Phantasy Star Universe almost immediately feels dated, and the monthly fee is way too steep to justify, but at its core, it's still an enjoyable experience.
- Offers more of the same Phantasy Star Online-like gameplay.
- Monthly fee seems completely ridiculous
- gameplay can get very repetitive
- easy for other players to abuse weaknesses in the game's party system.
Well it certainly took them long enough, but Sega and Sonic Team have finally released a proper sequel to one of the first online console games, Phantasy Star Online. Released on the Dreamcast back in 2001, PSO was an action-focused role-playing game that allowed four players to join over a dial-up connection and stomp through dungeons with guns and swords blazing. It was popular because it was simple to understand but contained some real depth by offering a lot of weird, rare items that had players replaying the same four worlds over and over again with the hope that they'd find something crazy. It was also popular because it was free to play online. Updates were released that never really caught on because they were marginal updates that didn't really bring much to the game. They also never caught on because Sega started charging a monthly fee to play the game. Phantasy Star Universe is a proper, built-from-the-ground-up sequel to PSO--at least as far as its gameplay is concerned. It has evolved a fair amount, but not to the extent that you'd call it a modern game. Plus, the online isn't massively multiplayer in any sense of the word and comes with a $9.99 per month fee. Fans of PSO will probably like it, but parts of it feel so ancient that it's difficult to recommend to anyone else.
Regardless of how you play the game, Phantasy Star Universe is very straightforward. You set up missions on a satellite space station or one of three planets in the area, which really changes how the game looks and what creatures you'll face. The action remains the same: The game puts things in front of you, and you need to kill those things with one of your many weapons. When you wipe out every monster in an area, a keycard usually drops to let you open a locked gate and move on to the next room. And in that room, you'll shoot or stab even more creatures. This all usually ends with some sort of conflict with a larger boss monster, but none of the bosses in the game are very difficult to fight. Everything unfolds in real time. In fact, there's actually no way to pause the game, so you'll have to be careful about when you want to access your inventory. But the game gives you quick access to six items and six sets of equipped weapons, so switching on the fly or using items to heal yourself doesn't take much effort at all.
There are multiple types of weapons in the game, but the basic distinction is between guns, things that stab, and wands or rods. Some of these items only require one hand to use, which lets you keep one hand free for a pistol. You can hold down a button to switch between your main hand and off-hand weapons, which lets you shoot things as you close in on them and finish them off with a few swipes of your sword. But some weapon sets are two-handed, such as large, Final Fantasy-like swords, dual one-handed swords, dual daggers, dual pistols, shotguns, and larger rifles. Unlike Phantasy Star Online, each weapon doesn't have a light and heavy attack, so you won't just be limited to throwing out shots from guns three at a time. Instead, you can purchase special items called photon arts and attach them to your weapons. For things like the one-handed sword, you earn a more powerful attack that can stagger or knock down an enemy, opening him up for some free hits. For guns, you can purchase different elemental affinities. Ideally you'd like the element to run counter to the type of enemy you're facing: fire creatures don't like ice, light creatures don't like dark, and so on. But there's also a chance that fire bullets will set creatures ablaze, which will do extra damage over time. Ice shots can freeze, light shots can confuse, and so on. Spells are attached to rods, which can deal out damage or heal you and your associates. The catch is that all of these photon arts drain the photon energy in your weapon, and it only recharges automatically when you have it equipped. You can use items to replenish your supply more quickly. For example, most of the guns charge back up pretty quickly. So you'll usually have your special attacks at your disposal, but not so much that you can just abuse them constantly. And, not every character is able to use every single weapon.
The three character classes all have different specialties. The hunter gets all the good melee weaponry, the ranger is the best with guns, and the force can use the game's best spell, technics. In addition to your character's level, you also level up in your current character class by completing missions, which gets you access to higher ranked weapons in that class. If you want to switch things around, you can change classes at any time. You'll keep your current class level, but you'll lose the benefits of that class until you change back. The game's different races also have different stats that make them better suited for one class or another. Humans are the well-rounded class that can do it all, but they don't necessarily excel at anything. Newmans have pointy ears and are best suited for the force class. Casts are the game's robots, and all that robotic brain stuff makes them good at shooting things. And beasts are your up-close-and-dirty melee class, receiving a bonus nanoblast attack at later levels.
The creatures you face in PSU aren't very bright, but at least they move a lot faster than PSO's lumbering foes. Throughout the course of the game, you'll fight weird alien penguin-looking things, small dragons, infected indigenous beasts, ancient relics that have come to life, and a multitude of different robots and other angry machinery. The bosses in the game include larger, more devious monsters, such as dragons, two-headed dragons, robots, and so on. And most of their attack patterns are extremely predictable. Dodging enemy attacks is usually as simple as getting out of the way, but you can usually interrupt enemies because many of them wind up for a second or two before they attack. A couple of well-placed hits will usually knock them out of their attack animation. So you'll be able to take on more and more groups of tougher enemies all by yourself as you get better and better at facing foes and avoiding damage. During the early parts of the game, this will make playing the online game by yourself a viable, if lonely, tactic.
- Downloadable Game
- Player Reviews: 142
- Game Universe:
- Phantasy Star Collection (GBA),
- Phantasy Star Universe (PS2, XBOX, GC, PC, X360),
- Phantasy Star Universe: Ambition of the Illuminus (PS2, X360, PC),
- Phantasy Star II (GEN, X360, IP, PC),
- Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom (GEN, PC),
- Phantasy Star Portable 2 Infinity (PSP),
- Sega Ages: Phantasy Star IV (PS2),
- Phantasy Star Portable 2 (PSP),
- Phantasy Star Zero (DS),
- Sega Ages 2500 Series Vol. 17: Phantasy Star Generation:2 (PS2)
- Number of Players:
- Number of Online Players:
6 Players Online