In Phantasy Star 1, Motavia was the closest planet to the sun, with Palma being the second. When Phantasy Star II came around, they had switched - Palma was now closer to the sun than Motavia without any explanation.
The Compendium book released shortly after PSIV tried to explain this using an event called the Conjunction. It says that, about 450 years before PSII, the three planets came into alignment. Some kind of gravity problem caused Motavia and Palma to switch orbits, physically moving the planets with entire cities being destroyed in the process. The worldships from PSIII were also supposedly created during this time, probably to evacuate the planets on a temporary basis so everyone wouldn't die.
More recently, Sega of Japan's website, in a retrospective look at the series, offered a different explanation. It said that Motavia just had an elliptical orbit, causing it to occasionally pass between Palma's orbit and the star. There was no Conjunction under this explanation. The massive devastation that required evacuating in spaceships didn't happen.
So, my question to you is: which explanation do you prefer? Did the planets really trade places, involving worldships and all, or does Motavia just occasionally slide in front of Palma?
You don't really need to explain the spaceships in this manner, though. We can assume that they were built because the people of Palma somehow learned the Mother Brain network was going to destroy their planet and thus the people started building spaceships. How long did the Conjunction take, anyway? Did they really need such elaborate, climate controlled ships meant to sustain life for thousands of years for something that was so temporary? We also don't need the Conjunction to explain why Mother Brain was important. No matter what orbit Motavia is in, the network was needed to create artificial weather for the population to flourish. Palma didn't need Mother Brain like Motavia did, though, and that's probably why people weren't as willing to accept its total control of their planet.
Anyway, obviously I like the new explanation better. The Conjunction is a highly contrived bunch of garbage, in my opinion. Honestly, I've actually thought to myself why they didn't either a)admit that the orbit switch was an error in the development of the series or b)just give one of the planets an elliptical orbit and be done with the whole problem. It sounds like Sega finally went with the simpler explanation.
I take the compendium because it states that the conjunction could have been caused by the Earthmen. All the sources on it and the Earthmen texts from the compendium state that it was a planned event and they used the destruction of the royal family to establish a democracy. Let me quote the stuff.
From what I gather in all this, the Earthmen infiltrated Algo, watched the people and arranged for an event to occur that wiped out most of the population. Then they slaughtered the royal family and then appear as heroes to rebuild Parma. They revitalize Parma and make it a better place. Then they spread to Motavia rebuilding the planet as well. Noah is a space fortress the size of a planet and for a visual reference, Dolza's fortress in Macross/Robotech can work. The Earthmen used Noah to cause a catastrophic event and then showed up as heroes. The compendium proves the Earthmen were calculating and evil.
P.S. Tanith? I think I solved your problem and explained why the conjunction had to occur. It is all part of a sinister plan.
I'm more of a fan of the elliptical orbit theory, mostly because:
1. It's true with our own solar system- Neptune's orbit occasionally puts it further away from the sun than Pluto from time to time.
2. The physics make more sense- I'm admittedly not an astrophysicist, but I'm pretty sure planets can't just change orbits at random. "But wait, Chris!" you cry out. "Rick mentioned before that maybe the Earthmen did it from Noah!" Maybe, but let's just assume Palma's Earthlike before the Conjunction in every way: Same mass, same biomes, same size. You'd need a LOT of power and energy to move 5,973,600,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms several million kilometers, while preserving its momentum so nobody realizes something's going on!
No one realized because mass people died? If you look at the other compendium entries, the Earthmen waste no time in moving in to restore things.
The Earthmen just so happen to conveniently DESTROY the space shuttle of the fleeing Royal family the same year?
2 years after the conjunction the Earthmen's ship Noah begins constructing Mother Brain's network.
In AW 844 they convince people to abolish the monarchy after they slaughtered the royal bloodline years before.
Now you can't tell me that the conjunction and the Earthmen moving so quickly 1 year and 2 years later was coincidence.
It all points to the Earthmen having something to do with it. The people of Palma also knew about the conjunction and tried to escape.
Everyone realized what happened but over the years, people forgot. Hell, no one was left alive to remember the orbits were different. Just like no one left alive remembers the Noah being destroyed or the worldships.
I doubt the Earthmen's actions during and after the conjunction were coincidental.
Just look at the Noah entry. They were able to infiltrate Algo undetected, hide themselves from a highly advanced society and Mother Brain was used to take over Algo.
Without the conjunction, the Earthmen couldn't have done it. Palma wouldn't have needed to be restored at all.
I rule out the elliptical theory because of the events. The actions of the Earthmen are too close to be coincidence.
P.S. We don't know if Parma is Earth size. Hell, we don't know if our physics even apply in the next galaxy. We're never moved a planet in space. We even see bigger objects in Gundam move with less energy required. It's space and there is no gravity. Without magnetic boots outside the shuttle, you float off. For all we know, Palma and Mota coulda been the size of Pluto or our Moon.
The Conjunction wasn't a part of the Phantasy Star story until after Phantasy Star II was released, though. Therefore, the earthmen are:
1)Already evil. 2)Already highly technologically advanced. 3)Able to take over the planets without orchestrating an event like the Conjunction.
PSII works without the Conjunction. Simply put, it's not needed to explain the events in between Phantasy Star and Phantasy Star II; it's just something Sega came up with to explain a simple game error in the orbits of Palma and Motavia. Apparently, Sega now agrees with this, since it's now using the elliptical orbit theory. Even they aren't using what's in the Compendium to expain the orbit switch. To me, the simpler explanation is usually best, which is certainly the case here.
Eh, it's never been a big deal to me. I mean, 942 years is close enough. True, it doesn't fit with the rest of the nice, even time periods. Let's face it, Lutz screwed up a lot of things! He didn't really seem to know what was behind Mother Brain, only that he knew he had to send Rolf and his team to investigate Noah. I think he botched that one, really.
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