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Phantasy Star Online ver.2
Sonic Team
A great update for those willing to sacrifice a little money.
Overall Rating:

Animefringe Reviews:
Phantasy Star Online ver.2
By Jean-Pierre Arevalo

Yuji Naka and Sonic Team's online world receives a face-lift and is charging you for the procedure! Oh, the horror! Seriously though, Sonic Team has brought to the table what it originally envisioned the original Phantasy Star Online world to be like.

Back in December of 2000, Sonic Team and Sega released Phantasy Star Online in Japan and followed up with a North American release in February of 2001. This marked the very first console-based online RPG. Players from across the globe could communicate via normal chat or a "word select" system that translated commonly used phrases and comments into whatever language the player is using. Users could play with one another in games that supported up to 4 players at once and took them through the game's 4 different areas. Actual game play is more like an Action/RPG, where you choose a character out of the 9 character classes and customize them with various different costumes, face types, hairstyles, etc. These characters are given an ID based on the syntax in their respective names and each ID has a better chance of finding certain items and weapons in the game. Various downloadable and online quests were made available to keep things fresh, and the original Phantasy Star Online enjoyed success, even with the very limited number of areas that could be explored.

Enter Phantasy Star Online ver.2. This version of the game adds to the life and attempts to expand the overall playability of the original. Phantasy Star Online ver.2 is a stand-alone game and the original Phantasy Star Online is not necessary to play ver.2, although you can transfer your characters from the original to this new version. What's new in ver.2 you ask? The new "Challenge Mode", where players are taken through areas with special limitations, timed to complete different missions, and given a rank after successfully completing each challenge. The object of this mode is to obtain a S-Rank weapon of your choice that you can personalize by naming it. Also new is the "Battle Mode", in which players can battle it out using various types of rules and limitations. New weapons and MAGs (little companions that help boost your stats) are also included with ver.2, including a Mark III (Master System) MAG, plus other Sega consoles of past and present. Finally, the new "Ultimate Mode", is for players who are level 80 and above and allows players to level all the way up to 200 - which is no easy task, not to mention time consuming.

As with any online game, cheating and hacking via cheat devices such as Gameshark and Xploder is bound to be a problem. Player killing and other nasty things plagued the original game, and Sonic Team has addressed these concerns for the most part. I've found that cheating is limited to playing around with text and rank indicators. While still annoying, it's not at the same level that the original game was at. Whether this is from lack of interest in the game or success for Sonic Team, I am not completely certain.

So, it all sounds great so far, what's the catch? Well, Sega is now charging 1,200 yen for 3 months to play ver.2, online. At current rates, it works out to being about $15 US. A lot of people were angered at this decision, but personally I don't have a problem with it. The original game was free of charge to play online for North America, but the Japanese had to pay, so this is basically evening out the playing field. What it boils down to is if ver.2 is worth it for you to spend the $40 again, plus paying for your Hunter's License (the 3 month online payment plan). In my case, yes it is. I've been playing Phantasy Star Online ever since it came out, and I've managed to keep myself entertained even with the limited amount of areas and features. Now that ver.2 is here, there are even more features to keep me busy until the world of Phantasy Star Online hits the GameCube and Xbox. It's because of Phantasy Star Online and Phantasy Star Online ver.2 that my Dreamcast has seen more playing time than my PlayStation 2, and with such a deep and involving game, that's something I'm proud of.

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