Adieu, Game Boy Advance: PHANTASY STAR COLLECTION

Phantasy Star Collection
Developer: Sega
Publisher: THQ
Genre: Turn Based RPG
Release Date: 11/24/2002

Hey! Remember the days when the word “Sega” meant “quality?” Or the days when the title “Phantasy Star” was the equivalent of, “willingly shilling out seventy-five bucks for some of the best RPG gameplay ever?” Sure those days are long ago, but nearly four years ago, Sega and THQ teamed up to inspire unheard of levels of Nostalgia in retrogamers, as well as introduce newer/younger gamers to one of the hardest and most beloved video game series of all time.

It’s hard to cover all three of these title sin only 750 words, but let’s make some magic happen. The first Phantasy Star is the tale of a young girl named Alis and her quest for vengeance against the evil King Lassic. Now this may sound generic as hell, but remember that PS1 was released back in 1987. It’s nearly twenty years old. The game still manages to hold up against the most current of titles, with its strange plot twists, and amazingly challenging gameplay.

Phantasy Star may be one of the oldest games in the RPG genre, but it’s also one of the hardest. The 25 level tower is up there with Borgan from Lunar: Eternal Blue on the Sega CD as one of the toughest, most evil things ever put into a video game. One warning though: there is a bug in the GBA version that will cause your game to crash if you try saving the second the midi file loops around to start playing at the beginning again. This is very rare and can easily be avoided, but if I’m telling you to pick up a 4 year old GBA game, I owe it to you to warn you that the first of the three titles on here has a wee bit of a blemish in it.

Phantasy Star 2 really needs no introduction from me. It’s the most plagiarized video game title ever. Long time gamers will sit there and whap Final Fantasy 7 fans across their fool head and point out how Aeris and her death (What? It’s not a spoiler when the damn thing is ten years old) is a third rate version of Nei’s death.

The game takes place 1,000 years after the original Phantasy Star. The series remains in the system of Algo and you begin the game as Rolf, who is dreaming of Alis and her battle against Dark Force and Lassic. I always gathered this to be that either Rolf was a descendant of Alis or that due to the grave nature of the battle in question, it was ingrained upon the unconscious collective of the world. And of course, it was the former that was correct.

When Rolf awakes, you are greeted to a much different plot that the one of Phantasy Star 2. Rolf is a government agent on the planet of Motavia investigating the recent outbreak of strange mutants that now plague the land. Teamed up with Nei, one of the few benevolent “Bio-hazards” that Rolf encountered and adopted seven months ago, Rolf sets out to discover what has happened to his world.

As the game goes on, you learn that Mother Brain, the living computer that controls the planet has gone awry. But in fact Mother Brain is still completely lucid and in control of its senses. All this is happening not because it is breaking down, but because it is putting its master plan into action.

Yet, behind Mother Brain there is a greater evil pulling the strings. No, it’s not Dark Force, although he does appear in the game, and is the hardest boss to defeat. The true enemy hits home with shock and sadness. It is no great super demon god or almighty genocidal warrior. It is something far simpler and tragic. And like this finally revealed evil, the ending of Phantasy Star 2 is tinged with sadness and sorrow as well. It is open ended, and some may say confusing, but this is the only RPG I can think of where you can walk away saying that your characters won the battle, but in the end, evil won the war.

There’s a reason Phantasy Star 2 made #24 on my “Top 30 RPG’s of All Time” list.

Finally, there’s PS3, the bastard retarded child of the series according to purists. I have to say though, if you take it as a stand alone, it’s actually a very good RPG. It had almost nothing in common with the first two games save for the name a a quick appearance by Dark Force. For all intents and purposes it was closer to Sword of Vermillion than Phantasy Star, both in look and feel. It did provide a very good storyline however, along with the ability to breed with a female cast member and watch your main character’s child and grandchild continue their forfather’s quests to rid the land of darkness. This was pretty intense for its day, and still is a deeper idea than a lot of RPG’s released today give you. It also had multiple endings allowing for a great deal of replayability.

Today, PS Collection sells for about ten bucks sealed. That’s an amazing deal considering you get two of the most beloved RPG’s of all time, along with Phantasy Star 3, which got a 7.0 from me when I reviewed this collection back in my early early days with 411mania. Man, has it really been four years of me writing about games?

Now, if only they’d released Phantasy Star IV for the DS…