23 June 2015


Publisher/Developer:  Sega
Format: Cartridge
Game Size: 512K
Rarity:  4
Game Type: Top Down/First Person RPG
Region: USA
Other Ways to Play:  LOTS!  But English language ways I know of include: Game Boy Advance, PS2 (remake fan translation and SMS original), PS3/360 (Hidden unlockable on Genesis collection), Wii (SMS emulated)
Power Base Convertor Playable?: Yes, 6 button controller works.

Price I Paid: 35 Dollars maybe?
Price I Would Pay: 20 Dollars.
Condition: Game, Case, Manual, Ad Posrer
Game Rating: Good*
Game Completion/Desire to: Yes/
My History:  Its the reason I bought a Master System!  Sadly the freshman who was gonna sell it to me just before I graduated in 1992 chose not to show up on my last day taking the bus and I didn't get a chance to play it at all till it was a rom dump in the late 90s.  I would purchase my own copy off ebay a short time later, and wouldn't finish the game until the collection on the Game Boy Advance in the mid 00s.

Game and contents.  

  Now this is what I am talking about.  The reason I got the SMS even if it wouldn't be nearly a decade or so before I actually had the opportunity to play the game in our pre digital download/pre ebay time where if a game wasn't available locally or somehow in a mail order catalog we were lucky to even know it existed, much less be able to buy the thing.

  You see I was a super early adopter of the Genesis because even in the 80s I really wasn't a brand loyalist.  If something is new and cool I wanted to check it out.  And well early in the Genny's first US full year the best game magazine at the time Videogames & Computer Entertainment gave Phantasy Star 2 a very positive review and gave it awards and everything.  I had a chance to rent it one weekend to at least sate my RPG hunger but wouldn't actually own it until that Summer.  It was amazing.  And well I loved it so why not play the original?  And at that time RPGs weren't a massively large genre so even with a Genesis, NES, and Commodore 64 there wasn't a massively huge selection, especially in the 1990-1992 timeframe.  You pretty much played as many as you could find and afford if you liked that sort of game.

  But my actual playing of it didn't happen until the age of emulators and the Internet, albeit the dial up era of it.  I quite liked it and was rather impressed!  But then as now as a working (semi mature) adult with lots of interests and limited time I never finished it, not even when I finally bought the game.  Thankfully the Game Boy Advance collection of the first three Phantasy Star games and Gamefaqs and similar Phantasy Star fan websites gave me printable maps and whatever help I needed as I played the game in 10-16 minute chunks at work on my breaks over the course of a couple months, allowing me to finally complete it.

  Anyhow Phantasy Star is in the Ultima wheelhouse with a top down perspective overworld and absolutely amazing for the time and platform first person scrolling dungeons, albeit ones that are all identical in graphics outside of the color of the walls.  (But given how the Wizardry franchise were still using step move wireframes and Dungeon Master was still step move and one basic dungeon tileset graphic even as a 16 bit game at the same time?)  Sadly there is no automap in the dungeons but the maps are generally simple enough to hand map even with the odd pit puzzle here and there.  (It is no Bard's Tale Scepter Snare.)

They see me scrollin, they hatin! Something something on Zee Eighty!

  For an RPG in 1987 Phantasy Star is probably one of the most technically advanced titles out there especially in the graphics and music category.  It wouldn't look out of place on an Amiga or Atari ST!

  In this game you play Alis(a) Landale, a young woman dressed sensibly for adventuring on the three planets of the Algo star system as you avenge the death of her brother who was trying to bring down the tyrannical reign of Lassic.

What madness is this?  A 1987 Japanese RPG and the female lead is SENSIBLY DRESSED FOR ADVENTURE?  (We will get into that whole SMS Power part.)

  It is kind of a typical JRPG outside of its' odd Science Fantasy setting though.  You level up, buy ever increasingly expensive weapons and armor, cast spells, and talk to townsfolk as you search for whatever doodads you need to open dungeon doors or find various foozles to get you through the three worlds.  (Including things to get on shuttles to the other planets and even a cake.  Seriously.)

  While you start out with only Alis, as you explore you will find three companions you have to find to join your party with some nice text and graphics cut scenes which is again incredibly amazing for 1987.

  Combat is done in the standard style of Dragon Quest, going to a first person viewpoint.  Although yet again Phantasy Star does it classier with monster animations, graphical flashes of your party's weapons hitting, and even some animation in the background!  If you are fighting on a beach, the water will wash upon the shore.  Heck, sometimes you will even meet friendly NPCs if you have the right spells who might help you out a little!  Combat is sped up through just having the damage taken and you see your numbers go down or the enemy HP.  Why waste time?

Yes, I do know UTINNI.

  As usual in these sorts of games you can buy weapons and armor in towns, much of which is dedicated to one of your four characters, although some weapon choices have different effects in combat such as the various firearms.  It is still a 1987 game however so you have to pay attention to the manual or your stats to see what your gear may or may not do for you.  

Tylon wants a gun.

  It is hard to explain but the game is just so damned POLISHED, especially for its' time.  The only caveats are mostly in the official English translation which uses different terms and writing for almost everything which really clashes with the later games.  (Instead of the mono/di/tri-mate healing items, the original translation has us eating BURGERS.  Seriously.)  Oh, and the music merely being quite good.

  However the SMS Power Retranslation is your best bet.  It tries to be closer to the Japanese script, and allows you in an emulator or with an FM sound module to get the absolutely OUTSTANDING music that Japan got to enjoy.  Here, let me show you a video I made a while back:


  It is just a quality game!  If you want to deal with Playstation 2 emulation fans have fully translated the modern Phantasy Star remake which is basically the same adventure and story with expanded everything including an automap.  I would show some screenies but as I do not own a copy of the PS2 game (yet) I will just merely link to information on this version and the translation:  http://pscave.com/psg1/download/

  Of course if you just want to play the legitimate US releases you will still be fine as it is still a damned great game.  Just look out that the Game Boy Advance collection sometimes has a save game bug with this title where it will lock up when you try to save every now and then.  However that is the version I finally completed so it is still more than manageable.  I just saved quite often so at worst I never lost more than 5-10 minutes of progress.

Master System Play:  It and the Genesis basically play exactly the same outside of the usual SMS color bleed issues.  But the game generally looks excellent either way.  Any controller will work as this game is another RPG with four cardinal direction only movement.  The Epyx 500xj and Genesis Six Button were the only ones I bothered to test for the review because anything is gonna be fine!  ITS A TURN BASED RPG.  
Next four shots are from a camera pointed at a composite monitor from a real SMS.
 Title screen.

 "I saved your furry ass so time to fight alongside me!"

 Known as Mota in Phantasy Star 2.  Translations didn't really get GOOD in Japanese games into English really until the early 00s.

Combat in action.  I was hoping to get some spot animation in the shot but it didn't come out too well.

Now a couple Genesis with Power Base shots and we can bring it all home!
 Yes there are Sandworms on this desert planet.  But mostly Antlions.  So many of them.

That original translation in full effect.  Whee.

Rating:  While not perfect and a little long in the tooth, compared to its' contemporaries and even some games of the same genre on 16 bit consoles this game really holds up and is still great fun to play.  The grind isn't too bad!  The exploration and adventure aren't abusive or obscure.  It just does everything right.  Good.  I can give it no less of a score.  I would say play the PS2 or SMS Power retranslation over the US original but you just can't go wrong if you like JRPGs.

Next Time:  As I have been kind of busy July will be another Games I Already Finished month.  Except this time we get some action going with side scrolling!  Shinobi and Mickey Mouse & the Castle of Illusion.  I meant to have this review up last week but some home issues and the like delayed me.  One of the two above should be up some time next week however, probably the first Wednesday of the month!

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