Phantasy Star Offline

So I’m now about 4.5 hours into Phantasy Star Universe. Having received my pre-order copy a couple of days early, I’ve been playing the offline mode, as the servers haven’t been turned on yet. The offline Story mode is a fully fledged RPG, in the mode of a Final Fantasy, right down to having far too many cutscenes in the first hour of play.

I have been enjoying it immensely. At first the world is slightly bewildering, but once you take control of your character, it plays and feels like Phantasy Star Online of old, but with much better graphics, and a more organic feel that makes it feel less like you are playing in mainly square rooms. The fighting, whilst still based on the same system, does feel more fluid, and the trademark targeting mechanism of PSO has gone, replaced by, well, pointing at the creature you want to hit, and fighting them. Works fine.

I think my main gripe so far has been the on-screen display. Even though the game isn’t optimised for HD, the menus are tiny. Whereas in PSO you had beautiful clear graphics that told you exactly what you had and were using, these you really have to squint at. I appreciate it may partly be my old age, but they are very small. I reckon they could have done with offering a large-print option for the older gamer. Reminds me, I probably should look into getting my eyes tested soon.

Once the servers have gone live, I’ll be wanting to play there instead, but I will carry on with the offline as well, as it is where all the game achievements are apparently. Will probably report back on the online version soon.

In other news, we’ve got tickets for Bond tomorrow, and hopefully mrsfb will be over her cold for that. Do a few chores and a bit of shopping this weekend, then Sunday afternoon I’m off to London for a couple of days for XP day (now two days).

Xbox 360

I am now the proud owner of an Xbox 360. And a happy owner too. I wanted to get it to play Project Gotham Racing 3 (PGR3), which is a wonderful racing game that has evolved over time from a quirky game called Metropolitan Street Racer on the Dreamcast. I loved that then, have played PGR2 on the Xbox, loved that, and this is a great version of it. Keeping me very busy.

I’m also going to try and use it as a media centre, as it claims it can be used for that. Have got all the necessary bits almost in place, so shall try that out tonight hopefully. I’ll try and write a more detailed post about the 360 soon, but so far it really has been a joy to use. If I don’t know you have on, and you want to play against me online, just say so in the comments and I will get in touch.

New Game – Advance Wars DS

This has been occupying a lot of my time the past few days. Beautifully done game, basically an old-skool war strategy game. Some extra features compared to the older GBA version, but overall the same basic gameplay. Improved massively with being able to use the stylus, and move all your troops around very easily. A lot of time could be potentially spent on it.

One of the many things I like about it are the icons that symbolise the different kinds of army units. They are like little chess pieces, carefully drawn and thought-through. After a few hours play each is burned in your memory.

Xbox 360 Innovation

So Bill Gates is giving his keynotes speech at CES 2006, and finishes up with the X360. Talks about sales for a bit, then demos a new game, Fight Night Round 3 (okay, when I say demos, I mean he actually plays against Steve Ballmer on stage). Fair enough. However, when they have finished, he casually mentions that Xbox 360 owners can download the demo right this second. Nice. It isn’t a massive technical innovation, it is simply a marketing one, but a beautiful one. I’m hoping we will start to see more of this at conferences like E3, or even in TV adverts for games.

Slowly getting my head into the working new year, starting to figure out what I am up to. Lots of small tasks to be getting on with now, but it is quite good in that they are all new things, rather than things that have hung around from last year.

Phantasy Star Online Episode 4. Now playing.

It is here! Years have I waited for a new episode of Phantasy Star Online , and my opinion so far, is that it is good. Almost all new monsters. Swarm patterns of attacks. Some impervious to any gunfire whatsoever, so some thought involved. Big fat sprawling levels. And that is only in my first half hour of play. I’ll talk about it more in depth in a couple of days, but thus far, one happy flotsky. I must admit, I stuck GT4 on B-spec mode, and completed a championship whilst playing the first level a bit. Gaming multi-tasking is here to stay.

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Blue Burst

Have now downloaded Phantasy Star Online Blue Burst for the PC, and now they have the servers set up, will hopefully be playing that tonight. Suspect it will mainly be nothing new until the actual launch, where they will bring out a whole round of new content, but will have a bash and start building up a character I reckons. Has a new team function, which is essentially Clans for PSO, will be looking forwards to trying that out

Have been reading up on XML etc today. Bit perplexed actually, understand the basics of it, what I don’t get is how I am required to use it. Need to have a good hard think about that today, see if I can get it to come together in my head.

It would be wonderful if it was the weekend today. Round about now would be ideal.

And finally, firefox 1.0.4 is now out, definitely worth updating, get the latest security fixes you need to have.