Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution Impressions

We take a look at the next Phantasy Star Online game for the GameCube at Tokyo Game Show 2003.

Sega's Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution seemed like a popular game at Tokyo Game Show 2003, if the lines of people waiting to play it were any indication. Actually, the lines weren't especially long, but those waiting in line were forced to wait for a while, since the game is a turn-based card battle game in which you summon creatures to fight on your behalf.

The Tokyo Game Show demo version of the game included only a single card-battle match, and did not allow us to explore or check any of the game's option menu settings. Yet each match seemed to take up the full 10 minutes allotted to each player, and in many cases, ended because the time limit had been reached, rather than by a decisive victory.

Phantasy Star Online III will have over 400 different cards that comprise four different categories: itmes, enemies, actions, and assists. Item cards include physical objects like weapons, which you can equip yourself with for battle. Enemy cards are used to summon creatures, which will fight in place of your character. Action cards give additional abilities to player characters, such as an increase their strength or defense. Assist cards weren't seen at the show, but they let you set traps for your enemies, or affect the outcome of some of the game's random dice rolls.

In the game, you can use choose to join either the "hunter" side or the "ark" side. Hunters have the ability to use item cards, but cannot use Enemy cards, while Arks can use enemy cards, but not item cards. Both sides can use the action and assist cards. Matches begin with a roll of the dice to determine who takes the first turn. While the game seems to have its own strategic nuances, each turn seems to consist of four general phases that are played through on either side until one player wins, or time runs out.

The first phase of a turn is the dice roll. Two dice are rolled, and the higher number determines your "ATK points," or how many times you can move during this turn. The lower number determines your "DEF points," or the level of defense you'll have against any subsequent attacks.

The second phase of a turn includes equipping items and summoning monsters. Depending on whether you chose to be a hunter or an ark, you can either equip yourself with item cards or summon creatures with summon cards. Different equipment and summons will cost varying amounts of ATK points--whether you can successfully equip an item or summon a creature depends on how many points you've rolled up.

The third phase of the turn lets you move your character (or monsters) and attack. Hunter characters and summoned monsters, can move one space per ATK point, then execute a normal attack by spending an additional ATK point per attack. You can also use action cards in this phase of your turn, and each of these has a specific ATK cost as well.

The fourth and final phase is the "draw and wait phase," at which point you can discard any unnecessary cards, then draw new ones from your deck. You then wait for your opponent's turn.

The demonstration version of the game ran with a random set of cards, but the final game will likely have a menu that will let you choose specific rules and settings. The game will also have an offline play mode, so that you can practice on your own and memorize your cards' abilities. Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution is scheduled for release on November 27 for the GameCube, at the retail price of 6,980 Yen in Japan.

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