as a result, begins preparing drops for you the moment you name your character. No, really, it does.
The game assigns a section ID to each character created and the ID you get is based on the name you enter. Since some IDs (this is why you want a guide of some sort) are better for certain types of characters you will likely spend a good deal of time renaming your character. The drops you will get are also dependent on your ID.
Creating a character is a fun process and the game provides some good customization choices as well as several different classes to play as. These range from melee to ranged to magic classes and depending if your are human like or andriod you will have access to different options.
You can choose a costume, hair style, hair color and size for you character among other options. You are then ready to enter the world. This is where the game really gets going, of course.
Once in the game world you will be in a massive ship that orbits the planet where the action takes place. The areas of the ship you can access are not that large and you will really only be here to accept quests and buy/sell items. At the start you will get a quick primer and then be free to do as you wish.
The story for PSO is it's biggest weakness and really does little to give you any reason to care about it. Essentially you have traveled to the planet as the second of two massive colony ships. Upon arriving you discover that things did not go so well for the first ship, but no one really knows why. The surface of the planets is full of nasty creatures and there seems to be some ancient evil or some such thing somewhere. Fans of the series will like that this is the earliest point in the story and helps to give some perspective on later events, others will find the story uninteresting and underdeveloped. The story is there, it is just basic and rarely feels important.
Fortunately the game gets it right in gameplay. The combat is largely basic but functions very well. You have a light attack and a strong attack which can be used in any combination for up to three hits if timed correctly. This is as basic as it gets but works well in combination with magic and traps.
Quests are available for those who wish to do them, but are largely unnecessary until you start hunting for rare drops. The quests themselves will net you cash for upgrading and buying equipment and also reveal some of the story as well as unlocking options for some of the legendary and rare weapons. Interestingly the story, while lackluster, can seem fairly interesting at times solely because of how the quests play out.
If you choose to forgo the quests you will be traveling to the surface and fighting baddies for no good reason. While this is usually a bad thing in games, it works well in PSO. You will find the challenge a bit steep at first and will slowly become stronger as you and your mag level up.
Your mag is a little creature/robot that hovers around you and performs powerful special attacks when your gauge is full. Rather than gaining EXP and advancing in level you grow your mag by feeding it items. The type of items you feed your mag depends on what type of mag you have as they evolve. Your section ID will also influence what type of mag you have and there are even special mags that are hard to get but have great stats. The stats of your mag also influence your character as well, and having a strong and well balanced mag is essential to a good character build.
The game reads your clock. At certain times of the day you have a better chance of getting rare drops from bosses and rare enemies are more likely to appear. Again, this depends on your section ID and you will need a good guide to help you out.
As you progress you will get access to new and better weapons and these weapons are really what makes PSO as great as it is. While you will have access to several different weapons types such as knives, short swords, massive swords, rifles, handguns, staves and the like, it is the special weapons that are the real prize. These storied weapons and tough to get but well worth the effort. Some of them are dropped by bosses, some of them are created from the body parts of your enemies and some can only be gained on the hardest difficulty. All of them are cool and unique weapons that you will feel hardcore for having.
Bringing a friend with you is a must. The game is fun when playing alone, but teaming up with a friend or two is really the way to play. There is a great team dynamic in play here since it is entirely co-op and helping each other get the job done is very satisfying.
In closing PSO is a great multiplayer game that really feels very different from anything else. For those who enjoy co-op and item hunting this is truly a great find.
Best of all the PSO versions!
To start, like the comment below mine says, GS's description is wrong, because this game HAS NO CARDS -- PSO: EPISODE III does. But this is a polished up version of the Dreamcast games, and moreover, this is the BEST of all versions of PSO, as it has episodes 1 and 2, with *Plus* being extra content (4 extra missions), and this has more rare item drops, and no bugs. Xbox's version of this (without the "Plus") is rendered useless, as one needs to be on XB Live to register the game, but they no longer support this game on XB live. So don't pick the XB version up, as it would only be a collector's ornament. However, I am solely into this game for single player offline mode, which this Gamecube version supports, and is how I am playing this all these years later (in 2013/2014) on the Gamecube. You can also play 4 player offline, via split screen. If you can find a copy of this, the 2nd rarest Gamecube game, then by all means snatch it up. The single player offline game is terrific, and will keep you busy for hours and hours. Similar to Diablo 2's game structure, this game tells its story by completing quests, and it is done masterfully so.