(http://www.sega.com/ps0/Phantasy Star Zero is the newest addition of action-RPG to Sega’s Phantasy Star series. This title can be compared to Phantasy Star Online, which had unfortunately lost its online play completely in the past few years. With this DS release of Phantasy Star Zero, series veterans are given a chance to relive the old days through Nintendo’s Wi-Fi connection. That said, Phantasy Star Zero is best enjoyed with a few friends, whether it’s over the net or using the wireless connection of the DS.

(http://www.sega.com/ps0/)  Phantasy Star Zero is the newest addition of action-RPG to Sega’s Phantasy Star series. This title can be compared to Phantasy Star Online, which had unfortunately lost its online play completely in the past few years. With this DS release of Phantasy Star Zero, series veterans are given a chance to relive the old days through Nintendo’s Wi-Fi connection. That said, Phantasy Star Zero is best enjoyed with a few friends, whether it’s over the net or using the wireless connection of the DS.

 

Presentation:

The game is set in an alternate world with the 3 races returning from Phantasy Star series. In this particular world, a great war broke out 2 centuries ago and nothing was recorded since that time. After that period known as the Great Blank, all that left is the ruins of a past civilization. The independent cities of the world try their best to recover what is to find of past knowledge, with great difficulties. The beginning varies slightly depending on the player’s character race, but eventually the player will end up joining the hunter guild of Dairon City. And it’s the player’s duty to clear out the unknown hostility residing in and near the ruins. Unlike its MMO predecessor, Phantasy Star Zero actually has a short main plot, which may be finished under 15 hours. Even so, it has a few plot twists before the end is reached. However, this is where the game really starts once the player gets through those first few hours of getting acquainted to the game’s charms.

           

Graphics:

Phantasy Star Zero is visually pleasing as far as a DS game goes, with plenty of details on the character models as well as the world. The dialogues and the few cutscene are handled anime-style. Though there’s no character portrait for the player character since there are quite a bit of character customization available, but of course that is not comparable to RPG titles available for the consoles or PC. As a common problem of action RPG especially for portables, the camera here is fairly imprecise and slow to respond. The auto-lock feature has a limited range and again, adjusts slowly. To make matter worse, enemies in mid to late game often zoom across the screen. By the time the camera finds the enemy, it may already be attacking or jumping off again. For what it’s worth, the camera becomes bearable after a few hours of adapting and practicing precise camera centering. The auto-lock helps in this regard by displaying target information on the bottom screen, if something is targeted at all.

 

Sounds:

The limited amount of tracks of Phantasy Star Zero are fitting and don’t draw attention away from the game. The battle tracks are especially engaging, with quality efforts put into the transitions between normal and battle themes. The sound effects and limited voice acting are naturally placed.

         

Gameplay:

At first, the game is perhaps more appealing to fans of the series as there’s no tutorial and hints are easily missed. Despite that, the basic mechanics to Phantasy Star Zero are fairly straightforward, as is the case with most other hack-and-slash action games. With the exception of its heavy and light attack combo, and that it requires timely inputs instead of button smashing. At the core, this title is quite similar to dungeon crawlers in many aspects. The main story is there to introduce the player to its seven game worlds where they will revisit hundreds of times for monsters, experience, and loots. But the revisits are kept relatively fresh each time thanks to its randomly generated area maps and drops, plus the few side quests refreshes the repetitiveness of the endless revisits.

 

Every other dungeon crawlers or MMORPGs feature heaps of useless finds in the form of undesired equipments. But there is a great use for those in Phantasy Star Zero like its predecessor, feeding the pet-like robotic entity called “mag”. They add to the player’s statistics and grow stronger by consuming items of all sorts, except other mags. Mags can even evolve into stronger forms when they reach certain level, gaining powerful photon blasts that can turn the tide of a battle.

 

Given its MMORPG-like qualities, the meat of this title is its online play modes. The player may choose to play with a random group of 1 to 3 players via free play, with friends using the friend codes, or play solo. Playing with others is pretty much necessary to survive the higher difficulty levels, which are more rewarding in terms of loots. On the other hand, playing solo online may be preferable to playing the offline modes with the NPCs, since their damage output is insignificant. And even with the limited AI commands, the NPCs don’t offer much more than being cannon fodders or simply blocking the view. Furthermore, the online modes offer a different set of quests with different rewards.

       

 

Innovation:

Phantasy Star Zero isn’t much in terms of innovation. Aside the few new weapon and character classes, it follows the addictive formula of its predecessors; which includes weapon and armor upgrade and customization as well as the aforementioned mag raising.

 

Longevity:

Besides its design to be a grind heavy, online-play focused RPG; Phatasy Star Zero offers plenty of replay value on and off line. The title system here works much like achievement systems found in many recent games, but here they actually award the player with valuable in-game items. To take it a step beyond, there are the comprehensive bestiary and item catalog for the collectors to fill. Besides the seven stages, the game unlocks a bonus challenge stage once the single player story is completed. And as mentioned before, playing through hard and super hard mode may net the player some rare items.

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