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Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom (Genesis) artwork

Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom (Genesis) review


"ahh hubris thy name is Sega. "



Picture this, it’s the early 90’s and you are riding high off the critical acclaim and relative success of a duo of RPG’s you developed, both helped push JRPG’s further into the spotlight with their technical excellence for their time and gripping and engaging storylines. The second ended on an amazing cliff-hanger, the fans want more…you are Sega…what do you do?

You commission a sequel of course, not just any sequel, a sequel built by very few of the original team members, you clearly rush them, set the game in an entirely different world from the previous two and don’t continue on the story of the previous two except shoehorning some plot details in. put this all together and you get Hubris: the game or Phantasy star 3: Generations of doom.

Also SPOILERS

Almost universally considered the black sheep of the series (á la Zelda 2 but with the hate being a little bit more deserved) Phantasy star 3 was a pretty good RPG by the standards of the time…the problem is that it was named Phantasy star 3. you see by this point Phantasy star had a pretty clear style and world all it’s own, the games took place in the Algol solar system, they had an intriguing and fresh sci-fi and sword and sorcery style and they had fairly deep plots, none of which are found in PS3, the sci-fi elements are toned down a lot, castles and medieval style towns now dominate and Algol is nowhere to be seen, the biggest problem is that Phantasy star 2 ended on a cliffhanger with the very fate of Algol up for grabs. Phantasy star 3’s backstory does not address this at all, playing the game through to the end still gives no hints as to what happened at the end of the previous game. For this reason I think that PS3 was actually a separate game entirely commissioned as a PS game and I treat it as such, while I may be writing as though I personally dislike this game I am trying more to put into context the root of the hate of this game, I actually don’t think this game is too bad. I actually want to wade through some of the bullshit behind it.

First a little backstory: 1000 years ago, Orakio, swordsman extraordinaire battled the evil witch Laya in a brutal and bloody war between their clans, the war ended with their disappearance and a sort of segregation enforced, neither Orakian nor Layan (as the peoples became to be known) encroached on the other’s land since. Now prince Rhys of Landen Is celebrating his wedding day to local amnesiac Maia who washed up ashore one day, during the ceremony a strange dragon like demon snatches Maia and Rhys vows revenge on the Layans, the king decides the prince is being a bit petulant and decides on some tough love by throwing him into the castle dungeon for a while, he is soon broken out by a mystery woman and he then sets out to make his revenge. A fairly cliché plot but serviceable if it distinguishes itself later on…boy does it.

Along the way the plot makes some strange twists and turns, the world you are in turns out to actually be a giant worldship…or more appropriately 7 domed worlds, each with different styles like ice or desert, it adds some nice variety to the game, I just wish the rest of the game is the game was the same…you’ll see what I mean soon.

Gameplay wise the game is a fairly typical turn based RPG so swords, magic and eldritch abominations are the order of the day, though for the two cyborg characters a series of guns and claws are available, the battle system is kind of a mix between PS1 and PS2’s. PS3 brings back the battle backgrounds of PS1 but unfortunately also brings back the first person view of it as well, no behind the character animations here, the battle menu and attack options are more akin to PS2’s however which is an improvement, one major downgrade however is the battle animations, I have always applauded Phantasy star for it’s great big animated sprites for it’s enemies, here the enemies are animated…sort of, many of them don’t really do anything of worth, some of them flip from side to side and others wiggle their finger. This says to me that the game was rushed or simply wasn’t made with the same gusto that the first two games were made with, it kinda figures since the team who made this game were not the same team from the previous games.

The biggest draw of this flawed experiment is the generation system, you see at the end of each character’s portion of the game there are always two lovely ladies ready to jump your character, choosing either one will affect in what direction goes though all roads lead to the series main eldritch abomination Dark Force. Not only does this affect the plot but also the stats of the character you become. For example prince rhys has a choice of his original bride of Maia who as it turns out is a Layan (Meaning that she has the genes allowing magic to be used) or the lady that broke him out of prison Princess Lena of Satera (a fellow Orakian so no magic). Choosing Maia creates a main character with magical abilities, choosing Lena gives you a main character with good physical stats in place of those magical abilities.

Frankly the idea intrigues me…unfortunately in this game it is an experiment that just doesn’t work as well as it should, blame it on sega’s hubris(as said before it was riding pretty high at the time and I guess lost focus a bit) or on an inexperienced team but while the first branch in the (fairly screwy) storyline is pretty well handled the final generations have nearly no differentiation between them except for a few character’s stats. To be honest I would love it if this style of story telling was done in a different RPG as it is a great idea, just poorly executed.

One thing that PS3 does a little better than PS2 is the graphics, true while the battle animation is either terrible or non existent the field graphics and character sprites are much better, the characters seem to have more detail to them, plus the battle backgrounds are back, no more blue grid. The big problem with the graphics ties more into the gameplay, everything moves too slowly, I’m not kidding the walking speed of the characters is annoyingly slow, PS4 fixed that thankfully.

The music however…I’m not a fan of it. Really I have something against FM synth music frankly, I don’t like the tinny, droning and whiny sound most mega drive games have (though there are some standout tracks for the MD out there) and the music in this game often rubs me up the wrong way, the opening theme is terrible in my opinion and the battle theme is pretty much a series of 2 second loops to me but it seems to change a little based on your current action which I admit is pretty cool.

A lot of the problems of this game can probably be attributed to sega, at the time sega was kind of the king of the 16 bit realm, the SNES had not really taken off at the time or was not even released yet and sega got kind of cocky, I recommend looking up the Japanese commercials for the first 3 PS games, the first 2 flaunt the games technical superiority with plenty of eye candy, the commercial for 3 featured some guys brandishing swords with the words KING OF RPG plastered on the screen, says it all to me. Additionally as said before PS3 was made by a new team, that is rarely a good idea in gaming and has usually tolled the death bell of a franchise.

Overall the game is actually not as bad as people think and if you are an RPG fan I would recommend it be…somewhere on your to play list, the generation system is a pretty good idea even if it’s not done as well as it should have been and there are some pretty cool scenes otherwise. Just don’t come to it expecting a Phantasy star game because with the exception of some spell names, dark force and an infodump near the end of the game this game has nothing to do with Phantasy star, some other problems are that the story is nowhere near as involved as Phantasy star 2 and the characterisation is practically nonexistent. There is a strange magic favouring system I haven’t brought up until now because I simply do not understand it and simply left it alone.

6/10

Rating: 6/10

maboroshi's avatar
Community review by maboroshi (March 27, 2013)

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