Virtual Console Wrap-up – 12/22

Another week, another single game released on the Virtual Console. It’s getting kind of annoying, although to be fair, it’s a much-anticipated and renowned title that probably should stand on its own: Phantasy Star IV from the Genesis. And let’s see what DHGF has to say about it!

Phantasy Star IV
Developer: Sega AM7 (Now Sega Wow)
Publisher: Sega
System: Sega Genesis
Original Release Date: 1995
Price: 800 Wii Points

Bebito Jackson: Hooray!

Alex Lucard: Okay, on one hand this game is out for the PS2 on the Sega Genesis Collection and it’s coming to the PS3 and Xbox on the collection for that system as well.

But this is Phantasy Star IV – the first truly epic RPG of all time. It was eighty something dollars when it first came out. It was the largest video game ever made during the 16 bit era. It had an amazing story, memorable characters, and killer gameplay. And the graphics? Wow. PSIV’s visuals blew away anything and everything that the Genesis, TG-16, and SNES had to offer RPG-wise. I remember saving up my little allowance for this thing and when I got it in my hands, I was not disappointed. PSIV was magic in cart form, pure and simple.

There are many people who consider PSIV to be the greatest RPG ever made. I’ll admit I disagree on this point, but damned if I can’t see their reasoning behind their decision. This IS one of the best video games ever made and if you don’t have a PS2, PS3 or 360, then yes, you NEED to spend your Wii points on this game. I don’t care if you missed the first III Phantasy Stars, you still need to experience this game (Although all of the PS games are great).

With the release of this, my desire to see a real Phantasy Star game return is magnified. As much as I enjoyed the PSO trilogy, I’d still rather get my hands on a new game in this series. Preferably by Overworks AKA Sega Now as they just churned out Valkyria Profiles and they developed IV. Come on Sega, let them make PSV!

Christopher Bowen: I guess after the month of complaints I had about Phantasy Star IV being held back from us while we got the dreck of the release pile, I should celebrate getting Phantasy Star IV now. Almost in a “you got what you wanted, now shut the —- up” sense. I’m sure half of our own staff is saying that now to themselves; shit, even my fiancee is probably breathing a sigh of relief right now.

Before I go to show that I’m – surprise – an asshole, Phantasy Star IV is one of the best RPGs of the 16 bit era, and I honestly would enter it in with Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI in the debate of which one is the best. It closes the Phantasy Star storyline in a way that PSIII could only dream of, and also had the most streamlined gameplay – by far – in the series. It’s incredible.

But I’m extremely disgusted that Nintendo dicked around for so long with this game, only to foist it on us now and expect us to be ——- thankful. I’d go into greater detail, but I have my own column if I need a soapbox.

Quick summary: PSIV is outstanding, but —- the Virtual Console.

Nathan Birch: This is my favorite game ever. Say, didn’t we do a whole feature where we did write ups on our favorite games? Copy and paste time!

“Phantasy Star IV was a remarkable Genesis game in every aspect. Its graphics were amongst the best on the system, as they were rich, colourful and varied with detailed well-animated monsters and eye-popping attacks. Its soundtrack was amazing, epic yet futuristic all at once. The battle system is deep enough to allow for some solid strategy, but it isn’t bogged down my excessive complexity. The story, told through beautiful anime-style art (at a time when we North Americans weren’t yet drowning in a tsunami of Japanese animation and comics) was expertly constructed and paced. You start humbly and the game sets before you a series of adventures and antagonists to defeat, each one bigger and more threatening than the last. The game escalates perfectly, culminating in perhaps the best final boss battle I’ve ever encountered in an RPG (and I’ve encountered a lot). The characters all feel alive, unique and likeable in a way video game characters rarely are. The dialogue is sharp and at times the game is just plain funny as hell (apparently main female protagonist Alys has slept with half the NPCs in the game). Oh, and yes, since this is a Phantasy Star game there is a tragic death, and when it happens it’s a genuinely affecting moment (unlike say, in Final Fantasy IV, where there’s so many pointless “heroic sacrifices” and deaths the characters just start to come off as either incompetent or suicidal).

Some wizened and cranky old hardcore gamers turn their nose up at PSIV, citing the original Phantasy Star or Phantasy Star II as the best in the series. In later years though I’ve gone back and played the first two games in the series (IV was actually the first game in the series I played) and my opinion of IV has not been changed. In fact, playing the earlier games only made me love PSIV all the more as I now noticed the myriad of callbacks and references to earlier games found in PSIV. Phantasy Star IV was no longer just an amazing stand-alone game, but the climax of a groundbreaking 100-hour plus trilogy (I’m not including PSIII as that game is really more of a side-story). As sad as I am that we’ll probably never get to see another true Phantasy Star game, in a way I’m glad. This was one of the few RPG series that was allowed a true, satisfying final chapter to it’s story. As much as I’d like a new PS game there’s really nowhere else for the series to go, Phantasy Star IV ended the saga in near perfect fashion.”

Hmmm, and hey, check out this final paragraph I wrote…

“Sega has already released Phantasy Star II and III on the Wii Virtual Console. When PSIV hits, buy it. That’s not a suggestion, that’s an order. Maybe if enough people buy it Sega will pull their heads out of their asses long enough to give Rieko Kodama the go-ahead to design a new RPG (The poor girl is currently stuck making Brain Age rip-offs, an absolutely apalling waste of talent). Come on, the game’s got half-inch tall 16-bit strippers! I know you can’t say no to that.”

6-months later and Phantasy Star IV is on the virtual console and Rieko Kodama is working on the super-promising DS RPG 7th Dragon. Merry ——- Christmas to me! You know what Sega? In the spirit of the season, I forgive you for the past few years, you’re all right.

Charlie Marsh: Oh, you guys have been waiting for a whole month to get Phantasy Star IV? Well, me and every other Earthbound fan on the face of the Earth have been playing the world’s smallest violin for you all this time. I don’t really care about Phantasy Star, but I guess a reportedly good game I don’t care about is better than a bad game nobody cares about.

Aileen Coe: Wow, after weeks of the equivalent of coal here’s a gem. I’m guessing all the dud releases prior to this were probably some haphazard way of creating some sort of suspense or hype in the weeks leading up to the holidays. While I can’t say I approve of such a tactic, it’s still definitely worth plunking down the points for this if for whatever reason you have yet to play this and you don’t own any consoles for which anthologies containing this game has been released.

Matt Yeager: I don’t know what this game is, but I think they spelled Fantasy wrong.

Ashe Collins: Right now Nintendo is hoping that the angry US gamers will now put away the pitchforks and pick up the Wiimotes and have themselves a Merry Little Christmas.

About time Nintendo! Now maybe we can have a little less whining around here.

Mark B.: I started my first part-time job in 1995. At the time, I was working at a local fast-food restaurant for what passed for minimum wage while going to high school, and while my grades weren’t exactly stellar (which can be blamed equally on laziness and apathy, unless we’re talking about trigonometry, in which it was because I was awful at it), they were high enough that I could safely justify holding down said job without bringing my grades down any. Some kids get part-time jobs to buy themselves cars, while others get said jobs to save up for college. I got a part-time job because I wanted to be able to buy my own video games, which is an explanation so lame in hindsight I want to reach back in time and give my teenage self a swirlie.

My very first paycheck was a thing of beauty to me, and shortly after cashing it, I found myself standing in the local KB Toys, staring at the wall of video games, wondering anxiously what I should buy. After perusing the selection of games for the better part of ten minutes, I finally settled on two games, one because I had been wanting it for forever, the other because I was vaguely curious about it. The latter ended up being one of my ten favorite video games ever in the lost Hideo Kojima classic Snatcher (oh, and by the way, Charlie, at least you’re GETTING Earthbound; all of the Snatcher fans in the US who’ve seen an English translated version of the game exactly one time on a console that would break if you looked at it funny would like you to take your violin and choke on it), while the former would, of course, be the newest VC release, Phantasy Star IV.

Needless to say, I didn’t regret either one.

Now, here’s the thing: Phantasy Star IV isn’t the greatest RPG ever. It might not even be the greatest Sega RPG ever. I’m also not exactly sure what Alex means when he describes it as the first truly epic RPG ever, either, but I don’t even know if it’s entirely that. But it IS the culmination of all of the events of the series up to that point, done in such a way that both casual players with little to no knowledge of the franchise and die-hard fans of the games alike could sit down, play through the game, and walk away from it satisfied that they’d experienced something wonderful, and over a decade later, it still is. The plot, cliched though it is, is done in such a fashion that it works not only in spite of but also BECAUSE OF its cliched nature, and the end result is compelling and enjoyable. The gameplay is largely what fans of the genre would expect from such a game, though it has its own interesting quirks (including team-up attacks over a year before Chrono Trigger debuted and an interesting way of keeping players from having to pick and choose their teammates by writing team members into and out of the plot as needed). The visuals, though dated at this point, are still charming and colorful whether you’re seeing them for the first or the fiftieth time. The game is also rather challenging, and not just in the “level up for five hours until you can tackle the next dungeon” sort of way that so many RPG’s of the time were, but in an, “Enemies will combine and team up to deal more damage so you need to isolate weak links and end them” way that modern RPG’s have begun to embrace more readily as time has gone on.

In short, Phantasy Star IV was both familiar and new.

And on the Wii Ware side of things, we’re getting Tiki Towers and Fun! Fun! Minigolf, which I’m thinking about getting just to see if it really is twice as fun as regular mini golf. See you next week!






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