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Phantasy Star Gaiden (Game Gear) artwork

Phantasy Star Gaiden (Game Gear) review

"An arduous quest of grinding and merciless random battles at best"

Phantasy Star Gaiden is a title that never reached the US, whether it was because SEGA thought players would not have interest on an RPG for Game Gear or because they weren't sure of Phantasy Star was picking up in the States as much as it were in Japan. The game is kept alive in fan pages devoted to the series and on emulation, where curious gamers would see just what the game was all about. As such, the game itself doesn't connect directly to the main series that much and as the title suggests, it was but a side story within the series overall.

The setting is a planet far away from the Algol star system called Copto, colonized by Palmans after the events of the first Phantasy Star RPG. In said colony, young heroes Mina and Alec travel throughout the land finding clues to stop the evil Kaburon from returning after legendary heroine Alis Landale sealed him within the planet.

The game then turns into a grinding fest followed by a constant barrage of continuous random battles happening with virtually every step you take on the over world or inside caves. The game dives the player into a hectic workout throughout and doesn't shy away in expanding the difficulty once you cross a bridge to a new segment of the entire place trying to reach new towns and locations to continue the story. While Meseta is gained quite easier than most Phantasy Star games, you soon realize with disdain that buying new weapons and spells requires a whole lot more than you currently had gained, thus having to grind some more in order to purchase what you can use in order to stand a chance throughout the merciless environment.

Phantasy Star Gaiden also gives vague clues as to where to go next or what to do unless you risk having to mow through countless enemies just to talk to another NPC far away in another location. A fortune teller near a desert settlement offers a few tips in exchange for Meseta, but not all the answers you need to complete your quest. Take away the incredible spike in difficulty while you travel plus constant random battles, and Phantasy Star Gaiden is pretty much a breeze to go through. Perhaps this is why said constant random battles and hard as nails sections are in place to begin with, you would finish this game at a blink of an eye no doubt.

Perhaps the sole connection besides the title is Alis Landale, who makes a comeback to defend Alisland, which is the new name the settlers christened Copto after her heroic antics in defeating Kaburon before the events of the game. The reasoning behind why she decided to leave Algol after Phantasy Star are non-existent, and it is implied that she decided to become Alisland's protector taking vigil over should Kaburon ever returned. That is highly curious in the fact she left an entire solar system on which she now ruled over a colony far away from it. One could guess this was the reason as to how the events in Phantasy Star II began taking place after all.

Game play itself is pretty basic, you choose an action from the menu on to either attack, cast a spell, or try to run. Each character has their own turn on the matter, if the first character fails to escape from the battle, and then chances are the rest might have a better chance at doing so. I will admit that enemies exploding onscreen is an amusing sight to behold. Some even are taken off-screen if you cast a specific spell at the moment their HP is depleted. Most of the characters can use magic, so that is a saving grace when you must heal during battle while fending off powerful monsters.

On top of this, the stronger enemies are, the more difficulty you will have in landing an attack on them. This makes it worse with the game's logic of even missing with spells, something that was unheard of to me in RPGs overall. On the upside, enemies too can have a great deal of difficulty in attacking you in both ways which can become amusing if it wasn't because it would get quite annoying. Spells and Equipment require you to be at a certain level to use, something that makes it the more frustrating given how hard it is to grind in a game with such broken mechanic.

The entire setting takes place in one giant continent enclosed by mountains all around. When looking at a map of the entire world you travel on, it gives you this claustrophobic feeling to it. The world in this game is divided in seven towns and caves which are spread in various segments of the over world, with each segment having monsters which are more powerful the farther you travel through it. The soundtrack does not add anything special to the entire experience, with most tracks passing as monotonous at best.

The feeling of exploring this world in an epic quest is overshadowed by its forced grinding mechanic which feels more like a chore than an adventure to save the world.

Nevertheless as a Phantasy Star fan you will find this game quite to your amusement at least, being that it takes place within the lore of the entire series, and having the knowledge that not many Phantasy Star titles besides the main games were around at the time. Gaiden adds a new untold chapter into the events and heroic escapades of Alis even if it feels so alien compared to the games taking place in the main storyline.

If you oversee the tedious grinding and absurd difficulty integrated within the game, Phantasy Star Gaiden can be enjoyable enough to play through and even finish it with no other concerns about it. Otherwise you might stick to the established games which offer more substance into its own fictional mythos.


CptRetroBlue's avatar
Community review by CptRetroBlue (December 28, 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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