Greetings, i am also a Dreamcast/Gamecube veteran also was a God Rank! (EU)
PSO2 is very different to Phantasy Star Online, and it spiritually succeeds PSU way more than it does PSO.
Now, do not get me wrong, when it comes to the lore, the costumes, the weapons, the familiar names and locations and enemies and even some guest NPC´s and Bosses, PSO2 certainly homages, references and honors Phantasy Star Online.
But the gameplay is a refined and much more fun version of the PSU combat, and the focus on weapon/upgrade and enchancement, where the true power of an item lies not in obtaining it, but in tweaking it, is still very much present.
The game is extremely casual and generous with it´s rewards and catch-up seasons and events, both when it comes to leveling and gearing up, and i have friends who play like 4 months a year and are never too behind.
Of course, this may stand to change in the NA version, considering that, for instance, they introduced many new forms of monetization not available in JP, and reconducted some free rewards from the JP version into said paid options, and i leave everyone to their own conclusions on what this can mean down the line.
With that being said, the "Path of the hardcore player" in PSO2 is not so much in the obtaining of gear, which is relatively fair and easy but as i said, in the tweaking, enchancing, affixing and upgrading to said weapons and armors to their ultimate potential.
The difference in power between a casual player with a basic gear upgrade and a "semi-pro" player with full, perfect upgrades and ultimate affix combinations is huge, and the second group are usually the ones doing all the fancy solo-kill videos on Youtube.
Affixing on PSO2 works a bit like the materia system does in FFXIV, with the difference that said affixes do not only raise desired stats and attack power, but can also confer powerful new abilites and even new mechanics to the item in question.
However, different affixes require different "recipes" of fodder items with said abilities to be sacrificed, huge amounts of Meseta, and many of the absolutely top tier ones have a chance at failing, losing you all the fodder items and reducing the slots on the item.
Said slots are recoverable, but it is, again, very expensive and resource heavy.
There is a very common meme in PSO2 that basically says "Fashion is the true end-game" and that tends to be very true.
PSO2 is actually very generous for a "Gacha Game/Cash Shop Game" in that it allows nearly all costumes, parts and customization options to be traded between players, which means a big part of the economy and the market is based on fashion.
Making your character truly unique and outfitting it with the best and most desirerable items can be a very expensive project that, depending on the server economy and the timing of your endeavour, can take you literal months.
Fortunately, later episodes made it easier for casual players to obtain huge amounts of meseta without needing to no-life and assuming we get the same treatement here (Which is to be seen) every player will have chances at being who they want to be.
Ultimately, PSO2 is a game that is friendly to many types of players, the hardcores and people who want to spend 10 hours a day may be able to dominate the market and upgrade their characters to the ultimate limit in order to solo and do feats that other players dream of.
The casuals/new players are still given plenty of chances to upgrade and catch up between content waves and do not feel like the game has forgotten them, and have the joy of seeing their character become more powerful over time.
The bottom line is that PSO2 is what PSU should have always been, but not necessarily what PSO was.
There is still plenty of enjoyment to be had, but do come to it with an open mind, because it is NOT pso, but if you loved PSO for more than just the grind, and were in love with the world and what it represented, then it is the next best thing.