Your Review Sucks: Phantasy Star 0 (The Onion A.V. Club)

You know…The Onion A.V. Club seems to show up alot at the bottom scores of Metacritic lists. So much so that I am sometimes convinced they’re a joke just like the rest of The Onion. But I guess this is the only serious part? Kinda awkward, don’t you think? “Oh! We’re a parody newspaper…except for our videogame reviews!”

But they’re counted on Metacritic so I guess they’re serious and with their 3.3/10 score of Phantasy Star Zero, Game of the Year two years in a row (possibly 3 considering the Euro release is in February)…well I had to take a look. While it’s FAR from the stupidest review I’ve read, it is pretty exasperating that they managed to miss the point so thoroughly.

Let’s begin!,35647/

“Game developers take a few shortcuts here and there. That isn’t necessarily bad; so long as players aren’t made aware, they’ll ignore the occasional repeat background or suspiciously recolored enemy.”

This review has basically one major complaint and this is it. Repeated ad infinitum throughout the review. While it’s definitely true that PS0 recycles some stuff, it’s nowhere NEAR as bad as it’s predecessors (Booma->Evil Shark->Dimenian). Infact this may be the most variety I’ve seen in enemies in a dungeon crawl! However…this is exactly the problem because…

“But Phantasy Star 0, ostensibly a story-based RPG, recycles almost everything, from quests down to character types”

Hooboy…see the fault? That’s right! He’s reviewing a DUNGEON CRAWL as a STORY BASED RPG. Rather than reviewing PS0 against stuff like Diablo or Gauntlet, he’s reviewing it against Final Fantasy. THIS is where the problem lies.

“Choose which character type you’d like to be; there are 14 choices in all, spread out over three races—humans, CAST (robots), and Newman (moon people). The choice doesn’t manifest in the story, which quickly plops you into Dairon City regardless.”

THIS is a very strange complaint. Why? Because the choice DOES manifest in the story! It’s one of PS0’s most surprising twists! While yes, it’s the same BASIC plot with the same hub town, dungeons, and end goal; the order of the dungeons and alot of the text (especially early on) is different depending on your race. For example, Numans meet Sarisa after she has already befriended Kai and been saved from the Dragon while CASTs meet Sarisa long before she meets Kai and as such she never encounters the Dragon and needs to be saved from it. This also means you meet Sarisa back when she was VERY untrusting of humans wheras playing as a Numan you meet her when she’s all about defending the humans! Numans do Marsh->Desert->Snow while CASTs do Snow->Marsh->Desert and Humans start with Desert (dunno what they do next). So…the choice DOES manifest in story! Infact that’s the ONLY choice that manifests in the story! So it’s quite awkward to complain.

Perhaps this is the work of a bad editor and not the reviewer? Maybe the reviewer worded it awkwardly and the editor got confused, tried to fix it, and screwed up? I dunno. Moving on…

“The final boss of each level is disproportionately harder than every previous enemy, so you’ll likely die, transport back to the city with no hit points and an ever-depleting wad of cash, and start the fight over. Later, you head back to the same world with the same enemies under a different mission guise (at one point, you literally have to track down an herb the mayor of the town uses for his hair care); by the third time you face that annoying dragon, the entire “story mode” feels pretty much ancillary.”

…and THAT is where the REAL confusion sets in! Alright, lemme explain the mix-up here: Missions come in two delicious flavors: Story Progressing and Optional. The Story missions always take you from one dungeon to the next, they are marked in red, and appear at the top of the mission list. Once you clear the Story Mission for the dungeon, it’s unlocked for free play and a bunch of Optional missions that revisit the dungeon with some tweaks pop up. These optional missions flat-out TELL YOU which dungeon you’re revisiting and even show a PICTURE of the dungeon! There’s no surprise you fought the dragon 3 times in a row and that the stage looked familiar, the game TOLD YOU “This is an Optional mission in the Desert”! This isn’t “lazy recycling of enemies in different missions”, this is “YOU’RE REVISITING THE SAME DUNGEON!”.

“Instead, every element of Phantasy Star 0 feels in service of its multiplayer settings”



“And what makes for a compelling multiplayer RPG? Thrilling story and lots of cooperative gameplay elements? You’d think.”

Dear sir: Please list ONE multiplayer RPG with a “thrilling story”. Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles are the most story based ones out there. To this day, no multiplayer RPG has been as story focused as Secret of Mana. Arguably this is a good thing.

“Phantasy Star 0 instead opts for customization over anything else.”

…you’ve…never played ANY multiplayer RPG, have you?

BUT! Credit is due where credit is due, he DID hit on one flaw that completely missed me as a PSO vet:
“Here we run into the game’s most confusing elements: power up weapons using “grinders”; enhance them with elementals like fire, ice, and “dark”; feed your “mag,” a little floaty guy on your shoulder, various items to increase his ability to shoot “photons”; the list goes on. (Each weapon’s stats requires numerous pages to fit them all in.)”

You know…it might be a little bit hard to learn PS0. There’s little in the way of tutorial for better or for worse with most info being given out through optional holo-pod thingies scattered through the dungeons and the town NPCs. Even then I dunno if they fully explained Grinders, Elements, and MAGs too well.

Come to think of it, even PSO didn’t really explain this all that well. I remember having to discover the 3-hit combo. “Hey! I did two attacks that flowed together that time! How did I do that…*poke poke poke* I did THREE! Woah! …Hey! That guy did too! AH-HA! It’s the TIMING of the button presses…you…AH! You have to hit attack right when the animation finishes. Can I mix weak and strong…I CAN! WOOT!”

So…I dunno I’d almost call it psuedo-moot. There’s alot to PSO and PS0 but you can figure it out over time pretty easily.

“The actual joint gameplay incorporates some innovative elements, like scribbling notes to other players on the stylus screen, and bosses are a lot easier to take down with powered-up human-controlled pals. But once those rehashed maps and frustratingly straightforward missions rear their repetitive heads, the limits of Phantasy Star 0 become apparent.”

Yes. The limits of being a completely different genre from what you reviewed. Fancy that, huh?

So yeah, not the WORST review I’ve ever read and I don’t find myself SCREAMING at the reviewer, but I don’t think they had a very good grasp on the genre.

Actually…on another note…anyone notice how few reviews PS0 has?! I’d expect this for We Cheer 2, but PS0?! The second coming of the best online RPG ever made!? You’d REALLY expect it to have more press! Fucker should be a cover story! It’s not even a particularly active Christmas! GAH!


EDIT: I just noticed that Borderlands recieved the same score as PS0. I think these people just don’t like co-op action RPG dungeon crawl type deals.

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