Lacklustre sequels and fierce competition have gradually eroded Phantasy Star's storied reputation for online role-playing on consoles - a reputation founded nearly a decade ago on the Dreamcast by Phantasy Star Online. The worst blow came with the failure of series reboot Phantasy Star Universe, which, although enjoyable to play if you were prepared to pay, failed to recapture those players who'd deserted the Gurhal System in favour of Azeroth.
But despite some baffling design choices - including an infuriating segregation between the online and offline game modes - Universe was to finally come good with last year's Phantasy Star Portable. This was effectively a scaled-down and free-to-play Phantasy Star Universe on the PSP which took inspiration from Monster Hunter (a game which, ironically, Phantasy Star Online inspired itself) by offering an ad-hoc multiplayer experience for four players.
It would have been a solid package if developer Alfa System had included an online Infrastructure Mode - because, as with Monster Hunter, this isn't Japan, and organising a Phantasy Star session down Wetherspoons isn't something that's viable for 95 per cent of European PSP owners. But despite this oversight, it was clear that the framework for a more accessible Phantasy Star was already in place, it just needed some fine tuning. Fortunately, this is exactly what Phantasy Star Portable 2 achieves.