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PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, '13, 1:49 pm 
Notice how I almost never post in the original PS sections?

“Who is your favorite PS character?”

“Who did you miss most, Nei or Alys?”

“Which game has the best characters?”

“Which character’s story is the most credible?”

And so on, and on, and on. So many questions, so little interest. After a long amount of pondering, I find I have only one real answer to all of these questions.

Let’s face facts. PS I and PS II’s characters are hardly more than moving sprites enhanced with a character picture each and 1-2 lines of dialogue on average for the whole game. Some of PS III’s characters have a LITTLE more substance as they take those 1-2 lines of dialogue to a whooping 3-4. PS IV’s characters enjoy more artwork and have been more developed, and by developed I mean, force-feeding us clichés down our collective throat.

Sure, I “like” Gwyn Landen, even though she only says four words in the entire game. I like her because to me she is by far the most visually attractive character in all the four PS games. That's it. Kinda lame, when you think about it. Try that approach with someone. “You’re pretty, that’s your only quality. Wanna date?”

The only reason we, the PS community like the PS characters so much is because we made them come alive by our own collective means through fan stories and fan games. Take that away and you will find that all the questions asked above become very hard to answer. Like it or not, our influence removed, PS characters remains a bunch of stats tacked to a portrait.

To hear me say so almost makes me look like someone who doesn't like PS yet, it remains my favorite RPG universe ever. Why, then?

The characters don’t matter. They are silent vessels in which we, the semi-active spectator become part of Algo.

Algo. THAT is what it’s all about.

I have often spent hours dreaming what it would be like to be an adventurer on the Alisa III, discovering ancient mechanical dungeons, travelling alongside a wandering princess with her laser bow, all dressed in barbarian armor. We would be fighting rogue machines and savage beasts in the wilds of a medieval/sci-fi hybrid setting that would put to shame most novels I read in my teenage years.

I have spent many daydreaming hours trying to picture myself leaving work in the early evening in Paseo, be teleported home and enjoy the breathtaking view of my loft’s balcony on the 235th floor of one of its huge towers as the megalopolis below my eyes comes alive for the night. I’m a computer engineer working on a secret artificial intelligence project. To the outside world, I’m working to enhance the latest generation of automated workers but in reality, I work with the resistance in a counter-weapon to disable Motherbrain.


I never cared about PS’s characters because they gave me nothing to care about. When Nei died, I didn't react. When Alys died, I didn't care. When Lyle died, I was mildly moved because the guy actually had half a personality. (Admit it, you guys never ask about Lyle. It’s always all about the two chicks. Poor Lyle. *cough*)

The PS universe is an open book; you just need to turn the pages. PS I is the starting sci-fi utopia. PS II is the dark, gritty Blade-Runner sequel. PS III is the cyber-fantasy world that was very popular in the 80’s culture and PS IV is the post-apocalypse world for those who are into that.

This is what turns me on. Though I have a soft spot for the improbable PS III universe, I always fantasized on PS II’s Algo. Dramatic, dark, modern and deadly. This is why I used that very base to create my own RP universe which does not depend on PS’s characters, not even on its own native characters.

The storyteller changes, it can be told in many ways. The point of view shifts; it can be seen through the eyes of all sorts of heroes or villains alike. The important is the universe in which it happens. This always remains the same. This is what turns me on.

Discuss.


Edit: I just realized; I know there are mini games for every PS II's characters to help develop their story but before someone brought them to the discussion, I just want to make sure it's understood that the focus of my post is on Algo, not the characters.


Last edited by Aeroprism on Tue Feb 26, '13, 1:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 4, '13, 1:37 pm 
Choosing not to choose is perfectly fine. :) There's no wrong stance on who the best character may be, because it's all opinions. Some of the characters have so little exposure in the games that it's almost criminal.

Algo does have a very important role in the series, I agree. I think that's part of the reason I am less attracted to PS Online, Universe, etc. - they aren't in Algo. They don't build on that same mixture of sci-fi and fantasy, don't add another layer to the depth of that history. The main reason I wanted to play the PSII mini-games was not to see the characters again, but for another glimpse of Algo. To see the towns that might be explored, to get a sense of what a big city might be like when not represented by the limited graphic abilities of the Genesis. I love series that flesh out their lore, that spend time world building. The world itself can be an amazing character, if crafted with proper care.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 5, '13, 2:04 am 
For me, the strength of Phantasy Star games is the plot. It doesn't matter that the characters aren't fleshed out, the world is intriguing enough to draw me into it. Especially back in late 80s and early 90s, it was very rare to see a world like PSII in a game. Instead of the D&D fantasy, a scary scy-fy distopia loaded with social commentary. It was like playing Brave New World. The dark humor of the game was light-years ahead of the silly anime humor of the storytelling games that would become successful in mid 90s.

PSIII world is mind-blowing too, with prejudice, creatures turning against their creators, the whole generational system, not knowing if the side you are fighting with is the right one, normal people doing wrong things, etc. Both PSII and PSIII raised the ante of what a game plot could be (and should be - look what Final Fantasy became from IV onwards).

The "lack of character development", many times, is something positive. PSII and PSIII come from an age where the character personalities and back stories where only hinted at, and given the serious tone of the games, you could wonder what things like "Anna having a past she wanted to forget about", or "Nei suffering for being a biomonster, for the prejudice and hate suffered, for knowing she was meant to die", or even "Maia losing her memory and being found in a place no one knew about her, only to be kidnapped and be the indirect cause of a war", and "Lyle situation depending on an Orakian to save his country and, by helping him, becoming an enemy of his own people" really meant. Think about the psychological aspects of such stories on a human being.

For me, it provides a rich experience, my richer than ready characters of PSIV that many times lack strength because they stay trapped into silly jokes like Alys (proof is that most people are interested in the mysterious aspects of her past life and relationship with Rune); or Rika that says lots of things (mostly silly), but ends being no more than just a romantic prize for the protagonist (their relationship doesn't develop during the game).

That said, the purpose was not to bash PSIV, but to show that the lack of "character development" isn't necessarily a weakness. It provides much more food for thought than fleshed characters that rely too much on clichés (a common criticism of the modern JRPGs). Of course, if the player doesn't want to get involved with the world, the characters, and think about the other elements not explicitly shown, it is okay. For me, though, a book, movie or game whose story doesn't provoke any kind of thinking is a waste.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 5, '13, 9:05 pm 
Thoul, I like your reasons for playing the Adventure games. I never played them myself but now I want to and see more of Algo through them.


Tili, I really need to say how impressed I am by the depth and relevance of your post. Seriously, in order to properly answer it, I will need quotage.

Quote:For me, the strength of Phantasy Star games is the plot. It doesn't matter that the characters aren't fleshed out, the world is intriguing enough to draw me into it. Especially back in late 80s and early 90s, it was very rare to see a world like PSII in a game. Instead of the D&D fantasy, a scary scy-fy distopia loaded with social commentary. It was like playing Brave New World. The dark humor of the game was light-years ahead of the silly anime humor of the storytelling games that would become successful in mid 90s.


Now that you say it, I find I cannot agree more. The 80s were emblematic as far as strange Sci-Fi themes were explored, citing Blade Runner for example.

Quote:PSIII world is mind-blowing too, with prejudice, creatures turning against their creators, the whole generational system, not knowing if the side you are fighting with is the right one, normal people doing wrong things, etc. Both PSII and PSIII raised the ante of what a game plot could be (and should be - look what Final Fantasy became from IV onwards).


I agree. The depth of PSIII's story might look skin deep but with a little pondering, it's easy to reach these conclusions. Funny enough, my original post was all about what PS was WITHOUT the player interpretation and extrapolation but this easily forces me to admit: the conclusions you reach, albeit general in nature are pretty much undeniable, especially the right/wrong aspect. Well, all up to the point where Orakians and Layans suddenly forget centuries of enmity and happily frolick because a magical pendant told them to.

As for PSII, the whole "Citizen Kane/Rage against the machine" aspect is something I could not really understand in my very early teen years. As an adult however, I am pleased to re-discover the whole underlining of careful meaning this game presents. Just take the Teim incident for example, how the happy working citizen of Mota suddenly turned to crime because the system let him down.


Quote:The "lack of character development", many times, is something positive. PSII and PSIII come from an age where the character personalities and back stories where only hinted at, and given the serious tone of the games, you could wonder what things like "Anna having a past she wanted to forget about", or "Nei suffering for being a biomonster, for the prejudice and hate suffered, for knowing she was meant to die", or even "Maia losing her memory and being found in a place no one knew about her, only to be kidnapped and be the indirect cause of a war", and "Lyle situation depending on an Orakian to save his country and, by helping him, becoming an enemy of his own people" really meant. Think about the psychological aspects of such stories on a human being.


Tili, that paragraph blew me away. How to take a seemingly blank character and enrich it with dimensions the game only hints at. I once again come back to the fact that I wanted this discussion to focus on what the game brings BEFORE player interpretation but once again, the conclusions you reach here can hardly be argued with. Lyle's case being the most flagrant; your words will forever change my perception of him.

What makes this whole analysis complicated however is when people go over the top and create whole encyclopedias of "facts" around these characters based on their own perception of them. Sooner or later, to them and to the people who read them enough, these facts become accepted and start to pollute the original essence of the game. Funny fact, among those I would readily point with my accusative finger, I am most probably the loudest. With EOTA in my bag, I can't really ever see PSII for what it is anymore. I changed virtually everything and even when I play the video-game, my reality is altered. Talk about taking my game seriously!


Quote:For me, it provides a rich experience, my richer than ready characters of PSIV that many times lack strength because they stay trapped into silly jokes like Alys (proof is that most people are interested in the mysterious aspects of her past life and relationship with Rune); or Rika that says lots of things (mostly silly), but ends being no more than just a romantic prize for the protagonist (their relationship doesn't develop during the game).

That said, the purpose was not to bash PSIV, but to show that the lack of "character development" isn't necessarily a weakness. It provides much more food for thought than fleshed characters that rely too much on clichés (a common criticism of the modern JRPGs). Of course, if the player doesn't want to get involved with the world, the characters, and think about the other elements not explicitly shown, it is okay. For me, though, a book, movie or game whose story doesn't provoke any kind of thinking is a waste.


Once again, agreed. PSIV has by far the best technical qualities from graphics to combat system but artistically, it's the dumb child of the family. To me, the story is childish, predictable and the music is poor at best. I find it filled with horrible clichés and in the long run, it hurts the game. Because it, as you say, brings merely next to no food for thought, it is not as enjoyable to replay. PSII and PSIII always being me more questions and ever stimulate my imagination. The first time you play both of these games, you feel unsatisfied but every additional playtrough only helps you understand more and enhance your experience. PSIV is a happy pop-up book full of Raja jokes, ridiculous rappies, bad Japanese innuendo and pretty pictures of predictability. The first time you play it, you smile and laugh because it's so shiny and fun. (It really is!) Then you replay it and go "meh".

I purposely left PS1 ouf of this post because I never really thought it a true PS game which is kind of strange considering it's the first. PS1, much like Final Fantasy 1 was a shot in the dark, an attempt, a dubious base on which great and mighty sequels were built. It had good ideas but way too many bad ones that did not quite fit together in the end, such as trying to put spaceships, Medusa, cakes and political backstabbing in the same story. Oh and I hate the combat system so, I played it once for the story, once again to remember it but that's it, I'll most likely never play it again.

This discussion is awesome!


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