Phantasy Star Offline is a project where my goal is to complete Ver.2 on Dreamcast solo. Read about why here.
APOLOGIES IN ADVANCE for the crappy “screenshot” quality. All pics were taken with my phone because I don’t have any capture equipm- I mean, I was channeling the feel of early game journalism to vibe with the semi-retro quality of um yeah OK I’m cheap and not very tech savvy. Whatever.
After opening the shrink wrap of a game released in 2001 in 2014 (which feels AWESOME, btw), I popped the disc out and found a sticker that I had totally forgotten about- the Serial Number and Access Key. I popped the disc in, dutifully entered the codes, and began tinkering with the options- giving myself a taste of the glorious OST in the sound test.
After watching the (somewhat rough) opening FMV (remember those?), I began creating my character. During this process, the Dreamcast got REALLY excited and started whirring like crazy. It was so hilariously loud that my fiance looked up from her laptop and said “it’s thinking really hard right now.” I told her “it’s always thinking really hard.”
I created my character for this adventure/project/excuse to play PSO again, a HUnewearl named Draculina (from the Alkaline Trio song, of course. Fun fact: anytime I create a female character in a game, I name her after a woman mentioned in a Trio tune). HUnewearl are somewhat proficient in both melee attacks and techniques (the Phantasy Star series’ version of magic), so I felt this would be a good fit for solo play.
Starting the game I was, as is the case every time I restart PSO after a hiatus, struck by how appealing the game world is. From the music to the fonts to the architecture, Pioneer 2 feels both futuristic but also kinda like home. I headed straight to Forest 1 and made it to level 3 before getting demolished by a REALLY ANGRY hildebear. I did my “corpse run” to recover my Saber +1 and meseta, and once I retrieved those, I decided to log out for the night, saving my game. The timing-dependent combat is as satisfying as ever- I got back into the groove pretty quickly and am totally back in love with the mechanics. Feeling pretty stoked about PSO and the project right now.
I grinded Forest 1 a bit, hit level 4, and decided I was probably ready to jump into some Hunter’s Guild quests. I really love the first quest, which is a hunt for some lost mags. It’s a great introduction to both the lore and mechanics and, like all the Hunter’s Guild quests, totally optional. The subsequent quests in the area don’t hit the same weirdly emotional notes as the mag one, but offer more insight into the game, and earn you a decent amount of meseta.
I tried out some daggers, but they didn’t click with me so I went back to the saber (now an Ice Saber +3).
Today I did a quest where you are escorting a journalist around the surface who finds that not all is as it seems, and that the people of Pioneer 2 are totally in the dark about the reality of the situation. In another quest, myself and a researcher came across an injured baby hildebear. I was given the choice of allowing her to bring it back to the ship to nurse back to health or leave it on the planet. I’m not sure how much difference either choice would make, but felt I did the right thing by leaving it on the surface.
The more quests I do, the more I really appreciate this style of storytelling and world building – optional and in disparate pieces. While I may be missing out on a lot playing the game solo rather than with others, I feel like I’m getting a rich and purposeful experience by completing these quests.
The quests aren’t all stilted morality tales though. “The Fake in Yellow” is a quest where you have to hunt down a scientist who is “studying” the rappies by donning a rappy costume and living amongst them. The quest is lighthearted, strange, and frankly a bit creepy. It’s pretty awesome.
By the time I reached level 9, I was out of quests, so I figured it was time to slay the proverbial dragon, which I managed to beat without issue in about 5 minutes. The loot it dropped was pretty underwhelming, but ah well. I didn’t get to revel in my victory or feel empowered for too long, because when I got back to Pioneer 2, there were a handful of new quests waiting for me.
The first quest took me to Caves 1, where I was back feeling underpowered in the presence of much stronger enemies than those in the forest. From the ultra powerful nano dragons to the annoying, status effect-inducing poison lilies, Caves is probably my least favorite area in the game (the bland visuals don’t help much either). But this is where I’m going to spend the next half dozen or so hours of my PSO playtime, so I guess I ought to get used to it.
Realizing that the lightning spell, Zonde, was a great way to defeat nano dragons and poison lilies from afar, I figured that I ought to increase my technique abilities. To do this I started loading up my mag with antiparalysis items to increase those stats (thanks official Versus Books strategy guide)!
The best part of playing through the caves was definitely the cake sisters quest. In this quest, you are going deep (way deep- it’s almost an hour-long quest) into the caves to track down a cake shop. This is an awesome throwback to the cake shop deep in Naula cave in the original Phantasy Star– totally worth the effort.
I hate poison lilies. That is all.
I finished all the quests in the caves at level 18 and decided it was time to attempt the boss. The De Rol Le fight took probably 8-10 minutes, but went relatively smoothly. After sending it back to the ether, I grabbed my ultra underwhelming loot (meseta and recovery items) and teleported back to Pioneer 2, glad to be done with the caves for the time being.
I’m very happy to finally be in the mines, which is probably my favorite area in the game. The bright blue color palette and creative architecture make the area visually appealing even today.
One of the major highlights of the quests here was “Knowing One’s Heart,” a quest that I chronicled from beginning to end (80+ screens- you’ve been warned) here.
Hit level 20. Cool.
I feel like I’m at about the halfway point of Ver.2 and I’m still totally pumped on it. I’m bummed that I’m going to be leaving the mines soon, but excited to continue towards my goal.
Read week 2 here!