Best gaming memories: Phantasy Star Online
This was a game that had tons of potential but never really took off with the USA audience since it was a Sega Dreamcast exclusive and almost nobody in the USA bought that console. I got one 2nd hand for damn near nothing and thought it was an awesome console especially since nobody wanted the games and I could go into GameStop with $20 and walk out with 3-5 games.
One of the games that you really couldn't get 2nd hand was one of the few "popular" games on the system and that was Phantasy Star Online.
I don't remember exactly what year it was that I got this game but it was during a time when most people still had dial-up internet. Online games didn't really exist yet outside of a few titles and MMO's were in their early and very buggy stages. PSO wasn't an MMO but instead it was an action game with RPG elements. It was a lot of fun because the entire concept of playing multiplayer online was such a new and novel concept. I don't recall any other system at the time offering this but this feature wasn't used enough by Dreamcast to entice people to buy the console. Looking back at the many failures of SEGA in a general sense they really should have focused on that aspect of things because it was really amazing at the time.
Looking at it now it kind of reminds me about how ridiculous this game would be considered by today's standards. In order to join a game you physically ran around an actual lobby typing to strangers and shouting your stats and that you were LFG (looking for group.) The problem I faced was that since most of the players that owned the game were Japanese, they didn't want someone who doesn't speak Japanese on their team.
There was no voice chat on the game, all of it had to be done via keyboard, which introduced another problem because do consoles have keyboards? For the most part no, but Dreamcast actually DID have a keyboard.
My initial purchase was an adaptor that would let you use any keyboard with the Dreamcast but it was a waste of money because the lag between keystrokes was absurd. Something super special must have been going on inside the Dreamcast because it didn't actually want to "dance" with a non SEGA keyboard and perhaps that was why there was no official keyboard adaptor made by SEGA. After about a day of trying to play with the keyboard adaptor I went back to GameStop and bought the official one. It was something crazy like $50 also.
The actual game was extremely fun despite the fact that even by the standards of the 90's it was extremely repetitive. Basically you entered a zone, did a few levels, then a boss fight would happen. Then you would exit to the lobby, then do it again. While there were different levels to complete they were essentially the same thing, they just got more difficult. Before long basically everyone that played the game was max level and we were all just hoping for amazing loot drops (I think - it was a long time ago.) I played the absolute hell out of this game with a few gaming nerd friends of mine that lived in different cities than I did including one of my best buds from high school who lived many hours away from me.
Unfortunately for SEGA, they didn't sell very many of these things in the US because at that point I believe SEGA was already facing their end and it was too late to revamp the company yet again. The Dreamcast was basically their last chance and when it didn't sell well, they knew they were going to lose the entire company. As far as I know there were only 2 games that even used the keyboard and the other one The Typing of the Dead was absurdly bad.
Phantasy Star Online on the other hand was an amazing innovation in gaming and if Sega had any brains in their marketing department they would have advertised the crap out of this game but nah... Sega was just doing everything wrong in those days.
To this day I have never met anyone that I wasn't playing with already when it existed that ever played this game at all. This is a real shame because it was one of the first online console games of all time. Hell, it might have been THE first. These days it is just a default that games are online but there was a time when it was something new and fresh. Phantasy Star Online will remain one of my best gaming memories because of this. I was there when it happened, 3000 years ago.