We're now well into what I'd say is the next generation of Puzzle & Dragons [Free] imitators coming from Japanese developers, and with games like Rise of Mana and Final Fantasy Agito, it's clear the big boys are arriving and bringing their hefty budgets and resources with them. These days, it seems like if a Japanese publisher has an RPG property to leverage, a social RPG for mobiles with that property is almost inevitable. It also means if you see an old, familiar name from the past pop up on the Japanese App Store, you shouldn't expect anything other than a variation on collect 'em/fuse 'em/evolve 'em/battle 'em. I shouldn't have been surprised that SEGA's new Phantasy Star Online 2 es is just that, yet for some reason, I had hoped this would be something closer to the spin-off it's spinning off of.

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Phantasy Star is no stranger to chasing trends, though. What started as a sci-fi RPG series riffing off of Dragon Quest and Wizardry eventually became an online Diablo-esque action RPG in the Dreamcast era. It then found new life riding on the back of Monster Hunter mania before coming back to its second set of roots with Phantasy Star Online 2, currently available on PC and PlayStation Vita in Japan only. So perhaps in following the crowd towards yet another recent craze, Phantasy Star Online 2 es is simply doing what Phantasy Star always does.

Phantasy Star Online 2 es is sort of a companion app for PSO2 proper, but it also works as a stand-alone game. Like every other game of this type, the adventure plays out in a series of missions. Playing a mission uses some of your energy meter and in return, you'll earn items, meseta, and experience points, along with unlocking the next mission. Between missions, you can craft your items and weapons to create stronger versions of them, set up your gear and special attacks, and spend your medals and fun points to try to win new stuff. It's all very standard stuff if you've played any games like this before, just with a Phantasy Star coat of paint on top, including the familiar races and job classes.

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The missions themselves are sort of action-based battles, but they're a lot more primitive than the ones found in Agito or Mana. You tap an enemy to attack, with follow-up attacks administered via rhythmic tapping. Swiping left or right will shift you to the left or right by a set distance, and tapping the icons at the bottom of the screen will activate your special attacks. You can bring a friend with you into the fight who will unleash a powerful attack when you call on them. Naturally, the enemies will counter-attack, which you can try to dodge by swiping, even though you'll still end up getting hit most of the time. Like other games, you'll play through a series of battles in each mission, culminating in a boss, but in Phantasy Star, you can choose your route, leading to treasure and various other bonuses.

Six months ago, this would have been a lot more interesting, but in a post-Agito world, Phantasy Star's similar but more limited approach just isn't doing much for me. The combat lacks strategy and excitement, the ability system pales in comparison to Agito's compelling magic fusion, and the whole thing just sort of fails to capture the essence of what makes Phantasy Star work so well in its other forms. While the graphics are 3D, they're pretty poor next to the competition, and the cool story emphasis found in Mana and Agito is absent here. This game feels like SEGA checking off a box, and while Phantasy Star has always been about that to an extent, it's usually done with a great deal more care than they've shown here.

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At this point, it's unknown as to whether or not Phantasy Star Online 2 es will release outside of Japan, but given the main game has been out for a couple of years without an official English release, I wouldn't hold my breath too long. I wouldn't worry too much about that, however. You're not really missing much if you never get a chance to be welcomed to this Phantasy zone. If you are interested in it, keep an eye on TouchArcade for any further news and, if it receives an English release, a full review.

  • https://www.youtube.com/HansKaosu HansKaosu

    Hope they translate this. I have tried it a little. Seems cool

  • runliketurtles

    I'm still bitter PSO2 never made it out over here...

  • sirbond

    I've loved psu a lot can't wait to try this out

  • Bliquid

    PSO, Dreamcast, what an era.
    Long gone.

    • Sisee

      Not 'long gone'.
      PC users can play PSO Blue Burst on private servers.
      And GameCube/Wii/Wii U users can play PSO Episodes I & II and even C.A.R.D. Revolution with some technical jiggery-pokery. (Those are technical terms.)
      I played Episode I the other day online. A little barren, but plates solid. I encourage more people to look into reviving these games.
      If you still have a Dreamcast, and the rare Ethernet adaptor you can still play that version online.

      • Bliquid

        That's interesting indeed, but what i miss about those days is the balance between earnings and passion that developers/manifacturers had.
        And i miss my own amazement towards Dreamcast, which i consider my best console ever.

  • benadvanced

    Boycotting until they release pso2 stateside.

    • Rodnutz

      If you are bitter about PSO and how Sega just left us hanging I say send a message if this game gets translated.

      DO NOT DOWNLOAD IT! I know won't.

      I don't want to start a flame war but the way Sega treats it's fans outside of Japan when it comes to the PSO series is just ridiculous.

      • vid_icarus

        I agree completely that sega has done non-japanese fans a HUGE disservice by not exporting PSO2. Especially since there are rumors that it has been localized for about a year now. In short, I'm mad as hell at them being a long time fan of the series.

        That being said, I think boycotting this app may send the wrong message. If it's not good, sure, don't play it. But part of the reason PSO2 isn't here yet (or at all) is because Sega has drawn the erroneous conclusion that the Phantasy Star franchise has no fan base in western countries. Which is totally bananas.

      • Rodnutz

        PSO2 is not coming and to still believe there is hope that it will come if we support this game is silly at this point. The game will see and English release in Asia (sometime next year I believe) way before it sees an English release here in North America even though it was announced almost 2 years ago that we would have it by now. The information is not that hard to find on the internet.

        Since money is what talks to most of these companies ESPECIALLY Sega then what better way to get your point across? No PSO2 then no I will not download this IOS app so you can suck my wallet dry. I want the real thing or bust.

        Seriously at the end of the day supporting this game in any form will not change how Sega views it's North American PSO fans. All they will say is GREAT we made the right call and we made money.

        We need to show them that we control what should be on the market for us to buy. The reason they can get away with this is because you all give up to easy and just accept this piss poor treatment. Speak with your money and if they want it then they need to be more transparent of our needs.

        If I'm going to waste my time playing a PSO game I want one that I can really submerge into. I don't want to play something where I am just swiping my fingers to kill time on the subway, doctor's office, etc. And again if you are going to milk my pockets with IAP then I want a room where I can show off my trophies or invite my friends to.

        I say be strong and don't download this game if it comes state side.

      • Jellyicecube

        If SEGA does appear at E3 I really hope people pester the hell out of them for PSO2. It's bloody ridiculous how they left us in the dark.

      • Morgan01

        From what I have seen and been able to make out, the Japanese market is different than here in the US. Not to seem offensive, but gamers in Japan seem a little more fanatical in the sense that they are willing to pay notably more for game than here stateside. Square Enix had made a comment that expressed this about a year to a year and a half ago. So it appears that Japanese developers focus more on where they can make the most money. Am I way off base here?

      • vid_icarus

        I don't think you're off base. From what I've observed, your explanation makes sense. Guess I should suck it up and brush up on my nihon-go.