TGS 2008: Phantasy Star Zero Impressions

Sega's Phantasy Star franchise is finally making its way to the DS, and we've got the first peek straight from Sega's TGS stage show.

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TOKYO--It seemed like just a matter of time before Sega would make a Phantasy Star game for the Nintendo DS, and today, the game was finally announced. Titled Phantasy Star Zero, the game will be hitting Japan on December 25. To give details on the game and explain how its name came about, producer Satoshi Sakai appeared on stage at the 2008 Tokyo Game Show.

"With the decision to make a completely new Phantasy Star, we've started out with a new world view, storyline, and characters. We decided to give the game this name to symbolize that we're starting back from the roots again", said Sakai.

Sakai then showed off some gameplay to explain the new systems in Phantasy Star Zero. Communication has always been a big point in the series, and with the shift to the DS, the game takes advantage of the hardware's stylus with its new "Visual Chat" system. Rather than type messages to comrades, you'll be able to write and draw on the bottom screen much like Pictochat. It'll then appear on dialogue balloons in the main top screen where the game is played. The drawings can be recorded onto shortcuts, so you don't have to rush on your writings in the middle of battles. The game also allows you to copy other users, which will come convenient if you're not good at drawing.

Phantasy Star Zero takes place on two locations: the Earth and the Moon. You start off the game by creating your character out of three races (Newman, Human, Cast) and their three professions types. Sakai commented that there are a total of 14 different types of characters you can make. Similarly to previous Phantasy Star games, you can customize the look of your character using different body parts. Up to three characters can be saved.

Phantasy Star Zero will feature three gaming modes. Story mode allows you to enjoy the game alone. A demo showed a scene from the flourishing Dairon City, where the main character meets up with his/her teacher, Kai. The game plays in 3D like previous Phantasy Star installments, but the conversation scenes are in illustrated 2D graphics, and there are also anime clips in event scenes.

In wireless communication mode, you can play with three other friends close by and go on missions, communicating with each other using visual chat.

In Wi-Fi mode, you can select three ways to play online: friends play, free play, and single play. Friends play, as the name suggests, will allow you to type in friends codes and play with people you know; visual chat is supported. Free play lets you play with other users though matchmaking; but communication will be done through preset sentences rather than visual chat. Details weren't given on the single play.

In terms of battle, Phantasy Star Zero seems similar to previous installments albeit with some new additions. The game adopts the action palette system from Phantasy Star Online, and you can customize your own actions. As a new element, you can now dodge roll to quickly evade enemy attacks. There's also a charge attack, where you can hold on to your attack button before letting go to pull off powerful photon arts that consumes some photon points. Charging also works for technique moves.

According to Sakai, Phantasy Star Zero will have more than 300 weapons. This time, there will be shields that allow the player to defend against enemy attacks with the use of photon points. There's also a new weapon category called gun slash. As a hybrid weapon, it acts as a sword in close range and as a gun from a distance. Stay tuned for more on the game as it becomes available.

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