Phinally: Phantasy Star Online 2 Journeying West

I think the main lesson games aim to teach us is that - whether past, present, future, alternate universe, or space - there will always be spiders.

I have no idea what to expect from Phantasy Star Online 2. The original sort-of-Diablo-ish monster mash delighted a bright-eyed, bushy tailed (I’ve since had that surgically removed) version of me during the Dreamcast days, but times have changed – especially in MMOtopia. Even so, for better or worse, many of PSO’s longtime staples still seem to be in place here, so we’re looking at randomized dungeons, combo-based combat, and heaps of sci-fi-themed loot. I will, however, soon have the chance to render a verdict without revealing to Japan that their infants can out-speak a college-educated American. Yep: Sega’s finally seen fit to peg Phantasy Star Online 2 with an “early 2013” release in the US and Europe. There’s a mystifyingly parkour-packed trailer after the break.

Now I really want an MMO with blindingly fast-paced parkour combat. That could actually be really, really cool. Sadly, Phantasy Star Online 2 isn’t it. Here – via some kindly soul on YouTube – is what Sega’s clear evidence that it’ll never win a spelling bee actually looks like.

So then, no crazy twist pop-shove-its into atmospheric re-entry, but it’s actually not looking half-bad, if you ask me. I don’t think any other modern MMOs have air juggle combos, so it’s a brave new world. I shall continue to watch it from afar – until it comes out, at which point I’ll play it from a-close. Is anyone else vaguely, semi-optimistically interested?


  1. CommCain says:

    I watched the Giant Bomb coverage on this game and it looks really exciting, more of an lobby-based ARPG than a fully fledged MMO but still cool. Looking forward to this.

    • Telzis says:

      So it’s basically sci-fi Vindictus?

      • trjp says:

        If you never played the original PSO – BOY did you miss out.

        Not sure you could ever get that back now but Vindictus is similar, if more permitting of single player progression (near impossible in PSO unless you are King Grinder).

        • Telzis says:

          I haven’t played PSO, unfortunately. You’re right regarding Vindictus, I soloed most of the missions in Vindictus and being in a party didn’t seem to add anything beyond confusion. It also became incredibly repetitive and grindy after about level 10.

        • Universal Quitter says:

          If anyone wants to try the original game(s), they are many free servers with downloadable clients. I can personally vouch that the unfortunately named SCHTHACK PSOBB client did not inundate my hard-drive with spyware and other nasties, at least nothing Microsoft Security Essentials picked up, but you do have to download their client.

          I think the game is awesome, but I played it when it first came out. It is very sparse compared to anything you’ve probably ever played online, but it has action-based combat (gasp!) instead of stupid WoW-style combat. But, of course, Your Mileage May Vary. I still play it from time to time.

          I’m interested to see what the new one can do.

    • Suits says:

      Yeah Jeff Gerstmann and Brad Shoemaker did a Quick Look of the Japanese version a few weeks ago and it has some interesting ideas like image chat and it does have a manual aim mode.

  2. EPICTHEFAIL says:

    Well, that trailer just removed any interest I may have had in this game. Can someone please explain to me how this is not exactly like every Final Fantasy game ever? Speaking from the perspective of someone who has never touched a JRPG, this looks incredibly uninspiring. They are not even trying not to copy a certain FF7 character.

    • CobraLad says:

      Who? Cait Sith? Cid?

    • Salt says:

      It’s not exactly like every FF game ever in the sense that the game’s mechanics are completely different.

      It does indeed feature “3d anime” style characters, but so does a significant proportion of modern Japanese games. It’s more deeply embedded in the culture of games than simply being a case of copying FFVII characters – it’s possible to be a thin male using a sword without being a Cloud clone.

    • elevown says:

      Beyond typical japanese art style I see little similarities to FF- certainly no character clones. And no matter what they look like, they often play totaly different. You lost any right to critique jrpgs when you admitted never having played one.

    • Flint says:

      Not even every Final Fantasy game is exactly like every other Final Fantasy game.

    • trjp says:

      Are you saying you’re the person who’s never touched a JRPG – because FF and PS are fairly different in the way they work – in the same way that Gears of War and Call of Duty are.

      Of course they’re both FPSes and if you don’t like FPSes, neither will change your mind – and if you don’t like JRPGs what the fuck are you reading a topic about them for?? :)

      • Gandaf007 says:

        Gears of War isn’t a first person shooter.

        • Miltrivd says:

          His point exactly.

          The guy has not played JRPGs, has not played FF games, and yet critiques ‘similarities’ in a game he also doesn’t know. I’m pretty amazed he got replies at all, since it was pretty much an empty post void of any argument or reason.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      How it’s not like every Final Fantasy game:

      #1 reason: Phantasy Star is space opera, with elements of cyberpunk. FFs 1-5 were straight swords & sorcery with some vaguely “magic-technology” elements like airships and one trip to the moon. FF6 was pure steampunk crossed with (spoilers, but you probably know this already) post-apocalyptic. FF7 was mid to late 20th century Modern Industrial with a few sparse elements of sci fi and tons of pseudo-science pretending to be magic. FF8 was a war drama crossed with a love story set in a very modern-esque world with one area that (spoilers!) had futuristic tech. FF9 was back to straight swords & sorcery. FF10 was tropical post-apocalyptic dark age, with a giant creature inhibiting cultural and technological progress but with many pseudo-scientific and magical things surviving from pre-apoc culture. FF11 and 14 are High Fantasy. FF12 is High Renaissance war drama crossed with swords & sorcery and pseudo-scientific “magic-technology”. FF13 is space opera with just two planets and heavy elements of superhero stories. FF13-2 is time travel drama.

      So yeah. Phantasy Star Online 2 and FF13 are technically of similar genres. But if you can’t see that the rest of the FF series is completely different, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

      #2 reason: The battle system in PSO2 looks like it’s based on fighting games and Eastern Action RPGs. Most of the Final Fantasy RPGs have been turn based, or influenced by Western MMOS. Final Fantasy may technically be from Japan, but it wears it’s Western influences on it’s sleeve. Phantasy Star goes for the Anime influences to distinguish itself from FF.

    • Vagrant says:

      I didn’t play much PSO1, but the structure is like Guild Wars (which I also didn’t play much of) or Diablo. Hub town, get quest, start instanced mission w/ friends to complete quest. Search for random drops in combat / chests. Combat is an action game with leveling up, but I can’t think of a good comparison right now.

    • Galcius says:

      Eeerm. You might as well ask how Diablo is any different from Skyrim. They’re different genres for a start. PSO is action-RPG, a sort of 3rd person Diablo with Anime styling. Final Fantasy is a turned based RPG.

    • Daoler says:

      Oh yeah? Well I fail to see how Half-Life is any different from Call Of Duty.

  3. xephyris says:

    There is indeed no parkour in the game. The combat is competent but not as deep as games like Bayonetta or even more casual action games such as Rygar or God of War.

    Also the cost of items in the cash shop is also somewhat steep. “Core” features like player housing (‘my room’) and the auction house (‘my shop’) cost 1300 yen for thirty days of use.

    I’m hoping it gets better but it is SEGA, so I’m not holding my breath.

    • trjp says:

      There is no game on EARTH where the combat is as ‘deep’ as Bayonetta – in fact I doubt there are 3 people on earth who are close to even remotely grasping the combat in that gem of a title :)

      • Wedge says:

        *cough*God Hand*cough* Same developers though.

      • Rankith says:

        Oh man, I know what I’m doing when I get home now. Never did beat the last few level in ultimate climax mode.

  4. Bahoxu says:

    To be fair, that gameplay-video looks like its either a tutorial or early in the game, with the half-empty hotbars and such.

    But no, i’m not very optimistic about this.

    • roxahris says:

      link to
      Here, this is a somewhat more exciting video – of the second real boss battle. This monster, the Caterdra’n, is pretty tough the first few times you fight it. But by smashing its tail, whacking it’s head, or beating it’s soft inside sections, you can deal a great bit of damage to it.
      There are a number of things that aren’t in this video. If a Ranger manages to shoot one of those weak sections with their Weak Bullet ability (which is pretty tough, when it moves around so much – good thing they can go into an over-the-shoulder camera), you can do a huge amount of damage to it by aiming your attacks at that one spot. (Of course, it only lasts a short while.) A Force with any sort of Barta (i.e. magical icy photon attacks, also a technique) can also freeze it for a few moments, allowing people to target it much easier – and will do extra damage, too, because it’s weak against ice. If their timing’s right, they can cast a whirlwind of ice up while it’s trying to coil around them, and thereby hit it several times. All together, if people combine their efforts, they can be defeated relatively quickly.
      The later bosses ramp things up a bit from there. But, well, YouTube seems to be kinda lacking in exciting-looking gameplay videos that are decipherable to people who don’t know how the game works.

  5. Anthile says:

    I’ve already stated Anthile’s Law in the past which describes how exploding barrels and spiders are the eternal constants of video games.

  6. Hoaxfish says:

    I don’t think any other modern MMOs have air juggle combos

    I think Dragonica does, though it is a 2.5D hack&slash platformer (3D graphics, movement into/out-of foreground/background) similar to Maple Story so it’s a question as to how modern it is.

    • Miltrivd says:

      It has a sequel (same developers if I recall correctly) that’s full 3D but same concept, instanced stages and dungeons with hub cities and roads connecting them. Dragon Nest I think it’s called.

      • xephyris says:

        Dragon Nest is very, very good.

        I did not realise that the developers were the same, although come to think of it the intentionally campy enemy and boss design are very similar indeed.

  7. Miltrivd says:

    I’ve been waiting for ages for an action-based MMO. RaiderZ failed, Firefall is on track but with long ways to go, GW seems really good, but doesn’t convince me. I’m eagerly waiting for Planetside 2 (blasted beta keys go too fast on Twitter). I had abandoned hope of PSO2 to come this part of the globe, so for once I’m excited about this kind of news.

    • trjp says:

      Tera called and asked you to ignore it’s pedophilic pretensions and notice that it’s an Action-based MMO

      • Miltrivd says:

        Oh sorry, yeah, the aesthetics are a bit too focused on teenagers and I rule out monthly pays altogether. That’s why TSW is not considered either. Too bad no one else seems to like GW2 financial model.

  8. Dominic White says:

    RPS comment thread full of miserable gits? Check. Some guy going ‘Too anime, so it’s just like them Final Fantasies’? Yep. You guys are terribly predictable.

    PSO2 is a good game. A lot of folks have played the beta, and it’s a really solid hack n’ slash action RPG (you know, like Diablo, but with good combat?) with some clever ideas like larger dungeon areas where you can bump into other parties of players, and random encounters that can range from small waves of monsters to rare, high-level ‘variant’ bosses just casually dropping in out of the blue to pick a fight.

    It has some Monster Hunter DNA in there. But most importantly, it feels like PSO. It feels like a sequel, and not a faint imitation like Phantasy Star Universe.

    • Vagrant says:

      Oooh that’s the game I’m reminded when I think of PSO that I forgot about. Combat in Monster Hunter is a blatant copy of PSO.

  9. Drake Sigar says:

    I must have played the first one with my brothers for like a year. Just when you think we’d finished with it, we’d go back again.

    • trjp says:

      It never ends – even PSOv2 didn’t dent it (although having PSOv2 working on your Dreamcast was the ultimate in cool, back-in-the-day).

    • Galcius says:

      I probably lost about 2 years of my life playing this with a mate from school.

      I still miss my Inferno Bazooka wielding Humar Force. I probably still have her on a Dreamcast memory card somewhere…

  10. stache says:

    Having played the Japanese beta and subsequent recent release, I can say that the game successfully strikes that difficult balance between accessible and rewarding. Gameplay is simple enough- most of your moves are done with the left and right mouse buttons- but anyone willing to go beyond “push button, hit enemy” will find a satisfying amount of depth. Melee-based hunters can mix and match their special moves to create combos, switching things up to match the situation; gun-toting rangers can toggle a FPS-style viewpoint at any time, allowing pinpoint targeting of enemy weak spots; and forces- the game’s mages- have a wide variety of spells, all of which benefit from good timing and proper aim (the FPS viewpoint can be used by any class).

    Randomly generated areas keep things interesting, but the real innovation is in multi-party areas. Here, your group can run into other groups doing the same area. The game will throw different things at you depending on the situation; even bosses can show up out of nowhere, sometimes duking it out amongst themselves with you in the middle! There’s nothing quite like running towards a stage’s boss only to encounter a different party struggling to kill the bosses of two entirely different stages.

    The game was designed from the ground up with keyboard and mouse in mind; it runs beautifully that way- good news for anyone who ever played the PSO PC port and found it uncomfortable. Anyone who wants to use a gamepad can plug one in and have it work well too.

    And for Mr. Final Fantasy up there, PSO2 is far different from any of the Final Fantasies. Unless you think an isometric viewpoint makes Diablo and Planescape: Torment the same kind of game.

    • xephyris says:

      There are several niggly things about the combat:

      1. Due to the 1-2-3 combo step system, Hunters are forced into using skills sequentially instead of being able to perform special attacks at any time, severely limiting the ability to spontaneously react with them. Having a move that stuns enemies is no good if you cannot use it because you were at the wrong step of the combo at that time.

      2. Forces, however, are allowed to hotbar their special attacks and can use them when they want to, but cannot spontaneously react because currently techs are balanced in such a way that they absolutely have to be charged for a second and a half to be good.

      3. Fodder enemies do not synch up for every player, and as a result you are unable to interact with what your friends are doing; for example, it is difficult to have a friend launch an enemy so you can hit them in mid-air for a combo.

      • radishlaw says:

        Personally I would take desync to laggy combat any day of the week, due to an occasionally unstable connection most “action” games (MMO or otherwise) are unplayable for me, at least in PSO2 I can fight with the mob until the damage numbers come up.

  11. caddyB says:

    Tera seems to be better.

    • stache says:

      The nice thing about a free-to-play game is that you can try it out yourself and decide. Of course it’s all in Japanese right now, so you may want to wait for the English beta.

      • Dominic White says:

        The bad thing is that no matter how good the game is, it’s going to be impossible to have a coherent discussion about it around here without people chanting ‘PAY2WIN! PAY2WIN!’ despite it being a co-op game and there effectively being no ‘win’ state.

        • caddyB says:

          Such is the life of a free-to-player.

        • stache says:

          Since every persistently online game seems to be going the F2P route these days, I suppose people will eventually distinguish payment methods from gameplay. Eventually.

        • 13tales says:

          Agreed that the discussion needs to be a lot more nuanced. Honestly, my distaste for Free 2 Play has very little to do with the “Pay 2 Win” aspect (hell, I’m not much of a competitive multiplayer anyway) and more to do with the slightly seedy feeling they give off.

          I just want to pay for a game and then play it without the publisher constantly trying to sell me shit. F2P games are like an over-friendly religious person whom you know is always just waiting for an opening in the conversation to try and convert you. Or a friend who gets involved in a pyramid-selling scheme.

  12. Wedge says:

    Kind of sad that bosses seem to be a sort of generated random event thing. The scripted boss fights and the occasional puzzle elements to the random levels were two things I thought were great about PSO that I don’t see here. Of course the combat is a significant improvement off the clunky original game here.

    • Dominic White says:

      There’s scripted event and story boss fights. There’s also chances to encounter them randomly, and for rare or ‘out of depth’ bosses to turn up, occasionally.

  13. Kdansky says:

    I watched a long list of videos made by Maximillian (link to HUGE recommendation to watch his Assist Me series) about it. While he seemed to like it, I found about as interesting as watching paint dry. Before you complain: Two monitors. Was doing something else at the same time.

    I own PSO1 on the Gamecube, and have played it for many hours. It was good then. This seems to be a true successor (aka. carbon copy with better graphics), including the clunky combat.

  14. radishlaw says:

    What to add to what some of the posters said about the game:
    I have played for around 15 hours, to me the draw is the combat system; in other aspect it’s basically an action-oriented diablo game (difficulty, random generated dungeon, loot, skill tree).

    For the enemies it’s like monster hunter, with weak points on every enemy that you can exploit, and in some cases you can stand on parts the enemy, like the back of giant mammoths.
    The missions are on the grindy side but it at least has randomized events to keep it interesting.

    For classes you have a choice of melee(hunter), ranged(ranger), mage(cast), you can switch between classes without changing characters. For example hunters there is a rage-like system to empower your skills(photon arts), also the only class with blocking; and for rangers you can create weak points on enemies and lay traps.
    Personally I feel satisfied with the combat as you need full attention to clear stages quickly, but I understand it can be a bit boring for action game players with quick reflexes.

    The two things I worried the most about the western release is the cash shop and server. F2P worries a lot of people, especially since they locked player housing and player trading (can buy, not sell) in an attempt to combat RMT. For the servers, Sega upgraded the Japanese servers 3 times before fixing most of the lag issue back in Open Beta, I am afraid they may have similar problems by the US/Europe release and scare away the fans.

  15. SoggySilicon says:

    Lots of fond memories of PSO on the ye’ ole Dreamcast… remaining pleasantly optimistic for PSO2… F2P as long as the game is solid, seems acceptable considering that I would be purchasing multiple copies, and not having that initial expense gives a little wiggle room as to what something would mean in the context of already playing the game.

    Other than that, I always found the community of PSO as “remarkably” friendly… which is a nice change of pace from the scrounging of the beans in DayZ. That being said Phantasy Star in general have always had a colloquial sense of “honest” about it… never really thought of Sega ever trying to say it was something (as a brand) that is wasn’t… just a fun consistent series all around.