Phantasy Star Zero

Phantasy Star Zero
Phantasy Star 0 Cover
Platforms Nintendo DS
Genre Online handheld RPG
MtAMinutes to Action 19
Keep Playing? Yes
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Phantasy Star is back with Phantasy Star 0, the sequel to the console based Phantasy Star Online series. However, this time Sega managed to pack in a complete online experience on the Nintendo DS, allowing four players to connect together and fight in its science fiction/fantasy setting. Phantasy Star 0 was released in November and features not only a full fledged online game, but also an offline story mode for when your friends aren't around.

Grant has chosen to keep his first hour review limited to the offline mode, it is probably a toss up whether a new player will play online or offline anyway.

Greg's note: In high school, I had a few friends who were obsessed with Phantasy Star Online on the GameCube. They would come over to my house and just sit on a television all night playing it, though never online. It was the oddest thing and I always wondered why they would play a game called Phantasy Star Online exclusively off. Either way, it was entertaining watching them get wiped out by a boss but mostly everyone was just bored to tears as they discussed drop rates and their latest swords. One of my friends who did play online actually bought the giant GameCube controller keyboard, where a typical controller was mutilated and had 108 keys stuck between the thumstick and buttons. Awkward

Here's Grant's first hour review of Phantasy Star 0 (or Phantasy Star Zero for you 0/O impaired readers like me).

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I’m instantly thrown into the character creation. There are three races, three jobs, but fourteen total combinations as the game treats males and females as different combinations with their own unique stats. The races are the classic Phantasy Star tropes: Humans (that’s us!), CASTs (robots you would see in an anime), and Newmans (pointy-eared sci-fi elves). The classes are also familiar to Phantasy Star fans: the melee-loving Hunters, Rangers that attack from a distance, and the spell-casting Forces. I’m incredibly bland and generic when it comes to making characters, so I create a Humar AKA a Human Hunter. The game has a few options to change the appearance of my character. First up is the hair. They all look rather unappealing, so I just give him blonde spikey hair. The eye color is tied in with the hair color, so my only options for the Humar is Nazi, Irish, or Asian.

02 - Still fiddling with my character, I change his outfit color to red/black (don’t worry, he’s not evil) and give him a blue Mag, a little pet that you level up to give you stat bonuses. In the end, he looks like Cloud from Advent Children if he was eleven years old.

04 - I’m brought to the main menu for my character. The game gives me the option to change my appearance if I get sick of it, which is nice. I venture into to single player mode, which sparks an anime cutscene that shows a lot of sci-fi things like aliens and spaceships and what not.

Phantasy Star Zero City

05 - The cutscene continues and briefs me on the history of the world. Apparently there was a lot of war.

06 - Another anime cutscene. An enormous shadow covers the moon, which is followed by an armada of space ships hurling towards my planet. I’m sure my level one character can handle it.

07 - My character arrives at Dairon City, which looks like a mix between the old West, European architecture, and futuristic design. I meet a tan cowboy-looking guy named Kai, who instructs me to join the Hunter’s Guild.

08 - I finally get control of my character. The first NPCs I see are some kids, so I talk to them. They want to be hunters, so I must be their hero or something. When I talk to an NPC, the top screen shows their portrait instead of just a dialogue box, a nice touch. The next NPC I talk to is a CAST with a Wario mustache, who says nothing of importance.

09 - I see a small cluster of people standing in front of carts, so this must be the shop area. There is an item dealer, a weapons dealer, and a creepy looking guy who does element synthesis and photon fortification. I have no idea what that means, and I can’t do anything with it anyways.

10 - I could buy a new saber with my cash, but I decide to try my luck with weapons out in the field. Next to the item shop is a cat on top of a barrel, which my character can pet. There’s a huge building up ahead, so I charge forward and meet Kai inside.

Phantasy Star Zero Dragon Party

11 - Kai tells me about the mayor, and says I should see him. I go to his office and find a fat man with a weird mustache and a pink suit. He looks like the most incompetent mayor since that turtle from Animal Crossing.

12 - The mayor talks about monsters that have been giving the town trouble. He officially makes me a hunter, although I don’t see why I need his permission to go kill monsters. Another guy named Gray appears, who continues to talk about monsters.

13 - I’m given my first assignment, which is to hunt down monsters in Gurhacia Valley. In order to get credit for it, I need to go to the quest counter and accept.

14 - There are two girls at the counter, and I’m not sure which is which. I accidentally go to personnel counter, but I can store items here and look up some various stats so it was a nice find. I talk to the other girl and accept the quest "The Valley King." I head for the teleporter north of the room and get warped to a mountainous region.

15 - Kai joins me as it would be rather stupid to send a pre-pubescent child to fight a bunch of violent beasts. He gives me the run down on how to battle, including how to assign different techniques to the action pallet which is mapped to specific buttons.

16 - Kai explains basic attacks, such as light and heavy, and the importance of chaining them. He also tells me about how some weapons have photon arts skills that is sort of like a super attack but at the cost of MP. I’m a hunter, so I won’t be using my MP much anyways.

Phantasy Star Zero Snow

17 - Kai continues with explaining about how the field works. Occasionally I will run across some gates that need keys. Who puts these random gates out here?

18 - More explanations. White arrows show new areas while green arrows show areas I’ve already visited, something very useful for someone who gets lost as much as I do. I think I have all the basics down, so I practice attacking to work out the combos.

19 - Time to trek down into the valley. The first enemies of the game appear, some snake monsters that can lunge at me. I do some pretty decent damage so they all go down fairly easily. A chest appears in the middle of the field, a departure from monsters dropping loot in the original Phantasy Star Online.

20 - I’m a bit banged up from the previous battles since I couldn’t dodge well, so I use a healing item to get me to full health. I burst open the chest and money appears. Boo, I wanted a new weapon or something. Two paths open, but I decide to take the right one. Seriously, f there’s a left or right path, who takes the left path?

21 - More enemies! This time there are some flying baddies, which are pretty fast and hard to hit. They go down eventually and another chest appears. This one has a bit more diversity as some green boxes pop up. A far cry from much-desired red ones, but I’ll take what I can get.

22 - Time to check out what items I got. I got a healing item, and a monogrinder that strengthens items. Hmm, let’s hold on to that one for later. Who wants to max out the stats of their starting weapon?

23 - More enemies pop up, and my character levels up during the skirmish. I managed to beat the foes a lot easier this time, I’m getting used to the camera and timing my attacks. This time the chest has a slew of different items and weapons.

Phantasy Star Zero Dragon Battle

25 - Some of the weapons are useless, but I did get an Iron Spear, the stats of which crush my puny starting weapon’s. I also got an item that taught me a fire spell. I don’t think I will be using it that much, but I check it out anyways.

26 - You know the routine, more enemies. I use my fire attack this time, but it does little damage and I’m not sure how to use it effectively. Oh well, I am a melee fighter, I don’t need fancy shmancy magic.

27 - Another room, another batch of enemies. The spear dishes out excellent damage, but using it is a lot different from using the sword and I have some trouble timing my attacks effectively. This room has some random crates, so I bash them for some goodies.

28 - I find another healing item, but I can’t pick it up since the game only lets you carry ten at a time. I foresee this being a problem during bosses. I’m pretty roughed up, so I just use one in my stock and pick up the healing item on the ground. A brief cutscene with Kai occurs, and he ditches me. Great, time to go solo.

29 - I run though some more enemies. The camera is getting finicky at times, so I take some unnecessary damage. At least I hit level three, just ninety-seven more to go!

30 - I take down a few more dinosaur monsters or whatever they are. I come across an impassable area, so I’m forced to take another route.

31 - I play with my action pallet a bit more. I decide to put magic point (photon points in game lingo) healing items on one of my pallets, as you never know when you might need it.

Phantasy Star Zero Rain Bridge

32 - Anime cutscene time! A pink haired female Newman crashes her ship into the valley somewhere. I wonder if the Phantasy Star universe has the "women are bad drivers" stereotype. After the scene ends, I head out to fight more creatures.

33 - A huge leonine enemy appears in the next area. I think this guy was in Kingdom Hearts. He’s big, but he can also move quickly via lunges that devour my health bar. After a few combos and heavy attacks, he goes down. I finish off the rest of his cronies and bust open the chest.

34 - One of the more interesting items I get in the chest is something called a Rookie Guard which boosts my defense. I dig around my inventory trying to figure out how to use it, but to no avail. I’ll hold on to it for later.

35 - The next area has no enemies, but instead it has a huge bridge to cross. Perhaps I’m inching closer to the end. After the bridge I’m greeted by a horde of enemies. Birds and boars gang up on me and deal more damage than they should. The next group is defeated a bit easier since I know their patterns now, and I hit level four. The victory chest spits out a myriad of different weapons, but most are useless. What am I supposed to do with a wand?

38 - I clear the new area, and I’m rewarded with more weapons that are useless to hunters, huzzah!

39 - The big lion beast appears again, but this time I know how to take him down. I get some more healing items after I take him down.

40 - My spear pierces the vital organs of these monstrous beasts. They let out faint whimpers as their eyes go cold and their breath dries. Ok, not really, the DS really isn’t powerful enough to portray that. I do find an item called a Scape Doll that auto-revives me if I die. All games should have an item like this. Unfortunately my good luck is marred by a dead end, so I have to venture back a few rooms.

Phantasy Star Zero Town Square

41 - The backtracking continues. I knew I should have taken that other path.

42 - Another batch of baddies. One is behind a rock so it’s hard to land a hit on him. There are many branching paths, which one to take?

43 - Well, I took the wrong one since I find another dead end. Three swarms of enemies try to end me, but they are monsters while I am a man/child. There is a crate that is a different color from the rest, so I assume it’s rare. I open it up for a photon drop, which I can’t use now, oh joy. I also run across a trap in the ground that explodes and hits me for some significant damage. I guess whoever put that photon drop there really didn’t want someone to take it. In the loot chest, I get an item that teaches me the spell Resta, which heals my health. I put it on my action pallet, but it’s too weak to rely on.

46 - The next grassy area is void of enemies, and instead has a large teleporter, similar to the one that brought me here. There is also a crystal that heals me to full health, and we all know what that means. I crack open some more crates and find an ice spell. A sign for the upcoming battle?

47 - Sega continues to brag about the budget on this game with an anime cutscene. That dragon that takes up most of the box art is chasing the Newman girl. I’m given the choice to stand back or dash in. Is this Mass Effect DS? I decide to help her and the girl joins my party.

48 - The battle begins. I’m sure two fifth graders can kill a huge dragon on top of a mountain. I can attack the dragon’s head, feet, or tail. Hitting the head nets the most damage, but he moves it frequently and attacking the feet is dangerous as he can easily stop on my character. The girl who joined my party also dies, I will remember her fondly.

51 - The battle rages on. It’s difficult to get the three hit combo on the dragon since he moves so much and my weapon is slow. The dragon starts to break out his more interesting attacks like spitting out giant fireballs. I poke him with my spear a few times and he changes from purple to red. I’m not sure if this is good or bad.

Phantasy Star Zero Battle

52 - Big Red follows up with a huge spin attack that can easily knock me down. He pulls it off several times in a row, how is that even physically possible? I put the ice attack on my action pallet and use it on the dragon, but the damage dealt is so embarrassingly pathetic I don’t even want to mention it. Ice is good against dragons in Pokemon, why should it be different in other games? I gobble down a few more healing potions, but the ugly lizard finally dies and I level up.

54 - The formerly dead but still rather useless girl introduces herself as Sarisa. During our conversation I am giving different dialogue options that range from generic hero to total jerk. Let’s stay with generic hero right now.

55 - Kai shows up. I would have much preferred him to the elf girl. Kai asks Sarisa a fe more questions, but she refuses to reveal her origins. I’m sure it’s not relevant to the plot at all. I get a message that I cleared the quest after the scene. A victory chest appears, and it gives me a few guns. I can use them, but I would just be a wannabe Ranger.

56 - I warp back to the city and get a measly 1000 Meseta (the in-game currency) for my hard work. The mayor’s assistant, a surprisingly busty CAST, then fills me in on Mags and why they matter.

57 - Sarisa and Kai reappear and join my party. I’m still mad at Kai for ditching me though, but my mute character does not voice my concerns.

58 - I browse some shops which have some new items. I still don’t have an element or anything for photon fortification, stop teasing me! I have a lot of useless items left over from the quest, so I feed it to my Mag so he will grow up strong and healthy.

60 - I adjust my action pallet again. I get rid of those useless spells, but I keep the healing one as it may come in handy. I look around the city a bit more, but now the hour is up.

Phantasy Star Zero Girl

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 19

Somebody please fix the camera: The camera is rather hard to adjust. The L button swings it behind you, but you can’t do this all the time. You can manually rotate the camera, but you have to press trigger buttons and face buttons at the same time. There are many times when I completely miss enemies because I can’t line them up right because of the camera.

Exciting monster killing: The combat is extremely similar to Phantasy Star Online. This may or may not be a good thing for you, but for me, it’s still as fun and addictive as ever. There is an evade button, which is rather useless during the first hour, but it may prove vital during more heated battles.

Great presentation all around: Although the art style of the original PSO is leagues above the Wild Arms/Phantasy Star fusion Sega is using for this game, the graphics still look great and everything is very detailed. The anime cutscenes are a good touch if you’re into that sort of thing, but it does show that Sega at least put some effort into making the single player mode bearable. Probably the coolest touch is the classic PSO sound beeps and bloops that make a return. It will make residents of Ragol feel a rush of nostalgia for sure.

Are you really just going to play this offline? It may seem a bit silly to do a first hour of a game where the main appeal is playing online with others, but I wanted to see what Sega did with the single player mode, and if the gameplay mechanics work well. And trust me, they do.

Keep playing? This is basically handheld Phantasy Star Online. There are more classes too, so PSO vets can try something new. It can be a bit clunky at times due to framerate issues and the spastic camera, but if you liked Phantasy Star Online, you should dig this game. And if you’ve never played PSO before, this is a very accessible title to pick up. Some people won’t even touch the single player mode, but I can still see people enjoying the game without ever seeing Sarisa kill herself in the first two minutes of a boss fight.

Phantasy Star Zero Gunblade