Despite my insistence that the original Phantasy Star on Sega Master System is the greatest JRPG of the 8-bit era, I don't have a lot of experience with the series as a whole; this makes only the second game in the series that I've actually finished. I wasn't really sure what to expect with this one knowing that it was an action RPG instead of a JRPG, but whatever I expected, this wasn't it.
The basic premise of Phantasy Star Portable is that the SEED - this alien thingy - that was supposedly sealed away has started reappearing, and you're part of a team that's looking into why and trying to contain the threat before word gets out and causes a general panic throughout the Guhral system. You get some pretty good freedom to customize your character with multiple character types (gunman, balanced hunter, tank, etc) and four species from which to choose (human, Neuman, Beast, and CAST). You meet a cast of characters of all four races, but unfortunately, only one or two of them are at all interesting, and even those two are only mildly interesting. Most characters are completely flat and uninspired.
The game's quests follow a strict pattern - chapter of two or three story missions, mandatory random free mission, chapter of two or three story missions, mandatory random free mission. Rinse and repeat for eight chapters. Each of the free missions have four levels with the only difference being the level of the enemies. Great for grinding. Not much good for anything else as none of them are particularly interesting. I mean, the story missions weren't super interesting in my opinion, but they were at least enough to keep the narrative moving even if utterly predictable.
The visuals and soundtrack were both fine. The PSP isn't exactly a graphical powerhouse (although better than the DS), but the game manages to do decently well with what the system had to work with. The soundtrack is your typical generic JRPG affair - classical music trying perhaps a little too hard to sound dramatic. The scores are all well composed, but nothing really stands out like Final Fantasy VII's or Legend of Zelda's superb soundtracks or Xenoblade Chronicles X's....unique....soundtrack. The voice acting, on the other hand, definitely stands out and for all the wrong reasons. It's simply abysmal. Much worse than Crisis Core's voice acting was. If you had told me the dialogue was recorded in the mid 90s, I'd have believed you without hesitation. It's that bad.
Phantasy Star Portable isn't a bad game, but it's not exactly what I'd call a good game. It falls smack dab in the middle. It's the Purgatory of RPGs. I didn't hate playing it, but at no point would I say I was having fun. It's probably a lot better playing multiplayer with some folks, but considering that I don't have friends (at least none with PSPs who live near me and own Phantasy Star Portable), that wasn't really an option for me. Okay story, god awful voice acting, mundane combat, and repetitive dungeons all make this an extraordinarily "meh" game. My current stance on Phantasy Star - unless a game convinces me otherwise later - is that it's better as a JRPG than an ARPG.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.