Future Phantasy: What Do I Want To See?

Posted: March 4, 2008 in Video Games
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I’ve been a super fan of Sega’s Phantasy Star series for over twenty years and I’ve played every single game that’s been made available here in the United States.  In 2001 Sega took Phantasy Star into the online world with the release of Phantasy Star Online.  As much as I had hoped for a new game set in the traditional Algol solar system I was pleasantly suprised at how fun the game was.  I played it first on my Dreamcast and then on my GameCube.  I stopped playing PSO in 2005 and was waiting patiently for the next game in the series, Phantasy Star Universe.  The game was finally released near the end of 2006 and now that I’ve been playing it for over a year I want to do what I did a year into PSO, which is to make a wish list of things I’d like to see either added to Phantasy Star Universe through an expansion or to a completely new game.  Many of the things I wished for back when I was playing PSO came to fruition in PSU and while I don’t believe Sonic Team read my blog way back when, many people must have had the same complaints and wishes I did.  Alright here we go….these are in no particular order by the way.

Vehicles– In the original Phantasy Star Quadrilogy the party was granted access to new areas and given powerful weaponry through the use of vehicles.  The Landrover, Ice Digger, Jet Scooter, and even the sub and aero parts for Wren took us to cool places in games that we could only see in the far off distance and even to places we had no idea where there.   I’d like to see a future incarnation of Phantasy Star re-incorporate this type of thing into the saga.  Currently in PSU you drive a type of Jet Scooter but it’s function is limited and you only ride the scooter to pick up yellow orbs in one specific quest.  Finding and using these vehicles should be a big deal and grant us access to extraordinary places and things.

Combination Spells– Phantasy Star IV incorporated combination spells by where if two or more party members cast the proper spells, or performed the correct attack, the two would combine to create a new effect usually dealing out hefty damage.  This was one of the best additions to that game and one that I remember a lot of fans speaking positively about.  Why combo spells are not part of PSU I’ll never know.  I’d like to see these come back though.  Sandstorm, Black Hole, Grand Cross, etc.  With today’s technology there could be a large number of possible combinations for Forces (and fighters!) to make use of.  I can’t see this being difficult to pull off since there’s voice chat in the game and it might only require good timing and the caster’s to be in reasonable proximity of each other.

The Algo Solar System– The Algo Solar System is the setting for the first four Phantasy Star games and by far the most interesting locale of the saga.  Both PSO and to a lesser extent PSU remain vague about where they are exactly in space and even in time.  Both online ventures have their own solar systems and planets and never make mention of Algol.  My question is this?  Why if the stories are in no way connected does Sega call this Phantasy Star?  Aside from some names, and ambiguous references there is very little that ties either of the two online games to the original Quadrilogy.  I’d like to see the next Phantasy Star online game be set in the original universe (if it isn’t already) complete with the ability to choose Motavian’s Dezorian’s, Palman’s, and Musk Cat’s as your characters.  PSU does this to some degree but has replaced Dezorians with Newman’s, Palman’s with Humans and Motavian’s with Beasts.  Though I really like the choices PSU brings to the table I’m itching for a return to the saga’s roots.  I have been wondering however, especially as of late if both PSU and PSO might tie together and then tie into the original four games.  If that’s to be that’s great however Sega has and is taking its sweet ass time getting us to that point.

Level Caps– I’ve never been a fan of level capping especially with the ability for programmers to go in and make your adversaries stronger and even introduce newer stronger monsters for the highest level characters.  Currently in Phantasy Star Universe the level cap raises by ten every so often, which is usually once a month.  Now that Sega has really opened up the game in terms of experience and money earned (an excellent move) during your missions one can level his or her character up relatively quick and with little effort.  This means that many players max out their character’s levels which drives many players away from the game and while I’m not the type of player to stop playing because I cap out most MMO players are.  The structuring of PSU is pretty simple and I don’t see nor do I understand Sega capping our characters.  Why doesnt Sonic Team simply make the level cap 999 and let us grind away?  Great rewards or big stat boosts could be given to players who reach certain milestones and with the cap set at 999 players would theoretically never reach that point.  Currently the most difficult and rewarding missions anyone can access are “S2” missions.  I’m hoping that a much more liberal level cap would allow Sonic Team to periodically introduce “S3”, “S4”, “S5”, etc to entice placers to keep playing.  There also needs to be drops that can only be found in specific mission difficulties and as they do now, restrict mission difficulties to specific character levels.  The majority of players on PSU have maxed out more than one character and therefore no longer play or play sporadically.  I also wouldn’t mind lengthier times between leveling up, but if you’re going to increase the required amount of experience for leveling up the rewards for such an achievement must also increase.

More Planets/Locales– I know that PSU was originally intended and programmed to be a Playstation 2 game.  Looking at it even in HD it’s obvious that the game was not tailor made for the Xbox 360.  That said I can understand some of the limitations this game currently has however with online updates, expansions and the like all possible I’d really like to see more planets, cities on each planet, more missions, varied environments, and the list goes on and on.  I think this part of my wish list might be best relegated to a game on a much larger medium like Blu-Ray since the game could be 50 Gigabytes instead of a max of 4-8 Gigabytes though I’m sure it might be possible to pull this off without a disc or simply a new disc or download.  Currently there are three planets and while the missions on each planet vary by map the layouts are often similar and there isn’t much difference in the locales and details in the surrounding enviornments.  They’ve done a fine job up to this point but I’d really like to see Sonic Team ramp things up and let us explore exotic indoor and outdoor locations.  More detail would be awesome.  I’d also like to see additional planets pop up in the game at some point though I don’t think it will happen.  Ryucross or Rykros as it’s known here is simply a green version of a Hive  which I think is sad in this day and age.

Voice Acting– I expected my RPG’s to include voice acting back in 2002 and in some cases a little earlier than that.  Why then is there no voice acting for online story modes?  The voice acting in the offline story mode in PSU really brought the characters to life and just makes the game all the more enjoyable.  To put it blatantly, it really sucks to go from playing a story with voice acting offline to a bland, flat 1998-ish online story world.  I don’t care if voice acting would have increased the size of the expansion download or cost a few more dollars, it would have just been nice to have it present.

Longer Offline Quest– RPG’s have enjoyed a long running standard of 40 hours of gameplay per game.  While some good games and some bad games boast both shorter and longer quests, I would like to see Sega go balls to the wall with its next Phantasy Star incarnation and give us an offline quest that boasts at least 100 hours of gameplay.  In truth I’ve been wanting to see RPG’s like Phantasy Star, Final Fantasy, etc give us something that takes months to complete, not days.  Even with two jobs, kids and a wife to devote time to, I can beat most RPG’s within 4 days of bringing them home, and beat them thoroughly with no help I might add.  Over time it has become and continues to become increasingly more frustrating to wait 2-5 years for a game and then complete it so quickly.  Lets go deeper into characters, environments, stories, etc.  It’s 2008 and PRG’s have evolved in almost all other aspects, why not this one?  How about multiple story lines similar to PS III that push players to replay the offline quest numerous times with the payoff being key story revelations and different endings?

More Races and Classes– PSU has done a really good job with it’s job classes and I do enjoy the races available per character choice however I’d really like to see Sega up the ante in this area and give us a huge handful of races to choose from not just 4 and then only allow specific races to take on specific jobs.  I would like to see them continue to allow players the opportunity to play as and master several different classes, but some races should be restricted to certain job types or should be dealt heavy penalties to character stats should they choose one of these “forbidden” classes.  This would make things really challenging for those individuals brave enough to select such a job and encourage players to use more than one character.  Perhaps someone like me who prefers close quarters hand to hand combat would be willing to create and use a Force if there was a good reason to do so.  I’d also like to see some missions require players to be of a certain race, class, and job type!  In essence, I’d like Sega to stay on the path they are on with races and classes, just tighten things up a bit and make it more streamlined and rewarding.

Dark Falz– If Dark Falz is going to remain the ultimate villain and evil in Phantasy Star games Sega could at least make him resemble something Phantasy Star fans recognize.  I’ll give Sonic Team credit for the Dark Falz in PSO.  It was a fairly original monster and we know that it evolves from scenes in PS IV but watching Dark Falz on YouTube being fought by Japanese players in PSU was fairly disappointing.  This time around we don’t even get an original monster, it’s just De Rol Le palette swapped out and given the dark element instead of ice.   This sucks!  I would love to see at least the original face of Dark Falz remain while the body should remain free to evolve, but for gods sake, no more palette swapping!

The Profound Darkness– TPD as I like to call it/her was not just a huge surprise in PS IV but was a cool creature and a tough battle to boot.  Dark Falz is simply a small part of the TPD that it sends through to terrorize people every millennia so there can be many Dark Falz’s but where the hell is The Profound Darkness?  It hasn’t been seen since 1994 and what a time to make a comeback!  Since Sonic Team incorporates some elements of the original saga (mainly names and some enemies) into PSU why not TPD?  I want to see this happen badly, though I would rather see it never happen if it means that TPD is simply going to be a palette swap of something else.  Was anyone else extremely underwhelmed when Mother Brain turned out to be Dulk Fakis with a new skin?

Music– I love the music in PSU and enjoyed the music of PSO as well but how about bringing back or composing some new Phantasy Star-ish music?  I don’t mind remixes of old PS tunes but generally speaking these remixes have been average at best.  Why not just update some of the older material (midi to orchestrated) and inject it into the game?  I’d also like to have the ability to select which tunes play on certain planets, missions, and cities, much like we do now in our rooms.

Miscellaneous– Alright, here’s where the real geek in me steps out.  Currently in Phantasy Star Universe many of the coolest looking and rarest weapons in the game are useless outside of looking cool.  Even when grinded either the attack power, or accuracy of such weapons suffers a death blow at the hands of Sonic Team.  I’m one of those people that believes once a fictional universe has been created, all future projects that take place within that universe should observe the rules and guidelines that have previously been established.  Case and point…the Psycho Wand and Nei Claw are far from being the most powerful weapons in this game.  In other Phantasy Star games these weapons where the ultimate or close to the ultimate selections and finds for your characters.  If PSU and PSO don’t take place in the same universe as the original four games did, why does Sega include these weapons in the game?  I know there’s a certain level of fan service going on in this game and that’s fine, but things like this don’t make sense to me.  Thus far the only weapon I’ve seen carry moderate to good stats is the Chainsaw weapon which was carried over from PSO.  In future games I’d like to see S rank weapons, or any weapon that’s unique be worth more than “Oh man, what weapon is that…it looks coooool”.

I have enjoyed PSO and to a much greater extent PSU and believe them both to be great games for their respective generations.  I would however just like to see Sega bring more…a lot more to the table the next time around.  If these games are going to remain Phantasy Star games, then make them look and feel like a Phantasy Star game, if not create something new as I’m sure the new game will be great as well. Oh yea, will someone please make Phantasy Star V with traditional turn based combat?  I’d love to see this happen and Sega make use of the battle style found in Skies of Arcadia!  I’ll be back online once my Xbox is repaired by Microsoft.

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