Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Played Lately: Phantasy Star Portable

  • If you read my Top Five post about console RPGs, you saw that two of the games on the list were Phantasy Star and Phantasy Star Online. Ever since my brother and I played the first game on the Sega Master System together, mapping the 3D dungeons on graph paper, flying from planet to planet to kill new and exotic creatures, I was hooked. Phantasy Star Online was the reason I bought a Dreamcast. And now Phantasy Star Portable was the reason for me to buy a PSP.

  • I've resisted buying a PSP because, well, I was afraid I'd play it for a week then stuff it into a drawer somewhere and never see it again. Eventually my avarice got the better of me (that and a whole lot of Best Buy gift cards) and I got myself a PSP-3001 and a copy of PSP. Hmm, PSP on PSP. Those abbreviations don't really work all that well together. And no, I didn't wait for the PSP Go! It looks stupid and has a stupid name.

  • Phantasy Star Portable will feel familiar for anyone who has played PSO or especially PSU. In fact, PSP is a portable version of Phantasy Star Universe. To get it to fit on a UMD (or maybe to speed things up, all game lobbies are menu driven. Of course, what's the point of a lobby if there are no online players to watch you run around? Also, cutscenes have been cut down to static images with text balloons. Again, not a major change. I actually prefer skipping through the text if I'm reading faster than the characters can talk. Plus, you don't have to watch a lot of weak emoting from the characters.

  • The heart of the game is unchanged though. Adventures take place in room-and-corridor style mission areas. Monster spawn and you hit them until the exit unlocks and you can move to the next room. At the end of the mission, a boss creature comes out and you do more of the same, only they have more hit points. I'm describing it kind of dryly because some people will find it that way. It is a 3D Diablo clone in every way you would imagine. For some, that will get old fast. But for someone like me, leveling up, getting better gear, and improving your game can be addicting.

  • Speaking of leveling and gearing up, PSPortable feels a lot easier than PSU ever did. And I don't mean the game has been dumbed down. Instead, Sonic Team has freed up the game since they're not collecting a monthly fee. Experience comes quickly (I've reached level 40 with, um, 20 hours played. Yow.) and there are plentiful gear drops. There are also achievements that reward gear and your partner machine is fully evolved when you start the game. Yes, it's a huge indictment of the subscription model, but let's skip over that for now.

  • If you have been a fan of the series, I have no problem recommending Phantasy Star Portable.

  • © 2009 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.
    If you're reading this on a site other than Bullet Points, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. I lost my damn mind to PSO. I played it for months on the Dreamcast. Then when it came out on the Gamecube, I promptly went out an bought a Gamecube and played it all the way to the cap again. I consider the definitive version to have been PSO:BB on the PC. It had a third world, and the stories in the first two worlds were expanded to the point that they made sense. Unfortunately, I was pretty much done with PSO by the time I tried it...only played for a month or so.

    PSU was an enormous disappointment to me. My main gripe was equipment barely ever dropped from mobs. They actually expected you to either save up meseta to buy weapons in stores or mess around with their craptastic lottery style crafting system to get weapon upgrades. That's no Diablo clone!

    The system where you could explode your best weapons while trying to upgrade them was also a pet peeve. If they had simply stuck to the same loot and upgrade system as PSO, Sonic Team could have had a real winner on their hands. The class system and the environments were certainly different enough from PSO that it would have been entertaining to play through.

  2. @ Yeebo - I have to agree with you there. That's why I'm glad they changed so much for this. There is no failure for grinder upgrades now, there's no crafting, and monsters are loot pinatas. Of course, it's only multiplayer over WiFi, but at least they fixed all that stupidity.