Sure. I’m like you: I’m balls deep into Tom Clancy(RIP buddy) The Division now. I’ve saved the same idiotic hostages, done the dark side, fought bosses with predictable paths, and close to main story capping my Agent with mods up the ying yang without wanting to shoot Faye Lau in the the next eye. The Division is a testament to that genre we now know as MMORPG. Destiny pulled a fast one with forced updating, but for now: The Division has solidified a well-balanced member of this family from my standpoint. But, I’ve seen something more addictive. A decade more addictive. Well, more than that. And surprisingly, it’s not even much of a “new title”. Especially from an old friend from the 6th generation: Phantasy Star Online. This is truly the Online RPG that time forgot.
During the rise and fall of the legendary console of yore, the 128-bit-steps-ahead Sega Dreamcast, came forth a Sega title that I held ever so dear to my heart. I laughed, I cried, and I even got mad at a family member over it. For a minute there, I thought that Shenmue was the only rollercoaster I needed for the emotions from Sega. Nope. Sonic Team, the guys behind Shining Force’s first run and of course, the blue hedgehog people went ga-ga for in the 90s. That game was Phantasy Star Online. After a good decade or so, I returned to a private server, and course, the love affair started again. Of course, the system is dead and gone because of its’ masters undoings of lack of third party support from both West and East, but the game lives on.
Phantasy Star Online
Phantasy Star Online was one of the first Online RPGs to exist on the console scene. It broke language barriers and was one of the first Online RPGs to sport a simplistic game system akin to action titles. The game took the Phantasy Star legacy set from its’ 4-part predecessor. Strip away the heavy story, add old enemies updated from their 16-bit era, and a promise that one of its’ ancient antagonists will make an appearance, 4 of your friends including yourself can run through 4 levels with multiple streams maps. Well, three or four variations. The story itself originally started with the Plaent Ragol being probed as a stoppage point for humanity’s new Earth. Pioneer Two’s Principal now charges you with the task of finding out what happened to the first landing party, and what’s going on with the hostile creatures. The title has spawned to a second version and 3 other episodes, sacrificing nothing significant, and adding monster difficulty, worlds to linearly explore, and some extra modes.
The gameplay kept things accessible and quick to grab a hold of, which is what made Phantasy Star Online quite addictive. Missions can be extensive or very quick. There was an arching story that was told in a quiet fashion through missions and completing the stages. There were three classes from three different races, each with their own advantages and deficits to the play style. Androids were impenatrable, Newmans were magical(and dwarf looking), and humans were the balance. Rangers, Hunters, and Forces(mages) were the classes to play in a near friendly environment. Alot of brights used for the worlds, which kept things a bit more Teen rated. There were drops, of both multicolored blood and item drops that eclipsed Destiny’s first run. And of course, the bosses were varied without the sponge of bullets as The Division throws them. Bosses are real bosses. Japanese game bosses. With weaknesses, boss like patterns, and all the lovely magical things.
Thanks to that, Phantasy Star Online ver. 1 and 2 were addicting as I drained hours to complete it. Sega’s online setup wasn’t all that dominant in the US, yet afterwards, and some years later: my second coming sealed my fate with Phantasy Star Online. I killed Dark Falz, crawled through the desert, wrecked several training exercises. Damn fun. Especially when there’s a private server accessed, bringing about players by the thousands. Sega’s vision for this game, realized several years after release and no Hunter License pay-to-plays, a dozen expansions, and insane price points, were even bought or accepted to do so. After a couple years, I did cease to focus on life and Phantasy Star Universe, a bit of a follow up to Online. Sadly, even Erin Cahill’s return to action couldn’t light the nostalgia fire of PSO. I still went back after to see this on a private server. I’ve probably scoured the internet for that feeling. Phantasy Star Online did more for me than anything modern now actually did. Less bugs or season pass updates, too.
In its’ simplicity, Phantasy Star Online was complete to me more than what we’re seeing these days with MMORPG releases. Glitches were far and between and the gameplay kept us coming back. Well, getting the Frying Pan was satisfying. It’s a shame that Sega has no plans for westernizing Phantasy Star Online 2, but one can only hope. Because Phantasy Star Online is by far the online RPG that time forgot.