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Phantasy Star Gaiden (Game Gear) artwork

Phantasy Star Gaiden (Game Gear) review


"The name of this game promised so much... "



The name of this game promised so much...

The first part: 'Phantasy Star', SEGA's premier RPG franchise. It brings forth good memories of great games. Phantasy Star 1, 2 and 4 are shining examples of the best their video-game ages could offer (3, not so much).

The second part: 'Gaiden'. It means 'side story' in Japanese. Many video-games with the word 'Gaiden' in it are remembered fondly by fans all over the world, sometimes even as being superior to the non-gaiden games. Gradius Gaiden, Darius Gaiden, Ninja Gaiden, even Barkley:Shut Up and Jam Gaiden.

If Phantasy Star Gaiden is superior in anything to the 'Phantasy Star' games, it is in the shame and utter ridiculousness sectors. I endured this game from start to end just because there was a fast-forward button in the emulator in which I played it. Without this button, I could not possibly endure it..

The only hope to be gathered from the existence of this game is that SEGA may have learned a lesson about NOT letting crappy third-party developers (like those of this game) go banzai on its franchises. Maybe we should be thankful we got 'Phantasy Star Gaiden' and not 'Phantasy Star Rape Hentai', like what happened to 'Valis'.

~//~

The prologue of this RPG tells us that, after the events of Phantasy Star I, Alis Landale, the heroine of that game, left the Algo solar system with a group of colonists and was abused by all of them settled at a new planet. Said planet was dubbed 'Alisland', the most original name for a planet in RPG history.

As if the fact that they named the planet 'Alisland' was not a vibrant enough yellow flag, maybe the fact that the portrait of Alis in this game depicts her as having purple hair and green eyes will be enough to raise your eyebrow, my fellow gamer who knows that in the original 'Phantasy Star' she had brown hair and blue eyes.

We are also informed in the intro that Alis apparently disappeared after sealing away the evil demon 'Cablon' some 1000 years ago. If you cannot guess who is the final boss of this game by now, I shall pummel you.

Our tale begins in earnest when Mina, one of our 2 player-characters (PCs) and who the game makes clear is an 'orphan', finds someplace somewhere an old and mysterious pendant. If you are asking it, aye, Square later would copy this game's plot! Anyway, right after finding this trinket and showing it to her friend Alec (the other PC), a wounded man arrives in Tedo village (where Mina & Alec live). He tells them that he was mining some laconia ore with Morg, Alec's father, until the two of them got kidnapped by bandits. The he delivers an ancient trinket of some plot relevance to him and dies.

You get control of your PCs so they may go forth and eventually rescue the kidnapped chap. But not before, of course, paying a visit to Ye Olde Village Sage(TM) to learn about the pendant and the trinket acquired. Lo and behold! An ancient legend shall be revealed then by the sage that 2 boys are destined to find these exact same trinkets and then save the world from some very big evil! It's just the start of the game and my cliché marker already ran out of ink!

After examining the items and talking about the legend, the sage shall give the two whippersnappers the quest to travel to the cave west of town to retrieve ancient parchments that may tell more of the true nature of the artifacts.

After seeing where this excellent plot is leading, you wanna know what is the worst bit of it all?! I have not yet even hinted at talking about the truly awful bit yet!

~//~

This Game Gear game does not have bad graphics nor sound for its platform. Then again, it's not like it is anything to write home about. The musical tunes might grate on a bit due to repetitiveness, but this being a portable game it was never really meant to be great in this aspect, aye?

Still, one things that bugs me here was the decision to make saving the game possible only in towns. This is not something new in the genre or uncommon, however this game's precursor, Phantasy Star 1, allowed you to save anywhere, even inside dungeons and at the door of the last boss. This feature would be great for a portable game, much more appropriate than letting the gamer save only in towns.

A questionable decision was also taken with character development & equipment. In most Phantasy Star games, you had a character who only equipped swords, another who used claws, a third with pistols, etc. Here, any character can equip any armor or weapon, provided his/her level is high enough to use it. Spells have to be purchased, and also can be used by anyone with a level high enough for it. The bottom line: all your PCs are pretty much carbon copies of one another in battle.

~//~

I have to admit, thus far I have painted the image of a bland, not bad, game. This is due to the fact that I have not talked about what happens outside towns.

Once you step off the confines of a town, all hell breaks loose, and what was bland gets also ridiculous.

As you'd expect, the world map is full of random encounters with monster for you to battle. In other games, this is actually the beginning of the fun part. In “Phantasy Star Gaiden”, it is the beginning of the end of your patience.

First off, there's the random encounter rate of the game. It is of approximately, oh, ONE BATTLE FOR EVERY TWO STEPS YOU TAKE. I wish this was a metaphor.

But, in a twisted kind of way, this encounter rate does not break the game. This can be said because of the horrid and brainless way combat is handled. In it, PC1 gets an action, then PC2, then PC3, then it is the turn of monster 1, then monster 2. Always. In. This. Order.

And since, therefore, your characters will always act first, you may as well choose that nifty option, FLEE, every time you enter battle. Not only is the chance of fleeing high, but you get a chance to do so for every character you have! Therefore, if you wish, you can pretty much always flee every time you get in battle and traverse the map or a dungeon in leisure!

By 'leisure', I mean “having to skip some text and choosing the flee option from a menu every two steps you take”.

However, thou art but a manly hero of yore, afraid of naught, willing to step over the cadaver of any foe who dares to slap thee with a gauntlet, eh?

And, you also need to rise above level 1 to fight the bosses, right?!

If you decide to take the “kill every foe that stands in your way” path, you will definetly be thankful to be play this on something that has a fast-forward button.

You see, the starting monsters are easy enough to kill. You get out of town, fight some 3-4 battles, get experience & gold, rest back in town, then fight some more. Typical old-rpg stuff, right?

Ok, fine. Thing is, eventually you'll have to leave the “easy-monster-area” and get to “somewhat – harder – monster – area”. This area is either the cave the sage wanted you to visit or the land beyond the bridge you can cross near your village. It doesn't matter which one you visit – EVERY NEW MONSTER THERE WILL KILL YOU. You cannot visit these areas until you reach, say, level 5 or 6.

Getting from level 1 to 6 requires many, many EXP points. EXP that you'll have to gain from easy slimes and scorpions that got too easy to kill by level 3. Thus, to be able to set off in the later game areas, you must fight endless hordes of non-threatening monsters just to accumulate EXP. This is not fun. At least you can turn on the fast-forward until all the EXP is hoarded.

And no, you don't need a FAQ to get to know the answer to this question:

Q: But is this a process that has to be undertaken just in the transition of area 1 to area 2?
A: No. You must do the same thing to move from area 2 to area 3, area 3 to area 4, area 4 to area 5...

Just to add to the silliness of it all, there are times when you'll get in dungeons from, say, “area 5” (which had “area 5 level” monsters) and encounter inside it only monsters from “area 2 level”. These will, by this time, be ridiculously easy to kill. Fast-forward, anyone?

~//~

Phantasy Star Gaiden, is, in summary... piss.

To end this obvious 1/10 review in high notes, I tell you, dear reader, of the 2 defining moments of this game.

1. To explore dungeons, you need to have some sort of light source available. This is why shops have 'torches' to sell. These torches can be used once and provide temporary lighting for you, so you theoretically have to stock up on them.

Thing is, you start the game with an item called the 'Light Pendant'. Using this item will have the same effect of using a torch, except that it never gets consumed.

Therefore, the only reason you'll be forced in every dungeon of this game to keep using the light pendant item time and time again is because the obnoxious designers wanted you to be fooled into wasting gold for useless items before you fully understood the game's workings.

2. At a certain point in the game, you'll have to enter a certain dungeon that will be blocked by a man. This man will tell you this exact sentence:

I can't allow you in the ancient ruins. By the way, my weakness is ouzo (an item you can buy at the nearby town).

As if it wasn't enough, this game even features the easiest RPG puzzle ever. I won't say it's the lamest because it's so bad, it's funny.

Rating: 1/10

zanzard's avatar
Community review by zanzard (April 20, 2008)

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