SEGAís newest addition to the Phantasy Star series will soon make its way onto the Nintendo DS as Phantasy Star Zero. Zero is the sixth portable incarnation of the series and is the first portable version to offer online gameplay. With Zero, SEGA has aimed to give players an experience akin to what PSO had to offer.
"Perhaps the biggest draw for this latest Phantasy Star incarnation is in its online play."
Phantasy Star Zero takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth, which is a first for the series. The events of Zero take place 200 years after a catastrophic war known as the "Great Blank," which resulted in the near total destruction of Earthís civilizations. Players will take on the role of Hunters to not only defend their cities, but to also explore the remains of the Earth and discover the truth behind the "Great Blank."
Players will be able to choose between three different races and a variety of classes. These options, along with gender, will allow for 14 different Hunter variations. Further customization is achieved with the character creation system. Veterans of Phantasy Star Portable will see much in common in terms of character creation. Players will be able to choose from different styles and/or colors of clothing, hair, skin along with a selection of different voices. Players can also customize the color of a robotic pet known as a Mag that augments their stats. While not as robust as Phantasy Star Online or Universe, Zero still offers enough customization to give a decent level of individuality.
The Huntersí adventures will take place across eight different maps. Like Phantasy Star Portable, these regions will be split up into different rooms. While these rooms break up the continuity of the map, they allow for randomization, which keeps the zones from getting too stale. Most of the indigenous monsters are animal in nature, though the player will encounter some robot and alien opponents. Players will also encounter different varieties of semi-rare and rare monsters that will offer greater rewards than their normal counterparts.
In order to better succeed in their endeavors, players can outfit their Hunters with a large variety of weapons. Phantasy Star Zero boasts over 350 unique weapons that can be ground by the player and upgraded using slots, which offer more upgrade freedom than in Phantasy Star Portable. Along with weapons, players will also have a variety of techs available to them based on their race, something that was tied to weapon choice in Portable. Zero also allows players to upgrade their Mags to suit their needs, potentially bringing a variety of different Mags with them to respond to changing situations in the field.
Perhaps the biggest draw for this latest Phantasy Star incarnation is in its online play. Zero will offer local and Wi-Fi play with up to four players. While players will be able to adventure with people from around the world, communication is still hampered by the need to exchange friend codes. After this exchange, the touch screen can be used to draw pictures and words to communicate with teammates. Treasure distribution is smoothly handled in online play by having all items deposited into a treasure chest that only appears after an entire room has been cleared. Players will then able to open the chest and take its contents, which can potentially be different for each player.
Overall, Phantasy Star Zero looks like it could offer a fairly solid addition to the series. Visually, it manages to do a good job of using the DSís capabilities. Replay value can be found not only by playing online, but also by experiencing the subtle differences between the three races. Fans of Phantasy Star Online will definitely want to take a good look at Zero. While it might not feel like a true sequel to Phantasy Star Online, it looks like it could end up being a step in the right direction. Look for Phantasy Star Zero when it releases on November 10.