The Mog Blog

Blowing Dust: Phantasy Star 25th Anniversary Special

It’s been a week of 25th anniversaries. 1987 was a great year. Final Fantasy, Mega Man, The IROC-Z Camaro, the list goes on. On the humble Sega Mark III, known as the Sega Master System in the West, 25 years ago we also saw the birth of another great RPG series. The Phantasy Star series. While the series today isn’t in the same form it once was, it’s still something I have a deep appreciation for. There’s very few games that I will say define me as a gamer, and Phantasy Star is one of them. The series is still alive and kicking on the PC and PlayStation Vita with Phantasy Star Online 2. While the newer games aren’t necessarily canonically connected to the original four games, there’s plenty of references and themes that echo through. It may not be Algol, but it’s definitely Phantasy Star. While the series has gone everywhere from text adventure to an online multiplayer hack and slash, it all started as an 8-bit RPG with 3D dungeons.

Meet Alis, the pioneer of female RPG leads.

Phantasy Star takes a page out of Greek mythology and also tosses sci-fi elements into the mix. There’s some inspirations from Dune in there, too. You guessed it, you’ll be fighting medusas, sand worms and robots in addition to dragons, slimes, and skeletons. you take the role of Alis, who sets out on a quest to overthrow King Lassic after her brother Nero was slain. Along the way you get to meet a talking “Musk cat” named Myau, a mighty warrior named Odin and the Esper Noah (Lutz in the Japanese version). Along the way you travel between the three planets in the Algol solar system on her quest to overthrow Lassic. The original Sega Master System version stood the test of time fairly well. It was a marvel in it’s time, with it’s 3D dungeons, the large images it uses for storytelling, and unique setting.

The 3D dungeons really showed off the power of the Sega Master System.

I find it every bit as fun to play now, as I did when I first played it, even if it does seem a bit grindy. The biggest challenges lie in the dungeons more than anything. You’re going to want some graph paper for this one. The battle system is simple, but it’s on par with everything else from the same time period. It’s your standard turn based combat, where you square off against a single enemy, sometimes multiples of the same type of enemy.

Yep, you get to fight winged scorpions! There’s owl bears, too.

Looking back, the storyline is a bit simple compared to modern RPGs, but it’s still very charming. It also set the stage for many more games to come. A remake was released in 2003 for the PlayStation 2. Phantasy Star Generation: 1 was released as the debut title of SEGA’s 3D Ages series. It gave a facelift to the original game, but left the formula mostly the same, including town and dungeon layout. They added in some annoying fetch quests that forced certain interactions before you could continue with the plot, even if the next thing to do was already clearly spelled out for you. It was a little frustrating, especially if your Japanese isn’t the best. The battle system’s been streamlined and the design reminds me a lot of what Phantasy Star 4 would have if it were 32-bit. You get to fight different types of enemies at once now, which is a welcome addition.

Even though the art style is different, the remake has some nice artwork.

While the graphics do look pretty nice, you might look at the remake and guess it to be a bit older than 2003. I’d say It has a 1996 feel to it, and could easily have been an early Saturn or PlayStation game. The music is the most disappointing factor of the remake. The original had amazing music and there’s no end of awesome remixes floating around that could easily have made their way into the game. What we got was very generic sounding, and not very high quality. There was a planned US release of the remake, but it got delayed to oblivion. Fans of the series have taken the job into their own hands, though and you can check it out in English if you know the right channels.

Rappies weren’t present in the original but the remake sought out to fix that.

Phantasy Star captured my heart, and the Eclipse Torch has been passed. For my Son’s third birthday, I bought him a Game Boy Advance and a number of games for it. One of the games was Phantasy Star Collection. I didn’t expect it to happen, but that’s what’s been in his Game Boy the most since he’s gotten it. He hasn’t made much progress since he can’t read yet, but he’s gained a few levels, and almost gotten Myau. I forsee it being one of those games that we play through together in about a year or so.

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Author: RadGalaxy

Emily "RadGalaxy" Nowicki, is a Features Contributor for The Mog Blog. She's also known as the Polybius World Champion. Retro-gaming is her expertise, but she appreciates newer games as well. She loves everything from Shmups to RPGs, and enjoys finding new gems to rant about. You can contact her on Twitter, Facebook or email.

  • John F.

    I’m replaying Phantasy Star this week. The dungeons are still tough. I’m looking forward to PSO 2.

    • MogKnight

      I have the hardest time trying to get into the original Phantasy Star game. Always felt like PS1 and PS2 were games that you need to have a strategy guide on hand to keep you from getting lost. With PS Collection PSN in Japan, I might just pick it up simply for the Easy mode.

      Yeah, I’m a wimp. :(

      • Emily Nowicki

        I felt like it got easier the further you got into it. The hardest thing is getting through the dungeons, and there’s maps all over for it.

  • likalaruku

    I remember one of the 3 PC gaming magazines of the time giving Phantasy Star Online an abysmal review. I guess it had a really buggy release. Some reviewers just don’t believe in waiting for a game to be patched before cashing in their verdict.

  • Prithivi

    Great article! I’ve been a Phantasy Star fan sine I played PSO on my Dreamcast back in 2000. I would love to see the remakes of PS and PSII English, and remakes for PS III and The End of The Millenium too, asking is for free! =D

    • MogKnight

      You should definitely check out PSO2 whenever it comes out internationally! Though if you’re dedicated enough, you can play the JP version right now.

  • Rob Hestar(★♋)

    I’ve never played a Phantasy star game…Now I check em out,good read!

  • Sebine

    I miss my DC and PSO… damn disk never ran right, but it was fun when it worked..