Originally posted in Retrograding 12.24.02
Now. Phantasy Star. You all know it made it on to my list of best RPG franchises, and at least two of you went out and bought the GBA cartridge when I mentioned it was now out. Shame on Sega and video game writers in general for not making PS Collection more widely known to the public. And shame on all of you who have never played a Phantasy Star game, even the PSO version.
Now there is a basic plot behind each Phantasy Star, and with each mini-review here, I’ll go more into the specific plots. The gist however revolves around Dark Force/Falz and his nigh-omnipotent evil that comes around once a millennium to a three planet system named Algos. The Planets are Palma, Motavia, and Dezoris, and each has their own climate and beasties.
The First Phantasy Star was for the Master System and was the largest video game ever made at that point, with a 4MB memory. It was also one of the first RPG’s, other than Adventure and Swordquest for the Atari 2600 (Great games, and Waterworld is a easy way to make money if you own it.) It featured a memory save instead of passwords, and also gave us the basic concepts behind many RPG’s: walk around, kill until you gain some levels, kill a boss, repeat until done. But Phantasy Star also gave us what most RPG’s have neglected to copy: A Plot. Characters meet, fall in love, fight with each other, and grow accustomed to their goal of saving the universe or so.
Now, on with the reviews.
PHANTASY STAR 1
You are Alis (Your mother obviously was illiterate) and you are stuck with the quest of avenging your brother who was murdered by the Robocops of dread king Lassic. Methinks if your brother had called the cops Murphy, he might have been spared, but he didn’t and died a terrible agonizing death. So, you take up his sword and go to kill the king. But first you need allies.
Now here’s where Phantasy Star gets EVIL. Games today are much much easier than the old 8 bit ones, and trying to find your way around Phantasy Star is proof positive of that. You fight really hard enemies that can hurt you even if they’re starting enemies and you are level 30 and encased in the best armour possible. You get next to no experience points of meseta (Money) for your trouble and everything costs as much as trying to buy fresh produce in Tokyo: IE: Mega expensive. So even if you hate it, you spend half the time in this game wandering and killing and killing some more just to survive and clothe yourself.
Then we have your allies. The first is a talking cat, which no doubt inspired a sadly growing trend of animal f*ckers known as furries. Really, getting me to review Furtopia is going to be liking getting Scotsman to review WCW Thunder. Anyways, back to the point. You also have Odin who is supposed to be a great warrior, but was also stupid enough to try and fight Medusa head on. Obviously, he had never seen Clash of the Titans. Finally you get Noah, who keeps changing his name throughout the rest of the series thanks to crappy translators (The problem also rises in regards to enemies, techniques and on and on) who is a rather androgynous hermetic Wizard living on a desert island.
But the plot is years ahead of its time. PS pokes fun of itself with some bizarre dialog and quests, like getting a cake from inside a dungeon, and having a Scientist going “bonkers” and also giving you the chance to give Myau (the cat) to Dr. Evil , who will then kill the poor pussy. Hard to believe how old this game is (until you look at the graphics of course)
But again, it needs to be pointed out how evil and hard the first PS is. There is one optional dungeon that has a weapon for Myau that once you enter is impossible to escape unless you have the flute. But by the time you have the flute, you have access to MUCH better weapons. And I had forgotten all about this cave, until after I entered it. Three hours later I finally found my way out. Which brings me to the next important point of Phantasy Star 1: First Person Dungeon Explorations. This is a game where you need to make maps on graph paper unless you want to get lost. And trust me, it will happen. I was really, REALLY hoping they’d have a mapmaking ability for Phantasy Star 1, but it was a direct port, which upset me a tad.
The other evil two evil things that need to be addressed about this gave come right at the end of it. The first involves a 25 story tower you have to go up THREE TIMES to get everything you need, and each time you have to go a different exact route. And the other is trying to find a certain magic item (I won’t ruin it for those of you are who are going to get the game) and finding it ONLY by accident. And that’s the only way you will find it unless someone helps you or you cheat by looking it up on a FAQ. Evil Evil Evil hard game. And you will still fall in love with it anyways.
Now for the disclaimer: There is a bug in the GBA version that only occurs in Phantasy Star 1. Sometimes the game crashes when you attempt to save, which is the worst thing humanly possible in a video game. All that work, gone. But thanks to THQ support (Another rant could easily occur on how many games are being released with bugs nowadays and how THQ and EA are the main people doing it: LOTR and SD franchises…I’m looking at you!) they’ve explained how it happens and how to get around it. And you won’t find this anywhere else (until other game websites steal it from us.)
The saving bug in PS1 occurs when you try saving the game at the exact second the music loops. So listen to the music and wait. Then save. It also helps if you don’t press any buttons while it is saving. Now, this bug is very rare and has only happened to me twice in the entire time I played the game, but some people will probably encounter it, so here’s a head’s up.
Digital Eclipse did a find direct port of this game, with the menus, item screens, battle mode, and world walking aspects entirely preserved in their original form. All RPG’s automatically get high scores in gameplay because it’s more strategy than button mashing. It doesn’t take hand to eye coordination, just rudimentary tactical fighting knowledge.
But that being said there are two problems with the Gameplay, albeit niggling ones. The first is that the save function is a bit backwards, staring on “No’ instead of “Yes.’ Like I said, niggling. The other is when you’re in the dungeons and sometimes you turn a corner without trying. It’s easy to go back, but it is a tad jarring. Other than that, it’s all gravy.
Not Really. Combat is PS1 is a real turn off for you tacticians, simply because you can’t pick which monster to hit, and in many RPG’s selecting your bitch is what keeps you alive for the next battle. All you can do in PS1 is pick your action, but not your target. And it does come back to bite your ass in the end.
It’s a Master System game. We’re talking Super Mario Bros 1 or Balloon Fight level graphics here people. It’s cheesy nostalgia, but PS1 will automatically turn off graphics oriented players. Only one monster shows up on the screen even when you are fighting 8 monsters, The cut scenes are very far ahead of it’s time and could easily have been on the SNES or Genesis, but other than that the colours are vomitous and you can make better graphics on RPG Maker. Come here for the story, the nostalgia, the music, and the fun of this classic game. After all, in it’s day the graphics or PS1 were superb.
The fighting effects are cheesy sounding, but again, it was 8 bit gaming. The music however is extremely catchy and great to have playing in the background as you run around the world. The song from the main Phantasy Star has always remained in the series, and Digital Eclipse has given us a remake for the opening of the game when you first turn it on.
Truly, graphics, gameplay and stories have improved since the first Phantasy Star, but the music is still hard to compete with.
Well it’s one of the best games ever made (although time has done it wrong), but there are some heavy problems that will really make this game only fun for Nostalgia reasons. The first is no automapping the dungeons you are in. It makes the game harder, but most people don’t want to make maps as they play video games. They aren’t AD&D geeks. Even hardcore franchises like Castlevania learned to include maps, and Digital Eclipse or Sega could have made this adjustment with little to no effort. The second is the massive amount of random battles. I hate random battles. Hate “em. Especially when they are every 4-5 steps and ESPECIALLY when they are as plentiful in a game as hard as PS1. Then we have the save bug and the times where you will be saying, ‘WTF do I do now???’ Yes, as much as I love this game, it is a niche one, and a large portion of gamers, even RPG fanatics may be better off just going to PS2 and 3 instead of letting ps1 ruin the experience for them. Sorry Alis.
Fun Factor: 5
Okay, it’s better than average, and still better than a lot of other RPG’s, but it’s the first and ti shows as you play it. It’s very hard, sometimes a bitch to figure out what you need to do, and has some funny plot points, but it’s an amazing game that you have to remember involves three different worlds, 4 distinct characters, lots of weapons and spells, and is to video games what HP Lovecraft is to horror: The standard by what everything after it is measured by. Play the game, and if you can’t get into it…well, that’s why you have…
PHANTASY STAR 2
Yeah. It’s THAT game. The game most Final Fantasy games (except the first) have ripped off in every way possible, and once you play this game it will be all too apparent. One of the greatest plots ever written, with an amazing battle system, the introduction of techniques, and practically everything that appears in PS Online. Phantasy Star 2 is widely considered to be one of the greatest RPG’s of all time by gamers, reviewers and archivists, and now on the GBA you finally get to see why.
1000 years after PS1, you play as Rudo and his half monster/half human (dubbed Neuman) friend Nei. You start on Mota (Motavia for PS1 players) and have to solve the riddle of why Mother Brain (the living computer guiding the Algol Solar System) has gone slightly nuts and begun to create genetic monstrosities with a taste for human meat. That’s a bit of a bummer, eh?
Now, I really, really don’t want to go into the plot, as I would hate to ruin it for any of you. But FFVII’s “shocking plot twist’ was stolen from Phantasy Star 2 in such away that at least in Japan their was some anger and criticism launched at Square (while Americans, being gaming idiots, ate it up like fanboys).
Dark Force of course is the main super baddy (or is he?) and you have characters that you collect and can switch between as you go through the solor system trying to right wrongs.
The game also introduces Techniques vs. Magic, and gives you magic as well. Phantasy Star here becomes the balance between arcane and technological combat and that aspect has always helped it to win over fans. It endorses neither as superior, but both do have their uses.
Again, Phantasy Star 2 is very hard, with tough battles that reap little reward, but what do you expect when you are taking on a three world dominating computer (no relation to the Metroid Mother Brain BTW, although Samus would fit into the PS world perfectly) and an anthropomorphic personification of evil? That’s a tough job, no matter what other games try to tell you.
It also gives you what a lot of games need. The Strategy command. This lets you input what you want your characters to do in each battle, and whenever one comes up, you just pick that command, and they fight according to your plan automatically letting you just watch. In games with Random battles, this is a godsend, and later games like Lunar and Persona 2 use it much to my happiness.
Phantasy Star 2 is reason enough to shill out 30$ for this cart. Trust me on this.
Like I said earlier, RPG’s generally get a high score here, and Ps2 has one of, if not THE battle engine to end al RPG battle engines. It’s been copied in various ways ever since it came out, even by current games, and that alone gives it a perfect score.
It’s either a compliment to Sega or a negative comment towards GBA designers when I say PS2 is the best looking RPG on the GBA right now. And it’s a direct port from a 16 bit game. Even after a decade+ since this game came out, the graphics still help enrapture you with this game. Great combat scenes, excellent monsters, and beautiful worlds await you if you have never played this game. But hopefully, most of you have.
Decent sound. It’s great for a 16 bit, but Digital Eclipse didn’t do the best port for the sound effects and music. I still have all my PS carts and the music is better on the Genesis, and there’s no excuse for that.
Christ, it’s Phantasy Star 2. Only the Shining Force, Persona, Sakura Taisen, and Valkyrie Profile games are better than this. There is no reason it shouldn’t be in everyone’s top 5 RPG’s of all time. Hell, even if you hate RPG’s, this is a game you should fall in love with. Phantasy Star 2 is why PS3 was reviled in its day. When you make something this damn good, the sequel is bound to be unable to live up to the standard of excellent set before (except for Shining Force and Persona 2. Sorry, had to say it.
Fun Factor: 10
The 411: It’s the game nearly every RPG after it has ripped off in terms of story, engine, graphics, gameplay, tactics, etc, etc, etc… If you’re a casual gamer or hardcore psycho, you owe it to yourself and your GBA to play this. It may be old, it may be unheard by people under 21, but god damn, it is the RPG that made RPG’s cool, the game that Made Sega the Video game equivalent to ECW, and made people chuck out their Player’s handbooks and twenty sided dice for digital imagery and battery powered hack n’ slash. And this of course brings us to…
PHANTASY STAR 3: Generations of Doom
AH yes, the red headed stepchild of the Phantasy star genre. PS3 wasn’t made by anyone ven remotely involved with the prior Phantasy Stars and had only niggling things in common with the previous ones, such as Technique names, mesetas for money, and Dark Force. There’s also a big controversy in the time line from this game thanks to translation errors and the fact that once again, a different team was used for this game. A large group of PS fanatics have wasted time and energy mapping out a PS timeline showing that PS4 happens 9 years before this game. It’s odd, has some merit, but according to the Phantasy Star Online guide, the series chronology happens numerically, and I’ll go with the companies official word instead of fan boys any day.
There’s a lot of neat things about this game even if purists consider PS3 a bastard child of the series. The first is that the game looks eerily like Sword of Vermillion, one of the best RPG’s ever made, and that’s not a bad thing. There are also all new monsters, most of which look pretty damn cool. Finally, acne ridden geeks of all ages got their wish with virtual sex in this game. You start off as Rhys who has his amnesia ridden bride kidnapped the day of their wedding. In your quest to find her, you meet up with another girl who gets the hots for you, and at the end of part 1, you decide who you are going to make electric whoopie with. Whoever you pick nets you a distinctly different child who you play as in Part 2, who also has to pick a young woman to shag, and it each bride nets you one of two playable characters. So this aspect alone gives you massive replay value as you see what happens when your spread your genes around. Gregor Mendel would be proud. (I swear to god, all of you better get that last reference, or you’re all going back to 4th grade science class.)
That’s really the nutshell of the game. It’s like a mirror universe Phantasy star where some things are familiar and make sense while others pop out of the blue and leave you wondering who made this game. PS3 is a good game however, it just doesn’t fit in compared to parts 1,2, and 4.
Things that annoy me: SUPER SLOW WALKING SPEED. Ick. Massive random battles. Ick. Paying money to save your game instead of quick save features. ICK! A very different and clunky battle system from the first two games. Big Ick. And worst of all, a story and cut scenes that goes on its own when every other RPG on the planet forces you to press a button to have them continue. BIG ICK! I missed stuff every time I looked up to see where the driver was. Truly, Digital Eclipse did not design PS3 for actual travel.
Good things about the game: Various character and attack combos. A detailed tech list. 9 speeds for talking. A well thought out item/status screen. Brilliantly laid out towns that prevent you from having to figure out where everything is.
You’re going to be seeing that PS3 is hit or miss on a lot of things. And that’s typical of the PS franchise. Good to know some things don’t change.
Like I said, it’s 16 bit graphics at it’s best. It looks and feels like Vermillion, and the game takes full advantage of the GBA’s colour pallet. It was incredible back in the day of the Sega Genesis, and it’s still managed to hold up beautifully now. Character profiles are distinct and excellent, even if Rhys looks like he has major Constipation. Monsters are more realistic than ever, and Dark Force is a great looking end boss.
Okay, the music isn’t the best, but they really improved the sound effects here. Oh, and Ps3 has the familiar “SEGA!’ when you choose it. Ah, sweet nostalgia.
Okay, the music truly isn’t that bad. It’s good, and would be great with other RPG’s. It just doesn’t hold up to the sounds of his ancestors, and that’s PS3’s biggest problem. If any other name had been slapped on the poor bastard, it would have been a decently popular game. But compared to PS2, it was a poor sibling. But as you’ll see below, this game does have a better overall score than PS1, so it really is worth picking up and playing and ignoring the anti-PS3 hype some older grumpier gamers like myself tend to have for this game.
The first game that lets you make babies, a ton of replay value, and some great battles and even a decent story line means PS3 will probably be the game you play again and again on this collection, simply to get all the kids made and played with, especially since they all give you different endings. (Not much difference, but hey, it was 1 bit people!) PS2 is by far better, but it’s the same story again and again, and although it’s a great story, it’s not going to change, no matter what liars run around saying they had Nei beat a certain mid game boss by herself…
Fun Factor: 7.0
The 411: Ps3 is the longest, most versatile, and by far weirdest of the PS games on this collections. It’s a shock to the system after the first two, but still manages to be a good play, even today. I do suggest playing the games in order to find the storyline continuing through all three games, but your heart will be stuck on Ps2, I guarantee you.
Short Attention Span Summary
3 great games for 30$. This game should be the hottest selling GBA title out there! If Sega and THQ actually publicized it was out! Seriously, you have hundreds of hours of fun on one cart! One of the greatest franchises ever made! And stories! Actually stories behind the games! If you can honestly give me a reason you wouldn’t want this game (other than you hate RPG games), I’d have to hear it so I can sigh in disbelief and sadness.