Important Importables: Classic Phantasy Star

January 1, 2012 - 3:00 am No Comments

Hot Japanese Imports: Classic Phantasy Star


The Phantasy Star series weren’t always MMO games, or even action RPGs with lite MMO elements. There was a time when it was akin to the Final Fantasy series and the name was brought up when referring to challenging and intriguing turn-based RPGs about heroes facing off against evil and insurmountable odds.

So before we head into a whole new year, Hot Japanese Imports is going to salute the past, and one of the best early RPG experiences people could get.

So what’s this Phantasy Star series all about?

Despite the similar names, Phantasy Star actually existed before the Final Fantasy series, with Phantasy Star appearing on the Sega Master System in 1988, two years before Final Fantasy showed up on the NES. The first four games managed to help set the pace for turn-based RPGs and was a pioneer, and showed people how a challenging, story-driven adventure could work.

Actually, the early Phantasy Star games had more in common with the Star Ocean series in terms of plot, despite being grounded in turn-based RPG roots like the Final Fantasy series. Each entry has a group of heroes facing off against a common enemy, on either a foreign planet in space or, in one case, a space ship. Each entry also blends some futuristic elements with more traditional fantasy ones. So you’ll see characters wielding swords, using magic and fighting monsters, while also having access to guns, space ships and androids/cyborgs/robots. This blend is both most and least evident in the third entry, which is typically considered the black sheep of the original Phantasy Star quartet. These ties between all four games is enforced by the main villain, the Dark Force. It is a sort of ephemural being that has the power to influence those around it and seeks only to cause pain and misery.

In each game, players had access to a fairly large party of characters. They would be tasked with some seemingly small quest in the beginning, as is common with RPGs, and would then somehow get involved in saving the entire world. In the process, they would have to travel not only around their planet, but also to a neighboring planet. While the difficulty could get quite challenging at times, especially in Phantasy Star 2 and 3, there were plenty of towns to stop at and lots of equipment to collect. All battles are turn-based, with a first person view as in the Dragon Quest series.

As for finding these first few entries, you’ll have the best luck if you look to the Game Boy Advance, PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. In 2002, Digital Eclipse and THQ released the Phantasy Star Collection for the GBA and it includes the first three games. The Sonic Ultimate Genesis Collection (PS3, Xbox 360) includes all four games.

Let’s look at the first four games

Now, let’s get into specifics. While each game did share the commonalities mentioned above, they were individual adventures and you sometimes couldn’t even see the connections among them unless you really searched for them. Of course, the exception to that is Phantasy Star 4, which was filled with all kinds of easter eggs and references that anyone who played a previous game could pick out. This does main that players can jump in without any background information, even though the games all take place in the Algo Star System.

Phantasy Star is the first game in the series and chronologically. It begins on the planet Palma, where Alis is living with her brother Nero. Nero is part of an underground rebel force that is standing against king Lassic, who used to be a good ruler but turned into a tyrant overnight after converting to a new religion. Lassic’s robotic police force ends up finding and killing Nero, and he passes his cause on to Alice. Her quest means she has to travel around Palma, Motavia and Dezolis, recruiting the human Odin, the Musk Cat Myau and the Esper Noah to her party.

Phantasy Star 2 is the second game and the second chronologically, occuring about 1,000 years after the original game. Shortly before the game begins, the planet Palma was destroyed after the Gaila satellite crashed. So Rolf, our hero, is living on the planet Motavia, which has been made hospitable due to a climate control system installed by Mother Brain. He’s an agent working for the Commander of Motavia, and as the game begins he’s tasked with investigating why Mother Brain is allowing Motavian systems to fail and letting loose biomonsters. He heads out with Nei, a Numan girl he rescued, and eventually other companions.

Phantasy Star 3: Generations of Doom is the third game and even now people aren’t exactly sure where it fits in. The Japanese translation says that it happened 1,000 years after Phantasy Star 4, while the English translation means it happens at the same time as Phantasy Star 4. I’d go with the Japanese timeline, since translation errors in RPGs were common in the Genesis and SNES years. It’s actually considered the strangest entry in the series as well, since it initially seems to have no ties to the previous games, almost all futuristic elements are absent for most of the first generation and it covers three generations of heroes.

Phantasy Star 3 begins with a young man named Rhys, who is an Orakian prince from Landen. He found a mysterious woman named Maia washed up on the shores of his land, fell in love with her and is gong to marry her when the game begins. However, she’s abducted by a dragon on their wedding day. Rhys sets out to save her, but along the way starts to find out more about the Layan people the Orakians have been at war with for years. As time goes by, his descendents find out more about their world, the war between Orakio and Laya and their peoples’ true enemy. Now, in case you’re wondering how all this ties in without having to play the game, Phantasy Star 3 takes place entirely on one of the Alisa III evacuation worldships that set out after Palma was destroyed prior to Phantasy Star 2.

Phantasy Star 4 is the fourth game in the series and takes place after another 1,000 year time jump. That’s 1,000 years after Phantasy Star 2, by the way. It is also set on Motavia, except this is a Motavia after Mother Brain was shut down. So no more climate control – people are living in a desert. Alys and Chaz are two Hunters, mercenaries who take missions to help people in the game. As the adventure begins, Alys and Chaz are sent to the Piata Academy to investigate a biomonster outbreak. There, they are joined by a researcher named Hahn and learn that this isn’t an isolated incident. Strange things are happening all around Motavia, and a priest named Zio and his followers seem to be connected to all of them.

COMING NEXT WEEK: Hot Japanese Imports looks at the Doctor Who video games.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last week Hot Japanese Imports reviewed Bleach: Heat the Soul 7.

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