Phantasy Star Portable 2

Phantasy Star Portable 2

Grind. Loot. Rinse. Repeat.
Author: Nathan Tsui
Published: September 28, 2010
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Phantasy Star Online was one of the first games I played online. My buddy and I dialed our Dreamcasts onto the Internet using his family's two phone lines to play together in the same house, and I was instantly hooked. Several spinoffs, sequels and systems later, Phantasy Star Portable 2 brings a very familiar experience to Sony's PlayStation Portable, along with some updates that hope to freshen up the franchise.


Technically, PSP2 (no, not the oft-rumored follow-up to Sony's handheld hardware) is a direct sequel to Phantasy Star Universe, itself an indirect sequel to the original PSO and its episodes. PSP2 picks up three years after the events of PSU, and features cameos from some of the cast of PSU and its expansion, Ambition of the Illuminus.

The story is the standard generic Japanese RPG schlock filled with requisite character archetypes that are immediately recognizable to anyone who has played an RPG before. There's the silent hero or heroine (your character), the sassy young girl, the boss with a gruff exterior, the ancient race of spirits, and the voluptuous French robot secretary-slash-hostess girl. There's also a young native boy in a clear reference or homage to Monster Hunter, the fraternal action RPG series from Capcom. The plot is entirely inconsequential and mostly uninteresting, and serves only to lock away missions and items from the player. Indeed, the story mode can begin to feel overlong, with a full 10 chapters to trudge through.

Combat is where PSP2 sees its most noticeable changes. Finally, blocking and dodging are manual, controllable functions relegated to specific button inputs, rather than simply moving out of the enemy's way. There is a new "combo" system, where consecutive attacks from the Square button will increment a counter on an enemy, which can then be finished off with an attack from the Triangle button with a damage bonus. You can switch armor sets on the fly, in addition to weapons and items. You can hold the X button down to pick up items as you run over them.

Photon Points, used for melee special attacks, bullets and spells, are now a character stat instead of a weapon-based stat, and recharge quickly when not in use. Altogether, these improvements make the combat simultaneously less tedious and more streamlined, engaging and interesting. However, some small annoyances remain, such as the inability to move and reposition the camera at the same time unless you happen to be some sort of multi-thumbed freak. The targeting can also be a bit wonky at times, and hitting a specific enemy can be difficult due to these issues.
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