E3 2002: Phantasy Star Online Xbox impressions

Sonic Team's online RPG comes to the Xbox with some notable enhancements.

Microsoft has Sega's online RPG Phantasy Star Online up and running in its booth on the E3 show floor. The game showed off some new enhancements that took advantage of the Xbox hardware. PSO was one of the key titles shown during Microsoft's Xbox Live presentation, and the game is currently slated to be available at the launch of the service this fall. Our time with the game, which marks the first time it has been shown in public, left us impressed with what it has to offer.

The demo on the show floor had us exploring the forests of Ragol, as seen in the beginning of the Dreamcast game. Graphically, the game looks very sharp and features some impressive effects, but it doesn't blow away the graphics seen in previous versions of the game. The character models feature clean detail and animate very smoothly. The same is true of the enemies you'll encounter in the game. The enemies also provided us with a pleasant surprise, as we encountered new rhinolike creatures that we'd never seen in the game before. However, the most notable feature of the game was its support of Microsoft's voice communicator. Veteran PSO players may be dismayed about the loss of typing and the reduced importance of emoticons, but there has been a nice addition to allow you to customize your virtual self. The voice masking we mentioned 2866625earlier had been implemented in the game and let you choose from one of four preset masks by touching a button. The effect could be switched on the fly and was a very cool feature.

Phantasy Star Online is currently slated to ship later this year and will be available at the launch of the Xbox Live service. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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