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Phantasy Star Online 2 (Vita) Hands-On Impression [Tokyo Game Show]

September 23, 2012 Written by Heath Hindman

With the Dreamcast’s Phantasy Star Online having been my first online gaming experience back in 2001, the idea of a sequel excites me. Even better, one of its release platforms is the PlayStation Vita. I played this version at the Tokyo Game Show, and found it rather impressive.

The game looked like the natural evolution of Phantasy Star Online. As a longtime fan, it stirred up nostalgic feelings instantly. (I tried my best to not let that cloud my judgement, I promise!) I took control of a man all decked out in red, with a pistol in each hand — this game just kept scoring Heath Points.  A difference from the PSO I know and love, though, was that this demo version didn’t include a MAG, as it seemed its purpose was to simply show how the multiplayer cooperative combat would work.  It did so in fine style, providing a fast-paced, fun experience for all four of us in the demo group.

Throwing out two and three-hit combos could be done with proper timing, or if I preferred, I could just button mash my way to victory.  I have a feeling it won’t be so easy in the final version, of course, but this demo came with auto-resurrect, so I was rather fearless.  Battles featured some real theatrics, as my character could do backflips while still firing his guns, and one of my specials was a diving shot capped off by spinning in circles — guns blazing the whole time.  Thank Buddha I didn’t have to worry about ammo.

After taking out several small-to-mid sized monsters, it was on to fight a big dragon.  This is a central theme in handheld RPGs right now: groups of two or more go fight huge enemies in a grand, action-RPG format.  It’s working for Gods Eater, Monster Hunter, Soul Sacrifice, and Phantasy Star Online 2.  We began the demo actually pretending to care about our health, but once that dragon showed up, we focused purely on offense to take him down within the demo’s time limit.  Everyone at the table understood that it otherwise would have been a very intense and difficult affair.

I’ve seen a number of wireless connectivity problems at these trade shows before, but none of the Vita games experienced any problems. Sure, everyone in my group was within six feet of each other, but with all the other Vitas playing that game right in the same area, as well as all the cellphones and other communication devices that were going off, my old-manish brain at least thought that was worth a note.

A big difference between this and the PSO of old is that that the new game will be free of subscription fees; it’s free to play with some optional microtransactions.

With Vita system and software sales struggling to find a foothold in Japan, I can only hope a great installment of a popular series like PSO can be quickly brought to completion and released in the near future.