|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Alpha System||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 3, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Monsters and other foes will pop-up as you explore mission dungeons, and real-time battles engage seamlessly. In single-player mode, you're A.I.-controlled party members will run around blasting and hacking at enemies and using support magic with varying degrees of ability - generally straddling the line between helpfulness and ineptness.
There's a staggering a variety of weapons and special ability add-ons in the game, which makes combat more interesting. You'll be able to equip everything from humongous swords and massive spears to high-caliber firepower and hand pistols. Some weapons require both hands to wield, while others are small enough to use in one. This lets you dual-wield pistols, swords, or a combination of the two. Since there's no way to pause the game on the battlefield, the handy Action Palette system lets you stack quite a few of your favorite weapons into a quick-access menu that lets you switch out your armaments in mid-fight or use items with ease. Engaging in innumerable battles and collecting equipment upgrades to up your killing prowess in subsequent battles in and of itself is one of the more addictive aspects of the game.
The third-person perspective gives you a decent view of the action, except when the camera occasionally flits around to awkward angles when turning. In the midst of battle, the game visuals are quite solid. Party members are nicely detailed and every minute change in your equipment, armor, and clothing is visible. Phantasy Star Portable's other areas are less visually stimulating. Actual animated cutscenes are infrequent, and free-roaming character interactions outside of battle have been cut down to oversimplified 2D overhead maps and menus.
With so many options for weapons, equipment, abilities, items, clothing, and other things to purchase and uncover, delving into Phantasy Star Portable missions will quickly become addiction forming for players with a love for the grind (both level and loot varieties). Though the game's other aspects fall short in some regards, its strength and focus as a dungeon-hack RPG are hard to ignore.
CCC Staff Contributor