Phantasy Star Portable Review

Phantasy Star is one of those classic names that is deeply connected with RPG history. Dating back a good 20 years to the Sega Master System, the first set of Phantasy Star games were traditional RPGs. In the transition to 3D, the series took an extremely interesting turn - into the MMO area.

Phantasy Star Online saw players playing in the same sci-fi fantasy universe, but this time banding into parties for four to take down everything from evil robots and aliens to gigantic dragons. This continued up until Phantasy Star Universe, and that’s where this game has its roots.

Phantasy Star Portable is directly based off Universe, and its storyline actually takes place directly after that title. The game has an all-new story mode with extra missions and a multiplayer mode that supports cooperative play for up to four players, as you would experience online.

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You start out by creating a character with use of the usual options you expect from character creation systems. You can choose from a number of faces, skin tones and so on and so forth, as well as choosing your race and sex. The creation options aren’t as interesting or fulfilling as in other RPGs, but in Phantasy Star your appearance is a lot less important.

You’ll then be thrown into the game’s admittedly lacklustre storyline. Here at RPGSite we love a good story, and while Phantasy Star Portable’s story is a serviceable expansion to the online title, the story and its presentation feels boring, simplistic and weak compared to other PSP RPGs such as Crisis Core or Disgaea.

That said, people looking at Phantasy Star should be used to this – the story has been barebones and the presentation simple at best ever since the series’ transition to the MMO model. As I said, the story is actually quite passable and on par with other mediocre RPG stories like Infinite Undiscovery, but sadly the presentation makes it feel even worse than it is.

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As well as creating a character’s look, you must choose their class and their specialties. Initially you’re given the choice of three, but the game diversifies with sub-classes and advanced classes later on. This portable title actually allows players to change classes at will, meaning you’re not locked into a class you dislike once you’ve started the game.

Once you’re in the main game, everything is much as it was in Phantasy Star Universe – kill things, take rewards from them, and level up some more. X picks things up, Square and Triangle perform attacks, Circle brings up the item menu, the left shoulder button centers the camera, and the right makes your character use his or her secondary weapon.

It’s an action-RPG setup, encouraging you to run into the thick of the action and start slicing at monsters with your weapon. The controls are intuitive, but once again the game lacks a targeting system, a huge issue for characters with long range weapons or magic, especially against small, fast foes.

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While it has its flaws, the most important thing of all is that it’s fun. The game is satisfying to play in the storyline, and is similar to Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles in the respect that it’s even better when it’s played with other people.

If there are no others around, you can recruit AI NPCs to join your cause. They’re not as clever as they could be, but they do the job and are a fair alternative, especially as Phantasy Star is more about combat than other team-based RPGs, meaning you can just get in and be supported by some powerful NPCs.

The graphics are fairly standard for the PSP, around the same as the original PS2 release of Phantasy Star Universe. The game has an impressive amount of character customisation, with plenty of options for you to choose from; meaning you and your multiplayer friends won’t look the same.

There’s occasional slowdown when there’s a lot going on at once, but other than that the game is graphically solid, with few graphics errors or bugs in sight. All the animations are smooth and pleasing to watch.

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Phantasy Star Portable is strange. It’s got plenty of issues, but they’re all small – none of them are absolutely annihilating and game-breaking. It’s also overall overage. Nothing about it is outstanding, but everything is ‘standard affair’ – things we’re used to.

However, past all the average areas of the game, it still has some fantastic music and pretty-looking graphics. Where the game really shines though is in its addictive, ‘must get a tiny bit more loot’ feeling that will be all-too familiar to MMO players.

Even though the game is overall average, you’ll find yourself unable to pull yourself away from it, going for one more quest time and time again until you realize in horror that it’s 3 or 4am. This we can’t ignore.

The game might well be average, but if it’s addictive and fun. That’s worth some points. Make that above average, and well worth a look for MMO fans looking for that addictive feeling on the move.

7
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