Four Winds: Catching up with Phantasy Star Online 2 New Genesis


I believe it was Napoleon Bonaparte that once said “SEGA better release Phantasy Star Online 2 stateside or I’m going to conquer France.” Unfortunately, Sega was a little slow on the trigger on that one, and then this happened. But what’s done is done, and we now live in a reality that not only has North American servers for the game but Phantasy Star Online 2 New Genesis! That’s awesome.

I’ve always been meaning to give Phantasy Star Online 2 New Genesis a little love, and what better time to dive in than the new year? So for today’s edition of Four Winds, I’m covering the state of Phantasy Star Online 2 New Genesis as of January 2024.

A game loved by its community

If you’ve spent any amount with the PSO2 community, you know how passionate they are. They’ve has been instrumental in ensuring that the game was available to western players throughout the years, and I mean that literally: It was the work of the PSO2 players, not SEGA, that facilitated access to the Japanese servers and provided translation patches for the entire game before the official release of servers in North America. When the game finally came out in the United States and kept uninstalling itself, the community, not the studio, was responsible for finding and publishing the workarounds to make the darn game accessible. In short, they’re an awesome bunch, and PSO2 exemplifies just how powerful a passionate community can make a game a success (sometimes in spite of the game’s owners).

I played a lot of PSO on the Gamecube with friends back in the day, and I’ve got a ton of fond memories dungeon diving and leveling up my HUmar and hunting for gear. I didn’t go out of my way to play on the Japanese servers for PSO2, but I’d say the level of dedication that players (including my own brother) put into just to play the game at all speaks to the overall quality of the game and dedication of the community.

So when it hit open beta in March 2020, it was literally the most significant event I could think of to happen in the world that year (nothing else happened that month at all, nope). Napoleon’s dream had finally come to fruition.

There’s always someone to chat with in PSO2

New Genesis

Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis is an “update” to PSO2. I heard through the grapevine that releasing it as an update to PSO2 rather than a full blown sequel meant that SEGA wouldn’t have to pay for the rights to the various IPs it collaborated with during PSO2’s overseas lifetime, especially since the intention was to be able to transfer characters over from PSO2 to PSO3. True or not, it’s been a win-win for the dedicated players. There’s just something special about being able to make a 1-to-1 transfer of my PSO2 character into this next gen “update.”

Initial impressions of New Genesis were good – we called it a “quantum leap” for the game – but some voices in the community argued there wasn’t enough content because at the time there was only one region. Some folks didn’t really like the changes to the combat mechanics, either.

I personally enjoyed my time in the game, but PSO2:NGS came out around the time people were returning to work after the initial COVID response, including me, so I had to put the game on the backburner. Fast forward to today, and I can see that it really is much more feature complete now. There are three more regions to explore: the desert region Retem, the snowy Kvaris region, and the lava region of Stia. I’ve seen recent events from SEGA aimed at giving players good gear to get right into the latest endgame activities, and the main story quest is relatively short too.

For me, about 10-15 hours of playtime got me to level 80 with some good gear for many of the combat encounters in the game. Be prepared to do a lot of fighting, because pretty much all the endgame activities are combat related. But just because it’s so combat heavy doesn’t mean it’s boring. Screenshots really don’t do justice to how this game plays and only Sega can cook up this kind of game.

Biggest thing that drew me to the game was being able to transfer my character.

Sega’s take on the MMO

PSO2 and PSO2:NGS are games that play and feel completely differently from other MMOs. The best way I can describe it is that it’s the most arcade-y MMO that I’ve ever played. It has the speed of Crazy Taxi, the moves of Jet Set Radio, and the color palette of Sonic Adventure. It oozes the Sega aesthetic in a way that other MMOs Nintendont. It’s a game all about combat and looking good while doing it. The feedback from the combat is loud and punchy, the music has this exciting get-you-pumped vibe to it, and just the way characters are controlled is fast and responsive. It just feels and sounds as if this game could be an arcade cabinet between a Gunslinger Stratos and a Dance Dance Revolution machine at the local Round 1 or something. The characters jump high, move fast, wall jump, glide, get on float pads to gain some extra air, and use long invisibility frame windows to dodge a variety of attacks.

There are plenty of classes to try out too: There’s the katana-wielding Braver and the Bouncer that gets a pair of cool jet boots that just scream Jet Set Radio. I’m fond of the Gunner, a class that focuses on staying in the air and actively dodging attacks with machine guns akimbo at close range. There’s a little something for every type of playstyle. It’s completely possible to create a character and max out every class much in the same way as in Final Fantasy XIV.

And then there’s the sensory overload that only an arcade game can bring. While players are out farming, the game will always have two target objectives for players to run to and fight monsters. The thing is, it’s not just about killing monsters; it’s about being able to kill them as fast as possible to trigger this insane thing called the “PSE BURST.” The meter starts flashing in a rainbow color with the words PSE BURST in big letters on the screen while this massive pillar of light is spawning golden monsters that drop more loot and experience. The only way to keep it going? Destroy everything as quickly as possible. The more players there are, the longer they can keep it going.

And while all this madness is happening, the music switches to some intense carnival-casino sounding music to encourage players to keep the insanity until the inevitable PSE CLIMAX, which spawns a boss to top off the madness. And when that’s all over? It’s time to do it all over again!

Combat is just half the story though. There’s the other endgame to contend with too. This game is about fighting monsters and looking good, after all, and dressing your characters to impress is incredibly important. So join me next time when I’ll cover PSO2:NGS’ fascinating and incredibly flexible social tools and how to wield war on the runway.

The four wind tiles in Mahjong open all sorts of winning combinations for players of this ancient game – and the “Asian” MMO subgenre is just as varied as the many rulesets in Mahjong. Join Massively OP’s Carlo Lacsina here in our Four Winds column as he covers the diverse assembly of MMOs imported from the East!
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