16 years ago, if I wasn't slinging VHS rentals at Blockbuster, I was hunkered down on my roommate's couch using the Dreamcast's 56k modem to party up with my fellow Hunters and relieve Dark Falz of his tasty loot for the 30th time in Phantasy Star Online. Fortunately, admission into the Hunter's Guild is still open and hundreds of people are still teleporting down to Ragol to slay some Rappies and chase down the perfect piece of equipment.
Phantasy Star Online has aged well, my friends. I've been reliving the addiction all over again. That's thanks to private, custom Phantasy Star Online servers like Ephinea.
Phantasy Star Online first released on the Sega Dreamcast in December 2000, and it was revolutionary. It took the hack-and-slash, loot-driven appeal of Diablo and translated it into something fresh for a new generation of console gamers. The game's visuals were extraordinary for the time, its music beyond memorable. But PSO's mainline addiction was its online component. Using the Dreamcast's built-in 56k modem, players around the globe could party up and slay together, with communication facilitated by Sonic Team's genius implementation of Symbol Chat, a collection of complex customizable symbols used to convey emotions or actions. They penetrated language barriers and preceded the popular emojis we have today.
I dropped at least 150 hours into the original Phantasy Star Online, and the mere mention of the game ushers in an intoxicating wave of nostalgia. It was a compelling mix of dungeon crawling, looting, ranged and melee combat, beautiful graphics, and evocative music. Getting from point A to point B in a video game had never been more enjoyable.
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