The Phantasy Star series is one I missed the first time it came around, so when Sega released them again years later on the Gameboy Advance I went right out and bought it and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Since then I have not played any of the recent additions to the series, and there have been quite a few. From card battling to MMORPG’s Phantasy Star seems to have most basis covered so what can this game offer?
You start the game by designing your character using a pretty in depth system where you can customise everything about your character. First off you choose a race Beast, C.A.S.T, Human and Newman. Beasts are more powerful than the other races and Humans are pretty rounded so they are good at everything. The C.A.S.T’s are robots and are good at long range combat and the Newmans are a human created new race who have superior intelligence making them good with technical things.
Once you have chosen your race you then choose your sex and are taken to the character customisation screen. Here you can choose your head, face type, eye colours, hair colour (except C.A.S.T’s). Once you have selected this you move on to the body type, how in proportion they are, skin colours or metal colours. You then have to choose your characters speciality. The choice is between Hunter (high attack) Ranger (supporting attack) and Force (magic).
When you have all this decided you then move on to creating a secondary C.A.S.T that will aid you in battle. This is less customisable however and you are given a choice between 6 preset models all with different abilities. This is a very comprehensive system meaning there is no excuse for ending up with a shoddy looking character. If like me, you are a bit of a perfectionist this whole process could take a while and when you are happy with your character its time to begin the game.
The game is set in the same solar system as the previous games in the series, Gurhal.
There has been terrorist activity lately in Gurhal and your job is to investigate, find and kill the source. You are a new recruit in an organisation that guards the solar system, aptly named the GUARDIANS (are you noticing the caps lock love pattern forming here?). The GUARDIANS have saved this solar system a few times from an evil called SEED.
The start of the story see’s you receiving your first mission, in which you have to investigate the depths of the GUARDIAN headquarters. Joining you from the GUARDIANS to help you is Laia Martinez, your mentor and trainer and a new prototype C.A.S.T called Vivienne. Along the way you pick up various other people that are able to join your party and of course you always have your back up C.A.S.T that you created during character selection to help you through the tough times.
The game’s story is split up into missions, story missions are of course mandatory to progress and there are other missions which are a good opportunity to level up and raise your skills. These missions are a good thing because this game is actually quite difficult in places, I managed to die a fair few times in the opening dungeon. This game offers a challenge from the opening moments which makes this title interesting. Sega have chosen to tell the story with what I like to call ‘cardboard cut out conversations’. This means that there are very little cut scenes but instead it’s all told through conversation in a way similar to a lot of JRPG’S. If you have ever played Disgaea then you will know what I’m taking about. Because of this the game is pretty text heavy but I personally like a good amount of dialogue, as long as it’s clever and witty which luckily this game is.
All the characters have voice actors so it takes the strain off the eyes reading, and most of it is pretty good. During the story you meet many people who are able to help you in your missions, these people will give you a partner card. This means you can call on them at any time to put into a party of up to 4 people.
My one gripe about the game is how moving between areas has been done. Instead of the usual third person view of your character running through the locations talking to people, Sega have implemented a top down map system where you just move a symbol though a map and press X to talk to another symbol which then brings up the ‘cardboard cut out conversation’. I think that this takes away some of the depth as I find running around a fantasy world pretty enjoyable, I like to see a nice well designed world and feel pretty ripped off here.
The good news is though that the dungeons are all third person view. The mission dungeons are your typical RPG fare to be honest: go in, find your way to the end, kill everything in site, collect objects to progress and defeat a bad guy. It all looks very nice. The graphics in the dungeons are quite good but it does begin to feel a bit repetitive about halfway through the game.
The battle system is a real time one where you control your character, hacking and slashing with a combination of the Square button for standard strength attacks and the Triangle button for more powerful attacks. You have HP (hit points) and TP (technical points) bars and as you get hit, your health depletes and the more special moves you do the TP bar drains away. Never fear, you can replenish these bars with all manners of potions and lotions that you find scattered around the dungeons or as they are dropped when you defeat and enemy.
Potions are used in real time so you have to manically get away from a enemy and heal. This can prove a challenge as it’s all down to how quickly you can get into the menu and find that potion. The Circle button brings up an in battle quick menu where you have to allocate the items you want to use in battle. If you don’t allocate them, you can’t use them. In this menu you can allocate weapon combinations, so if you are fed up with using a sword, you can change to a dagger and a laser gun and then to an axe if you so wish.
All races have a compatibility chart with weapons, which are ranked. For example a Human is good with swords so it has an A rank, but isn’t very good with magic giving them a C rank. It is however possible to bring these ranks up but most of the time its best to just play to your characters advantages, but it is a good inclusion as it offers further customisation.
This game also includes a multiplayer version of the game where you and 3 friends (all with PSP’s and a copy of this game) can go through the story mode and fight as a foursome with the story being altered to accommodate this.
I had a lot of fun with this game and the PSP is lacking decent RPG games so I urge fans of the genre and the series to go and buy this game. It has a good story, not the strongest, but its keeps you interested. The graphics, music and characters are pleasing too and overall this is one of the PSP’s best games.
Phantasy Star: Portable (Reviewed on PlayStation Portable)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
The Phantasy Star series is one I missed the first time it came around, so when Sega released them again years later on the Gameboy Advance I went right out and bought it and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Since then I have not played any of the recent additions to the series, and there have been quite a few.