Phantasy Star Portable Review
- Posted April 24th, 2009 at 18:56 EDT by Steven Williamson
- 13 Comments
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Despite some notable flaws, Phantasy Star Portable is an addictive hack 'n slash.
- The variety of weapons and classes
- The refined control scheme
- Finding rare loot
- The poor presentation and static storytelling
- The repetitive 'A' to 'B' mission structure
- The unsatisfactory path-finding skills of party teammates
Sega’s Phantasy Star series started off life in the 1980’s by embracing many of the traditional gameplay features that we’ve now become accustomed to in role-playing games. In 2000, however, Japanese developer Sonic Team turned its back on the traditional turn-based combat system and set out to make its Japanese RPG stand out from the crowd by becoming the pioneer of real-time combat in the Dreamcast hit Phantasy Star Online.
The foundations laid down by previous games in the series are still at the forefront of Phantasy Star Portable for PSP with dungeon crawling and real-time combat taking up the main bulk of the gameplay. With level grinding, questing, monster-slaying and looting also back on the agenda, Portable delivers a slimmed down version of the Phantasy Star Universe. Like many RPGs, Phantasy Star Portable’s gameplay can be very addictive as you strive to move up the levels and access better weapons and equipment, but in the process of converting the series to a handheld, the Universe has lost a little bit of its shine.
The sci-fi cyberpunk setting makes a return as Phantasy Star Portable picks up immediately before Phantasy Star Universe: Ambition of the Illuminus, the latest expansion pack for PSO. While the generic tale of good vs. evil, on paper, appears to be an interesting enough premise, it’s over-complicated by the myriad of menu and sub-menus that are littered with acronyms which will mean little unless you're familiar with the franchise or you have the manual handy. Presentation is poor with wooden NPC interaction and mission introductions that are told via reams of text by an inanimate drawing of a character's head on-screen, doing little to sustain your interest in the plot. Once the action begins, however, fans of Phantasy Star and indeed the RPG genre will find it difficult not to become engrossed in its familiar gameplay. Like us, you will probably lose track of time slaying beasts, gathering loot and hunting for rare items. Despite its shortcomings, Portable's addictive hack 'n slash, dungeon-crawling gameplay and visual anime charm can't be denied.
Before the action begins there’s a comprehensive set of customization options that allow you to build a character from the ground up by choosing everything from his hair style to voice pitch. After you’ve picked one of the four races -- Human, Newman, CAST and Beast -- and chosen one of three classes -- Hunter, Ranger and Force -- it’s onto the battlefield for a series of dungeon missions. Despite periods of typically slow RPG gameplay, there’s more of a focus on combat in this latest Phantasy Star game as you move from one arena to the next slaying a range of monsters and humanoid enemies. Thankfully, the refined control scheme means that combat generally relies just as much on your timing and positioning as it does your ability to hit the face buttons rapidly and simply button-mash your way through enemies.
While combat can be a little repetitive and visually lackluster, racking up combos by using melee attacks is fairly satisfying, and you’re kept motivated by the incentive of discovering precious loot, such as weapons, healing items and even costumes for your character that you can pick up from the bodies of fallen enemies. The lack of an auto-targeting system is a poor omission, and especially frustrating when you're using a ranged weapon, but you’re able to switch between the classes at will without losing your EXP or loot, which gives you the welcome opportunity to test out the Hunter’s swordsmanship or the Force’s spell casting ability, as well as the Ranger's skills. The action palette, a feature that allows you to toggle between different gear and pull off a range of normal and special attacks, also comes in very handy during combat and lets you access different weapon configuration swiftly and intuitively during battle.
The crafting mechanic of Phantasy Star Online has paved the way for a random drop system, which gives combat a welcome unpredictability. Meanwhile, weapon and armor customization, plus the vast array of weapons available, from whips to spears (all of which have different levels of power and accuracy during battle), means that there's a good deal of variety in combat. However, Phantasy ... (continued on next page)
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- 2:01pm EDT - April 24th, 2009
eh not my type
- 3:25pm EDT - April 24th, 2009
Only so much monster mashing I can deal with
- 4:08pm EDT - April 24th, 2009
I am actually enjoying it. I have been playing PS since it was on the master system (I miss the old RPG ways.....but the new version is fun as well). I did not enjoy PSO3 or the terrible PSU on the 360, but this has the old PSO1&2 feel to it. To PSO fans it really doesn't feel like button mashing at all since there are a lot more than swords that you can use.
To those who are on the fence just download the demo and try it out. It was enough for me to get this game.
lordAlucard | sympozium_666
- 4:12pm EDT - April 24th, 2009
Aieeeeeeeeeee! can't wait for the euro release
- 4:35pm EDT - April 24th, 2009
cant wait for eu release.. loved playing this on dreamcast :P
- 4:37pm EDT - April 24th, 2009
There's a demo? Done.
- 2:56am EDT - April 25th, 2009
Anyone who likes this game should also try Monster Hunter, but a word of caution: It has a painfully slow start, but once you get some momentum you'll find it hard to stop.
- 4:53pm EDT - April 25th, 2009
To 7: I already love you because you know about MH. Aren't you excited for MHU!?
To the topic at hand. I bought this game when it came out because I had always heard good things about the series. I honestly think it's a solid game, it reminds me A LOT of the .hack game series, which is a win for me because I own and love every one of those. I'll agree though, there's a lot of menus and stats to pan through and if you don't know what any of it means, you can run into some trouble later on. The boss fights are epic, but I hate that the AI just kinda runs around and yells at the enemy (if it's a boss). I don't even take others with me if I'm going on a normal mission, I only bring help when it's a boss fight so they can distract them at times. All in all though, it was a good buy, and I would definatly recommend this game to anyone that likes RPGs
- 10:36pm EDT - April 25th, 2009
umm, i'm just gonna say this review isn't very in-depth "he lack of an auto-targeting system is a poor omission" wth, left trigger, is it that hard to think?
- 2:55am EDT - April 26th, 2009
Fail and rofled at #10 lol
- 8:48am EDT - April 29th, 2009
I've played the demo version and it's quite nice for a handheld video game.
- 12:49am EDT - May 6th, 2009
The Best JRPG on the PSP as of right now IMO.
Really good game.
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