Phantasy Star Zero Updated Hands-On

We get an updated look at the game Sega is calling a successor to Phantasy Star Online.


Phantasy Star Zero

As a role-playing game, there are worse reputations you could earn than being referred to as a "direct successor to Phantasy Star Online." The revolutionary console online RPG on the Dreamcast holds a special place in many gamers' hearts to this day, so it's probably no surprise that expectations are high for the upcoming Phantasy Star Zero on the DS. We first saw the game at least year's Tokyo Game Show, and today at TGS 2009 we got another glimpse at what to expect from the game.

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The PSO trappings are apparent right away in Zero--from similar races like humans, Newmans, and Casts, to a similar art style that's full of heavily armored androids and supercute combatants. In addition, Phantasy Star Zero will be playable online with up to three other players. Even better, you won't be region-locked, so your teammates might hail from all around the world.

Despite its multiplayer accessibility, there's a single-player game at the heart of this game--three separate storylines for each of the races in the game. Producers told us that each storyline features different settings and situations and will require around 20 hours to complete--bringing the single-player gameplay experience of Zero in at somewhere around 60 hours. Playing single-player missions will earn you tons of gear (more on that in a bit) but will also allow you access to the 20 to 25 multiplayer quests that you can tackle with other players.

In our brief time with the game, we played as a low-level Cast--a ranged weapon specialist. We played in a group of three and took on a few simple quests that mainly involved killing lots of space worms and the like. We had two attacks available to us--a light attack by pressing the A button and heavy attack with the Y button--and for an even stronger attack we could hold the Y button and charge our weapon. In a nod to action games, you can execute a leaping roll by pressing the B button, good for quickly getting out of an enemy's way.

Though we faced only a few weaker enemies in our time with the game, loot was plentiful. The developers behind the game have taken into consideration the rampant loot ninjas from PSO and made sure that drops in Zero will allow everyone to get in on the fun. So if you find a chest that drops six items, each player will have six individual items that will drop only for them.

A multiplayer game at its heart, Zero is also counting on the ability of players to work together in combat. To that end, the developers have introduced the concept of chaining attacks to defeat more powerful enemies. Chaining attacks requires individual team members to execute three-hit combos in succession with their teammates--doing so will build up a chain that causes extra damage to an enemy. In addition, there's a quick chat system reminiscent of the DS's Pictochat system that will let players communicate with one another by drawing or writing on the lower screen and sharing with other players with a tap of the "send" button.

Phantasy Star Zero is due for release later this year. Stay tuned for more on the game in the coming weeks.

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