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Power Member - Level 7
As anybody who owns
this game on their Dreamcast, Gamecube or Xbox can testify, Phantasy Star
Online was a glorified Diablo in three dimensions. It was not uncommon for me to be playing with
three of my friends each and every single weekend on a mad quest to score some
amazing loot, raise some MAGs or just see how far we could get by ratcheting up
the difficulty going through the same four levels over and over again. That's right, there were only four levels in
this game but don't let that stop you.
Hint: it won't. Even if you try
to let it.
If you look back on
it now, you'd basically see a restrictive game with a minimal amount of enemies
who were differentiated in difficulty by a different colour palette. You had a weak, strong and special attack and
a couple of elemental spells to cast which could be combined into any three-hit
combination. You had classes that are
considered the norm these days: a tank class, a long-range class and a mage
class. Three weapon types: swords, guns
and staffs. Weapons and armour of
varying stats were randomly sold at the store each time you came back from the
world with a heavy reliance on your level.
Quests were given out at a Guild and when you couldn’t advance because
of tough enemies you were required of course to grind your way to being able to
defeat them and continue ever onward. Yawn,
Those were the
limitations which a lot of people who played the game surprisingly had little
to no complaints about because of the experience that lay underneath all those
tired or non-impressive conventions. The
game had so many reasons to replay and replay and replay and replay those
levels all over again just one more time: there is a small chance that a unique
enemy will be in the level when you travel to it (either to continue the story
or on a quest run) and an even smaller chance that it will drop an incredibly
rare item. Bosses were the same.
Though there were only four of them, who could ever forget their experience with the larger than life level bosses, from an enormous Dragon that raced toward your characters by burying itself underground , a leviathan worm you had to shoot at from a raft, a computer mainframe that has become viral and of course the series' end game boss mainstay Dark Falz itself - which had up to three varying forms? Each boss fight was a battle of desperation that called for ample level grinding and a good memorization of the boss' attack patterns.
Some quests had to be completed in a specific
order or some circumstances had to be done just right in order to receive some
truly ridiculous loot, such as a frying pan or an awesome scythe that saps your
energy. It can be considered truthful
that the main reason many people played the game to near-nauseous levels of
repetition was because of the promise of better loot and to make their friends
It was one of the
first console games were teams could communicate with one another via symbols
and keyboard chat. The F keys would
enable your character to do various actions such as dancing or rolling on the
ground (much like your character can do in World of WarCraft these days with a
simple backslash prompt command). Keep
in mind that there was no voice chat technology yet.
But there was
more. Some played through the levels for
the sheer grind of it, to have that ever-inflating number next to their name
serve as their girth of intimidation whenever it came to going online and
playing with friends or strangers. Sega
used to hold special competitions or events where people could win special
equipment or download more quests to embark upon online. Others played through the levels simply to
find Monogrinders, which would increase the parameters of your weapons a little
bit each and every time you would use them.
It was not uncommon to see a character with a sword +54 or the like
whenever you’d play with them. Levels
initially capped at 100 but upon the release of the second episode the cap was
raised to 200. I myself have never
passed 76 and my time with the game is over a hundred hours, so you can begin
to get an idea of the kind of devotion it took to play PSO.
There was also a
small pet that followed you around called a MAG, a sort of robot that increases
four of your parameters the more you would feed it. Depending on what diet you kept your MAG on,
it would increase your strength, defence, accuracy or magic power or any
combination of the four by a respectable amount. It would also morph and change
shape depending on how much it liked you and what you were feeding it. Upon feeding the little machines a specific
item or combination; they could even metamorphisize into vintage SEGA systems,
such as the Genesis or Master System! A
neat little Easter Egg for sure.
Phantasy Star Online
was a truly addictive experience, and I know friends who are still playing the
game today offline and whose times have far surpassed the three hundred hour
mark. Though there is no new content, it
is always an enjoyable experience to create a new character and restart from
level 1, going through the adventure again with friends as a class you may
never have initially chosen. It was even
given a sequel, Phantasy Star Universe, with mixed results. Now the series has made its way to the
portables with a DS sequel. And yet, the
planet of Ragol is always beckoning to be explored again and again...