After spending a bit of time with the Japanese version of Phantasy Star Online 2, I found myself craving the original PSO. I wanted to play the best-looking and most complete version of the game possible, so I went with the PC version of Blue Burst on the SCHTHACK private server.
SCHTHACK is a wonderful, free, fan-run PSO server (which began after Sega shut down the official servers) that supports everything from the original Dreamcast game to PSO III on Gamecube. While PSO still looks great thanks to clean geometry and incredible art design, you don’t need an expensive gaming rig to run it; the game plays fine on older, low-end machines.
I rolled a RAmarl, chose a ship (which was populated by over 100 players when I logged in), and was off again in search of Red Ring Rico and 4-slot armor.
What’s amazing about the current version of Blue Burst running on SCHTHACK is the sheer amount of content available. Episodes I (the Dreamcast content), II (Gamecube/PC/Xbox content), and IV (EVEN MORE CONTENT) are all available from the start. While I had played quite a bit of Episodes I and II via Dreamcast and Gamecube, Episode IV is totally new to me, and completing that content is my long-term goal of this project.
Another thing that’s nice about this version of the game is that all areas are unlocked from the get-go, so for me this means no Caves (my least favorite Episode I area). After finishing some Hunter’s Guild missions, beating the dragon boss in the Forest,
and grinding a bit in the Mines,
Upon replaying Phantasy Star Online, I’m finding the game just as enjoyable as I did a decade ago. The aesthetic is still unmatched (except by PSO2), and it remains one of my favorite game worlds to exist and adventure in. The stiff controls, which were not considered the most fluid even at the game’s release, have a sense of charm to them as well, and really make the game feel unique and challenging (a rarity in this genre).
Phantasy Star Online is one of a select few older online games worth revisiting, and SCHTHACK is an easy, beautiful, content-rich, and best of all, free way to do so.