For some reason, I have this strange fascination with Phantasy Star Online for the original Xbox, despite it being nearly identical to the release on the Nintendo GameCube. However, unlike the GameCube versions, Phantasy Star Online for the Xbox costs only a few bucks. There is one issue though — That little orange tag on the box that says, “Xbox Live required to play.”
There is an offline mode, but browsing online forums for the requirements led me down a confusing hole. Some say the game simply cannot be played without connecting to Xbox Live. Others say you need a Gamertag registered to the system to play. I also saw someone say that you needed a previously registered Hunter’s License (essentially a subscription) to even access the offline mode.
I could never find a concrete answer, so I finally took it into my own hands to find out. The result: Yes, you can still play Phantasy Star Online on the Xbox offline. However, you do still need a registered Gamertag to your system. A Hunter’s License is not required. Finally, the Xbox 360 does not support the game for backwards compatibility, so you’ll need an original Xbox.
Don’t have a Gamertag connected to your original Xbox? Well, you’re not completely out of luck. Apparently there are ways to transfer Gamertags from one system to another using an Xbox memory card. If you have a friend with an original Xbox Gamertag, you should be fine.
What you’ll find inside is essentially the exact same game as on GameCube minus a handful of tiny differences. Unfortunately, unlike every other version of Phantasy Star Online, the Xbox version has no available private servers. There is a community that restores online multiplayer to some Xbox games, but this is done through System Link, a feature that Phantasy Star Online on Xbox lacks.
There are some benefits to playing the Xbox version. It has local multiplayer, which can only be found on the Xbox and GameCube releases of Phantasy Star Online. Having a console version of a game can be nice if you don’t like playing on a PC. And… Uhh. The packaging is nice? Yeah, it’s a waste of money.
If you really care about trying Phantasy Star Online, the second PC release, Blue Burst, is an expanded version with private servers that are currently running. You should just go play that. It’s free, still online and has a lot more content.