Sega of Japan announced the future release of Phantasy Star Online in September 1999 by showing a promotional video at that year's Tokyo Game Show and Sonic Team's web site. That video, and other information that arose in the following months, spawned many theories among eager fans about the content and nature of the new game. This is an archive of many of those theories, their origins, and the evidence from which they sprang.
Perhaps one day, a new generation of Phantasy Star fans will look back at this and wonder, "what were they thinking?!?"
Two portions of the video contain writing in both English and Japanese. The first of these portions appears to speak only of features that could classify the game (i.e., "network RPG"). The second portion hints at the game's plot.
The following screenshots and information are provided for anyone that may wish to know what is said by the Japanese writing in the plot portion of the video. The majority of Japanese text seems to correspond to the English text shown near it, but there are some differences. Thanks to go out to Conner McCloud and his former Japanese teacher, Psy Wallace and his father, Rebecca Capowski, Rune Lai, zakku from Japan, and an anonymous translator (called Anon from here on) for providing helpful translations.
Anon, Rune Lai, and zakku tell us that the large kanji on the upper right of these images is "uchuu" and that this means "space" or "universe." The "hikari" kanji is also still visible in the upper left.
zakku created and supplied the cleaner version of this screen, along with translations of the text shown. The large lower writing is "wakusei", which translates as "planet." The question at the bottom can be translated to several possible meanings:
The first three meanings are fairly similar, but the last hints at a potentially sinister meaning.
Special thanks go out to Conner McCloud and Rebecca Capowski for translating the email zakku sent me so that we could have this information.
The first set of Japanese writing in this screenshot has only been partially translated, as the middle character has been unreadable in all screenshots produced. Anon tells us that the first kanji here is "protect" or "obey" and the last is "star." Anon believes this may be a reference to the Protectors.
The second set is the same thing that's in middle of Japanese Screenshot 4.
The third set, while readable, gave Anon some problems: "I can read both of the bottom set, but I can't scrape together a translation of the actual word. The first one in that set, chuu, means something along the lines of "personal relations"... words with this kanji in it usually have something to do with relationships or attitudes of people. I'm 90% sure that the second in the set is mon, meaning "question" or "problem". So there you have it... "personal relations" and "question"/"problem".... maybe one of the characters is a marriage counselor.... ^_^"
Near the end of the video, a series of images is quickly flashed more quickly than the naked eye can see. In examining the video, I have taken screen shots of all these flashed images, which reveal some potential information about the plot. These are those screens and some theories based on them. The colors many of the images were altered before inclusion to make them more difficult to decipher.
This appears to be a space scene, but of what I cannot tell due to the poor video quality, small size, and apparent color altering. Many handwritten notes on the image point to various things.
Theories: It shows ships, or something else, travelling to Algo.
This screen shot shows one of Phantasy Star Online's characters and (presumably) an enemy monster. The character appears to have blue or purple hair, and wears a red outfit. Text on the screen shot reads "Escape from the E."
Theories: This appears to be a screen shot of the character in a dungeon. Columns can be seen lining the walls. "The E" may refer to Earth; perhaps the player must escape Earth before it is destroyed. Alternately, it could refer to "the Earthmen."
Three, perhaps four, people combine their power against a single target in battle.
Theories: Due to the coloration, it was suspected that this might be a battle in a volcanic area. It seems more likely that this, Screen shot 6, and Screen shot 9 are the same battle as viewed on screen by three players.
This appears to be some sort of space image... perhaps a galaxy. There are some handwritten notes (in Japanese, I think) on this image, and an arrow has been drawn to point at a particular part of it.
Theories: This could be either the Milky Way or Andromeda galaxy, with the arrow pointing to Earth or Algo. Another person has theorized that this is the gateway through which the Profound Darkness was banished.
A red-tinted picture of the artwork of the Japanese Phantasy Star II box. Rolf's eyes have been blacked out. Text on on the screen shot reads "A image of PS2" and "This is not PSO."
Theories: Phantasy Star Online may have references to Phantasy Star II, such as Earth, but clearly this is not a remake and is probably not set in the same time period. It is possible that Phantasy Star Online could be a prequel, but there will likely be vast differences if this is so.
At first, this was thought to be be some new form of enemy or vehicle. That idea later gave way to the conclusion that this is another battle scene. It seems to be a different another perspective of Screen shot 3 and Screen shot 9.
I'm not sure what this is. I think Sega changed the colors on this one, too. There are several handwritten notes on it.
Theories: I *think* this is a scene of the Starship mentioned earlier in the video (possibly named Photon?) escaping the destruction of Earth. Above the writing on the middle right of the image, I think we see the ship. It's easier to see if one applies a negative image feature to this image in an image editor. Also, when looking at the negative image, if you look closely at the leftmost writing, I believe you can see something (perhaps Dark Force?) looking at the scene.
This screen shot shows a small portion of the artwork on the box of the Phantasy Star MegaDrive re-release. Specifically, it shows a portion of Odin's axe, a nearby star, and whatever is behind the heroes in that artwork. Small, hard to read text appears on the image. This text appears to be two dates, the second of which is 2000.
Theories: This is the only clear reference to the original Phantasy Star in the entire video, other than the release date at the beginning. One could understandably assume that the text reads "1988 - 2000," as this would be the lifespan of the series listed earlier in the video. I believe this would be an incorrect assumption, however. It is hard to tell what the first date is, but I believe it to be 1994, the release date of PS4. The last digit looks more like a 4 than an 8. This may represent the period in which no new Phantasy Star games were released, or it may mean Phantasy Star Online is the next sequel in the series. This would make sense, if "The Resurrection" in the video refers to the resurrection of the Profound Darkness or Dark Force.
Three characters fighting the original Dragon boss - this is probably the same thing that is shown in screen shots three and six. There is a small amount of Japanese text on the image.
This appears to be an exploding planet. The planet seems to be largely brown. There are handwritten notes on this image, but sadly, there are too small to be read.
Theories: This could be Earth or Palma, if Sega has changed the colors on this image. Otherwise, it might be Motavia, but that seems unlikely.
Dark Force, looking similar to Dark Falz from Phantasy Star. Text on the image reads "in space."
Theories: No doubt about it, the big baddy is back! Phantasy Star Online could feature Dark Force in one of several ways.
The first of the three seems more likely, as the video mentions a starship and implies Dark Force will be in space. Phantasy Star II's Dark Force was also found in space aboard a starship. However, since a previous screen confirms Phantasy Star Online is not Phantasy Star II, this may not be what happens.
Because this screen shot is largely green, determining what is shown is nearly impossible. There is at least one character, and what may be one enemy, on the screen. A white design is shown behind the character.
Theories: This may be some sort of battle menu, as the white design looks somewhat like an arrow.
A planet, perhaps a moon, with an explosion on it. Some handwritten notes on the image point toward the explosion. Text in the lower right hand corner of the image says "This is not PSO." This was first noticed by ZeroZephyr.
Text on this screen shot reads "A image of PS3." It also says "This is not PSO." The screen shot shows a small portion of the Japanese Phantasy Star III box artwork, with colors changed.
Theories:The game will not be on the Alisa III or another worldship, although it may be on a starship of some kind. No type of generations storyline will be present. The new game may have origins in Phantasy Star III, but it will be vastly different.
Another space image with color alterations to disguise what it shows.
Theories: This might be a nebula or something similar in space.
The Phantasy Star Online logo from the end of the video. This was the first time the logo appeared with a subtitle. Thanks to Mieu d'Iscalio, we know that the Japanese characters under the word "Online" translate to "Phantasy Star Online."
The precious little information about Phantasy Star Online poses as many questions as it answers. Exactly what Phantasy Star Online will be about is still a mystery. It can be safely said, however, that Phantasy Star Online will not be or include any of the following:
Since we have established what Phantasy Star Online will not have, let's also establish what we know it will feature. The following list mentions several things that are currently confirmed to be intended for inclusion in PSO.