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Phantasy Star 0

Phantasy Star 0

Bengt is back to his old grinding ways as Phantasy Star 0 awakens his memories of Phantasy Star Online...

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I used to be an avid Phantasy Star Online (PSO) player back when Dreamcast was all the rage. To me the combination of communication, grinding, loot and a wonderfully designed gaming universe and the accessibility the console provided were what made it a very special experience for me back in 2001. I returned on Gamecube for a bit more fun, and I even enjoyed the card based third episode. Phantasy Star Universe, however, did not meet my expectations. Much of the simplicity and accessibility was gone, and the combat and design were also not what I had hoped for. Phantasy Star 0 is to a large extent a throwback to the early days of Phantasy Star Online on Dreamcast, the difference being that you play it on dual screens on a system that easily fits in your pocket.

The esthetics are reminiscent of Phantasy Star Online, from characters to environments, and weapons. The gameplay is also a throwback with the rhythmic tapping of normal, normal, heavy (attacks) being key to making the grind enjoyable. Because it is truly all about the grind. Gaining experience, killing monsters, collecting loot. And even if you can enjoy it alone, it really is meant as a co-operative experience. This is where the hardware, or perhaps rather the hardware manufacturers rules, limits the experience. If you have a bunch of friends who are interested in getting the game along with you, then you're in for a good time. If not, you're left having to search for someone to switch friend codes with on the net. And even if the Phantasy Star community is a decidedly friendly one, the accessibility of online gameplay is crippled.

My first character, Curtis, was a HuCAST, a CAST (Phantasy Star version of robots) and a hunter, which is the close range class. Great at dealing large amounts of damage with sabres and swords up close, but also able to use a limited range of guns. Casts are well suited for tank duty as they are sturdy and regenerate health. However, the don't have any tech abilities (Phantasy Star magic).

My second character, Druva (Swedish for grape), was a Fonewearl, a newman (Phantasy Star's equivalent of elves basically) and a force, which are basically the mage class. With weak defensive capabilities your best bet is to optimise the tech skills of this class and stay as far away from the monsters as you can.

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Humans are the most balanced race as they are sturdier than newmen, but are still capable of using limited techs. Humans come in all three classes, hunters, rangers and force, while newmen (hunters, force) and CASTs (hunters, rangers) are limited to two classes each. The balance is there from Phantasy Star Online and works tremendously well, and it should be noted that despite the differences all variations are versatile enough to be usable in single player although some may be more difficult than others.

Phantasy Star 0 looks lovely on the small screen of the Nintendo DS. The design is brilliant and the anime style cutscenes complements the rest of the art style tremendously well. The story in itself is nothing to write home about, but it's far less annoying than what we suffered through in Phantasy Star Universe. Everything is streamlined in terms of the mission hub and shopping. Very little to distract you from the grind.

And that's exactly what I like about Phantasy Star 0. The foundation it builds on is great, and its not trying to be anything else. This is a game where you hunt for items, level up and work together to take down bosses. Its not a great experience on your own as the partner AI and pathfinding are a bit crap, and the smaller areas or room make combat a little less tactical than in the original, but still you will be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable co-op experience on the Nintendo DS. A lot of that is down to nostalgia though, and if you haven't played Phantasy Star Online and you are unsure whether you will have friends to play the game with, then perhaps this game isn't for you.

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08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
+
Wonderful universe, lots of weapons and techniques, great graphics, no unnecessary diversions.
-
Singleplayer isn't great, the story is a bit weak (if you care), Nintendo's online system is a mess.
overall score
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Phantasy Star 0

REVIEW. Written by Bengt Lemne

Bengt is back to his old grinding ways as Phantasy Star 0 awakens his memories of Phantasy Star Online...



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