Phantasy Star

The forces of Lassic have killed Nero, brother of Alis, who is told to seek out a warrior named Odin in her quest for vengeance. Alis’s journey will take her across several planets, where she will gain other allies in her journey for revenge. Phantasy Star, released for the Sega Master System, was one of the very first console role-playing games released in North America, and a decent one, at that.

Phantasy Star features traditional turn-based combat, with players inputting commands for their party and letting them and the enemy beat each other up in a round. Battles, thankfully, are fairly quick, even if the random encounter rate is a bit inconsistent at times, with players also being able to see how much HP each enemy has. Combat isn’t terribly bothersome, though there are some flaws such as the aforementioned inconsistency of the encounter rate and frequent inconsistency of character and enemy turn order. Players, too, might feel compelled to escape from battles once in a while, and while the normal option in combat doesn’t always work, there is a weapon, the Wand, which, when used, guarantees escape from battle. Overall, battles are reasonably enjoyable and at times challenging, even if not perfect.

Battles, though, aren’t nearly as challenging as the 3-D dungeons, which can be fairly tedious to navigate given the unfortunate absence of automaps. Graphing paper will certainly be necessary to make it through Phantasy Star, given the complexity of these dungeons, though thankfully, there is magic available letting players instantly exit dungeons and, if necessary, teleport back to a town to heal. Shopping, though, can be a bit burdensome, given the inability to tell how equipment affects your characters’ stats and limited inventory space, with selling off excess items being tedious as well. One redeeming feature, though, is the ability to save the game anywhere, although other aspects of interaction could’ve certainly been improved.

Being one of the first console RPGs, Phantasy Star was naturally a unique title, given its combination of 2-D town and overworld exploration and 3-D dungeons, and its futuristic setting and female protagonist especially set it apart from other RPGs, not to mention animate enemies in battle, something series like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest wouldn’t have until late into the ‘90s. All in all, Phantasy Star, without a doubt, was a defining title in its time.

While the heroine of Phantasy Star is well-motivated in her quest for vengeance, the story, as with most of the 8-bit era, naturally leaves something to desire, given the rather awkward pacing and scarcity of main story scenes. The translation is fairly sub-par too, unfortunately remaining unchanged in the Gameboy Advance port alongside the second and third titles. In the end, the story is hardly a reason to play this game.

The music is better, though its quality leaves something to desire, despite some decent tracks such as the tower theme. The sound effects, though, are somewhat repetitive and could’ve used more diversity. Overall, the aurals aren’t much of a reason to play Phantasy Star. The graphics, however, were excellent for their time. Environments are nice and colorful, even if the dungeon scenery is a bit repetitive, and there are even some anime cutscenes and animated enemies in battle. All in all, Phantasy Star’s presentation was above average for its time.

Playing time, finally, ranges from fifteen to twenty-five hours, depending upon how long it takes players to navigate the dungeons and find out how to advance the game. In the end, Phantasy Star was a fairly decent RPG for its time, featuring a functional battle system and decent presentation values. It would receive a port alongside the second and third titles to the Gameboy Advance as well as a Playstation 2 remake, although the odds of the latter coming to North America, unfortunately, are slim to none.

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