Back before the release of Phantasy Star Online 2 on the PC, one of its main selling points was that it would eventually be released on the PlayStation Vita as well. Now, nearly a year after the game's PC launch, this has finally come to pass. And while the Vita version of the game remains largely identical, it is the little changes that make it enjoyable on Sony's pint-sized system.
Good — Online Play Anytime, Anywhere
Perhaps the most amazing thing about PSO2 on the Vita is the ability to play over 3G networks. This of course means you can play it anytime, anywhere—if your Vita is the 3G model anyway. And while my Vita is strictly Wi-Fi (and I certainly encountered no lag playing that way), players on Gamefaqs are report no issues playing over 3G.
Good — Portable Interface and Controls
PSO2 plays very well on the Vita, and instead of feeling like you're playing a knock-off port, it feels identical to its PC big brother—only on a smaller screen. The controls work well and using
the touch panel for selecting your items on the shortcut bar is a great touch.
Best of all, though, is how they handle the text chat system. Instead of covering up half the screen with a touch keyboard, the game instead switches to a picture-in-picture interface with the game screen re-sized to about a fourth its normal size in the corner. You're still able to move your character in this configuration; so if you are attacked in the middle of typing a sentence, you can run away and still finish typing.
Mixed — Vita Centric Gameplay Changes
The interface changes aren't the only changes in the Vita version of PSO2, however. Each server now has a set of Vita/PC cross play instances as well as Vita-only instances for those who don't wish to play alongside PC players.
And in all instances that allow Vita play, amount of monsters you encounter at once has been lowered slightly with the randomly generated areas made a bit smaller as well to make for smoother portable experience. While I found this difference hardly noticeable, hardcore PC players my be annoyed they are not getting exactly the same experience that is available on the PC.
Mixed — It is Still Just PSO2
As far as free-to-play online RPGs go, PSO2 is pretty darn good. The graphics look nice, the combat is fast-paced, and it has a great and helpful community. Still, the same basic areas are repeated over and over in the randomly generated maps, and the story isn't exactly what you would call "deep." And compared with MMO giants like World of Warcraft or Guild Wars 2, it clearly isn't even close to the same level.
If your Vita is sitting around gathering dust (or even if it isn't), Phantasy Star Online 2 is definitely worth a try. It's not a groundbreaking online game, but it is free and, most importantly, fun.
If you want to try it for yourself, check out our guides on "How to make a Japanese PSN account," "How to switch your Vita to the Japanese region," "How to navigate the Japanese PSN on your Vita" and "How to sign up for Phantasy Star Online 2."
Phantasy Star Online 2 was released for the PlayStation Vita on February 28, 2013. The PC version of the game is scheduled for an early 2013 Western release.