There are certain things we expect in portable games. Quick bursts of gameplay and enough variety to hold our attention until the next stop are crucial elements to gaming on the commute. Hey, even being able to pause is nice. Phantasy Star Portable neglects all of these ideas.
Above: All screens are from the Japanese version
In exchange, it mercifully nixes the painfully paced progression of Phantasy Star Universe in favor of speedy leveling and upgrading. The quality of weapons, armor and bikini swimsuits you’ll find beneath enemy corpses has been significantly improved over its predecessor, so there’s a quick clip to the gear-getting as well. But don’t get too excited: the problems that plagued PSU, as well as a couple of new ones, have slipped their way into the PSP sequel.
When playing Phantasy Star Portable, headphones are about the worst thing you could cram in your ears this side of a screwdriver. The thinly laid out “Uh-oh, Space Terrorists” story is conveyed through intolerably awful voice acting that begs to be skipped. Once you’ve suffered through the too-long chat sessions between images of talking heads and text boxes you can finally get to the guts of the game: monster hunting and loot-whoring.
The similarly structured story and side missions often clock in around 30 minutes each, and the funneled paths you’ll trek are littered with identical enemies. If you fall victim to a cheap one-hit-kill attack when you finally reach a stage’s big, bad boss, the restrictive save system and absence of checkpoints forces you to restart the entire level. Because your AI allies are almost entirely useless, don’t expect healing or offensive help along the way, either. Instead, they’ll ask “did you get lost?” while you’re being hacked to bits by a giant robot’s laser katana.
As you can imagine, this is all incredibly frustrating.