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Phantasy Star (Sega Master System) artwork

Phantasy Star (Sega Master System) review

"Join Alis as she travels the Algol galaxy to defeat an evil plaguing the cosmos"

I first played Phantasy Star at the house of one of my father's acquaintances. It was the very first RPG I ever tried on any platform. I really didn't know how to progress or what to do other than walk around until a monster attacked on a new screen, but to be honest, the kids who owned the game did not know much on what to do on it either, being that they never mentioned about a save feature, to get medicine from the in-game's stores, or to use anything besides slashing away until you would encounter another enemy and kill you on the spot. Indeed, RPGs were pretty advance for kids at such age, and chances are if you were not familiar with the genre at that time you would just think of Phantasy Star as an adventure game where you would try to beat it believing there are stages to finish after finding a difficult enemy that would pass as a boss.

I did get a glimpse on how when you went inside the first towns little dungeon the perspective changed into a 3D labyrinth. Even with all these features, everything was pretty much new to me during that time and I never gotten an idea on how big RPGs were let alone this single game which was responsible for revolutionizing the genre with its own features. I did like the idea of a female lead diving into adventure however. It would be years later after I was an adult when I would take Phantasy Star head on and enjoy what it offered after I had experienced games like Final Fantasy and other RPGs which I was able to experience through the years. I will state that I was very glad not ever to forget about this game even when I did not understood its concept back in my infancy. I was able to beat it and add one more mark on my long list of RPGs which I had intended to conquer, and how satisfying it was being able to complete such an experience in my gaming life.

The game starts in Camineet, on planet Palma when Alis rushes over to the fallen body of her brother Nero, left wounded by Lashiec's guards after being deemed part of a rebellious plot against his rule. His parting words set a fire within her being and takes it upon herself to seek vengeance and to liberate the star system from the tyrant's iron fist. As Alis travels around from planet to planet in the Algol star system, she comes by her companions including Myau, a muskat, Odin, the leader of the rebellion against Lashiec, and Noah, an Esper with powerful magic at his disposal. All Follow Alis' lead as they journey through three different planets preparing themselves for the ultimate confrontation with the dark king.

Phantasy Star features many elements that were a first for RPGs on its time, for instance having a female lead instead of a dashing male hero, 3D mazes which would be the norm for dungeon exploring, and a sci-fi motif which combined with classical fantasy elements like space travel, weaponry, and technology. Such technological means of travel would be by spaceships, land rovers, and ice diggers, as well as floaters which allow you to transverse bodies of water in certain places. The more means of travel you acquired, the more the area you explore would open, making you realize just how big the worlds in Phantasy Star are in contrast to most RPGs which would take place on a single planet. Weapons include the traditional melee arms like swords and axes, and also would include laser rifles which could shoot multiple times affecting various enemies in a row. Magic is a curious bit as well, being that it too can shoot multiple times against a group of enemies.

The characters while unique in their own way seem to have as many pros as they have cons. Simply put, Alis fares quite well as both a fighter and a spell caster, something not shown much when it comes to fighter types in RPGs. If she could go on the journey by herself, she would pretty much take on much of the quest all alone with no aid whatsoever from the rest of the party, except when she had to acquire a new member to continue the story. She has both defensive and offensive spells and even has the ability to teleport from dungeons and to towns previously visited, considering that she has enough MP to perform such. Myau is adept at healing and indirect spell casting, like status changes on enemies which would make them turn away from battle for instance. He also has the ability to detect and disable traps in dungeons, a very useful technique being that every enemy leaves a treasure chest behind which could be booby trapped. Odin is your typical muscle-bound brute, wielding a mighty axe and taking less damage from enemy attacks with an overwhelming amount of HP at his disposal. He can also use guns and rifles that are the equivalent of magic in terms of shooting multiple targets but at a fraction of power than a single swing of his axes could do. Last we have Odin, who is the party's mage and proficient in offensive magic, learning the most powerful spells in the game. Obviously his weakness are that he cannot inflict much physical damage and his defense is quite poor in comparison to the rest of the group.

Palma portrays a setting much like Earth with continents and seas all around, Motavia is a desert planet full of ant lion nests which block your way until you have the needs to get through, and Dezolis is a frozen planet where most of its areas are connected by underground ice caverns. All planets have their own native populace and in some cases you may not have to fight them should you encounter them in your quest. The TALK feature in Phantasy Star can be very helpful on avoiding needless confrontations, as well as the TELEPATHY spell. The world outside Camineet, Alis' hometown is wild with nature and inhabited by hideous creatures. As you encounter more towns you will notice that they are quite impoverished in contrast to what you see in previous locations, often finding vagrants asking for food items in exchange for info. This is one of many hints at how Lashiec's rule has affected your world.

The game also has its share fetch quests. For instance you need to find Myau in other to rescue Odin restoring him to life after being turned to stone, being the cat has a vial with the liquid to accomplish the quest, as well as finding a scientist to construct your very own spaceship which will open new areas in all three planets to accomplish your quest. Other vehicles can pretty much be bought at certain areas, although once you get to finish one part of a quest said transports are left to dry.

The dungeons are pretty much the main course of the game, some are highly complex and do not have much features to help you transverse them. Trying to memorize the paths would be highly difficult, especially with traps that could send you several levels below and make you further confused. Many had at some point drawn maps on paper to help them guide through these sections, and while this first person perspective was quite unique for its time, I really wish the traditional top view of dungeons could had been used. This method of dungeon crawling is not too much to my liking, but it is still quite fun to go through, albeit pretty difficult to do so.

After enduring its vast setting and difficult first person dungeons, you will find yourself quite accomplished once you beat the game, and that sense of longing lingers when you have worked hard to get through those dungeon mazes. Phantasy Star, like the first Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda is quite a unique experience on its field, one that allows you to explore dangerous underground levels and space travel. It is quite the big game within its cartridge confinement, one which still is regarded as such success in gaming history. There have been various ports on other consoles like Gameboy Advance and virtual consoles, and even a PlayStation 2 remake overhauled with updated graphics, music, and balanced gameplay. Phantasy Star leaves a definite legacy in gaming, one you should definitely experience at least once.


CptRetroBlue's avatar
Community review by CptRetroBlue (December 16, 2018)

Cpt. Retro likes old school gaming the most and grew up playing Arcade games in Mexico. He also loves talking about retrogaming.

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