As one of the largest 16 bit games created by Sega, Phantasy Star IV was developed through a long, extensive process. Characters and features were added, changed, and removed as the developers made decisions to create the best experience possible. In the end, the final version of Phantasy Star IV was a successful hit game for Sega. Sometimes however, the early versions of a game are just as interesting as the final product.
During early development, Phantasy Star IV was reportly intended to be released in two versions on both MegaCD and MegaDrive. The MegaCD version was titled Phantasy Star IV: The Return of Alis. There are conflicting reports regarding the role of the title character, Alis from Phantasy Star. Some reports describe the story as following Phantasy Star III and focusing on an intergalactic slave trade, with Alis being mentioned only for remembrance's sake. Other reports claimed the game would deal with Alis returning to Algo (presumably following the events of Phantasy Star Gaiden).
Thanks to the increased capacity of MegaCD discs over MegaDrive cartridges, It was reportedly planned to be as much as 20 times the size of Phantasy Star III and include audio and anime clips. Some North American gaming magazines announced this version of the game, but it was eventually abandoned. Development was refocused on the MegaDrive version, which became Phantasy Star: The End of the Millennium.
Early in the development of Phantasy Star: The End of the Millennium, the game was planned to have first person dungeons very similar to those seen in Phantasy Star. Unfortunately, the format proved to be too intenstive for the MegaDrive to handle well. The design became monotonous and did not express the setting desired by the developers. The first person approach was discarded in favor of the overhead viewpoint used in later games.
Phantasy Star: Official Production Compendium contains a screenshot of a battle sequence in the first person dungeons. It shows Chaz, Rika, Rune, Wren, and Alis fighting a Gi-Le-Farg and two Locustas, each of which appear separately on the screen.
An early development version of the game appeared at the 1992 Tokyo Toy Show. The subtitle "The End of the Millennium" was not present in this version; it was simply named Phantasy Star IV. Screens from this version appeared in magazines covering the announcement of the game. The first preview in Electronic Gaming Monthly was based on this prototype. Unfortunately, according to Phantasy Star: Official Production Compendium, this prototype no longer exists. The promotional screens can also be seen in that book.
During the localization process of converting Phantasy Star IV from Japanese to English, Sega of America created at least five prototypes. Each of these prototypes have different game scripts, with subsequent prototypes reflecting further progression of the localization. None of these prototypes were ever officially released, but they have been acquired and released to the internet as ROMs.
To cash in on the popularity of the game, an Asian pirate game company decided created a Famicom remake. It appears they also created several prototypes, as four different Pirate Versions have been released to the internet as ROMs.
At one point, Sega announced a planned remake of Phantasy Star IV, as part of their Ages line for PlayStation 2. This game would have been similar to Phantasy Star generation:1 and Phantasy Star generation:2. However, the plans for Phantasy Star IV were canceled in favor of retooling the Ages line to collections of classic games, such as Phantasy Star Complete Collection.