The original Phantasy Star Portable is one of the best games on the PSP system, offering a lot of content, lovely graphics and sounds and the Phantasy Star hacking, slashing and shooting that made the original Dreamcast/Gamecube PSO so addictive.
I was pleased to discover that Phantasy Star Portable 2 is considerably better than the first version.
There is a lot more content this time round. Sega have dropped the (acceptable but still stilted) voice acting which has no doubt saved a lot of disc space. Instead there are many more missions, more kit to get and a higher level cap.
However, there are now three very significant improvements:
- the "between missions" sections are actually 3d, with you walking about on a space station visiting various shops, communal areas and your own room (which you can personalise). This feels much more like PSO and somehow makes the whole experience more satisfying than the admittedly quicker but less ambitious flicking between maps from the first Phantasy Star Portable.
- the gameplay has been rebalanced. It's harder this time. The game isn't throwing kit at me anything like as easily as the predecessor, and monsters take a bit more damage. Plus they've reduced the number of items (mono/di/trimates etc) that you can carry. The bosses can actually kill you now! This is good news as the first one was a bit of a cakewalk. They've also rebalanced the PP link with weapons and changed the upgrading paths considerably. There are now more important stats to upgrade (access to weapons/techniques/type abilities/weapon strengths and so on). This means that there's much more reason to keep playing at higher levels and that meseta are still relevant even at higher level, unlike in the prequel.
- last, and possibly most importantly: you can play this online. So it's a real MMO now, just like PSO.
There are lots of little improvements fixing little quirks and niggles from the first game: your AI buddies don't get stuck on the scenery as much; you can send items straight to the item box without needing to actually go to your room; health recharge points work in one shot rather than standing around waiting and so on.
My seven year old son is in love with the first game - we've spent hours playing together with him running around in his squeaky Rappy suit. He's going to love this one even more.
A big thumbs up from me. This joins the original and the various Monster Hunter games as the best games on the system, from my perspective.