Phantasy Star Online
TNL: Phantasy Star Online Episode III's gameplay is quite different from that of its predecessors. Why the shift to a card-based battle system?
Naka: Well, going from the Dreamcast version on through Version II to the GameCube version, we came to feel like the fanbase wanted a new experience. So, in order for new users to enjoy PSO, we thought we should develop a game which would return to a traditional turn-based style rather than action. This opinion has been around for a while. Episode III exists not to replace Episodes I & II. Instead, we created it thinking that it would be great if the game would help enlarge the PSO world, as is indicated by the fact that players of both games can chat in common lobbies.
TNL: We've noticed there are a lot of card-style games coming from Japan recently. Do you think this is a genre that is here to stay?
Naka: Well, card games continue to be released, but they get more and more complex over time. If users can keep on adapting to these complexities, they'll stay around. If they become too much for people, they'll probably fall out of favor.
TNL: What are your thoughts on other popular MMORPGs, like Ragnarok and FFXI? How do you think PSO distinguishes itself from these games?
Naka: Well, PSO is more along the lines of a pure action-RPG than FFXI. With FFXI, you've got lots and lots of menus, text, and dialogue to wade through before you can do anything. We wanted to do something with a more simplistic, action-arcadey feel to it, something that was easier to get into, which you could pick up and enjoy almost immediately.
TNL: You mean like something like Gauntlet?
Naka: Like that, yes, or maybe Diablo, but in a full 3D world with team multiplayer aspects.
TNL: Did you ever get back those PSO figures that vanished during E3 2002?
Naka: Nope. In the end we wound up having to make them all over again. Damn, they cost a lot to remake. [laughs]