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Phantasy Star Universe (Pre-E3 2005)

Developer: Sonic Team | Publisher: Sega
Players: 1 to 4 Player Game | Genre: Action/RPG

Release Date: 10/24/06

Ah yes, who doesn't remember Phantasy Star Online? I know I do; some of my fondest gaming memories are derived from the days I'd stop at the gas station on the way home from class, pick up chips and a two liter of Mountain Dew and spend the entire night hacking down enemies with my loyal comrades in PSO. Given that the series had a niche fan base even before the online games came out, I think it is safe to assume that a lot of people, myself included, are eagerly awaiting the next chapter in this classic series. This week, my CVG colleagues will have the opportunity to check out Phantasy Star Universe at the E3 show in Los Angeles, CA and I, for one, am rather miffed about the fact that I won't be joining them.

Getting back to the point at hand, Phantasy Star Universe is still a ways off from release (don't expect this one until early 2006) but it is already generating quite a bit of buzz from the press. Details on PSU are still slim at this point, but we'll pass on what we do know. Right now, one of the big things is that unlike the online games, PSU will put a heavy emphasis on the single player experience and serve up a beefy 40 plus hour adventure. This adventure takes place in an entirely new universe and introduces new characters to the PS saga. The main protagonist, Ethan Waber, embarks on a journey to save his sister and much more after an evil alien force attacks his galaxy. After all, attacking a galaxy is just one of those deeds that can't go unpunished.

If you're more interested in the online aspect, fear not, for PSU does include a robust online mode like the PSO games. In fact, the online aspect is looking better all the time. The mags that helped differentiate the game from other RPG's will be making a return and will apparently have more of an effect on your character; though exactly how it has been improved remains unknown. Also, the character creation process has been expanded and new races have been added making for more possibilities than ever before.

The overall game mechanics are similar to the PSO games with real time combat and character specific attack combinations. A few improvements have been made in order to spice up the combat. For instance different weapons can result in different attack combinations depending on the character using them. This will help break up the sometimes tedious hack n' slash action of the older games. New abilities and attributes are also supposedly being added, but again, as to what these are exactly is still a secret that only Sega knows.

As you can probably tell from the screenshots, PSU looks absolutely gorgeous. Improved textures, animation and character models can only mean good things for all. The environments in the Phantasy Star games have always been some of the best, and so far, things are looking promising for the those in PSU. The ambience the developers create brings the environments to life. Also, the stellar audio found in the series is sure to return and make the experience that much better.

While the game is still fairly far from release, it is definitely one to watch. We don't know much yet, but hopefully E3 will shed some light on some of the specifics of the game. We'll have more on this title in the near future so be sure to check back and read all the latest.

By Ryan Schaefer - 05/15/05
ESRB Details: Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes
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Screenshots for Phantasy Star Universe (Pre-E3 2005)

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