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Phantasy Star Collection (Game Boy Advance) artwork

If you don't know what Phantasy Star is, then you must have lived in a hole far away from any video games for the last couple of years... Every serious gamer knows the name of Phantasy Star Online as the first successful online console game in history.

A bit less people knows about the origins of Phantasy Star. Dating back to a game launched in 1986 in Japan, Phantasy Star was the first traditional japanese-style RPG ever released on a console in North America on the Sega Master System, even before Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy. For my experience, it's still THE most technically impressive game of the '80s.

It was quickly followed by Phantasy Star II on the Sega Genesis a couple of years later. Because of it's uniquely complex and engaging storyline, PS2 is still viewed nowadays by fan of the series as arguably THE single best console RPG ever released.

PS3, originally also on the Genesis, is a bit of a distraction. Even though i've enjoyed it, it got less attention than the other titles because it is not so linked as the other titles to the main story behind Phantasy Star.

In 1993, the epic conclusion to the series, that surpassed even the story told in PS2 in my opinion, was made in PS4 (Sadly, the game didn't make it in the PS collection for the Game Boy).

The two other games not included in the PS collection are the two Game Gear games and were never released in north america: Phantasy Star Gaiden and Phantasy Star Adventure.

The four main Phantasy Star games can be easily played in stand-alone mode. But to be fully appreciated, they have to be played in order. The series, taken as a whole, forms a huge saga and an epic storyline with an introduction episode (PS1), the episode which firmly sets the stage (PS2), the filler episode (PS3) and the epic conclusion (PS4).

About Phantasy Star 1:
Alis, a young girl must avenge her brother's death and remove from power the evil tyrant overlord of the three planets in the Algo Star system: Lassic. Along the way, she will find three companions to help her on her quest: Odin the big warrior, Myau the cat and Noah the wizard (also known as Lutz in other Phantasy Star games due to bad translations).
PS1 is also, along with miss Pacman and Samus Aran in the Metroid series, among the first game to have feature a main female heroine. (Noting that Samus gender in the original Metroid was a big secret unless you were an expert videogamer and that miss pacman can barely be described as a girl, i personnally think Alis is the first obvious female heroine in a videogame.)

Graphics (now: 6/10 / for it's time: 10/10)
Phantasy Star 1 was originally made for the Sega Master System. The graphics are old by todays standards, but in it's own time, PS1's graphics were unprecedented and top of the line. PS1 represents the best the SMS had to offer and could even have arguably been published as a launch title for the Genesis.
What is still impressive today are the 3D dungeons featured in the game. In memory, the first real 3D dungeons (with a first person perspective) with smooth transitions while turning have begun to appear in videogames in 1992/1993. For this game to have featured such a 3D engine in 1986 is a major accomplishent by Sega.

Sound: (now: 7/10 / for it's time: 9/10)
The sound effects are all very nicely made and were among the best you could have at that time. Only some rare annoying monster noises during battle can become tiresome after a while...
The music in Phantasy Star was also the best the SMS could offer. The game offer a lot of memorable tunes that you will play over and over in your head hours after playing. The high pitch of the music can however become tiresome after a couple of hours of playing...

Gameplay (now:8/10 / at it's time:9/10)
PS1 is sometimes infuriating when you simply don't know where to go next. The storyline is very straightforward, but unlike other console RPGs of it's time (i.e. Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior), you won't spend most of the game just earning money and levelling up. There ARE occurence, such as the very beginning of the game, where you have to do exactly that, but it never actually becomes a ''pain''.

Overall: (now: 7.5/10 / at it's time 9.5/10)
PS1 is the best example of the classic no one ever played. It was revolutionary in 1986, and some aspects of the game have yet to be reproduced in todays games.

About Phantasy Star 2:
Overview: a thousand years after PS1, you and a semi human / semi monster girl called Nei, are charged with investigating strange occurences on the planet Mota (known as Motavia in other PS games due to bad translations). Along the way, tragedy will befall the Algo star system and scar the three planets forever. A big bunch of characters will accompany you on your quest to unveil the sinister threat the Algo system.

Graphics (now: 7/10 / for it's time: 8/10)
Graphics are Sega Genesis quality. Gone are the 3D dungeons of Phantasy Star, replaced by the usual over the top view.

Sound (now: 8/10 / for it's time: 9.5/10)
Sound effects are ok, but were among the best heard on the genesis. The joyous music of a happy world can be heard in the beginning and will slowly be replaced by more sinister songs when you advance through the game, fitting the mood of the tragedy that is PS2 nicely. As with PS1, PS2 is filled with memorable songs you will remember for a long time after playing.

Gameplay: (now 8/10 / at it's time: 9.7/10)
PS2 is still one of the best RPG you can find. Lots of characters, lots of items, lots of weapons, lots of armor, lots of places to visit, and lots of hours just to finish the thing... The battle system found in PS2 are still seen from time to time in modern RPGs.
The only bad point i can give to PS2 are the annoyingly long and confusing dungeons. My advice is that you'll have to be patient and have a good memory or a good pen and paper to map your way through them.

Overall (now: 8/10 / then: 9.5/10)
PS2 was and is still one of the best RPG you can find. Just for this game, the full price of the Phantasy Star collection on the GBA is worth it...

About Phantasy Star 3:
A thousand year after the story of PS2... you are Rhys, a prince of the Orakio family who's getting married today when your bride-to-be get's kidnapped by a monster. From there the game starts.
Along your travels, you'll twice marry a someone of your choice, and make children that you will get to play after a generation have passed. Depending on your choices of people you will marry, you will have a different character to play, a slightly different storyline and one of four endings to the game.
Near the end, you will learn of the great evil that occurs every thousand years around the Algo star system and finally solve the mystery of the big evil you faced in PS1 and PS2 but could not know whom you were facing...

Graphics (now:7/10 / then 7/10)
What can i say, the graphics are pretty, although feeling a bit ''washed-out'' compared to the other PS games. They ARE more repetitive and lack the originality found in PS1. The game looks a lot more like a traditional medieval game like the first Final Fantasys at first, but becomes much more technological after a while, linking PS3 to PS2 and 1 in style if not substance.
Battles are for some reason less animated than PS2 and even PS1...

Sound (now 7/10 / at it's time 8/10)
Music is still the best that can be heard on the genesis and is still good with a GBA. Sound effects are however less than appealing...

Overall (now:7/10 / at it's time 8/10)
PS3 is a mixed bag. It's still a good RPG, but since the game doesn't take place in the Algo Star system you can have a hard time trying to tie PS3 to the other PS games until the very end of the game. This becomes a big annoying factor while you follow the game's story.
On the plus side, the generation idea is a great one...

If only we could've had PS4 in the collection. 'cause since we learn of the great evil that causes so much trouble in the Algo star system in PS3, it would've been fun to go smash the big evil at the source and finish the series nicely, which is sadly what PS4 was all about :(

Collection overall (9/10 - [including the fun factor and the length of the game, not just an average of the three individualk games])
Just the sheer amount of times you'll spend with those games makes it worth the admission price. Heck, PS2 or PS1 taken individually are worth the money and you've got three games for the price!

The only drawbacks are infrequent crashes just before saving the game in PS1. It can be annoying, but never critical as the bug is not-frequent (and since you can save anywhere, anytime, it's not that big of a nuisance).

So what are you waiting for? Stop reading me, get off your computer chair and go fetch that collection! The only thing that can happen to you is missing Phantasy Star 4, which they will hopefully turn into GBA format sometime soon...

deedob's avatar
Community review by deedob (March 07, 2003)

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zippdementia posted November 26, 2008:

Personally I think the Phantasy Star games are something you had to be there for. I didn't play them when they first came out, and going back to them on the virtual console was painful. I could see why they would be good when they were released, but it hasn't held up.

Specifically, I played (or tried to play) Phantasy Star II, and couldn't get past the boring dungeons and terrible monster design.

Actually, I remember people complaining about the monster design back when the games first came out, too.

In any case, I'm not arguing that they're not classic or influential. But they haven't aged well. Except PSO, that's still good.
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jerec posted November 26, 2008:

Same thing happened to me. I was taken in by all these convincing 10/10 reviews, and the game was... dull. Uninteresting.
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EmP posted November 26, 2008:

I, on the other hand, go out of my way to beat a Phantasy Star every year. And I use my 10/10 PSII review to impress women.
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Felix_Arabia posted November 26, 2008:

Phantasy Star Offline sucks, just saying.
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sashanan posted November 27, 2008:

One of my humble claims to RPG fame is having finished Phantasy Star 3. And 1. And 4.

Not 2, obviously. A horde of Mongolian warriors couldn't finish THAT.
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EmP posted November 27, 2008:

I've finished it dozens of times.
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Synonymous posted November 27, 2008:

Not 2, obviously. A horde of Mongolian warriors couldn't finish THAT.

I finished it when I was *10.*
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sashanan posted November 27, 2008:

Well, neither of you is a horde of Mongolian warriors, are you now? My point stands.
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EmP posted November 28, 2008:

Specifically, I played (or tried to play) Phantasy Star II, and couldn't get past the boring dungeons and terrible monster design.

The monsters get much more unique as the game continues. My favourtie is RABGUT. He's a huge rabbit with a massive gash across his belly. Sometimes, he'll skip turns to shove his guts back in through the hole.
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overdrive posted November 28, 2008:

I don't really get the "terrible monster design" complaint. I actually kinda like the battling aesthetics in PS2. Animated enemies on a grid-like surface where things look really cool for an early 16-bit game --- kinda an actual futuristic vibe which is obviously quite fitting with this game. And while I haven't progressed beyond the early game bugs and shit......that's no different from most retro RPG stuff.
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sashanan posted November 28, 2008:

What I remember most about the monsters is being surprised by a trio of Blasters, with heavy party hitting attacks, who are at that point quite capable of a total party kill before you can act. I'd call this old school punishing difficulty, but the same thing has happened to me as recently as the Thunder Plains in FFX. And at least in Phantasy Star 2, there are no 20 minute cutscenes it can happen right after.

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