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PostPosted: Mon Mar 13, '17, 7:13 pm 
So, it came to my attention that Phantasy Star is having its 30th anniversary this year, and I felt that I should write something- And it turns out I already did for another forum, which was a thread about me rambling on for no good reason about various JRPGs I've played out in my life. Spoilers abound, naturally.

1 post per article, because these are long.

Phantasy Star

So, the Sega Master System got a pretty raw deal. Marketing for the machine in North America was originally given over to a company that had no real interest in actually marketing the machine. I think I might have owned a Genesis before I even knew there was such a thing as the Master System. And on top of that, a lot of the add-on stuff that made the Sega Mk. III a strong 8-bit machine never actually made it to the US, including the sound chip that made the thing only a half-step below the sound abilities of the Sega Genesis. But the one thing that most people could agree on? Phantasy Star was the best-in-show game for the system, and it may even be the only game most people really remember about it.

Like most products, Phantasy Star began its life as a means to cash in on an emerging trend. With the explosive success of Dragon Quest (or Dragon Warrior, if you lived in America due to trademark conflicts with TSR), pretty much any major game developer with a pulse decided they wanted in on the Light RPG action (called Light RPGs because they were designed to be simpler and easier than Computer RPGs like Wizardry), and a some companies would get on that train really quick: Final Fantasy and Megami Tensei also began around this time. Sega was no exception to this, but as usual, they were determined to do things their own way.

The main distinctive feature of Phantasy Star at the time was that it was an RPG with its science fiction elements firmly integrated into the setting, rather than being a last-minute surprise or arbitrary addition like in Ultima or Might & Magic. It is a sci-fi setting that grew out of a fantasy setting so you still have a couple of wizards around but other people can use magic, but there are starships and interplanetary travel and androids and guns and you go to the hospital to heal up instead of the inn. It was one of the big things that set it apart, certainly, and was called out as one of the reasons that the game was so widely loved by those who actually had the Master System.

Now a lot of the early JRPGs had at least some Wizardy in their DNA, and the only ones that might have more than the original Phantasy Star would be the early Megami Tensei games. A lot of how the game is generally played, from the first-person dungeons to even the way that enemies are displayed in battle as stacks rather than distinct entities comes straight from Wizardry. Thankfully, this game isn't as absurdly hard, otherwise we'd be talking about PStarII is the first worthwhile game in the series.

So, the game begins with a revenge plot. The Algo System is ruled by the tyrannical King La Shiec (or Lassic if you're from non-Japan regions), and the game begins with Alis Landale watching her brother get beat to death by Robocops for working on defying his rule. He tells Alis to seek out a man named Odin, right before dying in front of her, and she swears revenge.

Now, the thing about Phantasy Star I is that its play progression has a lot in common with early RPGs- not just JRPGs, but computer RPGs in general. The thing about the way it plays is that the game is effectively a huge fetch quest, because the way a lot of RPGs in the '80s were was that you had your characters, you had a set goal laid out in the manual or intro sequence, and everything in between the two was just a big checklist of stuff that had to be done before the characters could get to the end. The story and characters never really developed, the goal didn't really change that much if at all- there was the beginning, the defined end, and the to-do list.

And Phantasy Star managed to nail the execution really hard.

Sure, there's the well-expected amount of '80s RPG grind, but at least they take the time to have an unusual world to explore. Or in this case, unusual worlds, because this game had interplanetary travel, which was something pretty rare outside of this and Ultima II as far as RPGs went. So you had about three different overworlds with their own puzzles and problems and Odin you were smart enough to take anti-petrify medicine but not smart enough to give it to something who could open a bottle.

So the game involves assembling an emergency anti- space tyrant kit out of various doodads located throughout the system, but the end goals basically involve finding all the stuff required to 1.) Find La Shiec's fortress, 2.) Get there, 3.) Gather your party of Myau, Odin, and the wizard Lutz before venturing forth, and 4.) pick up all the gear you need to even survive. And La Shiec is really hard, sure, but there are ways to actually deal with that though doing some exploring and finding something that drastically cuts his damage output. But the Air Castle is so hard on its own that there is exactly zero reason to fight any of the monsters there, so it's actually better to do your grinding in places where the enemies give less experience. And the Air Castle isn't really one dungeon, because you basically have to clear two dungeons in a row. '80s RPG dungeons.


So you kill that jerk, and hey, revenge complete, and you go see the planetary governor of Motavia and hey surprise dungeon out of nowhere with surprise final boss out of nowhere. Not that this was new to the genre and it certainly isn't old to it either. And this is the first encounter with Dark Force. It's the only enemy in the entire game what you can check its HP, you don't know what it is, it is a Dark Force, and that mystery becomes important to the story of the franchise. Of course, the reason you can't see its HP probably isn't so much because final boss but because the Dark Force encounter involved some sleight-of-hand on the developer's part- the Dark Force enemy is actually a stack of 2 Dark Force enemies, so hiding the HP was their way of hiding their behind-the-screens shenanigans.

So you whomp Dark Force, probably not on the first try, and the governor comes to his senses and Alis is suddenly princess. So you decide whether or not she should be queen of Algo, and that's pretty much the end of it.

The thing about Phantasy Star is that remains strongly competitive with other '80s console RPGs not merely because it does something different but it because it managed to execute that different thing well. The game had different trappings but similar gameplay elements to other RPGs of the time, but some of those elements, like the grind, are not really in the game's favor. So while it is one of the best offerings on the system, it still is a fairly normal fantasy RPG story, and grocery-list gameplay would fall out of favor not long after.

Not that you could say the sequel was all that typical, of course.

Last edited by R-90-2 on Mon Mar 13, '17, 8:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 13, '17, 7:27 pm 
So, Phantasy Star 2 was actually a rather important early game for the Sega Genesis, and not because it would become a well-reviewed game that was eventually hailed as a console classic. It was important because pretty much up until PStar2 came out, the Sega Genesis was basically "the arcade port machine." The vast, great majority of games that came out in the earliest part of the Genesis's lifespan were ports of Sega Arcade games, like Altered Beast, Dynamite Duke, as well as third-party ports, like Ghouls and Ghosts. Phantasy Star 2 was really the first big original property created for the system, which really opened the door for the Genesis to become a contender, even though the system wasn't nearly as popular in Japan as it was elsewhere. It also helped that in the US, Phantasy Star 2 was released two months before Final Fantasy 1 was.

So Phantasy Star 1 did pretty well for the time, as it probably deserved to- it was one of the few RPGs out there that incorporated science fiction aspects into the actual meat of the game from the foundation rather than as an 11th hour surprise, like Might & Magic, or as other forms of one-off environments, and it did it in a way that made it look like the setting was a fantasy world that had advanced into being a planet-hopping adventure. The first game was loved pretty much everywhere, so a sequel probably seemed like a safe bet, and it was. For people who owned and played RPGs on Sega systems, the Phantasy Star series is almost as synonymous with the Sega brand as Sonic the Hedgehog.

Unfortunately, like my previous entry, Phantasy Star 2 suffers from the problems of being an '80s RPG- Where Final Fantasy 2 was ambitious in mechanics but questionable in its execution, Phantasy Star 2 was just as unambitious as FF2 was unconventional, but almost equally dubious in its execution.

Before you can know about my problems with Phantasy Star 2, you need to know about my relationship with the concept of grinding. I fairly recently played through the original PC-8801 versions of Ys I & II- I know those games backwards and forwards, so the language barrier wasn't a problem. Ys I was still basically Ys I, but Ys II is a grindy slog pretty much until you reach Solomon Shrine. I was stuck in the Moat of Burnedbless because I couldn't damage the boss, and to get to where I wanted to be, I needed 4000 experience.

This was a problem, because the sparsely-placed, dangerous enemies where I was only gave me 16 each, so I figured out it would actually be less time-consuming to go back to the infinite monster spawn point in Jira's basement and kill four thousand monsters for 1 experience a pop (due to scaling rewards by level), and since I wanted really bad to finish this game, I decided to make Adol the Greatest Hero of the Three Kingdoms four times over, and it all worked out from there.

Phantasy Star 2 went beyond my patience for grinding.

Now low rewards are nothing new in early RPGs, but Phantasy Star 2 had additional problems. In PStar2, there are eight (eventually minus one) party members you will accumulate over the course of the game for your roster, and you can have four in your party at once, with Rolf always being mandatory. As you visit new areas in the game, more of them will show up at Rolf's house and join up. You basically get new members throughout a fair chunk of the game, but the problem with this, is that all new party members start at level 1 no matter when they join you, and all of them join you with start-of-game equipment. and since there isn't all that much shared gear in the game, any time you get a new party member you want to use, you have to grind them up on the very low experience rewards to get their level up to speed, grind out the often extremely expensive equipment so they don't die, and hope they survive enough battles against the tough enemies you'll be facing so that it doesn't take forever and a day. And there's no shared experience with inactive party members. I can't think of another RPG I've played that so fiercely punishes experimentation with tedium.

And even this might not have been so bad if Sega hadn't taken the extra step to remove features from Phantasy Star 2 that had been in Phantasy Star 1, like the ability to save anywhere outside of dungeons. While that feature can be acquired in PStar2, most people would only acquire it by accident. On top of this, the slow walking speed combined with the amount of ground you're required to cover means that the pace of gameplay could, if one was feeling generous, be described has plodding. On a good day.

So, while I do own the original cartridge, when I set out to actually beat the game, I used the so-called Easy Mode romhack, which quadruples all rewards- so Easy Mode is a bit of a misnomer when it should be called the "Stop Wasting all my time" romhack, considering it doesn't actually adjust the difficulty of the encounters, because apparently having encounters that could wipe out your entire party with no chance to act, recover, or flee, is still just fine, as well as the fact that Techs have a miss chance. Even then, bringing up new party members was a chore.

The reason I complain so much about the gameplay of Phantasy Star 2? Because there is so much that's amazing that Phantasy Star 2 wants to do otherwise.

The game takes place about a thousand years after Phantasy Star 2, and there have been changes. Lutz has developed Techniques, which are a form of magic anyone can use, and the appearance of a mysterious powerful computer system called Mother Brain in the Algo system has led to a technological renaissance, Motavia has been terraformed, and hardship is pretty much over. Now, however, on Motavia, a big ol' plague of artificial biomonsters has shown up, so it's up to the heroic few to save everyone, starting with agent Rolf and his half-monster housemate, Nei.

So, to start out, our hero, Rolf, is a government agent who is tasked with resolving crises in a society that hasn't actually had to deal with a crisis in hundreds of years, so his only interaction with the substance of his job has been his employee manual. His superiors are only barely any better, what with basically making things up as they go along, and their superiors are a distant government on another planet which denies there's a problem because Mother Brain Can Do No Wrong. The way that the Motavian commander even frames his decision to do something so radical as order the investigation of a problem is as a crisis of faith in the all-giving, all-powerful Mother Brain.

And it turns out that even if people aren't being attacked by biomonsters, nobody's having a good time, because actually having a crisis for the first time in living memory is causing people to freak out, causing a bit of a breakdown in law and order. The second town you come to has been half-exploded by terrorists. Your first real quest in the game, a real tone-setter, is to find a way to get past Darum, a guy who's blocking a bridge you need to cross and this guy is just killing anyone who tries. But as it turns out, he's being blackmailed by terrorists who are holding his daughter hostage. She turns out not to be too hard to retrieve, as the terrorists have all been killed by biomonsters while she was saved by being in a cell. So she comes with you and covers her face so that no one might take revenge on her for what her father has done. So you go back to the bridge, she runs forward- and is killed by Darum because he doesn't recognize her, and once he realizes what he has done, Darum blows himself up in grief, allowing Rolf and company to cross. Mission... Accomplished?

Oh yeah, this is accompanied by a text box that says. "By the way, this kind of thing happens all the time nowadays."

And they're not kidding, even though they may not even be considering the case of the native Motavians.

At this point, you're going through the game, exploring the various facilities by blowing up their front doors with bombs because Rolf hates key-hunting, I guess. And you go through these towns, and no one has anything good to say about the native Motavians, like how they're stupid and always smell of/are obsessed with garbage. Now, in Phantasy Star I's Motavia, the place was a desert, and the natives were absolutely everywhere. And eventually it might hit you that the native Motavians were adapted to survive as scavengers in a particular environment, one which no longer exists, and that there are a ton more human cities on the planet than there were in PStar1. So the remaining native Motavians all live at the bottom of this garbage facility, forced to live off of the scraps of the Palmanian civilization that has taken over pretty much the entire surface. And the game doesn't outright say any of these things, either, it leaves the player to draw that conclusion themselves.

So Phantasy Star 2 has been trying to explore the breakdown of law and order in the face of sudden catastrophe, the intransigence of dogmatic institutions even when faced with imminent societal collapse, and the passive/active genocide of native peoples to to the apathy or hostility of the peoples of the invading culture to the plight of the original inhabitants. So there's all this good stuff in there that Phantasy Star 2 is trying to do within the limits of its cartridge space, but when it comes to actual broader discussion of the game there is a less than 1% chance you'll run into people talk about any of these things that the game was trying to do in six megabits. Why?

Because Nei died when you go to Climatrol to confront Neifirst and stop the monster outbreak.

It's pretty hard to blame people for fixating more on an immediate, spectacular, onscreen tragedy than a subtle, offscreen tragedy, and Nei was a party member, even though we don't know much more about her than we do any other member of the party. But her death at Climatrol, the origin of the biomonster outbreak, is basically "Party member death Template Zero", in that she dies making a last stand against a powerful enemy. We even saw this in FF2 already. This last stand is also completely unnecessary, as the rest of the party was right there to back her up. And it's not like Nei is completely to blame for her own ill-thought out attack, because again, the rest of the party was right there. Was Rolf just like- "Hold on, I want to see where this goes."? It's not like she ran off on her own while the party was asleep, and it's not like she was buying time to escape, and it's not like she died to make Neifirst killable- because with sufficient grinding and a good stock of healing items, Nei can actually win the solo encounter with Neifirst. And Sega knew this could be done, because there's different dialogue depending on whether Nei wins or Neifirst. But Nei dies either way, so w/e.

Of course, having a JRPG fight near the heart of Climatrol causes the whole facility to go up in a fireball (and this won't be the last time that fighting near delicate and essential machinery causes problems in this series), and it also means you can't revive Nei at the cloning lab, as Neifirst had stored all of the biomonster experiment data in Climatrol (And apparently the clone lab lady has a strange definition of "full life"). This causes problems for Rolf when he gets back, because the floodgates are malfunctioning and the explosion has caused a giant surge in the ocean, so Rolf needs to get out there and fix the floodgates unless he wants the world to become a Costner film. Oh yeah, blowing up Climatrol has attracted government attention, so Rolf has to deal with hordes of killer robots sent from Palma while he's working to save the world, which replace the old monster encounters.

Now, I use the words "And then the robots show up" to describe any major difficulty spike in an RPG because of Phantasy Star 2, because the robots are really strong. Some of the first ones you encounter have twice the physical defense of Neifirst, meaning the only weapons which can damage them reliably are guns, which always do fixed damage, plus Hugh's anti-monster techniques are useless. You should have Kain now, but the robots are still seriously nasty fights all round. Once Rolf is done fixing the dams, he and his party are cornered and captured.

Rolf's terrible, horrible, no good very bad day only gets worse as he finds out that the prison satellite he and his party have been crammed into has started to fall towards Palma itself. They are saved by a space captain, Tyler, who has been living on the fringes of the Algo system for some time, but he informs them that the Gaila prison satellite has crashed into Palma, completely obliterating the planet which was where the great majority of Phantasy Star 1 took place. How did that even work? Gaila wasn't all that big, nor did it have the room to accelerate to planet-exploding speed, if it had substantial engines at all. The answer can actually be found in the early drafts of the Phantasy Star 2 storyline. Granted, there are some important differences, such as how originally the main character of PStar2 was going to be the second incarnation of Lutz. However, in the original details, the satellite that hit Palma actually was a very hefty artificial moon, which had more than enough oomph to gravel the planet.

Now, the problem here is that, while space travel was a pretty common part of the Phantasy Star 1 experience, if you've already settled on a final party, there's no need to travel back to Motavia at all once you've landed on Dezolis. But anyway, Dezolis is a dump, not the least of which because a pretty large chunk of the explorable surface is covered by a giant trip mining pit, whose central complex is belching toxic gasses into the atmosphere, and the Dezolisian "towns" are simply Palman towns left behind when the miners abandoned the planet. The native Dezolisians seem just fine- they say there's no problems, because a little poison never hurt anyone, and it's not like Dezolisians have a reputation for lying, no sir.

But when it comes down to it, there isn't really all that much to do on Dezolis. You meet Lutz, you go to four absurdly and unnecessarily long dungeons to get the endgame gear, and you learn from Lutz that there is some evil force behind Mother Brain, and that Rolf is actually descended from Alis Landale, the heroine of Phantasy Star 1. Which does make some amount of sense, when you remember that Rolf looks almost exactly like Nero Landale during his brief and brutalitastic appearance in PStar1. After that's done, Lutz tells you he knows where Mother Brain actually exists in Algo, and then he kicks you off to the final dungeon- spaceship Noah, which probably has the best final dungeon music in the entire series.

Now, the dungeon itself isn't especially noteworthy aside from that- lots of hard encounters, lots of stairs. But right near the end is JRPGdom's meanest monster-in-a-box, Dark Force, by far the hardest encounter in the game, and not for good reasons. Dark Force has two attacks. One is a fairly strong attack that hits everybody, and the second is an attack that corrupts one of your party members, meaning they can be relied on to do absolutely nothing. Now, you have no means of directly resisting, countering, or curing this ailment, and the only way for them to get snapped out of it is based on a random occurrence of the Neisword lighting up and cleansing the party. What this means in practical terms is that it's very easy and even even common for Dark Force to end up corrupting most or all of your party members, and then just wail on you as long as he wants because the sacred sword meant to defend against the darkness will protect you from the power of the great enemy only when it's good and ready, thank you very much.

Mother Brain itself is hard but manageable, but it's what follows that caused PStar2 to go down in history. After you destroy it, you encounter the Earthmen, who came to Algo and built Mother Brain for the purpose of weakening the Algo system until they could take it for themselves, as they had ruined their own world. Of course, Rolf and company can't be allowed to leave alive and prevent them from building a new one, so Rolf and his full party (Lutz sends the inactive members up there) are surrounded and attacked by hundreds of Earthmen. Which led to one of the questions which would go unanswered for a long time- Did Rolf and his party survive the end of Phantasy Star 2? At leas in the English version, this was quite ambiguous, and the Western audience wouldn't get an answer for six years.

Still, after Rolf destroys Mother Brain and sabotages the basic technological and infrastructural underpinnings of his entire civilization, the game tells us he knows the road ahead will be hard, but that he has hope, as mankind can rise up and conquer any adversity.

Then, in Phantasy Star IV, we find out that reality ensued.

Phantasy Star 2 is a real puzzler of a game, because while I appreciate a whole lot of the things it did or tried to do, I can't think of any compelling reason to actually play the game, even modded as it was when I went through it. There's just some real fundamental stuff where the game falls flat, like excessive grind and there are a few party members that just aren't that suited for tackling the challenges that the game expects you to deal with. If this game was advertised as having "classic RPG gameplay", I'd agree with them, but certainly for less-than favorable reasons.

You know what, I'm on this train, let's ride it to the end.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 13, '17, 7:39 pm 
As for now, there's the touchy subject of Phantasy Star 3.

There was quite a long time where when this game was mentioned, folks would look to the side a bit and cough into one of their hands. It's not just that it had the job of following up on Phantasy Star 2, but the game sticks out like a sore thumb even among all of the entries in the series. This was due to some behind-the-scenes shuffling in Sega itself, which meant that there was only one person in the entire Phantasy Star 3 development team that had worked on any Phantasy Star game before, as the rest had been moved onto Sonic Team. Hirondo Saiki, who was made the lead writer and design director, was assigned to that position despite that during Phantasy Star 2, his level of responsibility and authority over the project was only a couple of steps up from that of the mail boy. The product that we got probably would've been able to stand reasonably well on its own accord if it had been named anything but Phantasy Star III.

The change in team led to some pretty big changes in aesthetics and gameplay. The actual play itself didn't go through terrible changes. The grind ended up being somewhat reduced, and there were no longer ambush attacks capable of wiping out a properly-leveled party before there was any chance to respond in any way whatsoever, and they tried something new with techs. There were sixteen techniques grouped into four groups of four, which were basically Offense, Recovery, Buffs/debuffs, and Miscellaneous, like instant kill and whatever. As a character gained levels, these techniques would gain levels, becoming more powerful, but you could also actually redistribute these levels in towns to a certain degree to make favored techs more powerful at the expense of others. The problem was that offensive techniques turned out to be completely useless (only in the hands of the player, naturally). This isn't actually a practical problem, as there are no monsters that can't be trashed with normal attacks, and even if there were monsters with high physical defense, Wren would just completely ignore that anyways because gun.

As for the aesthetics, the soundtrack was reasonably competent (the composer was the only guy held over to PStar4), plus there were some neat tricks involved. The first being the context-based battle music that is used for every encounter except for the final boss (because Dark Force defies assessment). It certainly didn't make perfect examinations of the tide of battle from round to round, but this was still 1990. The second was the overworld music. You start out the game with one character and some really basic overworld music, but as you add more and more characters more and more parts of the overworld theme would be added, until you got the full overworld theme once you had a full party.

Now, the battle visuals...

Okay. So, in pretty much any other game in the classic Phantasy Star series, monsters had animations, something that wouldn't occur in Final Fantasy until FF7. And one of the things that was consistent about monster attack animations is that it was generally clear how the monster was attacking and causing damage, especially in PStar2 where battles were run from an over-the-shoulder, third-person perspective where you could see all of the actions both your characters and the monsters were taking. This is assuredly not the case in Phantasy Star 3. Gone are the multi-frame, sometimes intricately animated attacks, and instead there's only one frame of difference between an attacking monster and one at rest, and in very many cases we're expected to take it on faith that the monster is doing something harmful to the physical well-being of the party, especially since there are at least three classes of enemy that seem to be one finger away from injuring our intrepid heroes by flipping them off.

One of the much-touted aspects of the game was the fact that it was a generational quest, with three in total. Every time our hero defeated the immediate villain that was disturbing the peace of the land, he would be able to choose between one of two brides, usually one party member and one NPC, and produce the next generation of sword-swinging adventurer. The choice of bride not only affected the name and appearance of the character, but also the stats and techniques, and even if the next guy would have techs in the first place. The only constant party members you have throughout the course of the game are the androids Mieu and 3-Wren (Wren in Phantasy Star 3 and 4 were distinguished in the Japanese by being called Searren and Forren), who act as constant caretakers to the children of the family. The main problem with this is that the generation system came a bit too early in the development of JRPGs to really make the choice feel as important as it probably should have. What was the problem?

The short answer: Final Fantasy IV hadn't happened yet.

The long answer: Phantasy Star 3 came around during a time when the primary interactions of characters was almost exclusively related to the plot. The protagonist, if they were vocal at all, usually reserved what sparse commentary they had for events in the plot at hand rather than interaction with any of the other characters. this is no different for Phantasy Star 3, where most characters get three or four text boxes worth of introduction, and all possible main characters have the same vocal reactions to the same events. The dialogue between the characters that end up in your party is almost entirely of an expository nature the end result of that is that, very often, the end-of-generation choice seems to be a largely arbitrary affair, as only the first generation hero is established as having any real connection at all to one of the potential brides. It also didn't help that the game had less than a Megabyte to do everything that it wanted- it had the same cartridge size as PStar2.

Well, at least it did a decent job with actually having a somewhat unique setting for the time.

So, how we got into this mess anyway- Basically, about a thousand years prior to the game-present (during the end of PStar2 if you're American, or Pstar4 if you're Japanese), there was a war between the followers of the knight Orakio and the followers of Laya the witch, and it was a war fought mainly by proxy- Orakio's side used mainly androids, and the Layans used monsters. At the end of the war, both Laya and Orakio met on the battlefield, and perished together. Since then, their followers established their own countries, with both sides believing that their ancient leader was the true hero of the ancient conflict. Of course, a thousand years can't go by without some new problem gurgling out. In the present, prince Rhys of Landen is about to get married to Maia, a beautiful, plot-critically amnesiac blue-haired woman (more on the origin of that trope later), who washed up on the beach near the castle a couple months ago. But, someone decides to speak now, and a dragon man smashes through the roof, steals Maia, and flies off saying something about how Orakian scum will never touch a Layan princess etc. Rhys vows to take the army and destroy all the Layans, and the king points out the problems with this, being that no one has actually seen any Layans for centuries, and no one knows where they are, so he tosses Rhys in the dungeon to cool his heels. He is rescued from the dungeon by a woman named Lena, and so, with no help from the kingdom, must assemble his own team and do that whole rescue thing.

Since the local meatbags are largely undependable, Rhys is forced to enlist the aid of killer androids, the aforementioned Mieu and Wren, the only persistent party members of the game. Mieu is necessary because there's a boatman who won't go to sea with an android as a good luck charm (or, if you're Japanese, won't get his boat out without a hot babe on board), which you need to use to get the item to traverse the cave to the next land on the map. In fact, the first clue that something is up is that cave, because most caves aren't traversed by walkways suspended over banks of machines and computers (the first sign being that the world is actually flat). The next land you go to needs a weather adjustment, because it's not good or normal for a place called Aquatica to be completely frozen- especially since there are Layans across the ocean that Rhys thinks need a-killin'.

Wren is needed to do the fixing, and on the way you get yourself a mysterious but friendly tag-along pal named Lyle who is your first human who can use techniques, which should be a gigantic red flag to Rhys because one of the first bits of setting information you get is that Layans can use techs, but Orakians can't, or won't. Now, fixing the weather isn't something that's out of sorts in Phantasy Star land, as there have been weather management installations in a previous game. Now, the Layans across the sea ain't a friendly bunch, and they only refrain from killing you instantly because Prince Lyle is with you, but in passing through his home castle, Lyle decides to test Rhys in single combat for reasons, and after beating him, Lena shows up and gives the bad news- apparently controlling the weather isn't good enough to get to where Maia has been taken, you also need to one-up King Canute and control the tides.

This is actually easier than it sounds, because it turns out that's a function of the weather control station in Aridia (guess the climate there). What should be another sign that something is out of sorts is there's a machine there that can adjust the orbits of the moons. Doing that sort of thing is normally harder than pushing a few buttons and hitting a switch. But hey, you've got a land bridge, which Rhys and company use to cross over to Maia's homeland, Cille, beat up her dad, after which he's like. "Okay, geez if you want it that bad" but it's also revealed at that last moment that Lena is the princess of the land just across the river from Rhys's, which leads to our first generation break. The fact that you can choose not to shack up with the princess who you've... um... burglarized? "Rescued" doesn't seem to fit here, because it is her house, after all. Anyway, two choices.

This choice actually has a major effect, because the second generation's story is quite different depending on who you pick, with different starting locations and everything. If you chose Lena, you start in Landen, where a giant horde of monsters has boiled up out of nowhere and is ravaging the countryside, and if you picked Maia, Cille and other Layan towns are under fire from a horde of killer robots. The thing about these separate generations is that they actually do have some content and lore that's exclusive to either one. Ayn's route is the only one where you find out that Lyle is the one who actually kidnapped Maia at the beginning of the first generation, whereas on Nial's route, you manage to get Wren's submarine parts as well as Laya's sister, Laya (Least original parents ever) a full generation ahead.

Now the heart of the problem is that moving the two moons back into position caused some problems, because each moon was used as a prison, and adjusting the orbit allowed the occupants to break free, those being Siren, Orakio's android-in-chief, and Lune, Laya's most bloodthirsty general, so depending on the problem this generation faces, they have to take out one or the other. Of course, this means finding a spacecraft to get there, but this is a Phantasy Star game, that'll happen. Heading to the moons also provides another treat- you get to see the world from the outside, and it turns out that the various overworlds in the game are the environment domes of a gigantic spaceship, the Alisia III, with no clue as of yet of where it came from or where it is going. Solving the problem from there is a simple task- beat up the generation-appropriate instigator until they promise not to start wars again, pick a bride, and move on.

Now, each of the third generation heroes has a different beginning as well. Adan's quest begins with a giant earthquake in Landen, Aron's quest begins when they see another ship like the Alisia III begin to approach, but the Alisia III suddenly destroys it with its laser batteries, Crys begins with horde o' monsters in Landen (no matter what generation choices you make, the land of Satera will always be blow'd up), and Sean's quest begins with the moon of Azura being destroyed by some unknown force with only him, Wren, and Mieu being able to escape. Only the first part of the third generation differs, because, as with many things Phantasy Star, all roads lead to Dark Force.

However, the third generation is also where the game finally fully opens up. All seven domes are now completely explorable, and much easier travel becomes available. The rest of Wren's transformation parts become available which means that flying and traversing water are now possible (landing and taking off requires an airfield), and all parties end up being able to teleport between domes through the temples of Laya scattered around the game. This does make the endgame legwork somewhat easier, and also allows you to access the town of New Mota, which has the game's most powerful non-unique endgame equipment, but also something else- a group of sages that gives the full details of the game's true backstory. The Alisia III was one of many ships that escaped the destruction of Palma at the end of Phantasy Star II, but many of the fleeing vessels were destroyed by some powerful and mysterious attack. During the civil war on the Alisia III, Laya and Orakio discovered that this Dark Force was perpetuating the war through controlling both sides' generals, so Laya and Orakio sealed the connections between the domes and fled together in secret, defeating Dark Force's attempt to destroy the Alisia III and sealing its power over the ship using Orakio's sword.

The heck of it is? New Mota is completely optional. The area of the game that has the most important loredump surrounding the game's backstory and how it ties into the rest of the series can be completely bypassed. This is some Dark Souls-level shenanigans here.

So, it becomes clear in any case that the entity known as Dark Force is the root of the problem, and since Dark Force is well known to be a job and a half, the party ends up being asked to pick up the only weapons powerful enough to be of use against the thing, which all belong to key figures of the Civil War- Orakio's sword, Miun's claw, Siren's gun, Laya's Bow, and Lune's Slicer (the latter two of which you will have already when you get this information). Then you need to supercharge them, but pulling out Orakio's sword also means that Dark Force is free to assert itself more fully once again. Miun is an interesting case, because you can actually try to interact with her in the early parts of the first generation, but you only get anything out of her near the very end. Either way, once supercharged, and the party has acquired the story-only offensive and defensive techs, Megid and Grantz, there's only one place left to go- the flying city of Lashute, where Dark Force lies.

You can actually visit Lashute before you have triggered the endgame sequence, and the people there are pretty nice- except for Rulakir, who, according to the story, was Dark Force's "in" on the Alisia III, because his entire family was killed during the civil war. Once you have released Dark Force, however, the game becomes the final dungeon, and it is a doozy- not as much as Spaceship Noah, but still. When you go there for the final sequence, the citizens drop the mask of civility and roclaim their loyalty to Dark Force, and the places is suddenly filled top to bottom with monsters- and you have to fight Rulakir on top of it all. Beyond that is the heart of Lashute, and Dark Force is once again the meanest ever monster-in-a box.

The fight with Dark Force is tough, but actually reasonably so- he's just a nasty boss that can hit really had and has multiple parts you need to deal with, but you don't see any of the garbage you saw in the previous game. The biggest problem with Dark Force in this game is that it talks, and it even calls itself Dark Force. My problem with this is that in previous games, Dark Force was a powerful, insidious, and unknown enemy, and Dark Force was the best thing that anyone could come up with to describe what it is. In the Phantasy Star I, it was the only enemy whose remaining hit points weren't shown, and in Phantasy Star II, your battle HUD didn't show you how much damage you did to it with any of your attacks, unlike almost every single other thing in the game. It was malignant, corrupting, inscrutable, and destructive, and that's all it needed to be. Talking just sorta takes away from all that.

So, you beat Dark force, and our hero blows Lashute up with Megid to burn out the source of the corruption on board the Alisia III, and Mieu uses Grantz to teleport everyone out so that they don't all die. The ending from there on depends on which hero occupied the third generation. In one ending, the Alisia III makes peaceful contact with another ship, the Neo Palm, in two others, destroying Dark Force allows the Alisia III's navigators to avoid disaster and find a new planet to settle on, and then there's the fourth ending, which might be described as some as depressingly canon. The Alisia III survives a trip through time and space after falling through a black hole, and ends up at the Sol system, bringing the people of Algo, and their advanced technology, into the hands of the people of Earth.

If I seemed sparse about each story, that's because they had to cram the stories of seven possible main characters into less than a megabyte of storage while also having to keep up with the visual and audio fidelity of the Sega Genesis. The result is that each story is actually a bit sparse on content, which is something that really works hard against the ambitions of the game at hand. It was quite an experiment, but one that ended up consigning the game to "black sheep" status for a fairly long time, as it did nothing to address the massive cliffhanger at the end of the second game.

But we'll be dealing with that next time.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 13, '17, 7:51 pm 
So, Phantasy Star 4.

This is actually a really weird game to talk about, especially in light of the game's development history. Not that the development of any Phantasy Star game has been all that straightforward- look at the original concepts for Phantasy Star 2, for example- but Phantasy Star 4, because the game that's called PS4 is not the game that was originally supposed to be PS4. It was the brother of a deceased heir forced to be the new successor to the throne.

The actual details remain murky, but the basic gist of things is this. After Phantasy Star III, there were actually two Phantasy Star games in development. One was for the Sega CD, and would be the actual Phantasy Star IV, and would follow the further adventures of the Alisia III as it encountered other threats across the galaxy in their continuing journey away from the Algo system. The second game was for the Sega Genesis, and would be End of the Millennium, the followup to what happened to the Algo system. Now, the CD game got cancelled for one reason or another, meaning that End of the Millennium ended up becoming the actual Phantasy Star IV. The game ended up being released in Japan in 1993 and in the US in 1995, which meant that in cheesburgerland it ended up having to be compared to late-generation Square SNES RPGs like Chrono Trigger and Super Mario rather than games that were actually around at the time of its release, such as Secret of Mana. Which is a shame, since the game is probably the best-playing game of then entire classic franchise.

This is because the gameplay, by this point, had taken some hard lessons on console JRPG design and ended up being a supercharged version of Phantasy Star II. The tedium of PS2 and the bugged techniques of PS3 were entirely disposed of, creating a fast-moving, turn-based experience accompanied by absolutely gorgeous battle animations, especially with the return of the Phantasy Star 2 third-person perspective view. What grind there is has been made for more bearable than it was in any previous iteration of the franchise. On top of that was the addition of a revised combat macro system and each character having combat skills outside of the general pool of techniques, and what you ended up with was a game that played at least as well as any of Squaresoft's games from the same period- and with far less bugs on the table, too. And any game with useful, reliable instant-kill skills is pretty neat.

The story ended up being saddled with resolving what was back then one of gaming's biggest cliffhangers- what happened after the end of Phantasy Star II? And beyond that, how reference-heavy are we going to be in a game made to cap off the classic Phantasy Star series? For the latter Sega decided to err on the side of ALL OF THE CALLBACKS.

So, as it turns out, after the end of Phantasy Star II, Rolf should've tempered his expectations. Destroying Mother Brain caused most of the systems that allowed his civilization to exist to completely break down, and it was impossible to find a way to repair them before panic broke out. The collapse of the entire advanced infrastructure led to famine, outbreaks of plague, general chaos, and the few systems that remained functional merely prevented Motavia from being completely unlivable for human beings. In the end, less than 10% of the entire Algo system's population survived the Great Collapse, and those that lived were forced to live in a world far different than their close forebears. People struggled on, however, and built new towns, some sharing the names of the old cities, and began to investigate the mysteries of the old civilization a thousand years after its end. And protecting them from the sudden outbreak of biomonsters are a group of armed professionals called hunters, but even then, things are getting out of hand. Still, that isn't going to stop Alys Brangwin and her newly-minted partner, Chaz Ashley from knocking down the problems as they step up.

(Alys was named Lyla in the Japanese version, meaning one of the callbacks is exclusively export. Also, Chaz was originally supposed to be an experienced hunter also, but they felt that "Experienced" and "Level 1" went together like Skittles and fish.)

So, the first job is to take care of a biomonster infestation in the basement of Motavia Academy, which, as you would know if you played through Hugh's PStar2 Text Adventure, is an old problem. They even drag along one of the Academy professors, Hahn, and Alys even makes him pay for the privilege of tagging along, which is reflected in your money count. After blowing up the boss monster, you come across some of those wonderful monster cloning tubes from PStar2, so Alys manages to browbeat the information out of the principal- apparently the machines came from Birth Valley, the site of a missing expedition, but a ex-charlatan named Zio managed to get his hands on some real magical firepower, and warned the principal to send no more people to Birth Valley.

So, Alys does the adventurer thing and drags the party along to check things out for herself, and Hahn has his own interests there, as the head of the missing expedition was his mentor, Professor Holt. So, he's all ready to tag along... After paying Alys's protection fee, of course. After passing through a sandworm ranch, we find that Birth Valley and the town in front of it have gotten the Dalles Special. Everyone in the town and the entire expedition had been turned to stone, so the only thing to do is go out and find Alsulin, a medicine which can flesh to stone, just like in Phantasy Star 1. It's a treasure of the native Motavians, so it's off to pay those furry blue scavengers a visit.

(It's always amusing to me that in PStar1, Odin was smart enough to give the Alsuin bottle to a partner when he went to fight Medusa, but he wasn't smart enough to give it to someone who had opposable thumbs).

Now, I'd like to talk a moment about Motavia, because things are pretty dire by the time that Phantasy Star IV has rolled around. In PStar1, Motavia was a vast desert with a domed city which was the only place where humans could really live. In PStar2, it was completely green, with dense forests, wide plains, and deep rivers, as well as covered with large cities and irrigation and all that. Now, however, the desert has reclaimed most of the landscape, and it's only barely livable for humans, and, by the NPC dialogue, things are getting worse all the time. It doesn't hurt that the Motavia overworld music is the kind of thing that we would eventually hear out of the Wild Arms series, and not nearly as peppy as the overworld music of PStar 2, which didn't do much to sell the "immenent societal collapse" angle of that game's story.

So, Alsulin. Unfortunately, Zio took care of that, too, because the first Motavian village our heroes come across has also been burned to the ground, and sifting through the ashes is Rune, a dude who Alys has a past with and serves the role of "Overpowered guest character" for a little while. If you want to embarrass Hahn even more than just jacking further cash out of him, you can also take him to his hometown, meet his bride-to-be, and get in a shouting match with his blacksmith dad over the power of SCIENCE!, but beyond that it's on to the next village, but the cave is blocked by Rocks. Which is not a problem, because Rune can blow that up, on account of being an honest-to-God space wizard. Because the last time your party has had an actual wizard was all the way back in PStar1, and since then everyone has used techniques instead.

Wait... Since PStar 1...

Hold that thought.

Well, the native Motavians can actually live like they used to, and they have the Alsulin, with Alys able to bludgeon the information out of their elder after he is about to let her measurements go. Rune runs off with him, after giving Chaz one last warning- Don't mess with Zio right now or he will wreck you. In exchange we get Gryz, who is basically the Avenger of Revenge's Vengenace, and has a beef with Zio for killing his parents or something. But we dig through the basement, get the Alsulin, Birth Valley is saved, and Professor Holt is back to investigating. So, problem solved. Except not, because the very next morning, a giant monster rolls right out of the underground, which means a fight in the middle of town. And monsters never town, so this is vry srs.

Now, one of the things that Phantasy Star IV has over almost every other JRPG before or since, is this: In very many JRPGs, you're going to encounter suspiciously advanced ancient ruins. Final Fantasy does it, Wild Arms does it, even Ys does it once in a while. The difference here, however, is that you have already played two prior games that actually take place in the lost age, before the setting got knocked down a few Tech Levels, and some of the things you were used to doing are things you can't do any more- for example, this is the only Phantasy Star game in the entire classic series where you cannot buy guns- they're just gone from civilization, so you have to find them in these tech ruins and the only people who know how to use them are these old, even ancient androids.

What you find in these ruins, however, is that it was a genetic facility that's out of control- the AI can't do anything to control the place, and Professor Holt is saved by Rika, who is the result of 1,000 years of improvement on Nei from Pstar2 (This was originally meant to just be Nei, but the character director got overruled). Seed also feeds the party the real problem, and it's a big one. Basically, the computer that is controlling what's left of the climate control system is also going haywire, and the control android, Demi, has been taken prisoner by Zio. So, the quest goals are to take Rika in the party, and then save Demi. After taking her out into the world, the AI, Seed, decides that if he can't control the facility, he can at least help people by blowing the whole place up, along with himself- so Rika how has to rely on Alys, Chaz, and the party to instruct her in the ways of the world. Pity her. Pity her hard.

Now, about Rika. First, she's probably the character with most excuse to start at level 1 of any JRPG character, because even though she looks fully-grown, and has full mental faculties and education, the age slot on her status screen is 1. The second is that she's your primary healer, but when the designers of this game saw 'healer' they didn't think "White Mage" but "D&D cleric". She can use heavy armor, she has a bunch of attack and instant kill skills, and with some easily obtained equipment there's a stretch of the game where she can very easily outdamage the rest of the fighting heavies in your party.

So, Zio controls his own rapture cult with plenty of statues of a somewhat familiar monster god, but the party storms his fort, kills Zio's second in command, and rescues Demi, and things are going just great until Zio shows up in person, and it turns out he's a full-on Cthulu cultist, and his own personal Cthlulu is Dark Force. Now, remember when Rune said not to fight Zio, or you'll get wrecked? Well, you try to fight Zio, and you get wrecked. Because Dark Force is his co-pilot, and the casualty of that shootout is Alys who ends up bedridden due to black magic. And the only cure for a wizard is another wizard.

Rune doesn't need much convincing, and he was already on the search for a doodad that was made exactly for this kind of emergency, and his own personal firepower is more than enough to help team Mota stomp the next beastie Zio sends their way. But Alys is dying.

Now, Alys's death in this game stands out for a couple of things.

1.) It is not the heroic death. It is not a death where the hero stands tall and gets to be inspiring in their last moments, it is a slow death, like a death by a disease. Dark Force's power is a literal pestilence.

2.) Rune, up until this point, has been the absolute know-it-all. He know the right tool, the right potion, or the right spell to fix any situation, and when confronted with this, he's like. "There's nothing I can do."

So Alys dies, and everyone but the android are out of sorts, with Rika being the worst hit, and there are a few touches here that work well, like the fact that Chaz isn't emotionally oblivious even though Rika won't directly say what's wrong, and there is one more subtle touch- both Rika and Chaz were in their civvies, which mean that they tried to sleep but couldn't, but Rune is still in his full adventuring gear, meaning he knew enough not to even try. This isn't the first time he has outlived his companions, it seems.

Zio turns out to be living on borrowed time, because the next fight with Zio is his last, and one of the fun things about the Zio encounter is that they had to give him a physical attack- if the game designers didn't, then Rune would be able to non-contest obliterate Zio solo, which I guess is the difference between a real wizard and a johnny-come-lately. Demi gets in there to stop the systems from blowing up everything, and Gryz leaves due to revenge complete, but now the game goes into space, because the abnormal commands are coming from the environmental satellite system in Algo. The team heads to the command satellite and meets 4Wren, the android who was one of Rika's teachers, and apparently control had been taken away from him by another satellite.

Getting there is another problem, because our heroes' ship gets boarded- which wouldn't be so bad if Rune hadn't let loose with his magic a little too hard. In the engine room. One crash-landing on Dezolis later, they pick up Raja, a Dezolisian priest who's a bad jokester, a bit of a dirty old man, thinks Rune is fabulous, and is also completely right about everything he says about the plot. Dezolis is more snowed under than usual, and Raja goes on about how it's the result of some evil tower, and that the system is living under an ancient curse. And he knows a guy who knows where you can get a ship that's not suffering from magic-related breakdowns, so he tags along with you. The thing that becomes apparent soon after is that Raja is Dezolis's very own hometown rockstar- everyone you talk to in the towns near his temple treats him like he's not only the main character of this story, but some previous, non-gameified adventures.

The spaceship in question is found lying around in a tomb, and it was Captain Tyler's ship from PSII- Just leaving a ship like that lying around sounds pretty... irresponsible (YEAHHHHH). And it turns out that the problem at the heart of the satellite is Dark Force itself. And he will probably kill you the first time if you're not used to Phantasy Star. Because Cyborg Dark Force is strong. Raja is also overpowered because he's the best healer and can restore TP, which nothing else in Phantasy Star can do outside of an inn rest, but it's still a nasty fight. Chaz asks Rune how he knew that was Dark Force, and Rune goes "...I've seen it before" (HOW!?). And killing Dark Force didn't solve the problem- Dezolis is still a Winter Losterland, so it's time to go down there and navigate.

Speaking of callbacks, it's at this point you can discover the cave of the Musk Cats and get Rika's Silver Tusk, Myau's ultimate weapon from PStar1, and something that can allow her to outdamage Chaz all the way up until Chaz gets his ultimate weapon. Another of the sidequesting things you can do is investigate the climate stations and run into a monster who says "It's impossible to kill Dark Force!". Anyway, approaching the evil tower of evil is a problem, because the nearby towns are suffering from a plague that kills horribly and the dead rise as zombies. The Espers are doing their best to deal, but even Raja falls ill. And one of them went off to fight the evil tower of evil alone.

After saving Kyra from an impenetrable forest of carnivorous trees, she says that there is a guy who could figure it out, Lutz, the magnificent wizard of Dezo. His continued existence is doubtful, given that he'd have to be two thousand years old, but she swears she saw him- Wren posits it might be cryogenic suspension (Like it actually was in PSII), but they go anywhere, Rune gets them into Lutz's sanctum, and... No one. Kyra freaks, but Rune tells him that Lutz died long ago. Or, at least his body did, because Rune himself is the carrier of Lutz's memories and knowledge, and he kept it a secret because no one would believe him until they came here. He tells Chaz everything he actually knows- that every one thousand years, Algo is threatened by apocalyptic forces of darkness, and while the people of Algo have been (somewhat successful in defeating them each time, the source of these attacks has not yet been overcome- and he believes that Chaz is the guy to do it. Kyra is upset, but Lutz tells her that he was always a jerk.

Which is true, because in PStar1, he will not give you the time of day if you don't have a letter of introduction from the Planetary governor.

The thing about the main party in Phantasy Star IV is that all of the characters who join you for keeps- who never leave at any point- are representatives of the four mainline games of the classic Phantasy Star series. Chaz, the main character, is representative of Phantasy Star IV. 4Wren, from the same line of the loyal android that accompanied all three generations of heroes on the Alisia III, represents Phantasy Star III. Rika, the culmination of the hybrid organism research that once produced Nei, represents Phantasy Star II. And finally, Lutz, who vowed to build a school so that Algo would never be without protectors, represents Phantasy Star I.

They can destroy the carnivorous forest with another Phantasy Star I relic, the Eclipse Torch, but the Bishop of Gumbious won't turn it over, even to Lutz. So other people take it. It is taken by a trio of monstrous sorcerors who not only tell everyone that they're from the Air Castle, but also specifically tell Lutz that someone he killed long ago is waiting for a rematch. And anyone who played Phantasy Star I knows who is there- Lashiec, the main villain and second to last boss of that game. And when you finally manage to get your way to him though one meatgrinder of a dungeon, Lashiec is only a little bit easier than he was in his original game, and you don't even have the Crystal to protect you this time.

After getting the torch back and burning up the evil forest, the evil tower of evil is actually quite.. Meat on the inside. Very sinew. Much organs. Wow. And at the end of that is... Dark Force #2, now with too many legs. And that means there were two Dark Forces existing at once. Destroying it kills the tower and the snowstorm, but the victory is short-lived, ad Gumbious Temple gets blowed up from space. So you talk to what's basically the Dezolisian pope who tells you that there's an evil that exists beyond space, and they key to finding it lies at Rykros- and to get there, you need the Aeroprism, another thing from PStar I, where it was used to reveal the air castle. Kyra leaves you to tend to the recovering patients, and Rune knows where the macguffin is, having probably hid it himself, the crafty jerk.

You pick up an archaeologist named Seth who has some vicious dark magic, and he isn't quite all there, as he seems foreign to the concept of "training". And there's a reason why. When the Aeroprism is found and shines the way to Rykros, the light blinds Seth, and reveals his true form, as Dark Force #3. Who is also really hard, as you have no fifth party member this time.

After that's done with, the Aeroprism did shine the way to Rykros, the hidden fourth planet in the Algo system, whose orbit only takes it close to the other planets once every thousand years. When our heroes land, they are greeted by a voice calling itself Le Roof, and their presence shows that they are worthy to take the challenge of the protectors. And after defeating two ferociously hard bosses, Le Roof spills the beans. Millions of years ago, two vast cosmic entities struggled for supremacy- The victor, the Great Light, defeated the being known as the Profound Darkness, and set a seal on it so that it could not return and threaten the galaxy. That seal was the Algo System itself, along with its people. But like all seals, it was imperfect, and every thousand years, the being would be able to push a part of itself into the "real" world, which is the entity known as Dark Force. And during Dark Force's last try, the seal was crippled by the destruction of the planet Palma in Phantasy Star II. However, it is still possible to defeat the Profound Darkness, which they, the people of Algo must do, as they were literally made to do it. When Chaz asks where the Great Light is now, and Le Roof is like "He left eons ago, who knows." To which Chaz replies:

"SCREW YOU AND SCREW YOUR STUPID QUEST! I ain't taking orders from an absentee god who creates people to do the fighting for him!" And then he storms off.

Rune follows after to find out what's up, and Chaz says that he has actually been a miserable mess ever since Alys died and has been just pretending he's fine the whole time, but now everyone is expecting him to save the universe when it wasn't long ago that he was just some teen guy going to his first day on the job as a pest control professional and this is all COMPLETELY NUTS!

Rune knows what to do, however, and takes him to the inner sanctum of the Esper Mansion on Dezolis, where he reveals a secret chamber hidden from all others. And in there, Chaz finds Elsydeon, the sacred sword of Algo, being held by a statue of Alis Landale And Rune's plan becomes clear when Chaz takes the sword, because it containes the memories of all those who fought and died for the sake of Algo.

Alis, Lutz, Odin, Myau.

Rudo, Amy, Kain, Shir, Anna, Hugh.

The death of Nei, Rolf's anguish

and Alys.

Alis comes back to him and says that the hopes of everyone who fought against the darkness reside here, and she entrusts them to Chaz by giving him the sword.

He is now ready.

And it's none too soon, because the stirrings of the Profound Darkness punch a hole through the crust of Motavia from the inside.

The party skedaddles to the spaceport, where they are met by Kyra, whose work is finished, and Raja, who has completely recovered. And when they make it to Mota, they are met by Gryz, Hahn, and Demi, who are also all ready to fight. The big problem is this: There's a town near the hole that you visited early in the game, and if you go there now, everyone is dead. Not from the explosion, but by just being too close to the Profound Darkness. On Rykros, the party found five rings which prevent this from happening to them, but that means only five can go in to fight. Everyone is powered up to endgame spec, especially Hahn, who seems who have undergone some time in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber.

So, the team enters the hell dimension where there is no treasure, just the Darkness. And they beat him. The Elsydeon sacrifices itself to protect the team from the dimensional collapse, ejecting them safely back into the reality they know. Raja congratulates on a job well done, and that he hasn't had an adventure like that in a long time (seriously, what did you DO?). However, it's time for everyone to go home, but maybe they'll see each other again sometime? 4Wren puts the kibosh on that, because the Landale is the only functional spaceship in the system, and he and Demi will need it after they drop everyone off to fix up the broken climate systems. Gryz and Hahn depart, Rika decides at the last minute to stay with Chaz rather than leave with 4Wren, and everyone goes back to their part of space after bringing an end to the ancient doom that hung over the Algo system.

I guess the thing that people need to decide on the most when thinking about whether they like Phantasy Star IV has to do whether they think the callbacks are important acknowledgments of the history of the classic franchise, or whether or not they are gratuitous fanservice. You can see similar discussions taking place around the same thing when it comes to both Dark Souls 2 and 3, which revolves around how much those callbacks actually add to the story that the individual game is actually trying to tell. The only game that might be as self-cognizant of its own franchise's history is probably Final Fantasy IX. It can be grating for some, important for others, but the fact of the matter is that it's still unusual that Sega would, at least at the time, be willing to voluntarily conclude one of their classic franchises. Phantasy Star would return as a brand, but PSIV was the definitive end of the Classic Phantasy Star Series.

PostPosted: Tue Mar 14, '17, 12:36 pm 
Wouah ! What a fantastic work you've done here, dear R-90-2 ! Of course I haven't read all and it will take some time to do it but it's really impressive ! Congratulations ! :) :clap:
Yes this 30th anniversary is going to be great ! I hope ! :)

PostPosted: Tue May 23, '17, 2:34 pm 
I simply cannot accept any criticisms of Phantasy Star II.

PostPosted: Tue May 23, '17, 2:40 pm 
But other than that, great summary analysis.

PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, '18, 1:53 am 
A good read if you like Phantasy Star! :clap:

PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, '18, 12:52 pm 
A VERY good Read ! And as here everyone loves Phantasy Star, you MUST read this fantastic one ! :clap:

PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, '23, 6:11 pm 
Lots of good reading here!

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