Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Phantasy Star

The greatest RPG of all time.
Review By JCaussade

The word ‘Great’ and ‘Greatest’ gets tossed around quite often, in fact, in your way to this review on Gamefaq’s, you probably have seen these words a couple of times. But few and far between are the times that these adjectives are used in a way that really befits what is being described. When I think of the word ‘greatest’, I think of something remarkably out of the ordinary, the best thing available at a particular time. But when we make comparisons between things of different times, there’s only one way of determining who or what is greatest, and that is to measure each to it’s contemporaries, and seeing to what degree or magnitude it surmounts them. If we take that into account, then Phantasy Star could very well be the greatest RPG of all time. 

The game starts with a cut-scene of a man named Nero dying on a street, killed because he was “sniffing around” the evil Lassic’s affairs. As he dies, he tells his sister Alis that Lassic is leading their world to destruction, and that although it’s too late for him, she and a man of great strength named Odin can stop Lassic. So she embarks on a quest to avenge her brother’s death and save the Algol star system.  

It’s not the greatest story to ever grace a video game, but when compared to other early-days RPG’s, who offered generic heroes, Phantasy Star had well developed characters: Alis, the heroine, who seeks to avenge her brother’s death; Myau, an intelligent cat-like animal who helps her in her travels; Odin a great warrior who whishes freedom to all, and Noah, a skilled magician who accompanies them. Each one of those characters were unique, with different personalities and motivations for their quest. So you felt you were there, a part of the team, not just someone manipulating a moving sprite on a screen. All of that may seem regular now, but back then in 1988, it was easily the most involving storyline an RPG had had and it even manages to hold it’s own today. 

The graphics in Phantasy Star simply destroyed anything ever seen on a console. It is simply unfair to compare this to any other games of the time. The game features bright, colorful graphics that complement the well-drawn sprites and backgrounds. The view shifted from the usual over the top view, to an impressive first person view every time that you talked to a person or fought against a monster. The monsters had several frames of animation, making them look realistic and sometimes making people say: “damn, that thing looks scary”. But without a doubt, the most impressive graphical effect on Phantasy Star were the 3D dungeons. Also in first person view, this is one of those things that had to be seen at the time that the game was released to really appreciate how much splendid they were. The mazes all looked the same, but the scrolling was so smooth that you really couldn’t stop staring at it.  

We all agree that graphics do not make a game, but in these case it really gave you a “being there” feeling that, again, was unmatched by any other game of it’s time 

The sound and music is another aspect of the game that sometimes is overlooked. There are no bleeps and beeps here, weapons sounded different from each other (especially satisfying were the Laconian weapons), and the different actions you did in the game had their respectively fitting, well done sounds. The music also features some catchy tunes, and like the sound effects, it perfectly fits every occasion. The battle music gave you that uneasy feeling that you were in danger; rustic villages had a more pastoral sound to them, as opposed to the cities that had high tech, futuristic music. And the dungeons songs, very much like the battle songs, really made you think: “I’d rather not be in here”.  Overall, this is a very enjoyable game to listen to. 

Ahhhh, so we arrive to that most important element of a video game. Everything that’s written above this would mean nothing if the game didn’t have good gameplay. Fortunately for all of us, it does have the gameplay to match and even surpass the game’s other attributes. The first gameplay element that you are going to notice is the absolutely brilliant blending of mythology with science fiction. I really get a kick of fighting Medusa with laser guns. The other thing that you are going to notice right away is the difficulty of the game. The first couple of times that you get out of the city you will probably get ripped apart by a couple of scorpions and you’ll have to start over again. 

You really need to level up by fighting only the weakest monsters until you reach at least level 4 or 5 before you can do any adventuring. The thing you can do is to talk to the all the people in the towns. That is absolutely essential to play the game. You see, unlike modern RPG’s, Phantasy Star is a thinking man’s game. You are not going to get a 5-minute FMV detailing exactly what you have to do. You have to write everything down and analyze what they tell you so you can figure out by yourself how to continue your adventure. Don’t get me wrong, this is not one of those games that you are going to feel totally clueless about what you have to do, but it will certainly give your brain cells some exercise. 

A good thing about the game is that the characters do not have lots of stats like dexterity or stuff like that, in fact it’s rather simple, as it should be: You kill monsters, once you do that you gain money so you can buy things, and experience points which will level you up and make you stronger. This simplicity gives you the freedom to concentrate on the game and the adventure instead of technical things like stats. 

The gameplay spans not one, but three planets, each one with a unique climate (รก la Star Wars), and you travel to the different planet in your own spaceship. Once on the planet, there are three other vehicles available, one to explore the land, other to explore the waters and another one to explore and dig through the ice. As you explore the vast areas of the game and fight monsters, you will have several options. You can attack them with your weapons or with magic, you can run (sometimes they will block your retreat), or you can talk to them. Yes!!! Some of the monsters you encounter can help you through the game, but only a small percentage of monsters will understand you, so don’t use that as your primary option during battles. If one of your party members does get killed in one of the fights, you can go to the church and the bishop will gladly resurrect him/her.  

Phantasy Star is not just a game, it’s an epic experience that has to be lived by anyone who considers himself a gamer. Even though it’s graphics, story, and other aspects have been surpassed by other games (It took the years to do that), no other game has had such a perfect combination of all these elements. That is what makes Phantasy Star such an unsurpassed classic. 

SYSTEM: Dreamcast, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Game Gear, iOS, PC, Nintendo DS, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita, Sega Genesis, Master System, Sega Mega-CD, Sega Saturn, Virtual Console, XBOX, XBOX 360



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