Phantasy Star Online 2 Import Preview

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After a rather successful Japanese release on both PC and Vita; Phantasy Star Online 2 (PS02) was all set to make it over to English regions as a Free2Play game to finally repay us in full after the rather mediocre Phantasy Star Universe that graced the PC, Xbox 360 and PC.

As a long term fan of the Phantasy Star Online series, the first game of which is still very heavily played and loved by fans being kept alive on private servers, I looked forward to writing a review of the game when it was set to come out earlier in March… except it didn’t!

The release date has come and gone with no word on what’s happening with the English release of the game. We know that Sega are making IOS and Android versions of the game and Tri Ace is making a brand new PS02 spin off game for the Vita in the same vein as the Phantasy Star Portable games for the PSP. But we don’t seem to be able to catch a break over here which is just a massive shame; let me tell you why.

Now PSO2 was originally created as a subscription MMORPG, in the same way both the original PSO and PSU games were. However, late in development the call came down to switch the game to a Free2Play model, but instead of making a range of changes the whole game was provided with no limitations. Of course micro transactions were added but Sega have managed to find the balance that strangely is so simple I wonder why so many other companies struggle; all paying items are cosmetic only! If you choose to buy something you’re only buying with the intention of making your character look cool, there’s no additional game play effects, so you’re also not penalised at all if you choose not to buy anything and just want to play the game.

‘But what about the game play’, I hear you ask?… well I’m sure someone has asked anyway. Much like the previous games PSO2 is an MMO with real time combat, but this has now been taken one step further as your characters are more mobile then ever with the ability to dash, roll and jump their way in and out of dangerous situations. This at times feels like a very simplified Devil May Cry which makes for massively fun battles, even more so when you’re in a giant team.

The core of the PSO online experience is having a small trustworthy team as opposed to giant sets of players pulled in to make up the numbers. You go as a team of 4 to complete missions and watch each others backs; on top of that you can also band with other teams for some special areas. Yet the game’s hubs are full of people to meet and chat, allowing you to recruit your own team or join someone else’s.

The online world of PSO2 really sets itself apart as well, with a stunning sci-fi aesthetic that looks amazing on its highest settings, full of colour and wonder. There is just as much green grass and trees as urban environments and it all feels so much nicer to look at compared to the darker colour pallets employed by other current MMOs.

As always you can see what makes the game great in the video above, showing off the wonder of the world from the Japanese version of the PC game. Hopefully its enough to get you interested in playing the game! There are English patches available if you want to dive into the Japanese game along with English communities that will welcome you, but I want the full experience and I want to have it here with my friends. So hopefully Sega will get around to finally releasing it here because as MMOs go, its a real contender!

David Ryatta