PSP Review: Phantasy Star Portable

Phantasy Star on the PSP, is that a good thing?

Featuring over 150 new weapons and items exclusive to the PSP version, Phantasy Star Portable takes place just after the events of Phantasy Star Universe. Players will partner up with Vivienne, a brand new character to the series, to investigate an outbreak of wild animals that may possess the remnants of a once-powerful malevolent force. Selecting from three class types and four different races, players will be immersed in the intriguing single-player Story Mode and addictive Phantasy Star Universe co-op gameplay. Teaming with up to three others, players will experience new adventures via the PSP wireless connection. Exclusive new missions and hardcore features, including Item and Enemy Book records and Titles are unlocked by achieving difficult goals; this will add tremendous replay value to Phantasy Star Portable making it the most addicting action-RPG on the PSP system.

My history with the Phantasy Star series is minimal; I’ve actually only played one previous game in the series. Well that’s apart from the oldies in the Mega Drive Ultimate Collection…but anyway let’s move on. This is the first PSP game of the series to my knowledge and while it sounds good on paper to bring this series to the handheld, it’s poorly executed.

The game isn’t innovative or engaging and will only really appeal to fans of the series that have dedicated time to learn the story. You design your own character with a number of customisable options and it’s all good, it’s just not that special. With the PSP’s capabilities, I wonder why SEGA chose not to make the game have any online options, instead the only multiplayer is local…which is disappointing, perhaps online is just the thing that the game needed.
Those who have played PSU and its follow-up PSU: Ambition of the Illuminus will be frustrated that to learn what happens afterwards, they will need a PSP. Of course, if you don’t then you’re out of luck…but if you do, then you should be satisfied with the overall story of Phantasy Star Portable.

Combat is simple and repetitive in nature; it’s mostly button-bashing. Although you can enable a FPS view to shoot your weapons at enemies, which is a nice touch even if it doesn’t add that much to the overall gameplay. It’s Phantasy Star stripped down to its basics and it does a good job for the system it’s on, I just can’t help feeling that they played it a bit safe and didn’t try and push the hardware enough or take any risks with gameplay.

The graphics are nice for the most part; there are some dodgy textures around. There is some nice character artwork during dialogue sequences, although there is far too much talking for my liking. Voice-acting is mixed, some good and some just plain awful. Music is fairly good and is impressive for the PSP, although once you stop playing…you probably won’t remember what it sounds like, it’s not a huge thing…but it is noticeable.

The Verdict

Phantasy Star Portable is a good handheld version of the series, despite its flaws concerning combat. It doesn’t change the series, but it may divide fans of PSU and those who have PSP’s and those who don’t. It’s risky, but PSU fans with PSP’s should be happy, while others might not be so pleased.