Phantasy Star Universe

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Note: Being a devout believer in online multiplayer at all of its forms, and a historically avid player of Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst, I'm only going to be reviewing the online sections of Phantasy Star Universe and Ambition of the Illuminus, and not the single player stories. If this is not what you're looking for, I would recommend browsing back.

!Warning! This piece is long. Roughly 4600 words long. If you don't like long reviews, or are feeling like light reading, save this one for another time. Also, I know it's long. Trust me, I wrote it.

Phantasy Star Universe (henceforth PSU) is the spirtual, although not direct, sequel to the very popular game Phantasy Star Online, which made it's debut on the SEGA Dreamcast, and subsequently spent later years on the PC, Gamecube, and X-Box. The game itself has changed with the times, which has the fans of the series clumped into two major camps, those being "Yay, change!" camp, and "Boo, change!" camp. Although talking on fans of the series would do little for this game review, so before I digress further, onto the review.

For the fans of the series, PSU is an interesting title, considering it took just about every functional element of PSO. Things the fans of the series have long since grown to love, and changed it in sometimes subtle, sometimes jarring ways. The funny thing is that it's difficult to define what changed for the better or worse, considering there are a very mixed bag of opinions floating around on it. The bottom-line is right here for fans: "If everything you loved about PSO ever changed, would you still like it?" If yes, then continue reading, it no, then go about and skip this title, and it's expansions, you aren't missing anything you're looking for here.

For those of you not so well-versed into PSO and it's rich history of cyber-punkery and dungeon crawling, let me fill you in.

Table of Contents:
Note: To search, use Ctrl + F, and then type in the text in {}.
Gameplay
  Index {PSU_gpi}
  Jobs and Races {PSU_gpj}
  Combat and Gameplay {PSU_gpc}
  Weapons and Combat {PSU_gpw}
  Gameplay Summary {PSU_gps}

Visual Experience {PSU_gfx}
  Graphics {PSU_gf1}
  Atmosphere {PSU_gf2}
  Visual Summary {PSU_gfs}

Music and Sound {PSU_msi}
  Music {PSU_msm}
  Sound {PSU_msv}
  Aural Summary {PSU_mss}

Replay Value {PSU_rp}

Misc. Praises and Complaints {PSU_mpc}
  Praises {PSU_MiP}
  Complaints {PSU_MiC}

Verdict {PSU_Verdict}

Gameplay

Index

{PSU_gpi}

PSU is the sequel to a cyber-punk dungeon crawler-esque (Not so Massively)MORPG that managed to keep it's roots in dungeon crawling, but still gives whole new worlds of dungeons instead of just cut-and-paste dungeons.

The gameplay centers around your standard MMORPG fair, which is make a character, pick what kinda class you wanna play, then grind around until you have enough skills to thoroughly enjoy what you're doing. Your play style resolves how the game is played. You can be in-your-face with just about any class or weapon set successfully (if not incredibly dangerously), and you can really play to your own strengths and weaknesses with the innate versatility of the game.

Jobs and Races

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The game gives you three major jobs: Hunter, Ranger, and Force. Hunters are for people who like to swing around big (laser) swords, tank, and generally do lots of melee style combat. Rangers are your ranged fighters, who deal primarily in guns, rifles, and ranged weaponry. Forces are your standard mage classes, just combined into both support/healer/buffer and nuker.

There are combination classes, that do a little from the three major categories, and more specific upgrades to each, all of which would take forever to explain, but safe to say there's a lot here for everyone, regardless of your style of play.

An interesting thing to note is this game treats job levels independent of character levels, so the job you pick has as much to do with your weapon selection as it does your stats. And changing jobs can render you incapable of using higher-level weapons and armor. Granted, these stat losses can be regained by picking the job again, but it also restricts which job you can use in the long run. So do some research before picking a job.

Outside of classes, you also have races. There are four of them. Human, which are your standard Jacks-of-All-Trade. Newmans which are magically inclined, therefore more likely to do more magical damage and have less HP/DEF. (So, elves.) Beasts, which are high HP and ATK power, which also have the special ability to temporarily turn into were-creatures that cannot be stunned and have the ability to very drastically augment their attack power at the expense of being able to use their weapons or skills. Lastly, there are CASTs, which are robots with high DEF and the special ability to summon large weapons, after taking enough damage, and spewing out high damage hits across an area, or fire a laser, or swat away all near-by enemies. The point of these races are to diversify, but are essentially about aesthetics and special abilities, which neither Humans nor Newmans have. Only play these if you like being different (because most will play Beast/CAST because of their abilities), or if you're going for a Force-esque class and really really want to deal a lot of magic damage.

Also, there's a pretty in-depth character customization part to this game. You adjust your weight, height, hair style and color, eye colors, skin/armor color, clothes/armor pieces, and even have the option to adjust all of this later on (for a small in-game fee). It's not necessary, but a neat little option I've always liked out of a game. Take it as you will.

Combat and Gameplay

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The big kicker for this title, and therefore what this review is really centered around, is the way you go about this. PSU is a real-time fighting action game. That's right, not turn/stat based fights, actual real-time combat. The only things stats decide is the strength of your hits, and whether or not an enemy will guard your attacks, or whether or not you will guard an enemy's attack. You're free to run, dodge, prance, or cast however else you see fit. If you see an enemy attacking, strafe out of the way instead of letting the computer decide who gets hit. It's a very unique system that really sets this game apart from its online brothers and sisters.

The gameplay itself revolves around exploring taking missions with set objectives while exploring the world, and potentially getting into fights with bosses that may or may not be familiar to PSO Veterans. The missions will usually run you through fields/caverns/space stations, fighting off elemental creatures that are native to the region and hostile. This has a tie-in with the main story of the game, which I could explain if I had gone through the single player campaign. Just know that there are bad things between point A and point B, and it's up to you to stop them if you plan on getting to Point B for any reason.

The combat system is very familiar to anyone who has played PSO, but is essentially a slightly slowed down version of a standard hack-and-slash. That being said, it's still a fast-paced action game set in an online world, which can certainly be your thing if you want it to be. Your character has access to a standard combo, which can be augmented with "Photon Arts," or skills that have special effects like fast-hitting combos, or knowing the enemies over/into the air or freezing/setting on fire/paralyzing them.

The largest issue with Photon Arts is that they are weapon-linked, which means you can only use different skills if you switch the one set to your weapon, or have multiple weapons of the same type. (More on this later.) Also, it's set to a PP, which is dependent on your weapon choice, and how often you use this weapon in combat without using any of the Photon Arts attached to it. That being said, it does increase the variety in gameplay, and encourages diversity even among two characters with the same class.

Weapons Combat

{PSU_gpw}

Let me move onto weapons. Each class has a list of weapons that he or she is capable of using, and they're generally divided into class-esque categories. There's the Hunter category, which falls primarily into the swords, knives, axes, spears, and very basic guns. There's Ranger, which is largely guns, rifles, shotguns, and dual-weilding the little guns and uzis. Then there's force, which is primarily staves and rods, but also a bow, whip, and card weapon.

Each weapon type has it's own set of skills, and fights differently than other, even similar, weapon types. The ones you pick are largely of aesthetic taste, so the damage and function balance is mostly fair, regardless of which weapon you choose. They all have perks and advantages. I'll divide them into subcategories.

Melee - Power

These weapons are those that only hit three times per combo. Their hits do an average double damage per hit than their more speedy counterparts, but lose out on the amount of hits per combo. Their Photon Arts generally have less hits and more power to them, and generally deal more damage on the whole and have a fairly small area of effect. They're not always fast, and not always useful, but they're almost always powerful. This is a good way to go if you really like to get the most bang for your buck. Although if it comes down to crowd control, your options are more limited in this category.

Melee - Speed

These are almost always weaker than their power counterparts, but usually have a bit more diversity to them. They usually do better for crowd control (on a stun-to-hit ratio), but will likely take you longer to kill most enemies. These really really fall short during boss battles, so if this is all you've got, make the most use of it by maximizing on your Photon Arts during the boss battle, throwing conservation to the wind. This is my style of play, so I'd heartily recommend it if you like going through with more speed than power.

Ranged - Small Arms

Small arms are low-damage, low cost guns. They can fire for extended periods when compared to their higher-caliber brothers, and recharge photon faster when not in use. The only problem is they very rarely have any stopping power. You cannot really stun an enemy with these, so you find yourself doing a lot of strafing and retreating when you're using these. The Photon Arts for these weapons always involves imbuing your weapon with an element, the possibility to add a negative status at the cost of a higher Photon cost per shot.

Ranged - Large Arms

These are high-damage, low rate-of-fire weapons that maximize on both damage and range. The only issue with these weapons is that they're largely un-intuitive for speed gameplay. Unlike their small-arms brothers, they cannot be used while moving. So you have to play more to range than strafing while using these. Normally not a problem, but they are very cumbersome when you do not have a tank, or the enemy manages to close in on you. They do have stopping power, though, so it's a little easier to keep an enemy at arm's length, even if you aren't moving.

Mage - Magic Skills

This is the section devoted to the weapons that have no physical attacks, but are have several slots to set magic to. This includes Rods and Staves, and generally has a very high level of Photon Points to the weapon. Rods have larger amounts of PP, but are two-handed, so you can only use those. Staves are one-handed, have less skill-setting slots, and less PP. The one-handedness allows you to equip an off-hand weapon, usually a small arms ranged weapon for physical combat, or a support unit for covering fire for another unit to allocate spells to. These all have their pros and cons, but safe to say they're similar in execution to Small Arms and Large Arms. Staves cast faster, but can cast less and enable for backup. Rods have more casting life per recharge, but take a little longer and slow you down a bit from spell-transition to spell-transition.

Mage - Physical Combat

As blasphemous as it sounds, Mages have the (admittedly limited) ability to use physical weapons in the field of battle. They range from a whip for lots of high-stunning, long-reaching, and low-damaging AoE. Cards for some ranged physical support, and bows for slow-fire, but high-damage ranged combat. These aren't suggested options, but they are available for a pinch and recommended to keep around in case it all goes south.

Gameplay Summary

{PSU_gps}

Overall, I think the point I'm trying to make is the game is well-rounded in options for players, and accommodates several play-styles and logical strategies. There's no clear "right way" and "wrong way" to do things, so you have a lot of room to wiggle. Although, it's pretty fast-paced and intense when you get into the heat of things. If you're expecting a click-and-walk-off gameplay style, then you're in the wrong title. The game demands a lot of input on the fly, so it often times feels more like you're playing offline than on. A very LAN-esque game to it, while still using the RPG stats and character design. So, MMOARPG?

The bosses are challenging while still fun, and the enemies are well-programmed enough to try to circle around you. Or strafe when you fire at them. Overall, they won't just stand around, or follow linear paths. They're not perfect, or even exceptional, but they make the effort, something I don't really see out of online games these days. Frankly, it's the show of effort on the coding's part that makes me so impressed with this title.

Complaints still shine through, though. As races, Beasts and CASTs do have an unfair advantage over Humans and Newmans, and prove to be a better selection regardless of class, except for base-stat damage, which is easily out-weighed by the instant doom that comes with turning to Beast Mode or using the SUV. It's not major enough to turn my away from my first, and highest-level, Human character, but enough to make me sad seeing other players of the same level doing much better due to skills that I don't even have access to.

On the weapon front, it does a good job of staying mostly balanced, but still weighs favor down on certain selections. The Sword, Saber, and Spear weapon-types have a noticeable damage advantage over the other hunter-esque weapons in terms of stats, but really doesn't make a world of difference when compared to a multi-hitter like knives, double sabers, or twin-sabers. Still, it's slightly disheartening to find you dislike a weapon play-style that's just plain better than all of the others.

Also, the game doesn't have a lot of appeal for someone who's topped off their level. If you have four characters at level 120, then you're pretty much out of things to do. The game doesn't have guilds or PvP, nor are the events numerous enough to do for any reason other than level-grinding (either or job, skill, or character). So once you reach the max, if you're happy with your job choice, then you're out of things to do. Although this may change in the future, for now, don't rush getting max level, otherwise you're running through the highlight of the game.

In conclusion, it's fun and fast-paced, and definitely steps out of the formula for online games. Certainly not perfect, but a shot at something new and different. It is a modernized PSO with some changes that may or may not be for the better (depending on personal taste), but manages to go forward without leaping back. It's fun enough to make a single player game out of it, something FF XII failed to do.

Gameplay Footnote: Since it's not really part of the game, but rather a side effect of being online, I hesitate to mention it. Although it does need to be said. The game is unforgiving on slow connections. If you don't have a steady broadband connection, then you probably shouldn't play this game. Otherwise you'll be fighting enemies on your screen, hitting but not dealing damage, and the inverse applied to you. Then as soon as you do catch up, bandwidth wise, all of those hits suddenly drop on you and the enemies like a ton of bricks.

Visual Experience

{PSU_gfx}

Graphics

{PSU_gf1}

Visually speaking, PSU is a pretty low-brow graphics for a modern title. The fact that you can run it fairly seamlessly on a PS2 is testament to that. Despite the relatively low-requirement nature of the game, it doesn't look all that bad. The scenery is lush and tropical, or murky and damp, or metal and inorganic, or alien and just plain weird depending on your locale. The overall theme, cyperpunk, maintains a pretty bright and laser-powered society well, but definitely doesn't drop the jaw or command the same high-def and graphical excellence that a game like Crysis or Fallout 3 would.

Atmosphere

{PSU_gf2}

The game is still cyber-punk and futuristic, and really conveys that message well without pounding the visual experience through your head. The scenery and decor really convey what they're supposed to, and manages to immerse you into their strange world of traditional dress and bright-cyber hybrid future. It's a fun atmosphere that does the job and still lets you admire the beauty in it. Granted it's still not perfect, and sometimes leaves quite a lot to be desired, but doesn't fall flat on it's face, and still looks good as an online game. It does it's job, and I don't think I would ask anything else of it.

The only complaint is it's all too bright sometimes. It's hard to impress the feeling of loss when the grass is always bright-greener on this side. Sometimes I don't feel like I'm in a cavern or a dark, musty hole in the ground, but rather a sound-stage designed to look mostly like it. It takes away from the immersion a bit. Although, this is only for scenery trails. Usually, I'm too caught up in combat and multi-tasking to notice.

Visuals Summary

{PSU_gfs}

PSU does a good job for what it's worth. It's not top-of-the-line, nor is it bottom-of-the-barrel. It finds a middle ground that's both comfortable and expressive, if not a little bit hiccup-ridden. It's high enough on the scale that you can't discount it, but seems so far withdrawn from anything of importance I hardly notice it unless I'm just sitting around in town looking at the landscapes. It could be better, but I wouldn't ask too much from it. It's stylish and present, but could probably use a bit of tweaking and detail focus. Overall, though, not bad.

Music and Sound

{PSU_msi}

Music

{PSU_msm}

The music does as it should, which is provide background for the scenery and atmosphere of a stage or event. As such, it's a sort of ambient, sort of trance soundtrack that changes just as drastically as the scenery without losing the overall theme.

It's an ambitious tracklist for what it's been given, and delivers adequately. It's just background music, though. Unlike Ragnarok Online or FlyFF which have invaded my casual listening time, PSU leaves me feeling like if I'm doing something other than playing the game, it's inadequate. I don't feel immersed by it alone, but when combined with the game does a par job.

So, no bonus points for being exceptional, but I'm not going to knock it for playing it safe. When you compare it to the rest of the game, which pushes several envelopes, it just feels like the attention here fell short. Background attention does not a notable game make.

Sound

{PSU_msv}

The sound is perhaps one of my favorite "little" things about the game. The laser weaponry and guns all sound the same flavor of cheesy sci-fi we've seen and heard before, but the voice-work and attention to tonal differences between the optional voice tracks is nice. I can audibly pick my characters' battle cries and attack noises in large parties, and I can hear the tone differentiations between myself and another human with a similar setup. Overall, I think that's kinda neat.

Although it loses some points for failing to have many voice clips. My characters' are all limited to about 5 or 6 different verbal noises when attacking, which sound very repetitive when you hear them during long play-sessions.

Aural Summary

{PSU_mss}

The game provides adequate, but not stellar sound. As stated above, it feels like the attention to this immersion-important part of the game was overlooked when you compare it to the gameplay changes that this entire experience underwent from any other MMO to this. Certainly not bad, and still very decent on it's own. But you take a decent man in a bad room and the man looks good. You put him in a good room, and he's out of place.

Much like that man, the audio experience could've been so much more, and fit the surroundings so much better.

Replay Value

{PSU_rp}

The game has a lot of side content available. There several missions, per planet, that open up new and interesting objects, weapons, armors, elements, mini-games, bosses, and all sorts of content you can miss by not branching yourself out.

The game has an item synthesis and customizable room feature, which allows you to use blue prints (called Synthesis Boards) to gather materials and build weapons and armor and items. This is a neat feature, and really let's you get down to customizing your very own set of weapons. It also has a weapon-upgrade system which allows you to upgrade (called Grinding) your weapons and armor to be better than it was before.

Outside of that, armor has slots where you can equip sub-items to increase various stats, or have ulterior uses like HP Regeneration and special skills (like the SUV weapons for CAST players).

There's also a "pet" of sorts called a Partner Machine that crafts items for you, can run a shop in your room for other players to purchase things from you, and join you in battle during missions when it's high enough level. This enables you to sort of pick and choose which style you want your partner machine to play, and could act as an instant-summon party member to work well with your personal play style.

That being said, I feel like after it's all said and done that this game should still have things for your high level players to do, but it's all more of the same. Certainly you can get other experiences by choosing different races, jobs, genders, but you won't really have the new feeling that comes with booting the game up for the first time. As I said, though, it's more of the same.

Granted, this may or may not be a bad thing. If you like the more of the same, then you're shopping in the right place. You're very likely to find a lot of fun style gameplay out of this game, regardless of how many times or ways you approach it.

Although, without PvP or Guild systems, and with the Partner Card system a little difficult to navigate, this game makes grouping up and playing with friends a little more taxing than it should. Definitely trying to pull the game away from it's MM title, making it more OARPG.

Still, it does what it does well, and is still fun no matter how you approach it. Still, it feels like it slipped, and dropped what amounts to the competitive edge that most other online games have.

Misc. Praises and Complaints

{PSU_mpc}

Praises

{PSU_MiP}

The game really does strike home the idea that fun gameplay and online RPGs shouldn't be mutually exclusive. I've never felt more involved than swatting an enemy around with a group of friends, then managing to get a killer combo in and swatting the enemy away in one beautiful fell swoop. The fact that I can do this online is strikingly fun. It's like those awesome moves in Devil May Cry or Dynasty Warriors you wish other people could see. Instead, they can experience in first-person in the middle of it. It's very cool.

It has some interesting dynamics that other games don't seem to explore. The fact that I can drop into First-Person view when using a gun is hilariously awesome. It makes those obnoxious flying enemies that much more passable because they don't just fly on an axis you can't touch. The fact that you can pivot around in the Y and Z axises is a favorable change from your normal MMO fair, especially when you realize you just made a fairly fun Third Person Hack-and-Slash into a kinda fun First-Person Shooter, which is interchangeable at will.

Complaints

{PSU_MiC}

Lack of PvP, Guilds, and even organized friend-lists makes me feel a little alienated by my massively multiplayer game. I should not have to come to terms with solitude on an MMO. This game does take a few steps to achieve that, though, and that's not good. Especially not because the fixes would probably be relatively easy.

PSU: AoI (Phantasy Star Universe: Ambitions of the Illuminus) versus PSU. There's a very sizable gap between the content in PSU and the content in AoI. After the release of AoI, the PSU players had content they suddenly couldn't access without upgrading. There was no patch for the non-AoI players, they just couldn't see the new sprite details, the new clothes, or rooms, or shops. Nor can they do the new missions.

This feels like a cheap trick to soap more money out of the user, made all the more difficult when you realize finding a copy of AoI is among the more difficult ventures considering how largely unpopular PSU is when compared to the other games that grace your local gaming outlets like WoW or Age of Conan.

Verdict

{PSU_Verdict}

Uh... I don't know. Even if you loved PSO, it's a very mixed bag of reviews for this. I personally love this game, despite it's intermittent flaws. My PSO friend who I spent countless hours playing PSO with on the Gamecube hated it. If you're into games like this, you might like it. If you aren't, you might anyway. If breaks the mold in enough ways, and conforms to it enough to not make things uncomfortable. It's really a personal taste thing.

The game has a lot of places where it can improve, but still hits home all of the places it needs to be adequate, and does so even at the lowest points. It's an odd game that leaves you feeling incomplete and well-worked at the same time.

The best Geiger Counter for this is to say try PSO. If you liked PSO's style, but think the execution could've been done better for a more modern audience, then you'll probably like PSU. If you think PSO was perfect the way it was, then this is a miss for you.

I'd say Buy It. It's a fun game that does more right than wrong, even if you make all of the wrong decisions.

Author's Note: At this point, I can tell I went a little overkill on this review. I'm not sure if the fact that it's 4550 words, or if it's that it took nearly 5 hours to completely write, but I certainly went a teensy bit overkill on this one.

Notably, this one would've been submitted to be a Guest Review had it not been so long. Maybe next time, when I'm feeling less verbose.

I might have to check it out, if only for the inclusion of butterfly swords xD

I loved PSO, but I've been hesitant about this one, because a lot of people have said the thing is still littered with bugs even after being out for quite a while.

erm....not to point out the obvious (maybe I've just missed it) but you neglect to mention the god awefuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuul single player campaign.

As a mmorpg it's pretty ace yep yep. [but then pso on the ol dreamcast was ace and taking that and updating the 19th century graphics isn't rocket science]

As a single player game it deserves to have every copy of the game burned, melted down into liquid goo and then flung at the terrible voice actors ^_^

Lvl 64 Klutz:
I might have to check it out, if only for the inclusion of butterfly swords xD

I loved PSO, but I've been hesitant about this one, because a lot of people have said the thing is still littered with bugs even after being out for quite a while.

Actually, it's not all that buggy anymore. Most of the bugs were minor things, too. If you've been dodging it because of bugs, then go find a copy, because I almost never run into problems. Those that I do run into are on account of my computer and my internet, not the game. Also, editted the hell out of that thing. It's a whole new review, so I'd suggest a re-read.

drkotaku:
Erm... Not to point out the obvious (maybe I've just missed it), but you neglected to mention the god awfuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuul single player campaign.

Although, as an MMORPG it's pretty ace, yep yep. [But, then PSO on the ol' Dreamcast was ace, taking that, and updating the 19th century graphics isn't rocket science.]

As a single player game, it deserves to have every copy of the game burned, melted down into liquid goo and then flung at the terrible voice actors ^_^

Actually, in the pre-face, I said I'm not going to be touching on the non-Network play. Frankly, I didn't care for what little of it I did play. I got PSU for the online mode, in the same way that I got PSO on the 'Cube for the four-player-capabilities. That's always why I don't touch on the story of the games, because I haven't gone through the story. Online play or bust, for me.

Although, I'm not sure the voice actors deserve that. They do hard work for what little pay they get. I wouldn't throw burning textbooks at teachers, so I wouldn't throw melted DVDs at voice actors. Well, it's been edited to reflect a little more, although none of which you seemed to want out of it.

EDIT
Also, does this review look good without pictures and captions, or should I add them? What do you guys think?

I have been tempted to get this, the local stores all seem to have neglected copies with that cute puppy dog look on their faces...

i only played single player and that it really broke in favor of magic users. i had a sword i could do 200 damage with then i used magic and got the lowest level spell and did 450 damage.

Eyclonus:
I have been tempted to get this, the local stores all seem to have neglected copies with that cute puppy dog look on their faces...

Yeah, pretty much. Your best bet is to find a store that gets new games but isn't really known as a place to go for new games. I picked up my copy that way, and it's also the only place I found the expansion. Optionally, there's also online shopping, which would probably be cheaper.

black lincon:
i only played single player and that it really broke in favor of magic users. i had a sword i could do 200 damage with then i used magic and got the lowest level spell and did 450 damage.

Okay, just for the sake of experiment, I decided to futz around online to see if this was the same case. My best character for this is my CAST Guntecher. Someone statistically designed by job to do better magic than melee, but by class to do better melee than magic.

With a full combo, including two timed hits, my saber, Durandal Replica, does 150, 200, 200. That's approximately 550 damage to the combo, not counting Photon Arts. I experimented a bit, and ended up managing to do 540 with Diga, the lowest level ground spell.

So, they're about the same in my experience, this experiment not diverting from that. Mages hit harder, but you can get way more hits in a combo than you can with any given spell. So this falls back on speed vs power. Personally I'll take speed, but they're both about the same.

Also, contrast that with weapon/armor/spell elements versus enemy elements, certain enemies situations, etc. Overall, I think I'm going to stick with my opinion that the balance is "functional, pretty good most times, but occasionally frustrating."

Is this game prone to Japanese Excel syndrome?

NewClassic:

Lvl 64 Klutz:
I might have to check it out, if only for the inclusion of butterfly swords xD

I loved PSO, but I've been hesitant about this one, because a lot of people have said the thing is still littered with bugs even after being out for quite a while.

Actually, it's not all that buggy anymore. Most of the bugs were minor things, too. If you've been dodging it because of bugs, then go find a copy, because I almost never run into problems. Those that I do run into are on account of my computer and my internet, not the game. Also, editted the hell out of that thing. It's a whole new review, so I'd suggest a re-read.

drkotaku:
Erm... Not to point out the obvious (maybe I've just missed it), but you neglected to mention the god awfuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuul single player campaign.

Although, as an MMORPG it's pretty ace, yep yep. [But, then PSO on the ol' Dreamcast was ace, taking that, and updating the 19th century graphics isn't rocket science.]

As a single player game, it deserves to have every copy of the game burned, melted down into liquid goo and then flung at the terrible voice actors ^_^

Actually, in the pre-face, I said I'm not going to be touching on the non-Network play. Frankly, I didn't care for what little of it I did play. I got PSU for the online mode, in the same way that I got PSO on the 'Cube for the four-player-capabilities. That's always why I don't touch on the story of the games, because I haven't gone through the story. Online play or bust, for me.

Although, I'm not sure the voice actors deserve that. They do hard work for what little pay they get. I wouldn't throw burning textbooks at teachers, so I wouldn't throw melted DVDs at voice actors. Well, it's been edited to reflect a little more, although none of which you seemed to want out of it.

EDIT
Also, does this review look good without pictures and captions, or should I add them? What do you guys think?

No but they get paid more than I do and give less of a monkeys uncle.

Eg, public radio people get paid squat and yet can voice act better than in psu.

(my bad mind for not noticing the online only part but I did preempt my screw up there so meh)

Also the pics were good leave them be.

I liked the original Phantasy Star Online and I still play it offline on my dreamcast...

If they didn't charge a subscription for xbox live, I might have picked this one up

Right. I'm going to have to be objective, if hypocritical, considering the fact that I wrote a 3,500-word review about BioShock. This review is very well-written and covers just about every conceivable thought that you could have about the game, but it is far too long, and what is more, I'm still not a fan of the rigid structure, even though you do things with it far better than many reviewers.

It was Gigantor who suggested that I shorten my reviews, and I'll try to tell some of my lessons learned from shortening them. Firstly, look at the entire Weapons Combat section. It's very well done, but I feel that it's rather superfluous to create a section for every single weapon type. It makes up a lot of the word count, whereas a shorter and more compact discussion of the combat could do the same job far more efficiently.

Secondly, I note that you give two or three sentences describing generic game concepts which you had discussed perfectly with the first sentence. An example follows:

PSU is a real-time fighting action game. That's right, not turn/stat based fights, actual real-time combat.

This could be rendered in a slightly shorter version as such:

PSU has a fully real-time combat system, without any turn- or stat-based fights.

Also, I think that the Sound and Visuals sections could essentially be distilled down to their summaries, with perhaps a few extra points scattered here and there.

I hope you don't think I'm being too hard, or particularly hypocritical, but I will note that I have noted a distinct improvement in my own reviewing style since I adopted a provisional word limit.

NewClassic:

black lincon:
i only played single player and that it really broke in favor of magic users. i had a sword i could do 200 damage with then i used magic and got the lowest level spell and did 450 damage.

Okay, just for the sake of experiment, I decided to futz around online to see if this was the same case. My best character for this is my CAST Guntecher. Someone statistically designed by job to do better magic than melee, but by class to do better melee than magic.

With a full combo, including two timed hits, my saber, Durandal Replica, does 150, 200, 200. That's approximately 550 damage to the combo, not counting Photon Arts. I experimented a bit, and ended up managing to do 540 with Diga, the lowest level ground spell.

So, they're about the same in my experience, this experiment not diverting from that. Mages hit harder, but you can get way more hits in a combo than you can with any given spell. So this falls back on speed vs power. Personally I'll take speed, but they're both about the same.

Also, contrast that with weapon/armor/spell elements versus enemy elements, certain enemies situations, etc. Overall, I think I'm going to stick with my opinion that the balance is "functional, pretty good most times, but occasionally frustrating."

one question did it take longer to do the 3 sword swings than the 1 diga spell. i mean if i can pull of 2 diga spells in the time you can pull of that one combo(maybe photon arts do more) then the spells would be more powerful. and if you have time try out some of the more powerful spells to see how they stack up or the more powerful weapons because i was more inclined to use the giant sword or a spear than a saber(can you tell its been like a year since I last played)

black lincon:
One question, did it take longer to do the 3 sword swings than the 1 Diga spell? I mean, if I can pull of 2 Diga spells in the time you can pull of that one combo, (maybe photon arts do more) then the spells would be more powerful. If you have time try out some of the more powerful spells to see how they stack up or the more powerful weapons because i was more inclined to use the giant sword or a spear than a saber(can you tell its been like a year since I last played)

Well, my character's a 66 FighGunner, so I can really use proper-scale spell-to-weapon, I just used what equivalents I had on my 44 Guntecher.

I suppose if I were looking for trying to do the most damage, it would be comparing the damage of a 120 ForteFighter Beast and a 120 Foretecher Newman.

Although to answer your question, each Diga cast takes about (with a staff, didn't try Rod) the same time as a combo and one hit on a second combo. So if you stack them, you could do about the same rate of damage, depending on what weapon the one or other is using, or whether or not you factor photons.

Here's the skinny, using an elemental weakness with a Rod, you're just as likely to do about as much damage as the elemental weakness with your standard equal-level Saber, assuming you're each taking about a minute's worth of attacks. That's why I say it's pretty balanced, because you can really be personal with your play-style. Also, it depends on the enemy. If you line up a clean shot, you can hit along the entire length of De Ragan (Dragon-style boss, oh-so-cleverly named) with the ice spell (whose name eludes me), or you can do 6 hits with an Ice-Element Double Saber. Depending on the accuracy of the hits, you'll likely do more with the Double Saber. The same would apply to a Sword. Now, depending on your ATK power, this could also apply to single-hitters like Spears or Sabers.

Conversely, if you're fighting a single or a group of small enemies, a Force will be able to take them all out faster than a Hunter wielding even the crowd-friendly Double Saber. It really varies from group to group, and player to player, but you can still be decently capable regardless of your class/race choice.

I'll try experimenting and asking around, and seeing what other people have to say. In my experience, though, they're about even. Some better than others, and certain situations working better with certain classes.

Also, it depends on the enemy. If you line up a clean shot, you can hit along the entire length of De Ragan (Dragon-style boss, oh-so-cleverly named) with the ice spell (whose name eludes me), or you can do 6 hits with an Ice-Element Double Saber.

Or you can pelt him with Ice Grenades, and hit every hitbox at once. Yay for grenades. (Also great against miniboss type enemies, if you have one or two Fortegunners with grenade launchers say hello to stunlock)

 

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