Phantasy Star Online
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|Phantasy Star Online|
|Release date(s)||Sega Dreamcast
Phantasy Star Online
Multiplayer online RPG
|Mode(s)||Single player, multiplayer|
|Media/distribution||GD-ROM, CD-ROM, DVD, GameCube Optical Disc|
Phantasy Star Online (Japanese: ファンタシースターオンライン Hepburn: Fantashī sutā Onrain ) is a series of online multiplayer action RPG video games released by Sega. It is a subset of Sega's Phantasy Star series of games that began in 1987.
The PSO series began with the release of Phantasy Star Online on the Dreamcast in 2000, and was followed in 2001 by Phantasy Star Online ver. 2, also initially released for the Dreamcast and later ported to Microsoft Windows. In 2002, Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II was released for the Nintendo GameCube and Microsoft Xbox. Subsequently, Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution was released for the GameCube in 2003, using gameplay mechanics that were different from the preceding titles. Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst, a port of the Xbox version of Episode I & II with the addition of a new Episode IV, was released for Microsoft Windows in 2004 through digital distribution. Phantasy Star Online 2 was released in Japan for Windows in July 2012, and released for the iOS and Android in late 2012 and is due to be released for the PlayStation Vita in 2013.
With the exception of Episode III, the PSO games are hack and slash role-playing games in which the player slays monsters, levels up, buys new equipment, etc. The PSO games differ from earlier Phantasy Star titles by offering a real-time – rather than turn-based – approach to combat, seamlessly integrating this with exploration and plot developments.
Development of Phantasy Star Online began after the completion of Sonic Adventure. Sega's Chairman Isao Okawa had a strong belief that internet gaming would come to be important, and the company's Sonic Team division was instructed to develop an online title. As there was no precedent for online gaming on console, the developers looked to Blizzard's PC RPG Diablo for inspiration on the game's mechanics. During development, the game was initially known as The Third World and had a vague sci-fi theme, before art director Satoshi Sakai produced a piece of concept art featuring a dragon and the decision was made to link it to the Phantasy Star series.
Endless warring on the homeworld of Coral is so devastating to the environment, it becomes uninhabitable. The Alliance of Nations bands together to plan a mass exodus to another planet, eventually deciding on Ragol. They then construct and launch the first of the colonization vessels, Pioneer 1. Hearing favorable results, they follow it with a second vessel, Pioneer 2. When Pioneer 2 arrives, however, they witness an enormous explosion on Ragol's surface and find that the colony's entire population has apparently vanished.
Episode 1 
When the citizens on Pioneer 2 observe the explosion on Ragol, the Principal sends down a team of Hunters - the player characters - to the surface to investigate what happened. The investigation takes them through a forest, which is teeming with native animals (such as wolves), then to the base of the "Dome" that Pioneer 1's inhabitants lived in. Eventually, the hunters enter the dome and find a dragon. Once the hunters defeat the dragon, they enter a series of caves which go below the Dome, filled with heavily mutated lifeforms. At the end of the caves, the hunters defeat "De Rol Le", a large mutant that was infected by Dark Falz cells and by the scientists of Pioneer 1. "De Rol Le" had escaped from the pioneer 1's lab via a sewer system into the rest of the world. "De Rol Le" is responsible for mutating the wildlife in the forests into the wildlife found in the caves by poisoning and infecting the wildlife with its tentacles. At the end of the caves the hunters delve deeper into the planet, to an automated mining complex, which is filled with machines that attack the hunters on sight. After battling through the levels of the mine, the hunters defeat "Vol Opt", a sentient Artificial Intelligence that corrupted and took over the machines in the mines. At the end of the mines, the hunters find an entrance to the ruins of an ancient, living spaceship. Inside the spaceship, the hunters combat slightly demonic lifeforms. Throughout the entire game the hunters follow the story of Red Ring Rico, a hunter from Pioneer 1 that had followed the same path previously and left various messages of advice. Rico had found the source of the monsters that had destroyed the colony on Ragol, only to be devoured by Dark Falz, a godlike entity which the players defeat in the final battle of the episode, which was the end of the game's single-player mode in the original Dreamcast version.
Episode 2 
Episode 2 takes place after the ancient spaceship is discovered. The Chief of the Government Lab of Pioneer 2 asks the hunters to go down to Ragol and investigate a secret laboratory that had recently been discovered on Gal Da Val Island. Before leaving on the mission, however, the player characters are required to complete a pair of training simulations. The first simulates a maze of ruins, the second a space station, and both stages feature enemies based on those seen in Episode 1.
Once the training is complete, the hunters are sent to the planet's surface with the task of finding the security terminals that grant access to the facility. The search is broken up into three stages: a seaside region, a mountain region, and a jungle region, in no particular order. Along the way, the hunters come across a number of data terminals, which contain details about the new enemy creatures that they are fighting as well as several entries by Heathcliff Flowen. A military commander from the Pioneer 1 colony, Heathcliff, was injured while fighting alongside Rico and had apparently become infected by the life form that had turned the local wildlife into monsters. Believing himself to be dying, he admitted his body to the custody of one Dr. Osto for research purposes.
Having deactivated the security terminals, the hunters finally manage to get inside and begin investigating the facility, which is home to its own automated security system as well as a new set of monsters. The investigation turns up more of Heathcliff's entries, including more details on the events that led to the colony's destruction. Rather than warning anybody about the hazard the life form posed, Dr. Osto used samples from Heathcliff's wound to create mutant creatures and other biological weapons, eventually merging Heathcliff's body with an artificial intelligence and allowing it to be consumed by the wound. The result became Olga Flow, the final monster encountered in the game.
Players choose one of three classes - Hunter, Ranger or Force. Hunters are adept with close-range weapons such as sabers, two-handed swords, dual daggers, halberds, and are more suited for up-close and personal confrontations. Rangers are best at ranged combat and excel with weapons such as pistols, rifles, shotguns, and machine guns. Forces are the magic class of the game and are able to learn a variety of attack and support techniques.
There are three races in Phantasy Star Online: Human, Newman (bio-engineered 'elves'), and CASTs (androids). Each type of race have advantages and disadvantages, such as CASTs being physically stronger than the other two races, but unable to use techs (magic). Gender choice is also a factor, which slightly affects stats and can affect the types of techniques able to be learned.
Offline mode 
In Offline mode, players fight through a number of levels spread over four distinct areas. Each area has a boss at the end. The four areas are (in order) the forest, the caves, the mines, and the ruins. Upon defeating the final boss, Dark Falz, the credits roll and in some cases, an extra feature will be unlocked.
In addition to the main story, players can also take Hunters' Guild sidequests, which explore the lives of Pioneer 2's citizens and further delve into the backstory of the game. The rewards for these sidequests include a payment of meseta for the job, the chance to explore the stories behind Pioneer 2's NPC residents, the opportunity to obtain special weapons that can't be found anywhere else (such as the Soul Eater and Akiko's Frying Pan), and whatever weapons, experience, and meseta one can get while fighting on these missions.
In Phantasy Star Online, normal mode is available to play at four different difficulty levels. Normal is available from the start, while Hard, Very Hard and Ultimate become available once Dark Falz has been defeated on the previous difficulty. Ultimate mode, however, was not included in the Version 1 release of PSO on Dreamcast.
Online mode 
For online gameplay, instead of having the final boss be defeated in order to select a higher difficulty, there is a specific minimum experience level required to join or create a game. For Hard mode, it is level 20. For Very Hard mode, it is level 40. And for Ultimate, the minimum level requirement is 80.
In Blue Burst, the game's main story is broken down into separate missions, accessed via a special desk in the Principals Office or Lab. Each area of the game is divided into three or four missions that must be completed for the story to progress. Items such as weapons and techniques are awarded after certain missions are completed. Other players are able to join the mission at any time, even if the mission is in progress or finished. The final mission in each area is a standard run through the level's areas to the boss battle, essentially 'clearing' the area and unlocking the next one.
Challenge mode 
Challenge mode sets all participants to a set level with set equipment at the beginning of each mission, lasting only until the end of the mission, and requires the team to reach a predefined goal in a series of specially designed levels that are modified versions of areas seen in normal mode. The aim is to complete the missions in the shortest time possible. New level objects can include laser barriers, buttons, and so on, and sometimes strategically placed enemies/types of enemies. If anyone on the team dies, then the challenge is immediately terminated and the team is returned to the Hunter's Guild, so teamwork is essential if the levels are to be completed successfully. Everyone starts with a 'Scape Doll' revival item in their inventory, enabling them to die once without consequence (the harder the stage, the more scape dolls one receives). Once all stages have been completed, players are given a rank based on their total time, with "S rank" being the best. If they achieve this in online mode, players are awarded rare weapons which can be customized and named. Challenge mode is available for Episodes 1 and 2.
Battle mode 
This is a deathmatch mode. In this mode, players are permitted to attack each other. A team may play while being able to attack each other and monsters to fulfill their goals, or they may play one of several predefined sets of battle rules, including goals of meseta, points, or time limitations.
1-Player mode 
1-Player mode allows Blue Burst players to play the offline mode online, complete with Episode I & II's side story quests. Two official 1-player quests are available for the Blue Burst-exclusive Episode 4.
A number of gestures can be performed by holding down the Alt (alternate) key and pressing certain letter, number, or function keys. Holding down the Shift key at the same time allows players to perform the gestures of the opposite sex, but only while they are in any of the online lobby areas.
Communication system 
Communication between players is achieved via a combination of direct 2-line text entry, Symbol Chat, Word Select, and/or by keyboard (optional.) As PSO servers support international co-operative play, the Symbol Chat and Word Select features encourage players to attempt communication with others regardless of language. Symbol Chat allows the player to define a collection of symbols within a speech bubble, in order to convey an emotion or simple instruction. These symbols can be used by the press of a key, or accessed via an in-game menu. Word Select acts as a limited phrasebook, allowing sentences to be constructed through a hierarchy of menus. Once complete, a sentence is automatically translated into the configured language of other nearby players, thus bridging the language gap encountered in cross-cultural multiplayer games.
Phantasy Star Online ver. 2 is a video game that was released for Dreamcast and PC on July 6, 2001 in Japan, on September 24, 2001 in North America and on March 1, 2002 in Europe. This version features battle mode allowing other members to battle one another, a new difficulty titled "Ultimate Mode", a new soccer game within the lobby, and allowing Players to reach a maximum level of 200. Official servers have since been taken offline.
A Nintendo GameCube and Xbox version titled Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II was released in 2002. An online role-playing video game, its focus is online gameplay with a strong offline storyline, offering diverse online and offline gameplay. Offline mode is available for single player and multiplayer. Multiplayer split-screen mode can be played with up to four players. Playing online on Xbox required an active Xbox Live account. An Xbox Live account saved onto the system was also required in order to play offline. However, it did not need to be active for offline play. Official servers have since been taken offline, as well as the original Xbox Live server, meaning one can no longer make an Xbox Live account to play the game offline.
An upgraded version of the Nintendo Gamecube version titled Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II Plus was released for the Nintendo GameCube on November 27, 2003 in Japan and on September 15, 2004 in North America. This version added various quests to Offline Mode that were originally available exclusively to Online Mode, while also fixing certain bugs and exploits that could be used in the previous release, such as being able duplicate various items from one's inventory.
Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II was later ported to Microsoft Windows titled Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst and was released on July 15, 2004 in Japan, June 23, 2005 in North America and Europe. Blue Burst features a new episode titled Episode IV along with new enemies, maps, and items, in addition to those included with previous episodes. Blue Burst also features improvements in controls and graphics of the previous version.
|Phantasy Star Online||Dreamcast||December 21, 2000 (Japan), January 29, 2001 (North America), February 23, 2001 (Europe)|
|Phantasy Star Online Ver. 2||Dreamcast||June 6, 2001 (Japan), September 24, 2001 (North America), March 1, 2002 (Europe)|
|Phantasy Star Online||Microsoft Windows||December 20, 2001 (Japan), 2002 (Asia)|
|Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II (ver 1.0)||Nintendo GameCube||September 12, 2002 (Japan)2|
|Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II (ver 1.1)||Nintendo GameCube||October 29, 2002 (North America), November 2002 (Japan)2, March 7, 2003 (Europe), March 14, 2003 (Sweden)|
|Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II||Xbox||Q1 2003 (Japan), April 15, 2003 (North America), May 23, 2003 (Europe)|
|Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II Plus||Nintendo GameCube||November 27, 2003 (Japan), September 15, 2004 (North America)|
|Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst||Microsoft Windows||July 15, 2004 (Japan), June 23, 2005 (North America/Europe)|
|Phantasy Star Online||89.87%||89 of 100|
|Phantasy Star Online Ver.2||83.96%||80 of 100|
|Episode I & II||81.80%||85 of 100|
|Episode III:C.A.R.D. Revolution||74.03%||71 of 100|
The game was number 21 on 1UP's 'The Greatest Games of Their Time' list, making it the highest ranking RPG on that list. It has an aggregrated score of 89.87% on the Gamerankings website. IGN gave it a 9.3 out of 10, Eurogamer a 9 and GameSpot an 8.2, also out of 10. In Japan, Famitsu magazine scored the original Dreamcast version of the game a 37 out of 40, and gave the GameCube re-release a 35 out of 40. The game's graphics were praised, with IGN stating that "This is among the best games, visually, across all platforms. There's really nothing that compares to the visual quality of PSO." GameSpot stated: "The main draw of the game is the ability to get online, hook up with three other players in one of the game's many lobbies, and take on the planet Ragol as a team. Obviously, this is where the game shines." 1UP likened aspects of Phantasy Star Online to Diablo, but described Phantasy Star Online as more of "a reinvention of an established PC adventure concept into something perfectly suited for the tastes and demands of console gamers."
Hiroshi Matsuyama, president of CyberConnect2 and developer of the .hack series, cited Phantasy Star Online as an influence for the MMORPG world of .hack. 1UP.com ranked the game at #3 in its list of "15 Games Ahead of Their Time," due to its introduction of online gaming to consoles and for pushing console gamers "to dial up with the Dreamcast to play online and to experience a new style of play."
1UP also included Phantasy Star Online in their list of five "Essential Newcomers" of the decade, describing it as one of "five revolutionary new games" of the past 10 years, for its impact in taking "consoles online" and defining "small-scale multiplayer RPGs." It was the first console game to bring MMO gaming to consoles on a smaller-scale, paving the way for larger-scale MMORPG efforts such as Final Fantasy XI. The small-scale template established by Phantasy Star Online was later copied by Capcom's Monster Hunter series, which in turn influenced every major Japanese RPG franchise, including Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Phantasy Star Online also gave rise to "an entire pantheon of multiplayer dungeon crawlers that continue to dominate the Japanese sales charts." More generally, the game was responsible for making "both online gaming and the concept of fee-based services a reality for consoles," paving the way for the online gaming services later provided by all three of the seventh-generation consoles.
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