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Launch Day Preview

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Phantasy Star Universe launched today and we deliver our preview

Phantasy Star Universe launches for PC today. The beta has come to a close and I was lucky enough to get a good look at the game before launch. Phantasy Star was a popular game that continues its evolution through different game systems and generations. This Phantasy Star has a lot to offer players who love the story and setting. However, from an MMO stand point, much of the game is instanced and built around a small group dynamic. There is very little open world to explore other than the major cities on different planets. The rest of the game takes you through various missions with your party to explore and fight it out with alien monsters.

There are two modes of play. The Story Mode and the Network Mode, obviously the Network mode allows you to link up with other players. Given this website's focus I did not go through the story mode. I jumped right into the network and started a character online. The beginning tutorial is very helpful in getting you started and showing you where everything is. Also, the NPC who helps you out in the beginning comes along on your early missions to give you a hand.

The main area in the Guardians Colony looks like the mall of the future. I created a Cast character with a robotic look. The other choices were Human, Newman, and Beast. The one thing that is very complex is character creation with lots of design options for people to play around with. With my Cast character created I began running around the Guardian Colony looking for missions to do. I found a few clearing out the hallways of monsters and eventually beating the first boss on my own. I used a pistol, saber combination for my character. So when my photon power in the pistol got low I could fight with my saber. Eventually as I went up in level I pursued the Hunter career path so I could fight with two sabers. The other options were the Ranger (a shooting class) and using Technics (a futuristic mage like class). By the time I hit fifth level I was slicing and dicing through SEED aliens with two photon sabers.

The look of the game is very crisp. The graphics stand out clearly and the options for customization continue through the course of the game. As for the Interface it can be a little complex with a keyboard. The game is available for the Xbox 360 and PS2 so I recommend getting a game pad with a USB port to make things a little easier (XBOX 360 controllers can be used on the PC). I have been a mouse, keyboard player all this time, but found the pad easy to use and it definitely helped make the interface faster when changes were needed. The ability to switch weapons in mid-fight was nice so I could go from guns to sabers quickly if I needed too. Along with the weapons, healing items are easy to access in a fight so you did not die easily.

The chat function are nice, speaking in comic-book bubbles, however sometimes the lettering was off and it could be difficult to read. The rest is pretty straight forward for an MMO. The point of view could be adjusted (I prefer third person) quite easily to fit your play style. PSU playability is great, easy to move around and even easier to fight with combination moves. I am sure there are more advanced elements out there in the game, but it was easy to learn how to access and use weapons and abilities.

I was able to explore the Guardian Colony in depth and even did a few missions on Parum and Neudaiz (two of the planets). However I did not find too many people to group with and soloing higher level missions only resulted in my demise. Still these worlds are fully realized and very detailed. The city on Neudaiz has a very Asian feel to it and burst onto the screen with color. I enjoyed running around to the shops and getting better armor and weapons as I grew in level. There was always something new to see in the cities as you explored. I never made it to Moatoob for some of the high level game play so I can not say much about it. There are certain factions in the game that come into play as you progress. I was able to boost my faction with the Guardian Colony but again that is where I spent most of my time.

Playing PSU in solo mode is possible, but not easy. You will eventually run into missions that require a party for you to complete them. This game is ideal for a group of friends who can get together a few nights a week to run missions together and raise up their characters. As I said in the beginning, the game is heavily instanced which calls for team work and group coordination. Being in early Beta there were only a few people I ran into and was able to go on some missions with, but mostly I had to go it alone.

You also get your own room or apartment in Network mode which has custom options. There are shops to buy things for your apartment. Also, you can meet players in the lobby to go on missions. You get the ability to keep a "friends" list so if others are online you can find fellow adventurers. There is also crafting in the game, but I did not explore how to craft and build my own weapons and armor. To be honest it looked a little complex and there was little time to explore crafting while I was always running around doing missions. If a player has the time, the crafting can offer some powerful upgrades to photon equipment.

Phantasy Star Universe is a fun game. It moves quickly and is very fluid. The game play will come to most gamers quickly and can be mastered in a short time. Again I do recommend getting a USB game pad if you are playing on a PC; it does make life easier in PSU. I used an XBOX360 controller. The only real issue that arose was repeating the same missions in order to advance in level. As I stated in the beginning the game is heavily instanced for small player groups to go out adventuring. This can be fun, but may also get old after a while with less open world content. The game does run very smoothly though and the graphics are wonderful to behold. If you are a fan of Phantasy Star this game certainly bears looking into. I for one would like to know what content they plan on adding in the future to give players more open world options. Look for my review in the coming weeks here at MMORPG.com.