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Enter: Phantasy Star Universe

Being a game addict means you're easily sidetracked. Addiction is like that. So, at the time of this writing, I find I've canceled my City of Heroes subscription in order to play Phantasy Star Universe, newly released in the United States.

If you've played the original Phantasy Star Online, you might have some idea of what to expect in this sequel. In many ways, this series is a 3D Sci-Fi version of Blizzard's Diablo: there's mobs to defeat, crates to break, and loot to pick up. When your inventory is full, head back to town with a handy "telepipe" and then return for more hacking and slashing. I mean, seriously, this is game Diablo at heart - move along, nothing to see here.

However, PSU does made some improvements, and not just by taking a 2D Fantasy game and turning it into a 3D Jpop Sci-Fi game. (If you call Japanese Pop an improvement.) For starters, it's viable to engage foes at range with an assortment of guns and grenade launchers. Also, there's a variety of melee weapons that each have a different combo system associated with them, including an optional "power attack" that eats the game's equivalent of mana. There's quite a bit of interesting visuals at work, too. Overall, SonicTeam has really outdone themselves with Phantasy Star Universe, which is a considerable update from the original.

Unlike the original, PSU has an extensively different online and offline mode. The offline mode is episodic, like a TV show, right down to having an opening and closing sequence between the story segments. There's a lot of non-interactive cinematic and motion captured action here. It looks a little weird on American eyes to see the characters move around like jittery Japanese actors. I haven't played it online, yet.

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