Currently available in demo form on the Japanese PSN site, Phantasy Star Portable has moved more than half a million units since its release in Japan. Either PSP players are hungry for anything at this point, or maybe, just maybe, someone has decided to confront the Monster Hunter craze. Honestly it wouldn’t take much; we here in the DailyGame bunker tried the Monster Hunter titles to see what all the fuss what about, and within 20 minutes we realized why the Japanese market likes things like this and we don’t: detail. For Japanese players it’s all about the details. And detail this is something that Phantasy Star Portable has locked up.
It’s been some time since we revisited the PSO universe; we participated in the Dreamcast version but passed over the Xbox iteration due to the fees it required on top of the Xbox Live subscription price. Still, hopping back into Phantasy Star Portable required very little re-acclimation.
Phantasy Star Portable gives you a robust roster of customization options to flesh-out your avatar, and those options are demonstrated quite well in this demo. Like the full game, the demo has both a single-player mode with AI teammates as well as an Ad Hoc Multiplayer. A word about the multiplayer, though: unless you use Xfire to connect, you’re out of luck, as this strictly a Japanese release. Still, the single-player mode is playable once you battle through the menus, which can be quick tricky considering the lack of North American localization.
The battles are, as always, conducted in real time. Although the detail in the environments is nice, the nicest element is the camera, which feels better than Monster Hunter because you’re guiding it, not fighting it. The concept of being able to connect with three of your buds to battle through mini scenarios and raids has us excited, but it remains to be seen if SEGA will charge a fee similar to Hunters License to actually take advantage of this. So far, that doesn’t seem to be the case. There is a touch of clipping, but nothing that’s a deal breaker or or that couldn’t be fixed before (or more accurately, if) the game ships in North America. Also worth noting: we didn’t see any mags in our demo travels, which comprised a few rooms of the space ship.
Phantasy Star Portable remains fun despite the number of fetch quests for keys to the door. It runs smoothly, looks good and has a ton of customization. SEGA knows it has a hit in Japan; now it’s just a matter of waiting to see if it comes to North America. If it does, we will pick it up in a heartbeat. Phantasy Star Portable could be the shot in the arm the PSP needs in North America.
— Phillip Vollmer