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Phantasy Star 0 Package Art
Action RPG

Phantasy Star 0

The Phantasy Star series has long showed more love to the online potential of Nintendo systems than anybody else –- including Nintendo. Phantasy Star Online was the only reason to hunt down a GameCube network adapter and Phantasy Star 0 is now one of the few titles that will make gamers want to slog through the horrifying mess Nintendo calls Friend Codes. If this were a typical action RPG then Phantasy Star 0 wouldn’t measure much above mediocrity, but sometimes multiplayer really can be a saving grace.

Starting out, gamers pick their species, gender and class. SEGA continues to attach needlessly complicated names to their races and classes but they ultimately boil down to rather standard RPG fare: races include humans, robots, and elves, while classes consist of melee fighters, ranged attackers and magic users. Phantasy Star 0 does a great job of differentiating each potential class by only allowing particular groups access to specific weapons while giving each race and class drastically different stats, forcing the player to adopt unique approaches to combat. Unfortunately the options for physically altering the character’s appearance is somewhat limited so there isn’t much of an opportunity to give characters a more personal touch.

Once the game proper gets rolling, Phantasy Star fans will once again feel right at home. A central town serves as a hub with access to a variety of fields where all of the combat, questing, and looting takes place. The town also plays host to the necessary shops and banks as well as the hunter’s guild, the location to pick up new quests. The single player mode presents a story to give all of this context and while it is presented fairly well thanks to the occasional anime cutscene and a fair bit of voice acting, the really isn’t too much there in terms of depth or interesting material. Most gamers will be more interested in the act of chopping up vicious monsters than the motivation for chopping up vicious monsters so the light story really is not that much of a problem.

Combat in Phantasy Star 0 does offer a few nice features: the various weapon types feel substantially different, timing based combo attacks are satisfying to pull off, and a handy evade button allows gamers to roll out of danger’s way. Unfortunately, those virtues are overshadowed by several problems. One example is the single player mode's AI allies. The story conveniently adds a party of relatively useless characters who contribute to the progression of events but offer little in terms of strategic contributions to battles.

Two other problems loom large in the game: the camera and the interface. First of all, but the only control the player has over the camera is the ability to center it behind their character by pressing the L button; it would be much better if the camera simply focused on the enemy currently being locked on to. As for the interface, navigating the menus to switch weapons is quite a chore and it is made all the worse by the absence of quick swap feature or the ability to pause the action while navigating the menu. Players are pretty much stuck with whatever weapon they have equipped when a battle begins because attempting to switch means leaving themselves undefended from potential attacks.

Luckily for Phantasy Star 0, a few key features make it better than the sum of its parts. First and foremost is the multiplayer, which single handedly eliminates several of the aforementioned problems. Human allies are smart enough to approach combats tactically and can even cover their friends who need to access the menus. Communication between friends is also handled well thanks to a Picto-Chat like application, but be warned, this is only for friends who are playing together; randomly matched players are limited to a handful of premade requests and demands. The other noteworthy feature is the sheer amount of loot waiting around every corner to reward the player. Pretty much every room in every area contains at least one chest filled with weapons and armor as well as several boxes with money and other useful items. Many items can also be used on the spot to upgrade weapons and armor as well as the MAG, a little stat boosting robot that floats over the character’s shoulder and can also unleash super powerful attacks on all nearby enemies from time to time. The multiplayer makes the looting all the better because it gives players a chance to show off their crazy new guns, swords, and armor.

Finally, it is hard to fault Phantasy Star 0 much when it comes to presentation. SEGA obviously worked hard at building the detailed 3D character models and environments and things actually hold together quite smoothly when the action picks up. Furthermore, the aforementioned cutscenes are done very well, though they do clash with the more frequent “talking heads” that provide most of the dialogue and story progression.

Phantasy Star 0 does have plenty of problems, with the troublesome camera and uninteresting and repetitive single player scenario standing out as the most damning. However, thanks to one of DS’s more solid online offerings and the very addictive nature of seeking newer and better loot, Phantasy Star 0 ultimately emerges as more than merely mediocre. So long as players have a good group of friends to play with and an insatiable desire to attain better equipment than those friends, gamers can enter into this world expecting an exceptionally good time.

final score 7.8/10

Staff Avatar Andy Hoover
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"There's SAND on my boots!"

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