Phantasy Star Nova – Impressions After 30 Hours

I posted about the game’s packaging here if you’re into that sort of thing.

Phantasy Star Nova was released on the PS Vita in Japan in November of 2014. To contextualize what the game “is,” think of it as a single player / local multiplayer parallel to PSO 2, in the same way the Phantasy Star Portable games were to Universe.

I’ve put about 30 hours into the game and I really like it, although some language barrier issues have prevented me from getting the most out of it.

The game feels like a cross between what you’d expect from a PSO-style dungeon crawler and Monster Hunter. You get quests in town in which you need to collect X amount of items or defeat X monsters. This is where the game feels most like the loot/progression-based Phantasy Star games post-PSO (specifically PSO2).

One way the game feels closer to MonHun is the presence of the Gigantes enemies. These are giant boss monsters with weak points that need to be targeted. As in MonHun, these creatures can be captured or killed.

Nova also feels like Monster Hunter in the way it handles upgrades and items. There is an in-game currency, but for items, weapons, armor, and upgrades you need to use crafting materials. As you may have guessed, these materials come from enemies you defeat.

Here’s where the language barrier became an issue for me. I have a rudimentary knowledge of Japanese which begins and ends with kana. This can get me pretty far in a series like Phantasy Star which uses a lot of Katakana for item names. Unfortunately, there are SO MANY items and crafting materials in Nova, that there is quite a bit of nuance in descriptions, which manifest in the form of Kanji. As a result, I have really been struggling with figuring out what materials I need to upgrade my equipment.

That said, I can still grind in missions and improve my stats with no problems. The game looks and feels pretty good on the Vita, especially considering it’s now almost six years old.

Nova was developed by tri-Ace, creators of the Valkyrie Profile and Star Ocean series. Despite the developer’s history with another sci-fi JRPG franchise, Nova still feels distinctly Phantasy Star. The only time it really gave me Star Ocean vibes was the music. Composed by Motoi Sakuraba, the soundtrack is fine, but leans heavily on traditional orchestration and lacks a lot of the electronic elements I expect from the Phantasy Star series.

Before writing this, I hadn’t played my copy of Nova in years. Returning to the game was surprisingly easy and enjoyable. It’s nice to be able to play a PSO-style game on a portable, and it feels similar, but different enough from PSO2 to be casually played in tandem. Nova likely won’t become my “main” Phantasy Star game, but it’s nice to be able to grab my Vita and grind while watching TV or traveling.

SEGA Master System: a visual compendium

Phantasy Star is arguably the marquee title for the Master System, so it’s no surprise that it gets a lot of love in Bitmap Books’ (excellent) visual compendium.

The book is filled with history, interviews, and reviews which tell the story of why this oft-forgotten (in the US at least) console is so important and beloved.

I didn’t get my hands on a Master System until long after the fact (summer of 2001 to be exact), and over the years I’ve come to appreciate the console and its games more and more. This book has further deepened my appreciation of the Master System, and at the center of all of it is one game.

Plus, the book comes with 3D glasses, how cool is that??

Grab your copy from Bitmap Books.

Phantasy Star Online 2 Fashion Catalog 2017 – 2018

This 418-page monster is a very distinctly Japanese item. It’s a visual guide to fashion in PSO2. Specifically, customization options made available in 2017-2018.

The book covers original outfits and accessories in great detail, including photographs from multiple angles for each.

This is really fun to flip through to see so many outfits I’ve never come across in-game.

Where the book got most interesting for me was the collaboration section. If you’ve followed persistent Japanese online games like Monster Hunter or Final Fantasy XIV in any capacity, you know that crossovers are frequent, cool, and oftentimes bizarre.

PSO2’s collaborations are no different. We go from the OG Phantasy Star games…

…to Persona…

…to Dead Or Alive…

…to Breath of the Wild!

I’m so curious if / when we’ll get these collaboration outfits in the West. Persona is primarily a PlayStation series and Zelda is obviously Nintendo. With PSO2 currently limited to Microsoft platforms (Xbox and Windows 10), it doesn’t feel likely anytime soon. But stranger things have happened in this industry, so we’ll see!

Phantasy Star Online 2 The Animation Episode 3

Roleplay

Check out previous “reports” here.

As always, light spoilers ahead!

Itsuki begins to develop some social skills, in both real and virtual worlds.

This episode goes hard on the social/power dynamics within the student council (always a fun anime trope). Itsuki shares some responsibility with a struggling member of the council, but then makes it all weird.

Meanwhile, he learns a valuable gaming terminology lesson.

While this discussion serves a story purpose for both the characters and viewer, there’s a touch of rumination on the way people show up in virtual spaces.

There’s a bit of “hurt people hurt people” here, and it plays out in a predictable, but resonate way.

It’s cool seeing a show like this approach topics like these, even if the resolution feels a bit convenient.

You can watch Phantasy Star Online 2 The Animation on Crunchyroll or buy the Blu-ray set from SentaiRight Stuf, or Amazon.

SEGA AGES Phantasy Star (Switch) (The End)

I wrapped up Sega Ages Phantasy Star on Switch this morning. It’s my 3rd or 4th time finishing this game in one form or another, and I can confidently say that the Switch version is the best way to play it. From the FM Sound Unit to the auto mapping in dungeons, I can’t really imagine ever revisiting another version of the game.

As far as the end section of the game itself (spoilers, I guess), it’s just another way this game continues to impress 30+ years later.

The entire game you’re hunting Lassic, in a mission of revenge. You finally find him, he calls you “his children” and then asks if you want to kill an old man.

That’s weird.

You defeat Lassic, get your revenge, and then it’s off to The Governor’s mansion on Motavia to share the great news. This should be your Dragon Quest I-esque victory lap through the land, but it’s not. Enemies continue to attack as if you haven’t just overthrown the tyrannical ruler of the Algol System.

That’s weird.

You get to The Governor’s mansion and he’s not there. You fall through a trap door, into a dungeon beneath the mansion.

That’s… hmm…

The dungeon looks and sounds similar to others in the game, and there aren’t really any enemies (I only encountered a single Red Dragon). Still, I find a dungeon simply existing beneath the mansion of a government official to be pretty unsettling.

You get to the end and OH. DARKFALZ.

There’s our creepy final boss. Defeat it and get the “true” ending, in which it turns out the Governor was possessed (hmmmm). We also learn that Alis is descended from a royal bloodline, and she is given the option to reign as queen of the Algol System (I chose “no”).

Regardless, peace is restored, and the ending implies that the people of Algol will never really understand the full scope of these events. It kinda feels like a metaphor.

For more discussion of Sega Ages Phantasy Star, check out the podcast we recorded about it here!

Phantasy Star Fan Pages from the 90s

I randomly stumbled upon this site, which has a surprisingly robust amount of Phantasy Star III content. The most exciting subsection to me however, was the “gallery of dead sites.” Here there is a collection of PS sites from the GeoCities days.

I “visited” the sites and saved photos with good vibes, which I present to you here.

Phantasy Star Online 2 – Impressions After 80 Hours

Previous impressions: 20 hours40 hours, 60 hours.

Wow I sure have played this game a lot.

A few significant things happened in my last 20 or so hours of playing.

One, I started an alliance (PSO2’s version of guilds). It’s called Esaka (it’s an Osaka / SNK thing) and as of right now, I’m the only member.

It’s a very elite club.

Maybe when the game releases on more platforms some of my friends will join?? I mean, we have a bar!

The main reason I started Esaka was for an achievement. I’m not really an achievement / trophy guy (which is good, because I kinda suck at video games tbh), but this game is bringing out the completionist in me.

None of the achievements are really “hard,” they just involve a lot of playing (and sub class swapping). There is one absolutely ridiculous achievement though: darts.

In order to get this one, you have to first buy (or visit someone with) a dart board. Then you have to score a triple 20 on a throw. The only problem is that this is totally random; you don’t have any control over your throws. That means every throw has a 1-in-61 chance (I think?) of being a 60. So this achievement could take 1 minute or 5 hours depending on your luck. It took me about an hour, which was made tolerable by the edible I had eaten prior to starting and changing tunes in my in-game room to listen to music from previous Phantasy Star games. This achievement is probably going to annoy a lot of people, but I had fun embracing its ridiculousness.

Honestly though, the most exciting thing to happen in-game recently was seeing someone who had created Rolf from Phantasy Star II.

Now that’s the type of person I want to see in Esaka’s bar.

Phantasy Star Online 2 The Animation Episode 2

The Aloof Warrior

Check out previous “reports” here.

As always, light spoilers ahead!

The episode begins with Itsuki finding success in his role as student council president, getting stuff done. We’re introduced to Suzuki Aika, a new student just back from living abroad. Aika is curious about Itsuki and it gets weird.

Anime!

Itsuki shows Aika around the dorm of their boarding school, and we see a legendary SEGA character enshrined in the bathhouse.

With both Itsuki and Aika in the dorm, things continue to get weirder.

We then cut back to Game Stuff, including a pretty great breakdown of PSO2 combat strategies.

Itsuki’s growing confidence in the game has left him arrogant and oblivious of the fact that he kinda sucks at PSO2. Thankfully, he has friends to set him straight.

In the meantime, this is just a great shot:

After struggling with his failure within PSO2, Itsuki repays his debt and reconciles with SORO. This mini character arc is great- it totally justifies the real-life/in-game split approach the creators took to The Animation. Thinking of how actions within a video game affect people in their “real” lives is a fascinating and powerful topic, even through the show’s sometimes strange anime lens.

The “game” part of the episode wraps up with Itsuki and SORO checking out an in-game concert (something PSO2 players will be familiar with). Back in real life, Rina shares her reason for the student council documenting PSO2- the school wants it banned, and Rina wants to prove its merits (I’m hoping for some Footloose-esque plot beats here in future episodes).

In order to reach her goal, Rina enlists Aika to support Itsuki with his reports, ensuring that things are just going to get weirder.

You can watch Phantasy Star Online 2 The Animation on Crunchyroll or buy the Blu-ray set from SentaiRight Stuf, or Amazon.