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This story seems to take place a very long time after the original tetralogy. The story begins with a planet called Coral, whose environment has been destroyed due to a prolonged period of warfare. Seeing no other hope for survival, the nations of Coral band together and plan a mass-exodus to a new homeworld in space.
Their first colony ship (Pioneer 1) discovers an ideal planet called Ragol, and begins preparations for the colonisation. One year later, the second colony ship (Pioneer 2) arrives in orbit around Ragol. However, just as they establish contact, a mysterious explosion on the planet's surface engulfs Pioneer 1. The player, a government-approved mercenary known as a Hunter, is sent down to the surface by Pioneer 2 to piece together what happened.
Phantasy Star Online comes in four episodes. Episode I is concerned with the efforts of Pioneer 2 in discovering the truth behind the mysterious explosion. To do this, the player must follow in the footsteps of Red Ring Rico, a famous Pioneer 1 Hunter who is also looking for answers. It soon becomes apparent that Ragol is not as safe as Pioneer 2 was led to believe, and that the people of Pioneer 1 were involved in some very questionable activities.
Episode II has the player work for the Lab, a scientific arm of the Pioneer 2 government. After passing some virtual-reality evaluation, the Lab tasks the player with investigating a secret laboratory that was recently discovered on Ragol's surface. This episode deals further with the dark activities of Pioneer 1, and involves a veteran Hunter called Heathcliff Flowen who fought alongside Rico.
Episode III is a Card Battle Game sequel about two rival groups- the government-approved Hunters and the rebellious Arkz faction- and their battle for control over the revolutionary C.A.R.D. (Compressed Alternate Reality Data) technology.
Episode IV, featured in the PC-only version Blue Burst, is set in-between Episodes II and III. It concerns the efforts of the Hunters to discover the secrets behind a mysterious meteor which suddenly changed course in space to crash on the surface of Ragol.
All versions of Phantasy Star Online, including the most recent incarnation (Blue Burst), have had their online mode servers shut down. Sega had initially set up international servers for Blue Burst, but these were shut down on March 31st, 2008. The Japanese servers went down on December 27, 2010. However, in celebration the series' tenth anniversary, Sega is releasing an actual sequel. Phantasy Star Online 2 is set to release in 2012 on the PC, and 2013 on PS Vita.
The Phantasy Star Online sub-series includes:
- Phantasy Star Online
- Phantasy Star Online Ver. 2
- Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II
- Phantasy Star Online Episode III C.A.R.D. Revolution
- Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II Plus
- Phantasy Star Online Blue Burst
- Phantasy Star Online Episode IV
- Phantasy Star Online 2 (sequel to the original not to be confused with Episode II)
- ... and possibly one other: Phantasy Star Zero.
Phantasy Star Online provides examples of:
- Abandoned Laboratory: The Underwater Base and the Gal Da Val Lab in Episode II.
- Action Girl: Red Ring Rico.
- The player themselves can make action girls by creating a female character.
- Apocalyptic Log: In Phantasy Star Online, Red Ring Rico's log goes from helpful tutorial to an increasingly depressing Apocalyptic Log as the game progresses. Heathcliff Flowen pens his own in Episode II.
- Arc Words: Sort of- several boss themes (usually Final Boss themes) have names beginning with "IDOLA", for some reason. This has led some to believe that an Episode IV boss, Shambertin, is the True Final Boss; His theme is "IDOLA-The Fanatic Viper".
- Art Evolution: PSO brought with it a major shift in the art style for the Phantasy Star series; the games of the tetralogy tended more toward a generic anime style evocative of the late Eighties and early Nineties, not counting the Generations remakes.
- The Atoner: Ino'lis in Episode III after she inadvertently causes the death of her crush.
- Black Sheep Hit: PSO, according to producer Takao Miyoshi, was originally only meant to run for two to three months, but its success in Japan (and somewhat in the rest of the world) led to its continuation for years after.
- Blood Knight: Kireek, the iconic "default" HUcast.
- Camera Centering
- Camera Lock On
- Card Battle Game: Episode III.
- Chainsaw Good: "Chain Sawd", a BFS laser chainsaw.
- Color-Coded Multiplayer: PSO color-codes the speech bubbles of the party with a corresponding similarly colored icon next to their name.
- Copy and Paste Environments: A common feature of all post-millennial Phantasy Star games, but PSO was really bad about it. The first episode of PSO contained only four mission environments, and told an entire story (complete with side stories and quests) within these maps.
- Death Mountain: The mountain area in Episode II.
- Demonic Possession: Rico's ultimate fate at the hands of Dark Falz.
- Heath Cliff in Episode II.
- Enigmatic Minion: Endu in Episode III.
- Fight Like a Card Player: The third game.
- Forced Tutorial: Kind of. The tutorial is an optional mission, so you're not forced to do it to beat the game. However, you ARE forced to do that mission to unlock more missions, which can make it really annoying if you've already beaten the game before doing the missions only to have your partner say he doesn't want you to be a liability (even if you're 13 levels higher than him and have better weapons). Even worse, the mission is on ALL difficulties, so even on the hardest difficulty you still have to listen to a lecture on how to attack (even though you need to beat the game or be at a certain level to unlock higher difficulties, which kinda requires you to know how to attack).
- For Science!: What is, presumably, Dr. Osto's motivations for doing many of the things that he did in Episode II.
- Giant Waist Ribbon: RAcaseals
- Genre Shift: Phantasy Star Online itself is a shift from the Eastern RPGs of the tetralogy; Episodes I, II, and IV were straight-up Massively Multiplayer Online Action RPGs. Episode III was a MMOCCG (Massively Multiplayer Online Collectible Card Game), using cards that had powers of many of the previous two games' monsters and weapons.
- The Goomba: Rappies.
- Green Hill Zone: Forest 1 in Episode I.
- Guide Dang It: The Tails chao. It requires you to go back the forest after you complete "The Fake In Yellow" quest but before you talk to the receptionist. Then you stand where the rappies are staring at and a chao appears (with Samba De Amigo music playing). You then go back to Pionner 2 and put the chao on your GBA.
- Guns Akimbo: Every mechgun.
- Hailfire Peaks: The Caves area changes as the player travels through it from a Lethal Lava Land to a soaking wet tropical cavern to a grassy cavern full of machines. The Ruins area changes from a not-very-ruined Temple of Doom to a mixture of a Temple of Doom and a Womb Level. Central Control of Episode II is a borderline case, putting a jungle, a beach, and a highland (as well as two 10-story-tall towers made for a pair of specific missions) into one collective mission environment, albeit on different parts of Gal de Val Island.
- Harder Than Hard: "Ultimate" difficulty, in which enemy speed and spell resistance drastically increases, and several bosses and some Mooks gain nasty new tricks.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: Red Ring Rico and Heathcliff Flowen. They turn up in the end credits in single player PSO Episode I & II if you complete episode II on Ultimate difficulty. Flowen could be seen through a convoluted method online involving possession of Rico's Red Weapons while fighting Olga Flow, then returning to the site of the battle after winning. The inverse of this using Flowen's weapons to beat Dark Falz apparently let you see Rico.
- Hyperspace Arsenal: As with most RPGs' inventory systems, but more obvious in Phantasy Star Online and not readily explained.
- Justified by the technology of the time... all items can be compressed into a capsule form. The fact that you have 30 spots for items, no matter the size implies that you can hold 30 fully compressed capsules.
- Instant AI, Just Add Water: Olga Flow. Actually a D-Cell-infected Heathcliff Flowen merged with the computer system of the secret laboratory.
- Informed Ability: The four blades used by one of the legendary Hunters you meet before they die, Zoke "the Great Sword" Miyama, possesses three of four legendary katanas. These swords were said to have brought ruin to a tyrannical king, and have the power to destroy an entire planet if all four were used together. Of course, you'll never find out if that's true, as you find two of the swords broken and the fourth katana has tons of fake replicas.
- Joke Item: Frying pans, parasols, syringes, coins, guitars, magazines... some of which are lethal. Most of the joke items of the Online series mostly referenced other Sega franchises or companies that sponsored events in the game.
- Jungle Japes: The Jungle area in Episode II.
- Katanas Are Just Better: On paper, Katanas in PSO can outdo many other melee weapons. Also a Rock Beats Laser, as it outdamages laser weapons. However, they are slower and outclassed by weapons that have five or six hit combos, though there is one paired set of katanas that not only has a five hit combo, a health refill special, and is relatively easy to ensure that its Percents are very good.
- Kill It with Ice: Against an opponent that can't be hit repeatedly (such as opposing players or the gelatenous enemies in 1&2's Caves), freezing them will allow you to do just that, making taking them out much faster. As the final dungeon of part 2 proves, however, the enemy can do this to you as well. One enemy is capable of using an attack that, while not hitting very hard, hits about 50 times in a row. Normally, you keep blocking these until one hits, then the rest get grazed over by Mercy Invincibility. However, they are usually accompanied by an enemy capable of freezing you. End result? A level 200 character getting buzzsawed to death in a single blow by a puny Mook on Normal Mode.
- Late to the Party: Episodes I and II.
- The Lost Woods: Forest 2 in Episode 1.
- Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game: Yes, despite having a single player mode, PSO counts as one. The "massively multiplayer online" aspect of the game was strongly hyped by Sega in its advertisements. In fact, PSO is credited as one of the inspirations used for the .hack series.
- Mecha-Mooks: The enemies in the Mines are all robots.
- Mini-Dress of Power: RAcaseals
- More Dakka: Mechguns in Phantasy Star Online. They even became some of the strongest weapons you could use.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Red Ring Rico accidentally unleashes Dark Falz, and dies for it. The players would have caused an even worse case: by defeating Dark Falz over and over again, they only caused him to grow stronger and stronger. Eventually he would have had enough power to completely break free from his bondage in the Ruins and destroy the universe.
- Palmtree Panic: The beach stretch in Episode II.
- Paper Fan of Doom: The Harisen Battle Fan and the Huge Battle Fan.
- Pimped-Out Dress: One of the dresses in Online has an anti gravity overskirt that just floats right next to the wearer's waist.
- Power Glows: And does it ever.
- Purely Aesthetic Gender: Averted. Classes in I and II are tied to a gender.
- Random Drop: Taken to an art style in this game.
- Rare Random Drop: The consequences of said art style. Enjoy your chances of getting objects easily getting lower than 1/1000.
- Reincarnation: Kinda in Episode III. Endu is the reincarnation/"son" of both Red Ring Rico and Heathcliff Flowen, created when they forced the essences of Dark Falz and Olga Flow to resonate. They did this to prevent their respective Superpowered Evil Sides from reincarnating over and over and eventually growing beyond all control.
- Robot Girl: HUcaseals and RAcaseals.
- Rock Beats Laser: The most powerful weapons in Phantasy Star Online are old fashioned katanas and ordinary bullet-firing guns. And Excalibur.
- Science Is Bad: De Rol Le is a result of this, and is also the reason the A.Beast species exists.
- Screwed By The Company: Overlaps with Bad Export for You, but that trope doesn't go far enough. Ever since Sonic Team's policy change that called for a segregation of American and European players from the Japanese player base, Sega of Japan has often done little to ensure the success of localized versions of Phantasy Star MMOs. Sega of America's GMs were given little to no authority or management over the localized servers, and Sega of Japan did little to nothing to stop or fix problems occurring on them. As a result, PSO lived on in Japan, but nowhere else.
- Scunthorpe Problem: The swear filter used in Blue Burst was a very good example of why swear filters should always be optional in games.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Dark Falz. The "can" is his ship.
- Series Mascot: Rappies, continuing their role from the tetralogy.
- Shifting Sand Land: Subterranean Desert.
- Shout-Out: A number of weapons and items reference the original games; the Neiclaw, the Falclaw/Rika's Claw, the Elsydeon, and the Prophets of Motav. There's also weapons and items that reference other Sega series; the Opa Opa makes another appearance, for example, this time as a Mag.
- Showgirl Skirt: RAcaseals
- Soundtrack Dissonance: When you enter the mysterious meadow from the ruins and The Nearest Place to Heaven Plays first sounds rather...Happy. Only to gradually get creepier.
- Stripperiffic: Justified, as the primary form of armor in the setting is mounted in a unit on the wearer's wrist. It projects a protective field significantly more effective than any physical armour could be against most threats, and while some do still wear conventional armor as well, many more prefer to wear normal clothing. Indeed, it seems very much as if the cultural reaction to having armour that functions fine with any clothing, and can be worn by anyone without getting in the way of everyday tasks, was for acceptable fashion to grow ever skimpier.
- Tagline: "You are not the only hero."
- Tears From a Stone: If you played as Lura, the RAcaseal who wishes she were more human so she could be closer to Break, for the majority of the Arkz story missions in Episode 3, you'll get a cut scene before the final boss fights where she discovers that she's housing the soul of Break's former lover and Sil'fer's sister inside her body, and she sheds tears. Lura herself is surprised that she's crying tears, despite being a machine.
- Temple of Doom: The Caves and The Ruins in Episode I.
- Took a Level In Badass: Remember Ash, the Hunter you rescue in the very first mission of Ep. 1? The one who apparently got the silly smacked out of him by Rag Rappies? In the very last mission, he turns up in the Ruins, tearing the place up with a double-saber. Good to see he kept his promise.
- Underground Monkey: A number enemies have more than one variant of themselves, distinguishable only by slight physical differences and a Palette Swap; there are also Ultimate versions of most enemies, which look substantially different. Certain enemies from one location will also have the same behavior as those from another areas; Boomas, Evil Sharks, and Dimenians all act very similarly (and have similar body shapes).
- Updated Rerelease: Several of them. Ver.2, Episode I & II Plus and Blue Burst are the ones that are on the same platform as a previous version, while the original Episode I & II was the first version released on consoles besides the Dreamcast.
- Useless Useful Spell: Megid, an extremely high-costed single hit spell that might kill the enemy. However, either get the right items or play a FOnewearl, and it'll penetrate.
- Variable Mix: Done very well, but notably absent in its sequel, Universe.
- Vicious Cycle: In an interesting take on the fact that multiple parties will fight and defeat the "final boss" over and over again, Episode III reveals that Dark Falz and Olga Flow really are being defeated over and over again, and each time they die they reincarnate stronger than ever, ready for the next party to come along. This would have continued until they became unstoppable and broke free of their respective bonds; that is, until the combined efforts of Red Ring Rico and Heathcliff Flowen break the cycle sometime between Episodes 2 & 3..
- Video Game 3D Leap: Prior to PSO, every game in the Phantasy Star franchise was 2D.
- The Virus: D-cell infection.
- Was Once a Man: Part of Rico's human body can still be seen as fused into Dark Falz's first two forms, horribly mutated and writhing in pain. You can still see Rico's red ring on one of the arms if you look closely. As for Flowen, we get an idea of what happened to him thanks to Episode 2's Apocalyptic Logs. One tidbit of Nightmare Fuel: We learn that the mutation begins as the wounds inflicted on Flowen by Dark Falz's infant form shift and change shape ...
- Womb Level: Later half of The Ruins in Episode I.
- Wutai: Not visitable in any game of the series, but there is at least one country on Coral that is this, as evidenced by Zoke Miyama, his servant Shino, and the legendary katana rare weapons.
- You Get Knocked Down, You Get Back Up Again: One reason why higher defense is seen as bad for many players, until it hits "reduce damage to zero" status. If you happen to have just enough defense to not get knocked down, but still take major damage from attacks, enemy mobs can easily rip your character to shreds if you get surrounded.
- Zettai Ryouiki: HUnewearl characters can come equipped with this in most of their outfits.
- ↑ (In the Plus Edition)