Review by MOB

Reviewed: 02/21/03 | Updated: 02/21/03

Doctor, this infection could be contagious.

I saw this game first in a magazine. It was about the same time as titles like Xenosaga and Panzer Dragoon Orta were first brought to my attention, so I kind of just glanced it over. Then I saw it was number three on this website. So I said to myself, ''Self, this game must be great. I mean, the people on GameFAWs have great taste.'' I was entirely right and I am glad to say this is innovation. Although my score doesn't reflect it, this might be a great merger of RPG elements, a terrific innovation that will shape RPG future. I think it's amazing that a way to insert a terrific story into a MMORPG-sim and this can only lead to more innovation. Let's break it down.

Story: 10/10
I don't care how many people say this theme has been done before. You know the online game within another game? And then the game gets hacked because that makes it more realistic. Well, I'm afraid to say that the monkey was a predecessor to the human. Certainly monkeys are quite amusing but human achievement is much more interesting. This game's story is a hybrid of PSO, the Matrix, and all those games involving dungeons. Let's say those dungeons are somewhere between Vagrant Story and Dark Cloud set in the future. The story unfolds like a mystery, a very realistic mystery at that. While you are investigating a virus that not only shuts down servers, but people, you get e-mails about sports and such from ''people'' you played with in your adventure. How cool is that. (This is when you say wicked-cool.)

Characters: 9/10
Short and simple, this game accurately portrays online players to some degree. I mean, there's no strange guy that only writes in CAPS LOCK! while he follows you around and no one who tries to censor bypass, but there are those obnoxious people online players know and love. I smiled the first time I heard Kite get called a noob. :) Oh yes, that was an emoticon, the characters display their emotions in this fashion. It's cool. And then there's the individual characters themselves. Many look quite cool, especially Balmung. They have stories that blend and transcend the line between reality and the game. My one gripe is a certain ''friend'' that asks you for every other item when you are kind enough to include her on your party. It gets rather annoying. Plus the random comments such as ''I'm having fun, Kite.'' get annoying as well. That's basically why I took a point off.

Gameplay and Controls: 7/10
VIRUS DETECTED! This is the game's worst flaw. I didn't have too many problems with the infantile camera that needed you to move and center it, but I did have some problems with casting skills and magic. There are no hotkeys. The only attack button is X and it is a basic attack. For a twin blade and many other types, that just doesn't cut it (that's a pretty lame joke huh?). The dungeons were quite mundane as well. I heard someone say that was because the game was supposed to feel like a true MMORPG. I could've sworn PSO had differently shaped rooms with each level. Anyway, what revives this is the Data Drain ability. With a cool animation and a cooler purpose, this move is a large basis of the game's combat system and the entire game. The battles themselves aren't bad either, I actually like the fast slashing skills of Kite ala Final Fantasy's limit breaks miniaturized. I bet you could come up with a better analogy but I liked having made an FF reference to this game.

Difficulty: 9/10
Here's a little odd thing. This game has an awesome trading system but you can obtain some of the best items for the server your first time in the root town. That's a relative glitch. The difficulty of this game seems all over the place. Some enemies die in one hit, including ''bosses'', some can kill you in two. This goes pretty well with the ''hacked'' theme for me. Being disoriented is always fun. Worrying about DD balance and strange distortions is better than the easy linear gameplay of FF 10 in my opinion

Sound: 9/10
......There was music? I guess so..... The voice acting varied from great to relatively bad but not bad enough to get on my nerves. I guess mediocre is a better word. I ended up giving this a 9 because, in addition to liking some of the voice acting a good deal, its a bilingual game. Not that I speak Japanese, but I think that's worthy of some praise.

Overall: 9/10
Despite its whole interface problems, the structure of this game is quite sturdy enough to support three sequels. I plan to buy them all, in the hopes that they will only get better. Me like. You buy. You happy. Me told you so.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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