PSO2 is Now on Steam!

Phantasy Star Online 2 received a huge update yesterday, which included the summer event, Mission Pass Season 6, and new story and gameplay content in Episode 4, but the biggest news was the launch of the game on a new PC platform: Steam.

I had moved from playing on console to the Windows 10 version, which I had made my peace with, but I love Steam as a platform, so I was excited for the game to release there. I downloaded the game as soon as it launched and jumped through the weirdly stressful account linking hoops.

My impressions of the Steam version are wholly positive. I’m not sure if it was was an issue with the Win10 version launcher (which may have been corrected now), but previously I was unable to run the game at resolutions above 1080p. On Steam, I was immediately able to launch PSO2 at 4K.

In game, my framerate, with all visual settings maxed out, stayed in the 150 fps range.

I ran a mission in the “new” Vegas stage and performance stayed consistent the whole time. I gotta say though; I don’t *love* this stage and these enemies. I appreciate the weirdness, but this type of American kitsch doesn’t really fit with the vibe and aesthetic of the game.

The mech ships are cool though.

Revisiting Phantasy Star II Part 2: Darum

Revisiting Phantasy Star II: Part I

There are three moments that, to me, define the story of Phantasy Star II. The first of which is Darum.

When you first begin PSII, residents of the starting town, Paseo, present an idyllic view of the state of the world. Protected by a supercomputer known as Mother Brain (no relation to Metroid), the planet Mota (Motavia) prospers. It is also apparent that there is something darker, more sinister, lurking beneath and in the margins of this society.

If you travel northwest of Paseo you will come to the North Bridge, which is impassable at the start of the game. The obstruction is a man named Darum.

Darum has been robbing, attacking, and killing anyone who attempts to pass. What a dick! In the meantime, your adventure takes you to a dungeon called Shure. Here, on the dead body of a bandit, you find a ransom note intended for Darum. The request is simple: 50,000 Meseta for the return of his daughter.

Your quest continues to Nido Tower, where you find Darum’s kidnapped daughter, Teim. You rescue her, cover her head with a veil so she is not recognized, and return her to her father.

In most games, this would be a happy ending. Father and daughter reunited, Darum would see the error of his ways, cease his violent behavior, and live happily ever after with his family. Phantasy Star II is not most games, and this doesn’t happen.

Teim approaches her father, still veiled. Darum does not recognize her.

He stabs her, not realizing she is his daughter until it is too late.

Darum lights an explosive and joins his daughter in death. Your party reflects.

This moment sets the tone for the world in which the game takes place. In addition, the line “Someone must save us!” resonates thematically. At this point in the story, the protagonists think like the citizens of Motavian society: their savior lies elsewhere.

Darum’s story is not the “biggest” moment in PSII, but it’s incredibly important to the world building. Even outside of that context, it’s a tragic tale on a totally different level than most video game stories in 1989. Phantasy Star II’s writer, Chieko Aoki, raised the bar of storytelling in the medium, and this moment is a key reason why.

The other two moments I mentioned earlier? We’ll get to those.

Revisiting Phantasy Star II Part 1: Overview and My Favorite Way to Play

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Phantasy Star II’s initial English release. The game was released in March 1989 in Japan, March 1990 in North America (two months before the first Final Fantasy hit the NES), and November 1990 in Europe.

I wanted to replay the game to celebrate, especially after finishing the original PS again earlier this year. I also wanted to talk about it, in some capacity. But at this point, what is there to say about Phantasy Star II? While still niche compared to other RPGs of the 16-bit era, the game has achieved some notoriety thanks to its difficulty and the character Nei.

In lieu of a single write-up of the game, I’m going to create a series of short posts about aspects of PSII that interest and/or resonate with me. Some topics I plan to explore include, but are not limited to, the world (universe) building, comparisons with the original game, Nei’s arc, Darum’s story, and the ending.

I’m going to start simple, with my favorite way to play the game.

While Phantasy Star II has been ported to pretty much every game console released in the past two decades, those ports have generally been a straight conversion of the Mega Drive / Genesis original. This makes the game uninviting for two reasons: walk speed (slow) and difficulty (hard).

Enter the Sega Ages Phantasy Star Collection. Released on the PlayStation 2 in Japan in 2008, this collection holds a special place in my heart. I was living in Japan when it launched, and bought it on release day. I have vivid memories of playing the collection in my tiny apartment, sustained by konbini snacks and Ukon no Chikara energy drinks.

For me, this PS2 collection was the most accessible way to play the games ever. I had played them on the original hardware and various compilations, but the quality of life improvements were (literally) game changing. Options to increase movement speed and increased xp/meseta per battle changed PS I-III from from slow and punishing to brisk and welcoming (PS IV is significantly more “modern” and didn’t need the fixes as much). The collection included both the Mega Drive and Genesis versions, so you could play the games with the improvements, in English (the English localizations were not improved for this release, unfortunately).

This was the first time I completed Phantasy Star II. Yes, the later dungeons were still a pain (I used a walkthrough), but the game at least felt possible. Playing in this way may have seemed like a shortcut to some, but when I finished the game, I felt nothing but immense satisfaction.

While the collection sells for a fairly high price on eBay these days, it should still be accessible for a reasonable price from the Japanese PlayStation Store on PS3. In 2013 I wrote a short review of the collection and a guide for purchasing it on my old Sega blog. This is how I will be revisiting the game. I’m excited to get started (again!)

James Mielke Talks to Yuji Naka About Phantasy Star Online’s 20th Anniversary

Over at Polygon, James Mielke talks to Yuji Naka about the development and legacy of PSO. The interview is a must-read, and the best part? It’s the first of six restrospective articles about the game!

If you’re not familiar with James, he was of the biggest advocates of PSO in the Western gaming press when it launched. I remember reading his (controversial) review of the original game in EGM, and then his glowing review of Episode I & II on GameCube a few years later. James appeared on The Greatest Retronauts Episode Ever to talk Phantasy Star in 2008, and then joined SegaBits’ podcast in 2014 specifically to discuss PSO. I couldn’t imagine anyone better than James for this task, and I can’t wait for the next article!

To the Player Who Posted a Transphobic Meme on Ship 01 Last Night

Hey. I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. What I do know is that we were running an Urgent Quest last night and you posted some pretty hurtful stuff. I’ll admit, when I first saw you, I noticed your character name was a reference to the current president of the United States. I don’t like that dude very much, so congratulations, you got a reaction out of me.

I just rolled with it, whatever. A PSO2 Urgent Quest isn’t the place for deep political discussions or to unpack why exactly you thought it was cool to alienate many of the players you were supposed to be cooperating with.

We started the quest and you began spamming memes of “The Donald.” Not super helpful in defeating the boss- just saying. Still I rolled with it. In ten minutes we’d either succeed or fail at this Urgent Quest and likely never see each other again. Then, mid-combat, you posted an image that I simply could not abide. A crudely drawn bear, with this message:

“MAGA bear says trans lives don’t matter.”

I cannot imagine how hurtful that would feel to a trans player, to be told that their existence did not matter, via a flippant button press.

After we finished the quest, I reported you, in-game and your Xbox Live Gamertag. How could I not? You brought prejudice and hate into our community. A community that should be welcoming to all.

Maybe you were just doing it “for the lulz.” Maybe it was for a reaction (again, congratulations, you got your very own blog post from me). Maybe you’re streaming all this, or posting it on a forum somewhere, trying to build your online “brand.” Maybe you just feel invisible and want to be noticed. Or maybe you just don’t know enough about the challenges trans people face and thought your contrarian amalgamation of politics was just some harmless edgy fun.

I’m not going to lecture you with statistics around trans suicide rates or discrimination. You have Google, do the work. I am going to recommend a book though. I certainly didn’t really understand much about the trans experience until I read the book Tranny, by Laura Jane Grace and Dan Ozzi. It’s not some self-righteous, high-brow tale. It’s punk, anti-establishment, and abrasive. I think you would get a lot out of it.

So why did I take all this time to write up a post that you will likely never see or read? Because I have hope. Hope that maybe you’ll see this. Hope that you’ll reflect and grow. The Urgent Quest we ran last night was lvl 80- end game content as far as the NA release is concerned. You obviously care at least a little bit about this game that I also love. You were looking for a reaction, but I want to offer that connection. I hope you can reflect, find peace, and return to the game a kinder person.

Take care.

Be better.

Oh so *that’s* what PSO2 New Genesis is

When New Genesis was revealed yesterday, PSO2 players had *a lot* of questions. Today, SEGA provided a lot of answers. First, watch the video. It’s about three minutes long and sums up PSO2NGS pretty well.

Here’s the text:

We want to express our heartfelt appreciation for every single player who has taken up arms with ARKS in Phantasy Star Online 2. We have an exciting announcement concerning the future of Phantasy Star Online 2 for all players, including active ARKS operatives and those who are currently on hiatus.
Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis was announced during the broadcast of Microsoft’s Online Conference, the Xbox Games Showcase, on Thursday, July 23, 2020. This massive update will be released instead of a new episode, and is planned to launch after Episode 6.
This update may come as a surprise to those of you who are still playing Episode 3. In Japan, Phantasy Star Online 2 recently celebrated its 8th anniversary and is gearing up for the end of Episode 6. Because the game system and graphics engine were created eight years ago, they may seem unrefined to modern players, especially to those of you whose adventures just began with the North American version. This is why the development team is preparing a massive update instead of a new episode—to give Phantasy Star Online 2 the renewal it deserves. We are proud to present this dramatic evolution to you as Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis.
This massive overhaul will be released in 2021, the year of Phantasy Star Online‘s 20th anniversary. We sincerely hope that all you ARKS operatives will continue to enjoy the Phantasy Star Online 2 universe for years to come.
Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis already has a teaser site, and you can find a promotional video for it there. Click here to visit the teaser site and check it out!
Because the promotional video on the teaser website may not make it entirely clear how Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis is related to Phantasy Star Online 2 and how it differs, we have created a follow-up video and an announcement compiling what we can reveal at this point in time. For starters, please watch the follow-up video.
■ 2021 will mark Phantasy Star Online 2‘s largest update ever!
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Phantasy Star Online, we will be aiming for even greater heights and reshaping the story, game system, graphics engine, and character creation system. Phantasy Star Online 2 will be reborn as an open-field online RPG, with a renewed battle system and game system to match!
■ The twin universes of Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis and Phantasy Star Online 2 exist side by side! Both are playable!
You can continue to enjoy the original Phantasy Star Online 2 even after Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis has been released. Accounts that have been playing Phantasy Star Online 2 will be able to hop between Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis and Phantasy Star Online 2. However, because the game system is vastly different, we would like to explain what exactly is changing with Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis below.
■ Create even more gorgeous characters with the new and improved graphics engine!
With the new graphics engine comes enhanced character models. In addition to the features present in the current character creation system, you’ll now have even more detailed options, like changing the luster of your character’s skin. Characters will also be able to move their fingers now! Furthermore, you’ll be able to wear more accessories—as well as change their locations—creating even more customized characters. Because Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis‘s character creation system is compatible with that of Phantasy Star Online 2, players are free to decide which one they want to use.
Finally, Phantasy Star Online 2‘s core graphics engine will also be overhauled, allowing you to use characters created with Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis‘s system within Phantasy Star Online 2 as well. Naturally, ALL character creation info from Phantasy Star Online 2 (including items linked to emotes and other previously registered data) will be compatible with Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis!
Note: The system requirements for the PC version will increase when Phantasy Star Online 2 is updated to meet Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis‘s standards.
■ Changes to the Game System
Because Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis and Phantasy Star Online 2 will have different game systems, some of their respective elements will be incompatible. The following points will summarize what we can announce at this time.
Note: While Phantasy Star Online 2‘s graphics engine will be overhauled, its game system will not change. You can play the exact same content that you have until now.
Items That Are Not Compatible With Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis
The following items obtained in Phantasy Star Online 2 cannot be used in Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis.
Skill Rings
Consumable Items used for battle, growth, and enhancement
Boost Items
Materials
Furnishings
The above information is subject to change. We would greatly appreciate your understanding in this matter.
■ Regarding Player Data and Character Growth
Player Data
AC and SG can be used in both Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis and Phantasy Star Online 2.
Because Meseta, FUN, and other currencies greatly affect the balance of the game’s economy, these cannot be shared between Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis and Phantasy Star Online 2.
Character Growth
Character growth will not be shared between Phantasy Star Online 2 and Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis.
Examples of character growth elements that are not shared with Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis:
Level
EXP
Class Skills
Photon Arts
Techniques
■ Regarding Weapons, Units, and Mags
Weapons, Units, and Mags obtained in Phantasy Star Online 2 can be used in Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis as well. However, their functions, abilities, and appearances will change in accordance with Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis‘s game system.
Note: These changes will only occur when playing Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis. They will retain their original functions, abilities, and appearances within Phantasy Star Online 2.
Weapons
While the fundamental weapon design will not change, their stats, augments, and potentials will. Additionally, some higher-rarity weapons may not be equippable until your character has reached a certain level. For weapons pertaining to classes that have not yet been added to Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis, they will be unusable until the relevant class has been released.
Units
In Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis, Units will become armor that is not visible. Even Units that have been obtained in Phantasy Star Online 2 will become invisible in Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis. Furthermore, similarly to weapons, their stats, augments, and potentials will change, and high-rarity Units may not be equippable until your character has reached a certain level.
Mags
Although Mags within Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis do not affect your stats or aid you in battle, Evolution Device data from Phantasy Star Online 2 will carry over.
Be sure to keep an eye out for more Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis news, for further information on how data will transfer between the two games!
Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis Release Information
■ Available Platforms
North America
Planned for release on Windows 10, Xbox One.
Note: If Phantasy Star Online 2 is added to new platforms, we plan to make Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis available on those platforms as well.
Japan
Planned for release on PC, PlayStation 4, Cloud (Switch, PC).
■ Price
Free-to-Play (Some premium items available.)
Note: The information provided on this page is for a game still under development. The content and specifications may change at any time without notification.
Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis Announcement Campaign
To celebrate the announcement of Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis, a “Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis Announcement Campaign” will be held in Phantasy Star Online 2. This campaign features some truly tantalizing items, so we invite all ARKS operatives who have taken a vacation from Phantasy Star Online 2 to come back and have some fun while waiting for the release of Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis! Click here for more information about this campaign!

Losing character levels and Meseta will be a tough pill for many players to swallow, but overall I think the upgrades outweigh the losses. It’ll be interesting to see how this massive upcoming change affects the player base, community, and in-game economy of PSO2 in the months to come. I’m excited to be along for the ride and to see what comes next!

Anamana Breaks Down the PSO2 New Genesis trailer

As I’ve mentioned before, if you play (or want to play) PSO 2, you should check out Anamana’s videos. Here he breaks down some of the systems and mechanics of today’s wild and mysterious surprise. Looking forward to more from him on PSO2NGS in the weeks and months to come!

Everything We Know About Phantasy Star Online 2 New Genesis (so far)

Update 1: more info from Takuro Yoshihara over at the official Xbox news site, Xbox Wire.

Update 2: even more info and clarity from the official site.

Well this was a surprise! Announced during today’s Microsoft Xbox Game Showcase, New Genesis is what’s next for the PSO series. But the reveal trailer (and title), maybe left us with more questions than answers. Let’s look at what we know.

For one, want to feel old? This December marks the 20th anniversary of PSO. This image followed the SEGA logo that opened the trailer.

If you haven’t watched the trailer yet, head over to SEGA’s teaser site for the game. The trailer shows a game that’s like PSO2… but not. Similar, but different UI, locations, characters, enemies, etc. In the trailer, we’re promised a “brand new expansive world,” showing much larger environments than in previous games. We don’t know exactly *how* big, but there were some moments where the world seemed to stretch out really far, giving me some Xenoblade vibes.

(Screen captures thanks to Wario64)

Solo or team-based action combat seems intact, but everything just looks… better. Which leads us to the next question: is this a PSO2 expansion or a whole new game? Well, it’s complicated.

Segabits refers to the game as “a complete overhaul to the existing game.” In their article they mention an update to the game system and engine.

While SEGA hasn’t released a massive info dump, they have been answering questions on social media. Over at Resetera, users found evidence that character progress from PSO *will* carry over, in some capacity.

Finally, where will you be able to play the game? Well, that depends on where you are in the world.

In North America, as stated in the trailer, you’ll be able to play on Xbox One, Windows PC, and the upcoming Xbox Series X. In Japan, PS4, Windows PC, and Switch (via cloud) are your options. No word on any other regions yet.

So that’s where we’re it. In 2021, a phenomenal looking new Phantasy Star Online game will be released. And while we don’t know all the details, we do know that we won’t be waiting ten years for it to leave Japan. Hopefully.