Together Retro Game Club: Phantasy Star Online

tr-pso

Presented by Fastbilly1
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As we enter our six year of Together Retro we thought we would go for something extravagant, something interesting, something just down right awesome.  So we decided to kick off this years Together Retro with the first console Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, Phantasy Star Online.  While some do not consider it a true MMORPG, it is however still billed as histories first on a console.   So grab your phasesabers or eggblaster it is time to explore Ragol.

pso-screens

Overview

Released on the Dreamcast in December of 2000, Phantasy Star Online (PSO) broke down boundaries as a console game.  While it was not the first freeroaming MMORPG (that would be Final Fantasy XI), it was the first time console gamers could play a game worldwide with players from almost every corner of the world at the same time.  Sure your actual game play was limited to four people at a time, but the hub world was bustling with people speaking in all languages.

Gameplay

Utilizing an action palette system, PSO seems very complicated at first, but it will become second nature before you finish the first zone.  The action palette lets you map six options to three buttons ( X,A,B on the Dreamcast and arrow – left, down, right on PC) with a toggle button that lets you swap between the two palettes.  These actions vary from the three main attacks (weak, strong, special), techniques (magic in the Phantasy Star world), to any sort of item in your inventory.   Each time you start up the game you will be on the hub world in Pioneer 2.  This is a giant lobby where you can talk to anyone on the server.  There is a bank and a shop, so you can stock up for your exhibitions.  The first area you will have access to is the Forest area.  It is the first of four base game areas; Caves, Mines, and Ruins being the other three.  After you beat the game you can continue to replay the maps on higher difficulties and for different missions.

Ports

PSO itself had two primary versions , V1 and V2, and both were ported to the Gamecube, Xbox, and PC as well as on the Dreamcast.  On the Gamecube it also had V2+ which added several online only components for offline play.   PSO Blue Burst was a PC exclusive that took all of the content of V1 and V2 and added three new expansive areas.

Legacy

Being part of the Phantasy Star series, PSO has just as diverse of a past as a legacy.  Granted the numbered Phantasy Star games stopped with PSO, but there have been various versions of PSO since.  There was also a Gamecube exclusive PSO Episode III C.A.R.D., which takes place twenty one years after PSO and features a card playing mechanic.  A follow up series called Phantasy Star Universe with several titles in it, which sadly the servers were shut down in 2012.  But like how PSO lives via SCHThack, PSU lives on via PSUmods (http://psumods.co.uk).  Another spinoff which combined both PSU and PSO was released called Phantasy Star 0 for the Nintendo DS.   The PSP also had two titles in the PSU vein called Phantasy Star Portable 1&2.  Luckily, Sega has recently released the long anticipated PSO2 in Japan.  Sadly there is no current plans for releasing the game outside of Japan, but with it being on the PC, and soon iOS and Android, we can all hope.  For those who are willing to experiment, there are patches that translated some of the menus and items into English.  Phantasy Star Nova is also in development for the PSP Vita with a current slated release date of late 2014.

  • Phantasy Star Online – 2000
  • Phantasy Star Online Episodes I&II – 2002
  • Phantasy Star Online Episode III C.A.R.D. – 2003
  • Phantasy Star Online Blue Burst – 2004
  • Phantasy Star Universe – 2006
  • Phantasy Star Portable – 2008
  • Phantasy Star Zero – 2008
  • Phantasy Star Portable 2 – 2009
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 – 2012
  • Phantasy Star Nova – 2014

Technical Help

There is a guide in the Together Retro forums for setting up your account at SCHThack and playing PSO Blue Burst.  We will also try to help you get online with your Dreamcast or Gamecube to join in on the fun.  Sadly the Xbox version requires an active Xbox Gold account for your original Xbox so it is no longer playable.  Cross platform play is possible but is not advised due to issues with the game.

We should also mention the Ultima server (phantasystaronline.net) as an alternative to Schthack as AVG  Antivirus bugs out when you install/run the Schthack version.

Discussion

What to share your discoveries or challenges? Please join us in the forums and share your experiences.

 

2 Comments

  1. PSO forever! says:

    Another great place to play Phantasy Star for Dreamcast is http://sylverant.net/ which supports every dreamcast version, including the US version 2!

  2. Jaymz says:

    Just a few notes here:
    Phantasy Star Online had its US Dreamcast release in February of 2001, not December of 2000.
    The GameCube and XBox versions (Episodes I & II) were not true ports of V1 or V2, but sort of a “V3” with a sequel built in (Hence “Episode II.)
    Only the PC had a true V2 port.
    Episode III was a card battle side-bar.
    Blue Burst was nicknamed “Episode IV.”
    The Lobby does not have a bank or item shops. They are merely “visual chat lobbies” where you can chat, send mail, or create a room. Once you create and enter a room, THEN you can access shops and bank. This area is known as “Pioneer 2.”
    Yes, I know these are relatively minor details, but I’m picky that way.