|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: SEGA||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 10, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Because of the huge boss monsters, the amount of gear to be had, and the cooperative online play, I couldn't help but think of PSZ as the snot-nosed little brother of the far more hardcore Monster Hunter franchise. But there are differences, not the least of which are the futuristic sci-fi settings and equipment, the forgiving learning curve, and the fact that PSZ's online cooperative play actually works, and works well.
It's easy to switch between the online and single-player campaign, with the same character and the same inventory, and I suggest you do so often. The structure of the story mode gives meaning to the experience, and the story does grow into something interesting, but it's also fun to head into battle with more than just drone companions in order to accrue better gear and experience.
There is a ton of gear to be found, and while your class may determine your general weapons set, you will still encounter a lot of different monsters with a lot of different traits and weaknesses - meaning that close-range hunters will sometimes find themselves using a twin-bladed Darth Maul-style lightsaber one moment, then a huge black blade with glowing purple currents in the next battle. Same with ranged fighters, who can access rifles, twin submachineguns, and so on.
But here's the kicker: Expect to spend some time trying out different weapons in order to determine the kind of character you end up settling with. I started out as a ranged fighter and then mistakenly thought the game itself was boring. Thankfully, I made a close-range newman skilled with weapons and magic techniques, and my interest was finally piqued. I've seen people online using guns effectively, so I have to make the subjective conclusion that they just weren't my style. Point being, in order to deal with any possible disappointment beforehand, you need to start the game with the understanding that the character you end up with might not be the same character you imagined yourself playing.
I wish the chat options were more robust than choosing from twenty-or-so options like, "Follow me!" and "Are you okay?" and "Ha ha ha!" The pictorial chat system doesn't seem to work if you aren't on someone's friend list, but this is a small gripe. You'd be surprised at the conversations you can have even with only twenty utterly utilitarian phrases.
I believe the game advertises itself as having a sixty hour single-player campaign. This is not entirely accurate. There are three races to play as, and while each experiences the fifteen to twenty hour story from a slightly different angle, the key word here is "slight". You'll still be waging war through the same environments, though maybe in a different order. Anyone who has gone through one fifteen to twenty hour campaign need not go through it again with a new character, as there would be a constant, boring sense of déjà vu. There are plenty of online missions and non-story single-player missions to be enjoyed. Which is fine by me, as I'm of the opinion that games shouldn't pad out their times anyway. A short adventure can be just as worthwhile as a long one, and sometimes even more so.
You wouldn't pass up a good book just because it was less than seven hundred pages, would you?
Every superman has his weakness. With PSZ, it's the sound. Most of the songs are unmemorable, and are too easily drowned out by the chaotic noise of battle and the Vegas slot machine racket that erupts when a treasure chest is opened. The game has a few decent tracks (the in-town music is pretty good!), but I wish that more consideration had been given to an otherwise incredibly memorable gaming experience.
Kyle B. Stiff
CCC Freelance Writer