Following a security breach earlier this year, certain Sega sites were closed. As of today, the English PSU homepage is once again available. However, the Sega support system remains down while they ask customers to submit queries by email.
This week, the Xbox 360 version of Phantasy Star Universe surpassed its fifth year of operation with the Japanese PC version having done the same not too long ago. It's been a ride to say the least. Click on for a letter from your editor.
Metacritic: 64 out of 100 ~~~ GameRankings: 65.19% ~~~ AOTI reviews: n/a
I have to say that I am very pleased to be able to report on such a significant milestone for the Gurhal series. Phantasy Star Universe has been running for a full five years on PC in Japan and Xbox 360 internationally. These versions continue with a good level of strength as we approach the release of Phantasy Star Online 2. We've seen a full expansion, portable games, and supplementary downloads to further enhance what has more or less become a flagship title in its own canon. Our reception of this material in the west can feel limiting, but we continue nonetheless.
What follows is a list of the good, the bad, and the debatable from the last year of service:
The Xbox 360 version continues to benefit from last year's Games on Demand release as well as free AOTI with GAC. Microsoft has also added PayPal this year as a billing option. PSU remains the only game of its type that features full integration with Xbox Live. The subscriber base and activity levels have seen periods of peaking since last year, even despite some of the more unfortunate events. Most notably, the demo version of the game had to be pulled from Xbox Live after certain bugs cropped up that were deemed unworthy of correction. The game currently does not feature any sort of free trial or mode. Earlier this year, SEGA Pass also had to go offline after being compromised. While many of Sega's sites and forums have returned, their support system remains down as well as the English PSU website. Fortunately, this has not prevented the game from seeing new content or major event websites. It also did not affect game accounts.
Content has become an exceedingly discussed subject in the past year. While the Xbox 360 version has not been subject to microtransactions themselves, it continues to wait on releases of content from Japan's GUARDIANS Cash system. Content from this system is planned to be implemented in alternative ways, however only a few weapons have gone out so far as event rewards. Additionally, this version has been treading well into content released after Japan's Update 2nd, however does not currently contain graphics for many of the newer weapons released during it (and must rely on older weapon models in those cases). Until some sort of download finds its way through Microsoft, the newest available graphics will be of Phantasy Star Portable weapons and clothing.
Despite these factors, a lot has been released over the past year. The Xbox 360 version has seen more major events and GBRs than in any prior year. Along with the GBRs have been AOTI/S3 upgrades, S2 rare missions, and even a few new free missions as well as a side story mission. It's also been updated with a couple of GAMs and several GAS releases. We've even had our first viewing of the Party lobby. It's also notable that the game has not seen any title updates since the release of GAC. While the client could always use more tweaks and fixes, we haven't been subject to major rollbacks, bugs, or exploits in some time. Many of the issues with content releases continue to be corrected on the server itself.
On the Japanese side, there have been some very significant items from this past year. The lingering JP PS2 version of AOTI finally saw its support fully cut, resulting in more freedom for PSU from that platform's limitations. Update 3rd was released and presented players with the start of a stream of content including more weapons and clothing from the recent portable titles as well as areas, music, PAs, and SUVs from those games. It's by far the most significant addition to PSU since the release of the expansion. The GUARDIANS Cash system continues to provide more revenue while the game's free mode attracts new players. Many of these have been players outside of Japan hoping to get a jump on new content and features. A notable change is that the server's population has been consolidated into eight universes (down from sixteen). This was originally done as a result of the devastating events in Japan earlier this year, however this seems to have become permanent.
There is one more matter to list that has come up most recently. Sega has mentioned that they have no current plans to release more PSP titles in the west due to factors such as low sales and piracy. This puts into question the localized releases of such titles as Phantasy Star Portable 2 Infinity and Valkyria Chronicles III. As an expansion to PSP2, Infinity further connects the PSU series to the PSO series via story and content additions. It was intended to a degree to cap off the last ten years of Phantasy Star in the same way that PSP2 was originally said to cap off the PSU series. While my own time with the portable games has been limited, it is highly unfortunate to see the western release of such a title be put into question. Without a doubt, there are few instances where a title for Sony's portable is given so much care.
Through it all, both the Xbox 360 and JP PC versions of PSU have seen more support over a longer period of time than any version of PSO. The former carries an uncommonly stable population for the franchise and the latter has seen the benefit of its modified business model. This past year we've surpassed the server life of PSO on the Gamecube and in a few days will surpass the server life of PSO on the Xbox. JP PSOBB holds the record at around six and a half years, however it did not benefit from such a long period of new content releases as the current versions of PSU already have. However, I am sure that we all hope that an even greater level of support will be possible with PSO2.
When I look at the current state of the game and I see that those most vocal are hoping first and foremost to be on the receiving end of more content, I can't help but come to a rather satisfying conclusion. If the most frequent complaint about a game is that the players wish to see more of it...that's not such a terrible thing.
To everyone involved in Phantasy Star, especially those few that maintain the community AND have put up with me far too frequently:
Your faithful assistant,
Edward, a Sega GM, posted a notice on the Sega forums announcing that the Phantasy Star Universe Xbox 360 Demo servers will be shutdown permanently on March 7th. The reasons cited for shutting down the demo servers include the feasibility of maintaining the servers and the staff's desire to focus on the full version of the game. Demo players are encouraged to purchase the full version of the game from Microsoft Games on Demand and take advantage of the free Ambition of the Illuminus upgrade. At the moment, no official events have been planned in anticipation of the shutdown.
Having been online for 1,606 days (4 years, 4 months, and 22 days), the sudden shutdown of the demo servers does come as a surprise. Still, the demo version are hardly representative of the current state of the full game. Having never been updated, the demo version represents the highly restricted, unpolished launch version of Phantasy Star Universe from 2006. Even though occasional events were held on the demo servers during the first year, it has received little formal attention since then.
Phantasy Star Universe is officially four years old in North America! Released On October 25, 2006, Phantasy Star Universe has received numerous updates, events, and two expansions have been released over the years. Long gone are the days of Moatoob being locked, terrible synth rates, slow Photon Arts leveling, abysmal drop rates, and weapons being erased after a failed grind. After all this time, several of the most unappealing factors of the game have been refined to make the game more enjoyable.Within the last year, the Xbox 360 version has experienced a Renaissance with the release of Guardians Advance Content and the free digital release of Ambition of the Illuminus. This has resulted in the expansion of the server population. Xbox 360 players can continue to look forward to the release of new missions, items, and events. Even with the shutdown of the regional PC/Playstation 2 servers, the game still remains popular.
Even though no formal celebrations or events have been scheduled for the fourth North American anniversary of Phantasy Star Universe, this milestone is still a time for reflection. If you've been with the game since the beginning, you've undoubtedly made numerous friends and acquaintances. As time has gone on, several of those friends have probably disappeared for various reasons. These reasons could include life, work, school, and lack of interest. Even in spite of this, you continue to play and make new friends. What is it that drives the dedicated player? Without doubt, it has to be the social experience and unique features that the game offers. There is no other game like Phantasy Star Universe on the market. It is made all the more enjoyable by playing with good friends. While others play for reasons such as item hunting, the instant and social nature of the game is intoxicating.
Even though four years may be an eternity in gaming time, Phantasy Star Universe continues to expand and entertain. May the game enjoy continued success as it enters its fifth year.
As of today (August 3rd), PSU has been released digitally for Xbox 360 in all non-Asian Xbox Live regions. This download is a 1:1 replacement for the original PSU disc released in 2006 and totals 6.45 GB in size. It can be purchased using either a direct monetary amount or in Microsoft Points (by pressing the Y Button before payment). Pricing for a few of the regions is as follows:
Additionally, PSU will be released for Games on Demand in Japan on August 17th. It will cost ¥2940 or 2000 Microsoft Points. At that point, the game will be available digitally everywhere that the AOTI expansion is currently available for download.
Thanks to Lunacara, au, and green man for information on equivalent Microsoft Point values.
Update: Amazon has 1600 Microsoft Points for $16.54, essentially providing a nice discount for this download. Enjoy!
Recently announced, the original Phantasy Star Universe will be available for digital purchase on Microsoft's Games on Demand service for the Xbox 360. This release is scheduled for August 3rd, while pricing and regional availability have yet to be detailed.
This download version of the game will provide the perfect compliment to the now free Ambition of the Illuminus expansion as well as the addition of GUARDIANS Advanced Content to the game. It is the only part needed to get online which is not currently available already on Xbox Live. The Xbox 360 version of the game is well known to be in short supply, but this release will open up its availability to many more potential players or even just anyone looking for the convenience of separating themselves from the game disc.
It should also be noted that this is the first time that a game of this type will be available in its entirely for download on a console.
There is already a thread going about this exciting news item in the forums.