Sega confirmed Phantasy Star 0 is coming to North America this fall. After getting a taste of the Japanese version that’s going to feel like a long wait. Phantasy Star 0 plays as good as it looks providing you’re a fan of the Phantasy Star Online series.
I started the single player mode making a FOnewm or in plain English a male Newman magic user. Compared to other MMOs the character customizations options are rather limited, but hey this is DS game. You may not be able to make your dream avatar, but you can give a FOnewm an afro. Armed with a deadly hairstyle and 70’s style suit I jumped into single player mode.
The story starts with an anime opening. This won’t be the only cutscene in Phantasy Star 0 either. Animated clips are peppered in the game to introduce characters and boss monsters. When the intro movie ends you discover your character just survived a ship crash. Since you’re a silent protagonist you get to pick responses during conversations which is pretty neat. After being rescued and if you choose whining about the crash you head to Dairon City to start life as a hunter.
Like the other Phantasy Star Online games quests are given out at the Hunter’s Guild. In the first one Sarisa, a computer controlled character helps you out. She’s a jack of all trades character with recovery magic, ice spells, and decent physical attacks. Since Afro was a behind the front lines magic user Sarisa acted as my personal bodyguard.
I touched down on the planet ready to fight rappies. I whacked some frogs with my cane while rain poured overhead instead. Phantasy Star 0 doesn’t have high definition HDMI 1080p quality graphics, but for a DS game it’s impressive. In the first mission you experience changing weather conditions and fight on detailed environments. The tradeoff for having backgrounds with leaves stuck in the water is tiny areas. You move from one box to the next slaying electric slug creatures along the way. Often I found myself fenced in by photon gates which meant the only option was to fight.
Casting Foie was Afro’s primary attack. Hitting the Y button made him throw a fireball. Holding Y down for a second made Afro lob the fireball. Don’t want Foie to be on the Y button? No problem. Phantasy Star 0 has a flexible combat system where you can assign moves to the Y, B, and A buttons. Holding R switches between two sets which gives you easy access to six moves. One of the new abilities you get in Phantasy Star 0 is a dodge roll which you can use to quickly get out of harms way. Since I was using a mage character I didn’t have to rely on using the light or heavy attack much. Afro had Foie, Resta, and drinking PP recovering Monofuild as his main three commands. I started using attacks more when I found a shield. Watching Afro do a backhand shield bash in his disco outfit was pretty amusing.
Sarisa followed me around, but I couldn’t control her. You can give her orders to heal, attack or “free order” to let the AI takeover. For the most part you have to trust the AI since you can’t give her or Guy, another NPC you meet in the first mission, specific orders. When you give out orders the command pops up as a visual chat bubble and Sarisa responds to it with a chat bubble of her own. Visual chat is really neat and I like how you can save twenty drawings for easy use. Players that devote dozens of hours to the hunting guild are going to make awesome custom art for simple things like “heal me”.
Visual chat is just one ways Phantasy Star 0 takes advantage of the touch screen. The bottom screen also hosts a map which you can blow up by tapping it. Seeing all of your stats and life bars for your allies on the bottom screen is nice too. The game feels less cluttered since all of the action takes place on top.
A giant alien squid was waiting at the end of the mission. It didn’t move, but its tentacles were so long it didn’t need to. The squid spat ink that slows you down and used a spinning tentacle attack which you can evade with the dodge roll. The first thing you want to do is chop off those tentacles! Guy joins you in this fight so it’s three against one humongous monster.
While we are getting Phantasy Star 0 Sega there are some neat Easter Eggs we may or may not get like crossover weapons from other Sega RPGs and downloadable visual chat messages. If you have a Japanese Wii you can get the visual chat data from the Nintendo Channel. Sega could do something similar here, but they will probably need to make new messages since the visual chat data is in Japanese.
Images courtesy of Sega.