Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst Panorama Collection
Title: Phantasy Star Online
Developer: Sonic Team, Publisher: Sega (2001)
The underground caves in Phantasy Star Online (PSO) were remarkably reminiscent of the ‘Genesis Cave’ from Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan; a large, artificially-constructed cavern under the surface of a lifeless planetoid. The underground caves in PSO were complete with strange cascading waterfalls creating shallow emerald-blue pools, with arched tree’s sprouting under the cramped hollowed out caves. The unusual combination of flora and fauna one normally associates with the surface, but within a subterranean environment creates an interesting play on expectations of a subterranean environment (i.e. dark , inhospitable; limited to nothing more than fungi in stagnant pools of water) versus what PSO actually delivers with a bright, almost tropical habitat that is teeming with plant and animal life.
Traditional representations of natural landscapes have been known to trigger a psychological response in those viewing them, however one wouldn’t expect their virtual counterparts to achieve the same effect. Phantasy Star Online had several unique landscapes that triggered very personal memories and associations at certian points. It was an unusual music and visual combination I encountered in the mountain region overseeing the cliffs, with the intense dusk sunset playing to a melancholic music track that seemed to trigger a sombre reflection on past real sunsets from my youth; moments basking in the final rays of the setting summer sun came flooding back when I stood on the virtual cliff in PSO; the facsimile was clearly artificial since this was a mere ‘virtual’ representation, but the emotional response was certainly real, unusual and unexpected.
I remember buying PSO for the Sega DreamCast, to summarise, my monthyly phone bill (PSO was one of the first dial up online MMORPG’s) was around £450, which was both a complete shock and a realisation that the game was consuming my life, but what a game! Filled with stunning landscapes, great online functionality and a reward system that drove you crazy(i.e play for 1000 hours in the super slim, tiny glimmer of hope that you’d find an ultra super rare piece of kit such as a new gun)