Phantasy Fuck Star Universe
by Rhete

Phantasy Star Universe

"Hey, PSO was great, this will be great too!"

The most disappointing game in all of history. Sega does not learn from their mistakes, nor do they look to the games they did right for guidance. PSU is a convoluted, disjointed, absolute mess of a game that seeks to be the complete opposite of its predecessor PSO, magnifying everything bad from PSO times 10, and adding everything bad about the MMO genre to it, without any of the good.

I'm not even sure where to start with what this game did wrong, because there is so, so, much. So let's start with something easy, the game has no guild support. Pretty much every MMO in existence does now, and in games like Final Fantasy 11, and World of Warcraft, it can be very useful to get all your friends together, and be able to talk to them all at once, regardless of where you all are in the game world. Now, I'm not really clamoring for this ability in PSU, but it would've been nice. But what really gets me, is that PSO BB did have guild support. Why does the sequel not have features that the original did? This isn't the only thing it is missing, PSO BB also introduced things like an item hotkey, another staple of MMO games. This would've been really freaking useful to have. Instead of a single button to use a healing item, or set a trap, in PSU you have to hold down a shoulder button, tap left on the d-pad, then tap up or down to select the item you want, then release the shoulder button to actually use it. A bit convoluted, and not something easily done while facing down an enemy, so you'll often have to run away at the same time to avoid dying.

Next up, the game has no looking for party system. This is flat out inexcusable, and may be the biggest flaw in the entire game, as it affects almost everything afterwards. In PSO, every single mission in the game started from the same location. You'd sign on to your favorite block, check the counter for a game, and join right away. From there you'd grab your weapons out of the bank, then head down to one of the areas and start the enemy massacre.

PSU ruined this beautiful simplicity. In PSU, nearly every single mission acts as a transport to a different lobby. This time, the first thing you have to do is get your weapons. It was the last thing to be done before combat in PSO, well now it's the first thing. You have to know where you're going ahead of time, to bring the correct weapons and armor, so that you won't suck against the enemies. This is because you can only access your inventory in your room, and you can't be in your room and a party at the same time. Now you may thing with a 60 slot inventory would be enough to carry your best stuff around at all times, but it's not. This is a game where you can equip six weapons at a time, at the minimum. Some classes can carry up to 12, (main/off hand combos), and even then melee weapons each come in six elemental flavors, so just to use one type of weapon effectively everywhere, you gotta have six. Then you have armor which also comes in 6 elemental flavors, and also can hold up to 4 upgrade units. Another 10 slots of inventory lost. Then you have items, Dimates, Trimates, Photon Charges, Sol Atomizers, Moon Atomizers, Scape Dolls, and traps, just to be on the safe side. Oh and goggles, an item you get in the first story mission, and for some damn reason, cannot be dropped or stored, meaning your inventory is only actually 59 spots. So after all that, you might have 15 to 20 spots left, which isn't much space for picking up the random item drops to come, 90% of which are useless, so you'll be having to constantly drop crap to avoid being full on items, because when you are full, the random item distributor will just skip you.

So now you're got your gear, let's head down to the planet, lets say, Parum. On Parum there are four missions available right now, however, these four missions are split between three seperate mission counters. So finding a group is already a huge chore. Check one of them, no groups available, check the other, no groups available. But heres the real kicker, all four of these missions, lead to different end lobbies. From those lobbies, you can start up to six different missions, again all with different end lobbies. Nearly every single mission in the game has its own seperate mission counter, and just to add some extra icing on the cake, there are 18 different servers to further split things up.

This is an actual picture of the mission layout on planet Neudaiz. In order to join a party, you have to go to the exact starting counter. Could this game get anymore pointlessly complicated? Can you believe this is the sequel to a game where every single mission started at the same damn place? This is the kind of MMO crap PSO avoided with that system, in other games it's basically Hey does anyone want to go to Neudaiz? sure, be there in 20 minutes!


So finding other people besides your friends is basically impossible, what to do? Well, the solution is hotspots. 95% of the playerbase has become trained to flock together, to whatever mission happens to be the flavor that week, so that they'll actually be able to find each other and get a group. And that mission, is all they will do, for weeks on end. Maybe its just me, but I don't find doing the exact same 10 to 15 minute mission over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, very much fun. Yet most people play like this, and I see no way to stop this because of the terrible game design. Why they can't fix the mission counter problem, to something like being able to see any player on the same planet, it absolutely beyond me. This is a science fiction game, you have interplanetary travel, you can pay a robot to fly you around the planet, you have crystals that can warp you around the missions themselves, why can't I join my friends in forest B when I'm in forest A!? This whole fuck [REDACTED]ed system was done for only one end: to make the game feel more like an MMO. That's it. The feeling that you're actually traveling around the planet by being forced to do the missions in a certain order and ending in a different place each time.

Recently the "guardians boost road" was introduced, to "alleviate" the problem with people only doing the same mission over and over and over. And how did Sega try to fix it? By telling people to do the same five missions over and over and over and over. Wow, that's way better! For every trip around the "road" you get something stupid like 5% drop rate boost, which guess what, only applies to those missions you've been spamming already to get your drop rate boost up! But the best part is, guess how often they change the road? About every 3 months. Instead of a system that randomly picks missions to boost daily, or even weekly, or even monthly, they act like it's some big event that you'll get to spam old missions over and over and over, and leave it off 2/3rds of the time. The japanese servers have yet to get the third boost road, the english servers have only gotten one so far, as we weren't given the first one for no reason at all. Having several missions near each other get boosted daily would've been such a blessing to the game. You'd always have a new location to go to, be able to find groups there as the community shifts to each new area, and never know what areas would be next. But nope, lets just boost 4 missions for a month.

Another huge issue with this game is the rare item drop rates. They come in primarily two kinds: "so common the item becomes worthless", and "never in a million years". Most people want the ones in the "never fucking drops" catagory. But in the rare chance that the item DOES drop, you better make damn well sure it goes to you, so you better not bring anyone with you on rare item hunts. So most high level people who are only concerned with item drops will solo, reducing the overall player pool for grouping again.

Another issue with the drop rates is that they change. A lot. An item that was priceless one week CAN become worthless the next, if Sega changes anything. Take for example Sori/Tech. It used to only drop from Zoalgoug, an annoying boss from an annoying mission that no one ever bothered to fight. The item was considered priceless because no one wanted to bother spending a month to get one. Then one day Sega added a new mission with the Zoalgoug as a boss, and it happened to be the players choice for hotspot for a short while. So people began to find Sori/Techs, not a whole lot, but at least for once there were actually some floating out there in the economy. I happened to get one in this time. The item was still extremely expensive, but wasn't in the priceless range anymore.

About half a year later, word came in from the Japanese servers, which are about two months ahead of us in updates. Force heaven is coming they said. There's this new mission, and everything drops there. Har/Quick, Halarod, Sori/Tech, Cati/Force, the works. Pretty much every good force item drops there, and it drops a lot. I sold my sori tech for 15 million meseta. That's a lot. And I'm sure I could've gotten a LOT more because it sold within like two hours. Later the holy mission arrived, and I found another sori tech that day. I sold it for 5 million. The next day I got another, and sold it for 3 million. The fourth one I got, I kept because the prices on them had hit rock bottom. I understand that over time rare items will become more common and easier to get as better items get introduced. Sega does not. You don't take a rare as hell 1/100 boss drop, and make it drop from a end mission box 33% of the time. That's how damn common they became, and a lot of other items suffered the same fate, while for some reason other items are still in the "it will never drop" catagory, hidden away in missions no one does to this day.

Sega also has a fun time rebalancing drop rates to their whimsy every once in a while. There was an item I really wanted for a long time, called Crea Doubles. It only dropped in one specific place. I was there, a lot. For practically several months, soloing, just like all the people I hate now, to get this item. It never dropped. Then the expansion hit, and we were told that "Area drops" had been increased. So for a laugh me and Polly went over to this area to see if Crea Doubles would drop. It did. Two of them even. TWO OF THEM. What kind of fucking rebalancing is that? Yes I'm glad to get the item I finally wanted, but god damn guys I spent forever looking for it, and it didnt drop until they moved the drop rate from "never" to "common as shit". There really has to be a better way than playing to the whim of the Sega and their random number generator constantly.

While I'm on the subject of fluctuating drop rates, every once in a while, Sega will hold an event, to basically beg people to come back to the game. These missions feature such bonuses as doubled exp, insane mission points, and crazy drop rates. Most people didn't have a S Rank weapon until the 1up cup last year, where a bonus mission was introduced that featured... wait for it...

2000% drop rates. That's two thousand. In the bonus missions, hundreds of enemies would spawn in a tiny room, each with 5 times their normal drop rates, and one quarter of their normal hp, which ads up to getting items 20 times the normal rate, and without even the hassle of running from room to room. Needless to say, pretty much every item you could get from these missions became worthless instantly, but in a cruel joke of poor planning, the materials you actually needed to MAKE the weapons you just found a "board" for (more on this later) weren't increased in their drop rate, so now you have the entire population of the game needing the same metal at once. The metal itself became more expensive than the actual finished products. Awesome!

So about the item synthesis/crafting in this game, what a load of shit that is. To make anything, you have to have a "board" for it. Unlike say, WoW, where once you know how to make an item, you can make any many as you want as long as you have the materials, in PSU boards only have a certain number of uses, and with anything that's actually good, the number of uses is one. Most of the materials used to make items are fairly common, metals, woods, and ores. These can even be store bought for lower rank weapons if you're in a hurry. But where PSUs synthing really fails is in the success rate. Before the expansion, an S-Rank gun or wand would have at absolute best, 75% chance of working. Thats with only one use on the board that had a drop rate of "never", and with all the other S grade wood, metal, and ore that will all be lost if you fail the synth. What exactly is the fucking point of having items fail? Stupid people (aka PSUs playerbase) will tell you that it's to keep rare items rare, but that's a load of shit. Shouldn't the fact that the boards have insanely low drop rate, only come with one use, and require about 10 drop-only materials as well be enough to keep this crap rare if its supposed to be rare? There is absolutely no reason to slap 25% of the players in the face by giving them a broken weapon, and saying, "Haha you worked hard and got nothing!"

Melee players really got the short end of the stick here as well. With guns and wands, every finished product comes out exactly the same. With melee weapons though, as mentioned above, every weapon has one of six elements (or neutral if you're a scrub) The element can be rated anywhere from 10% to 50%. These are determined completely at random. So not only do melee players have to hope their weapon doesn't break entirely, they also have to hope the element comes out at a high %, or it wont even be stronger than a lower rank weapon with less attack power. This is because PSU has a totally awesome stat system where things like attack power and defense mean jack shit, but elemental % is everything.

ALSO worth noting is that armor has and EVEN LOWER synth rate, like 50% before the expansion, despite that the materials are EVEN MORE expensive than with weapons. The most hilarious part of this is that in the old system, a 50% element armor would reduce damage taken by over 50%, and with a certain storebought item you could make that into 58% element. So it was far more practical to just make tons and tons of low rank armor trying to get a 50% than attempt a single A/S rank armor, because the 50% damage reduction from element would win out over a 100 defense boost every single time.

Another thing that sucks ass is item synthesis. It's totally worthless. Various berries and medicines that you find on the battlefield can be synthed into usable potions and the such, and for once, these have a 100% synth rate! The problem is that there are tons of the berries, and the recipies use way too many of them. To make a single Trimate (heals you to full, you can hold 20 at once) it takes 3 sweet berries, and 2 ether acid. For just one! All of the recipies are like that, one Sol Atomizer (cure status effects) takes 2 hot berries and 2 metamor acid. It's just far easier to buy these items in bulk from the NPC and save time collecting hundreds of useless berries and boards, to maybe saving yourself 3,000 meseta. Maybe if these boards made an entire stack of the item, they wouldn't be so shitty.

A lot of the crap in the synthing system was fixed in the expansion, but its still pretty crap over all. Most of the synth rates were raised about 5 to 10%, but a lof of super rare items that had mind numbingly low 37% rates before are now 99%. Yeah, that's fucking right, 99%. They just have to be dicks and can't just fucking make it 100%. The items in this catagory are basically "spend your entire life" to get one catagory. They are known for not using the regular metals of other weapons, but rather special alloys and gemstones that only drop in certain areas with terrible drop rates. And instead of the normal 3 or so, you need at least 15 of these already rarer gems. For Psycho Wand, you need THIRTY Diads. I found maybe 4 my entire time playing the game. And for all this Sega just can't give you a 100% synth rate, its gotta be a shit tastic 99%. People can and do still fail these weapons once in a blue moon. What a waste.

Whats really annoying about the whole synthesis system is that it has such potential. Making a weapon can be fun, it adds a certain something to the character by being able to say that you made all of your weapons. But there is no real customization to be had here. The various parts used to construct a weapon are just lifeless green item boxes with text descriptions saying what they should be. All the ores, metals, woods, etc, that you use to make weapons are just that in name, they're just green boxes that enemies drop in the end. With guns and wands, there is also NO difference between any weapon that was synthed. They're all exactly the same. With melee weapons you get to choose the element, and the elemental % is random, but before the expansion the % randomizer was so highly geared towards the low end you'd get 10 to 20% nearly all of the time. Synthing could've made the game into an awesome scavenger hunt, find custom blades, grips, or casings, and put them together to make an actually unique weapon with stats based on the parts you used. Instead the system boils down to grinding the same mission until the 1 use board with 1/999 drop rate appears, then buy the generic materials used to make it, then pray Sega's random number generator doesn't decide to fuck you over and give you nothing for your time.

One last thing on synthing! The game basically forces you to do it, because 99% of items that drop are synthing related. And with only 4 things you can make, and the ability to learn more than one by raising PMs on alternate characters, it ends up being pointless to sell your synth materials to other plays and buy completed products when you could just do it yourself and make exactly what you want. No other MMO I've played has pushed and forced the player into using the crafting system so heavily, and what a game to do it with the worst system of them all.

Phew, that was a lot about synthing. So now you (or 75% of you) have a brand shiny new weapon. Well, how about we make it even stronger! With an awesome system called grinding! Grinding is a system that can add a whole 5 atp to a weapon. Whats the cost? YOUR IMMORTAL SOUL. Well actually, the cost is... the weapon itself. Pre expansion: If you failed a grind, the weapon would be destroyed. Forever. Gone. Post expansion, if you fail a grind, the weapon is merely damaged forever. But hey at least it's not gone! Pre expansion, grinding was the worst system every conceived. Tons of risk, for basically no reward at all, the boosts gained from grinding are minimal at best, usually unnoticable. But for some reason people would keep attempting to grind weapons, then cry on the forums when their precious 50% sword broke. Post expansion, grinding isn't as bad. Except that to make up for the part where you dont lose your weapon forever anymore, they lowered the success rate of grinds, so now you'll find yourself failing even the second of a possible ten grinds.

But don't worry, before you can dive into the exciting world of synthing weapons and armor, first you'll have to raise your PM. What's a PM? It stands for Partner Machinery, a robot buddy that once raised will follow you around and help you fight, and can also create items. Sounds awesome right? Well it's not. PSO had a similar system with Mags, but Mags were awesome and PMs are not. A Mag could be fed every 3 1/2 minutes, and as it leveled, it would increase your own stats, and change appearence as it leveled. The main thing is that feeding a Mag was worked into the gameplay, during downtime, or every floor, you could take a second, pop three spare items into your Mag, then keep going. PMs on the other hand, are excruciatingly painful to level. They can take 99 items before becoming full, and they also level much much slower. PMs take a huge amount of time and money to raise, even if you're willing to shell out millions in premium food, you'll still have to take several hours spread out over a few days to actually stuff the things in their damn mouths thanks to poor menus that exit out after every single item.

PMs and Mags also share the same four main stats, Defense, Power, Mind, and Dexterity. In PSO, a Mags stats were added to your own, so while most people did admittedly go for the highest power possible, certain hybrid classes like HUnewearl and FOmar could go for a balance of power and mind, with a little dexterity to become well rounded characters. PSU fucked this up. The stats are only used for one thing, synthing. Take two PMs. One with 0 power, and one with 100 (the max) power. The 100 power one will have a 20% higher chance to make a melee weapon. Thats a pretty shitty bonus for spending so damn long on the things. But with the synth rates so low, you gotta go for everything you can get. It also creates another problem. There is no reason to make anything but a 100 single stat PM. No more balancing stats, no variety in evolution, you go for 100 or you fucked up.

In PSO, there were a ton of Mag evolutions. What type of character fed it, what section ID they were, the highest stat, and even the second highest stat all affected its final outcome. There were a lot of outcomes. PSU has five final evolutions. One of them is useless because you can only get it by having an unpure (non 100) PM. You can buy to change the appearence of your PM, but they're all just color swaps of the same five models, are most are pretty ugly to boot.

So once your PM reaches level 80, they evolve into one of five humanoid forms, and can be brought with you into battle. This would be great if they weren't dumb as shit. Seriously I have not seen AI this bad since Guild Wars. Two of the models, the ones that use guns, are completely useless in battle. Why? Because they stick by your side like glue, but won't actually shoot anything from far away. Even with a rifle, 430 will only shoot things at damn near point blank, and get the shit kicked out of her doing so. If you are a gunner or magic user yourself, get ready to watch your PM stand around and be nothing more than a meatshield since they can't attack from a distance, and if you're melee, watch as they die over and over in a few hits.

Another thing that led to PMs being totally useless is that they used to be affected by the death penalty. Let me make this clear - I fucking hate death penalties in online games. They're fucking dumb. They punish the player for something that may not have even been their fault, and people become paranoid of everything because they don't want to die. Let's look at a history of death penalties in the PSO series:

PSO version 1 - When you die, you drop your equipped weapon. This was actually a pretty bad death penalty, because while your friends wouldn't steal your weapon, playing with random people was always a risk, and you couldn't use your really good stuff around them out of fear.

PSO episode 2 - When you die, if you don't get revived by a friend, you lose all the money on your person. This is a great death penalty, because of a few things. It promotes players helping each other, if you want to get revived yourself, better help out that guy who just died and hope he'll do the same to you later. Secondly is that money is damn near worthless in this game, so no one really cared about losing it to begin with. Thirdly, anyone with a brain would keep all their money in the bank, which wasnt affected by this. This is the death penalty PSU should've used.

PSO Blue Burst - The worst death penalty of the PSOs. 10% of your exp towards the next level, lost when you die. This was a terrible, terrible move. Why? Because PSO was originally on dreamcast, then moved to xbox and gamecube, then finally died on PC. Along the way, in order to try and make the game difficult, they added a lot of enemies with 1 hit kill abilities. And now you're going to add a huge exp loss every time the player dies? PSO was notorious for having cheap deaths, with all the 1 hit kill spells flying around, and sometimes an enemy would just find a way to combo you to death instantly. It's nearly impossible to kill Olga Flow or Dark Falz without dying, and you lose more than the exp they give in 1 hit? Screw that.

But here's the best part. PSU had (they fixed it after about a year, thank friggen god) the worst death penalty of any of those games. Group death penalty. If one player died, the entire group suffered. Let me be the first to say


This was a terrible, terrible idea, and created a divide in the playerbase from day 1. How it works is this: Every mission you play is graded. If anyone dies, your overall grade goes down. This means the bonus money and exp you get at the end of a mission are reduced, by about a third. With 3 deaths, you won't be getting any rewards at the end. Even if you weren't the one who died, your grade goes down. But here is the best part - even if someone died and got revived, the grade would still be lost. This really screwed up the first few months of the game as people turned into total assholes when you died. You didn't just hurt yourself, you hurt them. Sometimes people would even go out of their way to be assholes and join random missions, die, and leave, having wrecked things for the people playing, and there was nothing you could really do to stop them. Eventually money became easy enough to get to where players found a way around the [REDACTED]ed death penalty, which was to load up on an expensive item called Scape Doll, which revives you instantly when you die. Even though at 5,000 meseta each, you may be losing money on missions if you die a few times, at least you weren't costing everyone else money at no fault of their own. But in this age, lord have mercy on you if you died without a scape doll, as suddenly you'd have 5 people screaming at you, and you'd probably be kicked out of the group before you died again.

Which leads me in to my next "Huge game flaw I can't see what the fuck they were thinking when they added it". The leader of a group is able to kick anyone out, at any time, for no reason. Obnoxious player swearing too much? Kick! Player hogging all the items? Kick! Someone died without a Scape Doll? Oh you better believe that's a kick! Boss is about to die and you want all the rares he might (but won't) drop? Kick all five other players out! While this feature was made with good intentions, it has such potential for abuse, worse than other games because a kick sends you straight back to the lobby with no warning at all.

Speaking of exploits players like to run on each other, the expansion contains an item that is the PSU equivalent of a vending machine. You can own one, fill it with items, and for a price you set, and other players can pay that amount to get one of the items at random. The kicker though? The message that displays the price was broken, and asshole players took advantage of this by setting the price at millions of meseta and tricking people into using the machine. It was eventually fixed, but it should never have happened in the first place.

What strikes me as amazing about that though, is that there is only one message asking if you want to spend the money to use the machine. One misclick and you could be out millions of meseta if the price is set to scam levels. Yet when buying or selling from NPCs, there are typically three confirmations menus asking if you're REALLY SURE you want to sell that stack of berries for 198 meseta. Ironically, boards, which can be among the most valuable items in the game, suffer the same fate, one click while the NPC sell window is open, and its gone forever.

This isn't the only menu in the game thats messed up though, the entire game has a pretty shitty interface. There are THREE seperate guild card lists. One for sending mail, one for inviting to a party, and one for seeing where in the game world that person is. There is no reason these can't be the same list. When making a party, if you want to invite your PM, you have to leave the counter, then invite, then re enter the counter. When entering your room, you get THREE POPUPS warning that if you're in a party, and enter your room, you will leave the party. This appears even if you aren't in a party. It's just another stupid stupid annoyance there to slow you down for no reason.

Which brings me to my next topic, the fucking loading times! I'm sure all of you are aware of the terrible load times in the newest Sonic game. Well at times PSU is nearly as bad, but not nearly as well known. But you wouldn't have play very far to find out, as the worst load times happen to be in the very start of the game! The first offline story mission has you wading through FMVs, voice acted dialogue, and constant loads for nearly 20 minutes before you first get your hand on a saber. The designers pull bizarre moves like having a cinema, then loading a hallway, where all you can do is press up to run to the next room, which promptly triggers another cinema! After that one is done you'll be in another room entirely, so what was the point of giving control to the player for a whole 5 seconds? Another story mission, episode 2-4, has you rescuing people. But every single time after destroying the rubble they're underneath, the game will stop, load for 10 seconds, have a cinema where the person says literally one line like "Thanks!" then the game stops again, and loads back where you were. Hilariously, this is also a timed fucking mission, and the timer runs through those pointless scenes.

While annoying, the long load times between areas don't really affect gameplay. But the load times on weapons do. Even though you can only equip 6 weapons at time, the game chooses to only load each weapon as you select it, delaying you from attacking for a few seconds. In the middle of combat, which is a great time. For magic users its each worse, as each spell will then load individually after that. While a lot of the time on PC at least, once something is loaded it'll stay in memory, but there are times where suddenly a weapon or attack will simply not be ready when you really need it. The weapon loading times on PS2 however, are nearly constant. The game overall has terrible memory management, as in addition to constant weapon loading, there are only 3 different enemy types per map, and the maps are a LOT smaller than the huge dungeons PSO was creating 5 years earlier.

The game has more technical glitches than that though, the biggest is the slowdown, which manages to win awards by being present on all three platforms the game is on. First and foremost: PSU does not have automatic frameskip. 99.9% of the playerbase does not even know what that means. Take a game like World of Warcraft, and a medium spec PC like mine. If I'm indoors, and say, staring at a wall, there is very little for the game to draw. Movement is extremely smooth as I'm getting about 90 frames per second. Then I turn and face the room, theres more to draw, but none of it is very far away. I've got about 60 fps now. Then I walk outside, and now the entire forest around is being drawn. 30 fps. Then I head to the top of a mountain, set the draw distance to max, and a vast landscape of miles of forest and mountains appears before me. 10 fps. However through all of this, my character will always move at the same speed. This is automatic frameskip, if your computer can't handle the framerate you're trying to run it at, the game will drop frames in order to keep things always moving the same speed. 60 fps and 30 fps are the same if there is twice as much movement in the 30.

PSU does not have auto-fucking-matic-frame-skip. You have your choice between 60, 30, 20, and 15 fps. If your computer can't handle the designated fps, the game will not drop frames, it will continue to draw every single one. The end effect is that it looks like you're running underwater. Is this is fucking NES game, how is this acceptable in 2008!? I've played OFFLINE games that were able to compensate for slowdown better, and this is an online game where the speed your character moves at is really freaking important? Its just such shoddy programming its amazing. PSU is also far more processor intensive than similar PC games that are PS2 ports, so you'll have to have a REALLY good system if you want to even dream of being able to play at 60 fps, as even just a little lag will slow teh game down unbearably.

But that's not all! At least on PC, you have control of what you run the game on, and can adjust settings like draw distance, fps, and special effects. The console versions fare far worse. "But it's a console!" you may say, "The game is specifically designed to run on that hardware!" Well it certainly doesn't seem so in this case. The PS2 version of PSU is lag city. Please note that I'm talking about framerate dropping and graphical slowdown lag, not network lag, another terminology gap that the PSU community cannot get through their thick fucking skulls. Get four people in a party and the slowdown gets annoying, get six and its unplayble. But even more amazing is that the 360 version of PSU also lags! That's damn right, a port of a PS2 game, has slowdown on one of the most powerful consoles ever made. Sonic Team truly is amazing. The 360 version is designed to run at 60 fps all the time, but the system can't handle it and almost never does. The shoddy programming also rears its ugly head here, as there is a memory leak where, and I can't make this stuff up, every time a robot explodes, the game gets a little slower. There are multiple missions in the game that are rendered unplayable on 360 because they are full of robots.

Alright then, at this point, you may be wondering "Why the fuck do you know so much about a game you hate, how much can you hate it if you clearly have played it a lot" Well I will answer that! Because at it's core, PSU has a good combat system. It is the one area that is an undeniable step up from PSO. You have your choice of essentially three classes, hunters, who use melee weapons, rangers, who use guns, and forces, who cast spells known as TECHNICs.

Actually hold on, that's another thing that pisses me off about this game. The localization/translation is damn terrible at times. TECHNIC is a prime example. Every phantasy star game, including PSO, calls its versions of magic attacks Techniques. Even the japanese version of PSU does! So why the heck did the localization team decide to not only butcher the name that has been consistent for over 5 games, but also insist on putting it in ALL CAPS in EVERY item description that contains the word. It's friggin annoying. There are various other goof ups and inconsistencies. One item, Falclaw, may not seem like a bad name, until you learn that it was the item known as Rika's Claw in PSO, as it is based on the weapon Rika used in Phantasy Star 4. The Sato mag from PSO, is known as Shato in PSU. FOmarl outfit is now called Formal. Gigo-Boomas are now Jigo-Boomas. There was a large gorilla like enemy in PSO, known as Hildabear. PSU has a similar tribute enemy, but he's named Bil De Vear. Yeah, I don't know if that's a typo that made it into the game, or a horrible case of actually screwing up V/B sounds that are similar in japanese, but it's really crazy stuff like that makes it into the game. Upon looking deeper, there is a gun named Vullseye, instead of Bulleye, so yes I guess this translation team really is that bad to be screwing up their Vs and Bs.

My favorite translation goof up is this one though. The original game has an enemy called Vahra. At level 50, it becomes a stronger version known as Go Vahra. Fair enough. The game also has an enemy called Badira. Here's where it gets messed up, the expansion added another enemy, as a stronger version of Badira. Its name? Go Bajilla. Now mistranslating things from PSO and the older games is one thing, but to translate the exact same enemy name and Badira, and then later Bajilla in the SAME GAME is amazing. PSUs translation isn't even consistent with itself.

So... back to the combat system. Right. Anyways, each of the three classes have various methods of attack enemies. Hunters have their choice between a normal 3 hit melee combo, or skills that really tear up the enemy, and do stuff like hit multiple enemies at once, throw them up into the air, or trip them and make them fall on their ass. Rangers are a lot simpler, they stand far away and shoot. Thats pretty much it. They can equip various bullets to their guns, which will add different status effects, like freezing an enemy into a block of ice, or setting them on fire. Forces have a lot of magic attacks, err, I mean TECHNICs at their disposal, either shooting fireballs, or huge AOE spells that surround the player, or target the enemy and hit everything around them. With 6 elements to choose from there is a lot of variety here. They also have support spells that can heal other players, boosting the groups stats, or revive a dead player. Phew, made it through one paragraph without screaming about the faults of the game, but don't worry, that won't last long.

All skills, bullets, or TECHNICs fall under the same umbrella catagory, known as photon arts. When you first get a photon art, it is level 1. And here's where the shit starts. Every time you use a photon art, it gains a tiny bit of experience, and after enough use, it will level up. At levels 11, 21, and sometimes 31, the photon art will gain a major change. With skills they will gain an extra hit to their melee combo, with bullets the status effect will usually get stronger, and sometimes the number of bullets fired will also go up. With TECHNICs, the size of the attack will increase substantially, and the animation will get a lot flashier and cooler looking. So it's really important to keep your photon arts highly leveled, as it can make a huge difference.

Too bad Photons Arts all level EXTREMELY FUCKING SLOW. I'm talking like, glacier speed. For melee this isn't so bad, you'll probably only like a few of the many weapon types, and for photon arts, each weapon has three, but since you can only equip one at a time, there isn't much reason to learn all of them. Melee skills also level considerably faster than bullets and TECHNICs. Which is quite sad since there are many more of those, and more required to be generally proficient at the jobs. Forces especially have it tough, as since each TECHNIC has its own element, maximizing your damage means leveling essentially the same attackss over and over, but with a different element each, so that you'll always be able to hit an enemy with its opposing element.

Recently a patch was introduced to the game that speeds up these incredibly slow leveling photon arts. I'm not sure by how much, I could have sworn I read somewhere it was 3 times faster, which wouldn't surprise me given Segas history of Pendulum style balance, but I can't seem to find a source on that number so don't quote me on it! Anyways it does strike me as hilarious that after the game being out for over a year and a half, they attempt finally fix this glaring problem. It was a problem back when the photon art level cap was 20 and there were only a handful of photon arts, and eventually the number of available arts tripled, and the level cap doubled, and they're finally fixing it. Bit late there guys, and way to piss off the entire playerbase who wasted a ton of time leveling this crap, if the speed really is 3 times the old one.

So back to the core combat. You run around, and attack monsters in real time, and use photon arts to disable them further and really kick some ass. And that's pretty much it. It's simple, but its fun. It's just too bad that around this, simple and fun combat system, is completely surrounded by shit on all sides. The closest offenders are the levels themselves, and the enemies inhabiting them, so I'll go into those next.

The levels design in PSU simply isn't very good. The maps are divided into "blocks" which are a few rooms together, then a load time when you reach the next block. Compared to the huge mazes of PSO, these blocks are absolutely tiny. They're a lot more linear in design, with only a few optional rooms at times, which aren't really optional as the game encourages you to kill 100% of the enemies. It's very repetitive running through the same few maps over and over, taking the same path every time to hit every enemy.

The art design in this game is also very uninspired. The levels are for the most part are extremely bland looking. Some of the areas look like you're fighting in a warehouse or something. Another major fault with the levels is that they never change. In PSO the caves level started as a lava filled cavern, then shifted into a tranquil area with waterfalls and fauna, then ended in a large open area with crystals on the wall and traces of mining operations. In PSU, the start of a mission will look exactly like the end. There is no sense of progression through the levels, and many of the stages will send the same 3 maps at you in random order, so the start could be the end next time you play. Most missions just end after beating 3 blocks not after reaching any real goal, unless it happens to be a stage with a boss.

The expansion did very little to fix the boring levels. In fact in almost made things worse. The expansion only contains two completely new areas, Rozenom city on Parum, and the mushroom forest on Neudaiz. Every single other expansion area is a recolored, slightly retextured version of an area that was already in the original game, or lifted straight from PSO. It just reeks of terrible laziness. There are also a surprisingly low number of expansion missions, half a year since release and there have been only 1 or 2 added since december. Where are the reverse maps? Where are the party versions? PSU original had a really low number of missions and the expansion is pushing it even further.

Enough about the areas, what about the enemies? Well, like the areas, they suffer from reskin syndrome as well. There are only really a few enemy types in the entire game, and all of them have between two to seven reskins.

Yes, there are seven different kinds of this one little bi pedal piece of shit enemy! Nearly every mission in the entire game has them! Why is the most common enemy in most stages some little turd whos only two attacks are to either bite my kneecaps, or tail whip me in the ankle? They arent scary, or intimidating, and I don't like killing them. I want to find enemies my own size, or larger, something that actually feels like a threat. The problem with the enemies, as mentioned earlier, is that there are only ever 3 different kinds of enemies per block. So Sega throws out lots of enemies like the ones above, or other crap enemies like pannon and polty in order to fill out the rooms. So every block will end up having 3 or 4 of the really strong enemies, and about 50 of the crappy ones. Its a bad balance. Another annoyance is that even if they are the same level, the strength difference between enemies can be huge, so while mowing down level 110 filler enemies, suddenly a level 110 giant enemy will appear and ruin your shit. Not a boss or miniboss mind you, just some regular enemy who is way overpowered compared to his peers.

The enemy AI is also fairly bad. It is a slight step above the enemies in PSO, which did very little other than walk straight at you and attack. Which actually, may have been better, because it meant the enemies were at least aggressive. In PSU enemies are cowards, they side step, they back off, they run circles around you, but a lot of the time, they seem to actually forget to attack! The reskins are extremely noticable in this game as well because they all share almost the exact same AI and movement patterns. In PSO the few reskins that they were acted so differently than their originals, it was difficult to really tell that they were an old enemy. Take 3 enemies in PSU, Distova, Koltova, and Ollaka. The only difference between them is how fast they move. Again with Tengogh and Jusnagun, the only difference is that one uses the TECHNIC foie, and the other megid. With some enemies, like Shagreece, Zoona, and Kudetob, I honestly can't think of any differences.

PSU also has the single most annoying enemy, in any game, ever. I know its a bit out there to say that one enemy contributed to the entire downfall of a game, but this enemy really did such a thing. Back when the game was released, there were only 10 missions. Four of them, all of them on planet Neudaiz, had this fucker as a major enemy. He made runs so annoying, that people stayed on planet Parum to run the same two easier missions over and over, creating the games first hotspot. A month later, 90% of the playerbase had quit, because they were sick of the same two missions over and over. Goshins, the worm enemy, really are that annoying though. They tunnel underground and move around the map, then pop up for about half a second, then go back underground to hide. If they pop up near you, they'll knock you over, and cause a negative attack power debuff. If they headbutt you, they'll knock you over, then go back underground before your character can get up. They're so freaking annoying!

Another really annoying thing about the enemies is the way they are balanced. For some reason, certain enemies will simply take half damage from certain types of attacks, melee, gun or TECHNIC. Now I can understand if a really large enemy with multiple hitboxes took less damage from melee weapons, which are the only ones besides grenade launcher of hitting multple parts, but in practice, large enemies most of the time take half damage from guns, which would already have a hard time with them! On the opposite side, all flying enemies take half damage from melee hits. Gee, I thought flying enemies were supposed to be a pain because you can't hit them with a saber in the air, not because when you do, it'll do 50% damage. The worst case is the enemies who take half damage from TECHNICs, as they seem complely unexplainable, and only make soloing certain areas a pain in the ass with a force. It just seems like a pointless and heavy handed way to balance the game, enemies are already going to have advantages over certain methods of attack because of how they move around, why add pointless penalties like half damage?

Like the boring areas, the expansion didn't fix anything with the boring enemies. There are only two completely new enemy types in it, Grass Assassin and Giant Rappy, the rest are reskins from the original game! It just seems very odd to run into a "new" expansion area, only to find that its an old area recolored, with enemies that remind you a hell of a lot like old ones because they move and act exactly the same!

Now, onto the bosses. And the lies and hype that Sega created for this game that could only lead to disappointment. In earliest previews for the game, promises of 20 dungeons and 15 bosses were made. Needless to say since this game is a sequel to PSO, people immediately assumed that meant 20 PSO style dungeons, and 15 major bosses, which would make the game about 4 to 5 times bigger than the orginal PSO. Now it did sound like a bit of overhype, but when the game came out and only had FOUR major bosses, we were a tad surprised. Even if you count every "mini boss" from offline mode, it's still difficult to reach 15. A lot of those appear as regular enemies online, so it really isnt fair to count them anyways.

So there are only four bosses, the same as the orginal PSO. The boss battles are fairly good, but there are some annoyances like certain ones always flying and being completely out of melee range. But what really grinds my gears is that these four bosses, are all reskinned multiple times. De Ragan appears two more times as De Ragnus and Zoalgoug. Onmagoug has a brother who exactly the same but flies more named Dimmagolus, and Adahna Degahna vs Magas Maggahna, who can tell the difference? Only the fourth boss, Dulk Fakis, remained original, until the expansion rolled around! He was then cloned as another boss, Mother Brain, and they made a fourth dragon just for the hell of it. The expansion only has one new boss, De Rol Le, who is originally from PSO. Talk about lazy. And even he is reskinned as another boss, whos name I dare not speak, as it causes Sega fans to break down and openly cry when mentioned.

Let's talk about something better, like the games music. A lot of people, even those who like PSU, slam the music as being one of the worst aspects of the game. And amazingly, I disagree. It is however, terribly utilized. The biggest flaw in the soundtrack is that is simply too loud, and in your face, all of the time. PSOs battle music was very unique. Two tracks played at the same time, and if you were fighting, or just standing around, it would transition between fighting or tranquil versions of the song. It added an air of mystery to the areas, and didn't assault you constantly with battle music if you were just standing around. PSUs soundtrack doesnt do this. It constantly assaults you, even if you're standing around. Here is one of the prime offenders:

Not a great song, but it's honestly not terrible. It is pretty damn in your face though. But here's the real kicker. This is the area that music plays in.

A dark, abandoned subway line. The lights flicker. Strange blobs float through the air. Broken glass is on the floor. Parasitic lifeforms lurk around every corner. The music just doesn't fit, at all. The funniest thing is, this is the very first area in the game. A very odd way to introduce a player into the game, especially compared to the quiet forest area PSO opened with.

Another odd thing about the music, is that a whole lot of it only appears offline. So while the battle music is repeated ad nauseum until the players are forced to disable music entirely, a lot of the best tracks are hidden away offline, used in cutscenes or dialogue sessions. The music would've gotten a lot better response from people if there was more variety to the most important part, the battle music. Hell the entire planet of Moatoob only has two tracks used in battle, that's just unacceptable.

Speaking of content that is offline only, there are actually entire areas that exist only offline. Granted they aren't great ones, just ice/fire reskins of other existing areas, but in a game with so few missions, and with so many of them looking the same, it seems strange to not do everything you can to add a little of variety. But I guess by this point its too be expected, and par for the course. Such a shame that the ice versions of Neudaiz and Moatoob will probably never be seen online, and the fire versions of all three planets will probably never be seen again, having been used for a single montly event, then removed. Yes that's another thing that bugs me, they remove the event missions when over, instead of just say, balancing the mission rewards and drop rates once the event is over. Again Sega seems to actively try to make the game smaller, I'll never get it.

On the subject of low amounts of content, I'll now mention that PSU has no quests. Well to be honest, thats not actually correct, PSU has no free missions, and it also has hardly any quests! Every mission in PSU will have a description that has hardly anything to do with the mission itself, stuff like "liberate the power plant!" or "rescue the food supply!" This is all great, but every single mission could be described as "Get to the end and kill everything you see" There are only two actual quests in the game, which both involve protecting NPCs... while you reach the end and kill everything you see. I have no idea why there are so few missions when it seems all that needs to be done is throw a few maps together, drop in enemies, and you're good to go.

One of the better aspects of PSU is the character customization, which is a huge step up from PSOs. You can change nearly everything, general shape of the eyes and face, which pupils you want, eyebrows, voice, underwear, height, skin color, breast size, and hair style, and thats not everything. But for all the extremely detailed character creation, which is mostly facial based, there are some pretty glaring flaws. First is that, well, you barely ever see your characters face, since the game is over the shoulder from behind. But thats really nitpicking. The bigger issue is that there are hardly any hairstyles, and only like 3 good ones. This is something you do see all of the time, and its annoying when everyone has the same emo over one eye haircut, because its the only decent long in the back hairstyle in the game. As usual, the expansion added much, but not enough, with 5 new mix and match hairstyles that all seem like variations of the same pony tail or over one eye bangs.

But the biggest flaw in customizing your characters look, is the lack of clothes. At character creation, you're only given 3 different shirts, pants, and shoes to start with. More can be purchased from shops once you're in the game. But the clothes available now have all been slowly released over the past year, at around 1 new outfit every two weeks. The point of customizing your character is supposed to be so you can give them a unique look, and the point is lost when everyone runs out to buy the latest outfit as soon as its released, thus making everyone look the same again.

Of the four races, humans, newmans, and beasts all share the same clothing. Casts get off lucky, and have unique parts they can equip. Although there are less of these, they're far easier to mix and match across different sets, as they automatically color coordinate with each other, and you can choose a primary and secondary color for your characters look. The regular clothes everyone else wears, are much harder to mix and match across sets, as the designs tend to be very wacky and colorful, and the colors never seem to match each other just right, because they'll be slightly different shades of their main color. I'd kill for just some normal looking pants and a shirt, and not the frilly lacey bow ridden outfits PSU has right now.

More about the four races, you have humans that are balanced in all stats, newmans who are great TECHNIC users, casts who have super high accuracy, and beasts who are the strongest. The problem with these races is that they're all very very blatantly geared towards certain jobs. For example there is really no reason not to be a cast ranger, as casts have the highest accuracy, and guns require the most accuracy to hit properly. Even the second highest accuracy race, newman, will be inferior as they have lower HP, attack power, and defense. Their additional TECHNIC strength is useless if they aren't playing a job that can actually use TECHNICs, which is a lot of them. Humans have it worst off, being third worst in nearly every stat, and no advantages whatsoever. Even the hybrid classes that they're supposed to be designed for can be better done as a cast or newman, if you want to focus on melee or magic.

But the funniest part, is that even though casts and beasts have huge advantages as melee classes, Sega saw it fit to give them crazy strong special attacks, and nothing similar to newmans and humans. Casts are able to summon a giant gun of their choosing, which acts as an "I WIN" button for rooms, as the resulting gunfire will almost always kill all enemies in range. Beasts are able to transform into, well, a giant beast, and really lay the smack down for about a minute, which is great against bosses as you can focus the attacks more. It really would've been nice if the other races got some form of cool toy like these to play with, instead of being looked down if they choose to play a melee class.

And that's just about everything there is to talk about in this game. Are you still with me? Cuz we're getting towards the end! But I'm not quite done yet! I want to talk about just how hyped we were for this game, and why it ended up being such a huge disappointment.

I've played, by my count, about 2700 hours of PSO. Granted thats over the course of several years, but thats a fucking insane amount of time. Its 112 days. It's almost four months. To say I liked PSO be a bit of an understatement. With this kind of addiction to a single game, its pretty easy to imagine the "OH MY GOD THEY'RE MAKING ANOTHER ONE ITS GUNNA BE THE BEST GAME EVER" level of hype that PSU had around it. I certainly wasn't the only one, everyone was excited.

PSU was originally supposed to be released around the end of 2005. It got delayed until February. Then it got delayed, again, until March. Then it got delayed to "hopefully 2006!" We were going crazy at this point. Our precious BEST GAME EVER was never going to come out! In April though, a closed beta was released in Japan. The beta client leaked, but you were unable to do anything with it, since there was no offline mode and you needed an account to play online. This... did not matter to us. Me, and other people, downloaded this beta you couldn't do anything with anyways, just to play with the character creation, and attempt to remake our cherished PSO characters. Since character creation is one of the highlights of the game, we had no idea of the disappointment to come.

Finally by August, the game was almost about to come out. A demo disc was released, for japanese PS2 players. My good pal Polly, modded her Playstation so that it could play japanese PS2 games, almost entirely to play this demo disc. I mean, it's ok to do crazy stuff like that, it's PSU! It's worth it! This is the level of hype that we were dealing with.

Finally the game finally came out in Japan, and we both imported a copy. In a weird way, the Japanese version of the game is better than the English one. The game has a strange air of mystery about it when it's in another language. Everything becomes more challenging. You have to rely on symbols to know what an item is, shops are a game of stat comparison, and all those items you find on the ground, who knows what they are! It was apparent even then though that the game was really small, with only ten missions to start. Seven of those had already been known about from the beta. It certainly didn't really feel like a full game, but rather a second beta.

There were massive server problems at the start, apparently all of japan was just as hyped for this game as we were. After the servers being down for the first weekend, and the first two days progress erased. Everyone had to start over, but to compensate, were given 30 days of free online play, in addition to the 30 the game already came with. Now it really felt like a beta.

PSU is a game based around updates. Since the game is also on PS2, no true updates with new content can ever be released without another disc (IE the expansion). Everything must be already on the disc, and then slowly unlocked in a process to simulate actual updates, and make the game feel fresh longer. This system, does not work. At all. The game launched with hardly any content at all, and a year later, most of it had been unlocked, just as the expansion came out. However most people simply get frustrated with the lack of content, and quit rather than wait for more stuff to be released. The problem with this drip feed method is that it results in a game that never feels complete. PSU has never, and will never, feel finished. If it had launched with every major mission, and ever area, and all the bonus stuff like advanced classes and PM upgrades available right at the start, it would've felt finished, and everything afterwards would've been a bonus.

So back to the early days of the Japanese version. During the extended 30 days free period, there were no updates while Sega worked out the server problems. This was understandable, it really felt like they were trying to make things better, and were doing the best they could. The staff was very open, posting updates on their website daily, and even messages in game that could be read in your room (Note: The American PSU staff has never onced used the room messaging system). After about a month things were getting stable, and the updates began.

Cut to November, and the American release of the game. The same 10 mission no content game from a few months ago. It was painful jumping back this state after playing the Japanese version, but that was our own fault for importing. But Sega truly botched this release badly. First off the game didnt come with 30 free days like the Japanese version did, you only got 15 free days after buying a subscription, or 30 if you bought a 6 month subscription. Unlike the JP version as well, the game didn't have a serial number, so anyone could pirate the game and buy a subscription, saving themselves 50 bucks in the process. But the real slap in the face was that we waited just as long for our first two updates as the japanese did, but without the excuse of there being actual server problems, and without the 60 days of free play to ease the pain.

Most people didn't even last that long. Most quit before the first few updates, and by my estimate, 90% of the playerpase had quit by the end of December. While the Japanese version had 100,000+ sales and registrations the first day, the American one had maybe a few thousand. The game suffed from no advertising, and poor reviews, which basically mirroed what I've said, "The game has almost no content" Only a few months after the game we had waited so long for, was practically a ghost town. The population has stayed fairly steady since then, full of Sega apologists who think PSU is a good game, or e-peen mongers who have no problem grinding a month for single weapon board only to have it break. But the glory days of PSU were over before they ever began, spent grinding the same single mission, De Ragan, into the ground until people couldn't take it anymore and quit. Despite my hate for this game, I almost feel bad that the game tanked so horribly, but I can't say it wasn't completely justified.


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