In the 1980s role-playing video game series were beginning to blossom. On the Nintendo Entertainment System, there was Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior. For gamers who had the Sega Master System, there was one clear choice above the rest. In 1988, Phantasy Star was developed and published by Sega. Gamers were blown away by its innovative 3D dungeon-crawling and immersive setting that combined fantasy with space. We’re led by Alis, one of the first female protagonists in this Phantasy Star review!
Phantasy Star Plot:
From the manual:
“The time: Space Century 342. The place: the three planet Algol solar system located deep in the Andromeda galaxy.
Under the democratic rule of King Lassic, life was good as he provided everything his people could want. Space Travel had been discovered 200 years before, and deep space shuttles had allowed colonization of Motavia and Dezoris, the other worlds of the Algol Star System.
But slowly, over time, things began to change. It started with a new religion which was rumored to have come from another galaxy. The dark priests of this religion, never seen by any mortal, promised immortality to all who joined. You would live forever!
King Lassic was getting old. The idea of living forever appealed to him so he became the first to join. Then, he…changed. It started with the threatening suit of armor the priests made for him. The armor looked evil and corrupt, and that’s how Lassic began to rule his people. Outrageous taxes became a burden on everyone. Business on all three planets shut down, and entire towns fell into decay. There was no way for the people to make any money.
As time passed and the people suffered, horrible creatures and monsters began to stalk all three worlds. When the dead came back to life, the people feared the worst and guessed the truth. Through black magic, Lassic had become an evil tyrant.
But where there is evil there is also always good. Brave individuals began to rally in secret against Lassic. But his Robotcops were ruthless in hunting out these defenders of the people. One was Nero, a spaceport worker in Camineet, the central town on Palma. Long ago, his father had disappeared trying to learn of Lassic’s evil secrets. Now, the Robotcops had crushed Nero as well. Before he died, he passed on his short sword and his quest to his sister, Alis. He also told her to find a brave fighter named Odin.
Alis raised the sword to the sky and vowed that Nero’s death would not go unavenged!”
First, I want to comment on how incredibly in-depth this story is. There is mention of taxes, backstories for characters who aren’t even shown in the game, and the motive for the king turning evil. RPGs are known for their well-thought-out stories, but it’s incredible to see one this detailed in the early era of video games. This Phantasy Star review is scoring tons of points just for the lore that is presented to the gamer before they even turn the console on.
As the manual states, Alis picks up after Nero’s death, and you are even treated to a few dialogue scenes during his death. Alis has an incredible journey in front of her, and she is only 15. She starts to gather her faithful companions. After finding a rare item, Alis trades it to a merchant who gives her a feline companion named Myua. Together, they find the warrior Odin who had been turned into stone by the monster Medusa. They revive him with a magical remedy and set off together. The last piece of the puzzle is Noah, a powerful mage who refuses to help until Alis provides proof that the Governor of Motavia. The four of them train together completing quests that include rebuilding a space shuttle and finding a robot captain to pilot it.
The four warriors confront Lassic and kill him but it’s determined that his body was under control by a dark force that was summoned by the black magic. This force is known as Dark Falz, and it escapes back to Motavia and tries to invade the Governor’s body. Alis, Myua, Odin, and Noah arrive in time to defeat Dark Falz and rescue the land from the corrupt nature of this being.
Phantasy Star Gameplay:
During my Phantasy Star review, I was “wowed” by many different elements of the gameplay that I didn’t expect for a game released in 1988. What stands out immediately is the 3D dungeon crawling. Almost half the game is spent in dungeons finding required items, people, or leveling grinding. These dungeons are presented in a 3D nature not seen in video games, but the best part is that Phantasy Star pulls it off beautifully. Walking along the corridors is a smooth motion that immerses you into the environment and truly makes you believe that you’re exploring a dungeon or maze.
Phantasy Star has similar elements to combat as other RPGs like magic and attack power. I customized my armor and weapons during my Phantasy Star review and learned new spells while leveling up. You can check your experience points by visiting churches in towns to see how much more you need to fight wild monsters to grow. Like most RPGs of this time, I needed a walkthrough during my Phantasy Star review. This is nothing against the game, just I don’t have all the time in the world to RPGs all day long but if you do, by all means, explore the world of Phantasy Star on your own. The galaxy of Phantasy Star is divided into three worlds that you can travel between with a space shuttle. Each world has a few towns in it with dungeons and is quite large. Powerful wild creatures roam the world in random encounters so come prepared to battle whenever you venture outside of a town.
If one of your characters dies during a battle, they actually die and will need to be resurrected via a church which gave me a chuckle. I feel that Nintendo would never have this on their consoles. During my Phantasy Star review, I’d say the difficulty was a fine line. On one hand, you can save the game whenever which is terrific. On the other, without a guide or dungeon map, you could get lost for hours or not know where you should travel to next. I didn’t encounter any battles that were really challenging but I also level grinded a ton in preparation.
Battles are presented in the first-person view and all attacks have animations. Enemies will move or shake depending on how they attack. It’s a great touch to add to the battles and made them more entertaining.
Alis was my main brawler. She was strong with physical attacks. Odin was versatile but I mainly used him with ranged attacks with various guns. Myua was weak at first but after finding the best equipment for the little creature, he leveled up nicely and became very strong with his claw attacks. Noah comes as close to a healer as there is in the game. He had weak physical attacks but his magic was overpowering and disposed of many enemies.
Like other RPGs, the difficulty depends on how well you’ve leveled up your team. There are a few boss fights but I didn’t struggle with them during my Phantasy Star review. There were enough of them however to keep the game interesting and keep your team on their toes as they explored the land. Finally, the end credits were awesome. It was the final touch to Phantasy Star that puts it above other RPGs of the time. The credits are scribbled onto the dungeon walls as a camera pans around exploring. It was a neat trick and one that gave gamers one last treat before turning the game off.
I first played Phantasy Star during college on what I believe was Spring Break. It was my first time experiencing the adventure and I was blown away by what the Sega Master System could do. It was almost a decade later that I completed my Phantasy Star review but I didn’t recall how long the game was. It took me longer to complete (about two weeks) so I was a bit thrown off by that. Regardless of the length, it’s a fantastic game.
Phantasy Star Review Score:
Phantasy Star introduced 3D dungeon crawling to the RPG genre while giving the Sega Master System a must-own game that Nintendo didn’t have. The exploration is challenging, and you’ll sink your teeth into this space fantasy for quite some time, but it’s all worth it as the gameplay and characters come together in an immersive experience. Phantasy Star ignited a great series that has seen many releases since the original.
Phantasy Star scores a 9.5 out of 10.
What would you write in your Phantasy Star review? Who was your favorite character? What was the first role-playing game that you had? Which part or dungeon gave you the toughest challenge? Let me know your thoughts and comments, I’d love to read them.