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The first Phantasy Star role-playing adventure game was released for the Sega Master System in 1988, followed by three successful sequels on the hearty Genesis console. Characters and plotlines changed and evolved over the years, but the story's basic settings and themes have remained. The series makes its debut, both on the Dreamcast console and in the online multiplayer arena, with Phantasy Star Online.
Three races are available for play as characters may be of Human, Newman, or Android heritage. Three classes are also available, including the brutal melee expert Hunters, the Rangers who specialize in ranged distance attacks, and the Force who master the arcane and wield powerful magic. With three races and three classes the game allows for nine basic character-type combinations, but players can customize several other important role-playing aspects such as facial appearance, hairstyle, clothing, coloration, and even body type.
Phantasy Star Online can be run as a stand-alone single player game but, as the title suggests, online play is an integral feature of the overall design. As the title hopes to be enjoyed by players from around the world, special communication support is included for cross-cultural multiplayers. For an example, in the heat of battle a gamer in Boise can choose one of several preset English phrases like "Help," or "Cover Me," and his companion playing in Osaka will read a Japanese translation of the message, removing any real-life language barrier from the virtual world.
The online game begins in the lobby of an orbiting space station, in which players meet and team up before being sent on their mission to the planet's surface. Phantasy Star Online offers an online experience more similar to that of the PC games Baldur's Gate or Diablo in which players join in small groups for discreet adventures, as opposed to the "massively multiplayer," all-in-one persistent worlds of games like Asheron's Call or Everquest. Gameworld maps are randomly generated for each new game to guarantee a fresh challenge for all players and add to the game's replay value. Characters are stored locally and players can use a favorite character to finish a single-player adventure and then take her online for multiplayer sessions. ~ T.J. Deci, All Game Guide