Despite knowing that Phantasy Star Online 2 would be coming to the West next year, I still couldn’t help giving the Japanese version a try (which was made even more tempting by the partial English translation patch recently released). The original PSO remains my favorite online game of all time; no way could I wait until 2013 for a taste of the true sequel to that title (sorry Phantasy Star Universe).
After downloading, patching, installing the English-language patch, and overcoming some errors (some advice that could potentially save you a headache: when logging in, make sure your Sega ID is written in lower-case; for all other errors check out PSO-World’s helpful FAQ), I was ready to play.
The first 10 minutes of the game brought back a flood of nostalgia. From the title screen music to selecting a ship to the character creation filled with those amazing PSO-style designs, I was back in love. I created my character, a Newman Ranger named Draculina, and was off… to the tutorial.
I skipped through the story segments (saving that for the English release) and began playing around to get a feel for which control scheme I preferred. I started with a controller, just because that’s how I’m used to playing PSO, and it was as solid as you would expect. But after trying out the new keyboard and mouse controls, I couldn’t go back. Aiming and camera control was so seamless with this WASD setup that the game just felt incredible (the easy double-key-taps to dodge in different directions and easily reachable item selection via the number keys didn’t hurt either).
Through the tutorial, you are accompanied by a companion (a fellow rookie Hunter I presume) and receive incoming radio transmissions that show you the ropes of dodging, jumping(!) and item/arts usage. The tutorial is light on combat, but what I did see felt like PSO, only many times more agile, dynamic, and smooth.
The tutorial is mercifully short and overall pretty inoffensive. It ends with a bit of combat (and loot!) and then you’re brought back to the ship for some more story.
After a series of (skippable) cutscenes, you are given free reign of the ship and what I assume is the central shopping/mission hub.
This is where I made myself log off; though not necessarily because I wanted to. In fact, even as I write this, I’m kind of wishing I was back on the ship, exploring what it had to offer before setting off on adventures, meeting new friends and companions in the process. But that will have to wait until next year for me, once the official English version is released.
Just from the short time I spent playing it, I can say that Phantasy Star Online 2 is a beautiful game that makes improvements to nearly every aspect of its already addicting and rewarding foundation. This could very well be the PSO sequel myself and countless other fans have been wishing for this past decade.
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