Phantasy Star Online Blue Burst
The Phantasy Star series dates back to the late 1980s. I never played the originals, but I have extensively played the online episodes 1-4. My first installment in the series was actually Episode 3, the card game. It quickly became one of my favorites so I decided to check out episode 1 and 2.
I never played PSO on the original Dreamcast, but I did get the Episode 1 & 2 plus version on the GameCube, which I enjoyed, but it was so difficult leveling up and took forever since I was unable to play online. Additionally, I didn’t know that the class you choose can limit what weapons you can and cannot use. Not to mention the name you choose determines what enemies drop. So, I created an android hunter (HUcast), which was a bad choice since I didn’t realize androids couldn’t use techniques. So, when I was higher level, I use Action Replay cheats to be able to use them! I made sure to understand the game better when I started playing it again in mid-2018 on the PC.
When the original was released for the Dreamcast, there was only Episode 1, which your character was limited to level 100. They followed it up with an expansion (Version 2 – not episode 2), which increased the level cap to 200, and added Ultimate difficulty for those over level 80.
Later, the game was released on the GameCube where Episode 2 was introduced (Phantasy Star Online Episode I &II). And finally, a PC version was released, (Phantasy Star Online Blue Burst) that added Episode 4.
My favorite area in Episode 1 is the forest because it’s beautiful. My least favorite is the caves, primarily the first and last floor. I don’t like the look of those floors, and it just seems to drag.
My favorite area in Episode 2 is the Central Control Area (not the main area, but the Seaside, Jungle and Mountain Areas). I like it because it’s straightforward and short. The boss of Episode 2 at the bottom of the Seabed is quite annoying, especially during the second phase when he transforms you. I had such a hard time with this.
I love Episode 4, primarily because the first area, the crater, is open. It doesn’t feel like you are separated from the environment with doors. However, the crater area isn’t much to look at. However, the Subterranean Desert looks beautiful, but the enemy Girtablulu…just horrifying! And the boss of the area, Saint-Milion was a hassle for me, which he ended up retreating when I couldn’t kill him quick enough! 🤦♀️ At least the music is amazing!
This is a game that never ends. You can be at level 200, done all the quests, but still have only found a small percentage of the rare items in the game. Not to mention that your Section ID prohibits you from finding certain things. So, there is no way to complete the game. Keep playing, create new characters, and go from there!
Since the official servers were shut down a long time ago, I found that it’s still possible to play online via various fan-made servers. The one I am currently using to play is Ephinea.
I recommend checking out the playthrough by PrinceBrightstar. I started watching his gameplay around the time I started playing the game again, and found his videos helpful with going through story quests. At the time of writing this, he has only done Episode 1, but I’m still hoping he gets to Episode 2 and 4 soon! Edit: He started it back up, but now on Twitch!
The storyline is not the biggest part of the game. You spend far more time killing enemies than discovering the story. However, if you play solo story mode, you’ll uncover some of the story. Pioneer II is a spaceship where humans reside after trying to colonize Ragol. However, in the process, they discover that the animals have become aggressive. Forest, to the Caves, down to the Mines, and finally where the darkness is originating from, the Ruins. Episode 2 primarily revolves around Gal Da Val island and exploring the hidden Seabed facility. And Episode 4 revolves around investigating a comet that landed on Ragol.
For an older game, the gameplay mechanics take some time getting use to if you are a new player. You can combo attack up to three times, and must be timed to perform the combo. Locking onto enemies is automatic, which can be problematic because even if you position your character slightly a different direction, you’ll attack the air. You cannot move and attack, so this can leave you vulnerable to an attack if you are attacking nothing.
The main characters also have different mechanics. Hunters are focused on close combat with swords, Rangers are ranged combat with guns, and Force characters primarily use canes which can be used for up close combat, but are primarily used for casting techniques, such as fire, ice, lightning, and other spells. Each technique has its own name. The fire, ice, and lightning techniques are categorized into simple, normal, and hard attacks. And there is also Grants (light attack) and Megid (dark instant death attack) which only Force characters can use. There are also techniques to heal, revive, remove status conditions, create a telepipe, power you and teammates up, and power enemies down.
The game is quite old (2000), but the graphics are quite good. On modern systems, the resolution can be increased as well as run in widescreen. But even after running it at a high resolution, some textures don’t look the greatest. Not to mention the lack of anti-aliasing makes some edges jagged.
Sound / Music
The music in PSO is phenomenal! This is some of the best music I have heard in a video game. The themes are quite memorable and can get stuck in your head. I highly recommend checking out the soundtrack and purchasing it! There are four soundtracks available.
- Phantasy Star Online Original Sound Track (music from Episode 1)
- Phantasy Star Online Songs of RAGOL Odyssey -Soundtrack EPISODE 1&2- (remainder of music from Episode 1 and all of Episode 2)
- Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II Premium Arrange (arrange album)
- PHANTASY STAR ONLINE Blue Burst EPISODE IV SOUND TRACK (music from Episode 4 – first press only)
These soundtracks can be purchased digitally as well.