Phantasy Star Generation: 1

While movie remakes tend to be hit-or-miss, largely due to the nostalgia factor, videogame remakes tend to be much better, typically upgrading dated game mechanics and especially the aural and visual experiences. During the PlayStation 2 era, Sega’s Japanese branch announced a series of remakes entitled “3D Ages,” among the recipients of this treatment the original Phantasy Star, one of the first console RPGs in North America during the 8-bit era, entitled Phantasy Star Generation: 1, which is for the most part a solid experience.

Like the original, Generation: 1 features randomly-encountered enemies, but unfortunately, the rate of battles is still fixed and unadjustable by spells or items like in other RPG pantheons such as Dragon Quest. In combat, the player selects commands for up to four playable characters, including attacking with their current weapon, defending, using magic, using items, or using “collaboration” skills, a mechanism that’s somewhat poorly-explained in-game and allows for certain accessory combinations that can unleash powerful spells against the enemy. Fortunately, the game is most certainly beatable without making the most of this mechanic.

Battle still have a general fast pace, with victories netting all characters experience for occasional level-ups and money, and defeats resulting in a Game Over and unceremonious trip back to the title screen. This wouldn’t have been an issue had the remake retained the original’s save-anywhere feature, with saving now instead done solely at checkpoints in most towns. Players can further attempt to escape battle, though this option doesn’t always work against enemies whose levels are on par with the playable characters’, although Alisa has a spell that guarantees escape. Aside from the issues with the encounter rate and random turn order prevalent in most turn-based RPGs, combat definitely helps the game more than hurts.

Aside from the downgraded save system, the game interface received a much-needed upgrade, which includes features players take for granted such as in-game item descriptions, the ability to see how equipment raises or lowers stats before buying, and a consumable item that allows players to view automaps in first-person dungeons, which makes dungeon treks easier. Players can also get a reminder on the current objective, though often, advancing the plot necessitates conversations with specific NPCs, and overworld maps would have definitely been welcome. Even so, the game generally interfaces decently with the player.

Generation: 1 retains the original’s simplistic revenge plot, with protagonist Alisa seeking vengeance for the death of her brother Nero, with allies including a musk cat named Myau, a warrior named Tyrone, and an esper named Lutz. There isn’t any significant supplemental storyline, but it definitely doesn’t hinder the game.

The soundtrack received a significant upgrade, with pretty much every track sounding better than on the Master System, and many even having a few remixes, such as the dungeon and tower themes. The game does replay tracks from the beginning after battles, but otherwise, is pleasant to listen to.

The visuals are definitely lightyears above the original’s, with towns definitely having a believable futuristic appearance, the sparse static anime cutscenes looking nice, battle animations on part of the player’s characters and enemies being fluid, and dungeons being more believable, although there are occasional blemishes with regards to things such as character sprites only facing four directions and the break to a separate screen when encountering foes in dungeons. Regardless, the graphics are pretty.

Finally, despite three whole planets to explore, the remake is still fairly short, taking less than a day’s worth of time to finish, with little replay value, given the scarcity of sidequests and no New Game+.

Overall, Phantasy Star Generation: 1 is for the most part a great remake that hits most of the right notes regarding areas such as its quick and simple battle system, the remixed soundtrack, and the pretty visuals, although there are some aspects that leave room for improvement, namely the fixed encounter rate, thinly-narrated plot, and lack of replay value. It was to receive a North American localization courtesy Conspiracy Games, though this fell through way back then, and it was up to fan translators to give the game an English release.

The Good:
+Simple and quick battle system.
+Great soundtrack.
+Pretty updated graphics.

The Bad:
-Fixed encounter rate.
-Story thinly-spread out.
-Not much replay value.

The Bottom Line:
A good remake.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 2
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 6/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 5/10
Difficulty: Moderate
Playing Time: Less than a day

Overall: 7.5/10

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