First Impressions: Phantasy Star Online 2 (PlayPark English Version)

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Sega news doesn’t get much cooler or more random than what happened yesterday with Phantasy Star Online 2. As you may know, PSO2 does, in fact, have a localized English version. However, it is based out of Asia, and was previously inaccessible to those without an IP address in that region (or use of a VPN). But yesterday, the IP region lock was mysteriously lifted, with no fanfare or official statement.

As soon as I saw the news, I went to the PlayPark site and began downloading the client. The client itself is a hefty 14+ GB, and after installations and updates, the entire process ended up taking me about two and a half hours (I’m using Windows 8.1, btw).

PSO2

Once I got into the game, I had no problems logging in with the account I created on the PlayPark site, choosing a ship, or creating my character. But once I was in, I found myself having to exit the game and mess with the graphic settings (which you can only do from the initial client menu, in “Environment Settings”).

CaptureAside from changing the resolution, I had to tweak some of the video settings, because the game was running a bit poorer than I’d hope on my GeForce 750Ti card. I locked the FPS to 30 and got somewhat smoother and more consistent performance, but the game still seems to hiccup from time to time (which could have something to do with the servers/my internet connection). Overall though, it’s not the most visually stunning game on the mid-settings I’m using, but the great PSO art style shines through- amounting in a very appealing world.

pso20150718_204544_000And this world is more explorable than ever. One of the most welcome additions to PSO2 is the jump button. With it, you can traverse hills, rocks, and more to find hidden items. Jumping also aided me in combat at times. I’m playing as a ranger, so it’s cool to be able to hop up onto a plateau and snipe enemies on the ground below. Another great addition to combat is the roll (which I think debuted in Phantasy Star Zero on DS?). This evasive maneuver is very welcome, considering PSO2’s combat is much faster paced than the original.

There are plenty of ways to build and advance your character. You have a main and a sub class to level, weapons can be upgraded in multiple ways, there’s a skill tree, and of course, you can acquire a Mag. As in the original PSO, you level your Mag by feeding it items, based on the stats you want to improve. When you can feed your Mag is much clearer here, thanks to a new energy meter.

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…Saturn?

I was also pleasantly surprised by the quality of the localization. Sometimes Asian region English versions of Japanese games suffer from dull/literal or “Engrish” translations, but I was happy to report that’s not the case here. While not quite as charming and clever as something like Final Fantasy XIV’s English localization, PSO2 is coherent and fun- I could easily see this being the same localization used if the game ever got a proper NA release.

pso20150719_092529_012pso20150719_092231_010While this version is behind the Japanese version in terms of content, it is certainly not lacking stuff for new players to do.

pso20150719_092745_013Despite the performance issues, PSO2 already has its hooks deep in me. The music, the game flow, the character progression… this is truly the sequel to one of my favorite games of all time. As long as the region lock stays off and the free-to-play elements don’t become too awful, I could see Phantasy Star Online 2 becoming my most-played game this year.

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