TGS 2002: Hands-onPhantasy Star Online Episode I & II

The Xbox version of PSO gets an upgrade.

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Microsoft has unveiled Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II for the Xbox. Previously, the game was scheduled to be a port of PSO Episode II for the Dreamcast, but now it will feature the same expanded content found in the GameCube version of the game.

Graphically, the game capably re-creates the GameCube game's look. The rich environments and detailed characters are all on hand and look great. We noticed a bit of slowdown during some of the more hectic moments of a boss fight, but other than that the game looked just fine.

The game's control setup works similarly to other versions of the game, but the Xbox controller's pressure-sensitive buttons may force some players to readjust their timing, as you really have to hit the buttons relatively hard to get anything to happen. Perhaps this will be tweaked before release. The biggest addition to the game above the content included in the new episode is the inclusion of voice chat support when the game is played on Xbox Live. As with all Xbox Live games, PSO will offer several different voice masks that players will be able to use while adventuring with friends. Though we weren't able to find out the exact number of voice masks that will be included in the game, we do know one of them is the robot voice--which is, of course, pretty much all you would ever want.

From the looks of what we played, PSO is going to be as addictive on the Xbox as it is on the Dreamcast and GameCube. While the game is slated to be the pack-in with the Xbox Live starter kit in Japan, it's doubtful US gamers will get that lucky. Exact pricing and release details for the US have yet to be finalized.

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