Disclaimer: We are aware that Phantasy Star Online 2 is only available in Japan. For discussions and information on how to play with translation patches and without the need of a VPN, please refer to Arks Layer, PSO-World, /r/PSO2, and PSUBlog.
Video games have grown to a point where micromanaging characters is almost a necessity. Be it through weapons, armor, and skills or costumes, players want to make the playable characters their own, whether they are established or not. The industry has been adapting to that over the years. Although customization options were already prominent in earlier generations, they haven’t been as detailed as of late. Renowned franchises such as Pokémon, Final Fantasy, and even Grand Theft Auto, have adapted to this particular demand by allowing fans to dress up their characters aside from simply customizing their equipment and whatnot.
Immersing in a character through fashion is nothing MMO fans aren’t familiar with. Creating a unique identity can be an important aspect of online games. But even in 2017, not many titles in this specific genre (and the industry at large) manage to accomplish what Phantasy Star Online 2 does. Developed and published by SEGA, the game is the third multiplayer online entry in the classic franchise, and quickly became one of the most popular video games in Japan, the only region where it will be available come May.
Phantasy Star Online 2 (PSO2 for short) draws in concepts and themes from Phantasy Star Online (2000) while maintaining some of the features that made Phantasy Star Universe (2006) so popular. The combat is more polished, the designs are more pleasing, and there’s an array of customization options that would make Barbie cry over her 50-odd years.
The social aspect of PSO2 is one of its major selling points in Japan. Not only can players create the avatar of their dreams (literally, since the game has an overwhelming amount of sliders), but they can also further customize them with layering costumes, accessories, hairstyles, eye patterns, tattoos, makeup… Phew! There are so many items to go through that keeping track of everything takes hardcore gaming to another level.
Set in the near future, PSO2 has players controlling a member of ARKS, an intergalactic organization founded to explore the depths of space and fend off the many dangers dwelling among the stars, such as Dark Falz—a series regular—and the Profound Darkness. During the game’s early years, users were introduced to planets that comprised classic Phantasy Star areas: the lush forests of Naberius, the desolate deserts and underground networks of Lillipa, and the scorching Amduscia. Vopar and Harukotan came next, with Earth being the stage for the majority of Episode 4, PSO2‘s latest expansion.
The diverse aesthetic, which at times is comparable to other Japanese science-fictions such as Star Ocean and Xenoblade Chronicles X, leaves opportunities for many styles of clothing to be plausible within the game world. That, and the fact that the game has a detailed character creation, attracts other brands toward it, all of which offer promotional materials turned in-game costumes, accessories, and sometimes even furniture. Persona 5 and NieR: Automata, as well as Madoka Magica, Attack on Titan, and Fairy Tail are all part of Phantasy Star Online 2‘s fashion boutique. Beyond that, SEGA’s online game also partnered with retail stores such as 7-Eleven and Sanrio.
The most appealing cosmetics can usually be acquired through the AC scratch. After purchasing AC (stands for ARKS Cash), players can draw AC scratch cards of different values. All of them come packed with three slots which reward items listed in the catalog, the most desired ones being costumes, accessories, and occasionally abilities that can be attached to weapons and armor. The majority of the items acquired through the AC scratch can be resold to players for meseta, Phantasy Star‘s equivalent to Final Fantasy‘s gil.
Besides cosplaying as a valiant hero or heroine, a nefarious demon, or just a regular human being, players may also make use of PSO2‘s housing system. Although not as detailed as many other titles, online or otherwise, customizing your My Room is just as satisfying as playing dolls with your character. Especially if you’re a hoarder.
Furniture in space doesn’t go as well together as it does in small towns where people live surrounded by talking biped animals, especially because ARKS’s placement grid doesn’t provide much freedom. Yet there is a catalog as extensive as the clothing one. Within the game’s limitations, you can build your dream apartment: a nightclub, a mini mansion, a game show stage, a laboratory, a shrine to your favorite anime characters, or even a labyrinth that will bend visitors’ minds.
Despite its drawbacks (such as the fact that it’s officially available only in Japan), Phantasy Star Online 2 is, without a doubt, the ultimate Barbie Dream House simulator (or as players like to call it, waifu simulator), whether you enjoy playing with actual dolls or not. It’s a safe space that allows people to be whoever they want, but goes beyond other games with a similar premise, thanks to its detailed social features.