Sega held a media event in Japan overnight, and new details about the highly anticipated Phantasy Star Online sequel have emerged: the game will support 12 player multiplayer (previous games in the series were limited to four players at a time,) as well as an intricate character creation system that allows players to fully customize the appearance of their character, where players are able to manually adjust characters’ height, weight, and even facial features, similar to exhaustive character creation that was available in the otherwise mediocre Phantasy Star Universe… And yes perverts, before you ask, female characters’ breasts are fully customizable as well, both in terms of size and bounce (Sega’s presentation made a point of making sure this… uh, “feature” was clearly conveyed.)
In terms of features that actually matter, Sega also showed off two new gameplay elements that are being incorporated into the classic PSO formula: levels now have an element of verticality, lending the game some mild platforming elements, with characters now able to jump at will. Ranged combat has changed as well, as gun-wielding characters will now have a revamped control scheme similar to a third person shooter, which should come as a relief to those who’ve disliked the series’ sometimes awkward line-of-sight based lock-on combat. The game also does away with leveling up, with a character’s skill instead measured by his or her “character level;” no other details were given regarding this potential big change, but hopefully this means the game has found away to avoid the rote grinding that pervades this genre.
Phantasy Star Online 2 is looking very promising, even at this early stage, but so too did the ultimately disappointing Phantasty Star Universe before its release; Sega has a lot to prove before they can win back the legions of Phantasy Star Online addicts who quit the series after being subjected to the more recent titles in the franchise, and while it’s impossible to tell if PSO2 will recapture the original game’s impeccable balance and legendary addictive gameplay, it at least looks like it’s on the right track. The game is still currently a PC exclusive, but given Sega’s penchant for ports, and the fact that the series was most popular on the Dreamcast and the Gamecube, a console port is all but inevitable. PSO2 is scheduled to enter a closed, invitation only Alpha test in Japan in August, with a larger scale Beta test to follow, so hopefully we’ll receive more details about the game then.