The fallen of the powerful. People would like you to believe that -, and we don’t blame them. Phantasy Star Online was the Dreamcast’s pioneering series in online RPG action. Episodes I and II were undoubtedly the best episodes. Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution was the worst episode. It then went off on a tangent to Universe, causing active players to die and splitting the Phantasy Star loyal.
Zero (which is how the ‘O’ doesodah sounds if it was unclear) is an olive branch for those still longing for the classic PSO style, which resurrects the Dreamcast/GameCube mechanics, and distils the old magic into a more portable format.
Sega has done it again. Zero is exactly like PSO. It feels familiar, and the hypnotic “Whom… whom…whom” of the triple combo is all comfortingly familiar. The PSO’s other stalwarts are also back. You can now use the six-slot command palette for magic and attacks again (which forces you to be careful about which actions you have in your field of play).
The game’s structure is the same. Teleport to a stage and hack your way to the boss encounter. Then, return to your hometown to shop and manage inventory. You can do it again and again, but don’t expect any surprises. Sega may have been safe here, but this is precisely what Phantasy Star fans wanted.
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However, let’s face facts: World of Warcraft isn’t for everyone, and Phantasy Star enthusiasts aren’t familiar. Anyone looking at Zero with fresh eyes will find plenty to complain about – even series veterans. The touchscreen is entirely inefficient. It can’t be used for inventory or menu selections on the fly. This means that anything you don’t have in your six-slot action pallet is challenging to reach in the heat of battle. It is a very annoying oversight that can be pretty restrictive.
The D-pad is not the best input for games like this. With camera adjustment limited to centring with L (or playing around with rotation using the X), the controls feel like your hands have been coated in a treacle. Sega tried to force PSO onto D.S. without realizing the potential benefits.
Single-player games are a bit lacking somehow, but that’s just how it has always been. Zero does its best to flesh out the story using anime cutscenes and an absurd amount of inane dialogue. However, solo players will find it tedious and repetitive.
Fair enough, though, that you don’t buy an RPG online to play by yourself is a sign of weakness. Zero was meant to be played online. If you team up with three or more friends, you will discover an RPG that is both charming and highly value for money.
The humour of Visual Chat (a PictoChat-style communication method) makes it easy to power through stages faster. You also get to see the subtler strategies that the game offers on challenging levels. Zero, at its most energetic, monster-bashing and technique-casting, rifle blasting best, can feel almost addictive.
Without a doubt the most social game on D.S. Is prepared to edit your friend codes like there’s no tomorrow. There’s a friendly community of players who are happy to trade and adventure. We’ve been able to rekindle our passion for the series, thanks to that—Zero, what a hero.