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Phantasy Star

Entry updated 19 December 2017. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (1987). Sega. Designed by Rieko Kodama, Yuji Naka. Platforms: MegaDrive (1994); MasterSystem (1987); vt Phantasy Star Collection GBA (2002).

Phantasy Star was one of the earliest Console Role Playing Games (see Computer Role Playing Games), and was influential on the development of the unique characteristics of the form. Both this game and its contemporary Final Fantasy II (1988) (see Final Fantasy) added a greater depth of characterization to the formula established by Dragon Quest (1986) (see Computer Role Playing Games), a vital element in the linear narratives of their various descendants, though Phantasy Star's story is still best described as rudimentary (see Interactive Narrative). Phantasy Star is also the first example of a Console Role Playing Game which could be described as clearly science-fictional in nature. The game is set in the Algol star system, a Science Fantasy milieu much influenced by Star Wars, mixing medieval romanticism with such sf elements as Psionics and interplanetary travel. In the opening sequence, a young woman sees her brother murdered by the Cyborg soldiers of her planet's King. The player – adopting the persona of the surviving sister – sets out to avenge the victim, eventually encountering a range of other playable characters (including a talking cat named Myau) and a mystical personification of pure evil that is the power behind the throne. As with many early Computer Role Playing Games, Phantasy Star uses a combination of a two-dimensional overhead map and a limited three-dimensional view to display events. The actual gameplay is somewhat repetitive, emphasizing turn-based combat to a much greater degree than that seen in most later examples of the form. The game was remade with much improved dialogue and characterization as Phantasy Star Generation 1 (2003 Japan Art Media, PS2), though to date this version has only been released in Japan.

The original game had three sequels. Phantasy Star II (1989 Sega, MegaDrive; 2008 Wii; vt Phantasy Star II: The End of the Lost Age in Japan; vt Phantasy Star Collection GBA 2002) designed by Akinori Nishiyama, Yuji Naka is set a thousand years after Phantasy Star, when a computer network which controls much of the technology in the Algol system has begun to malfunction for unknown reasons, devastating the ecology of a Terraformed world. The gameplay combines exploration and combat in a uniformly two-dimensional display, while the story is markedly more detailed than that of its predecessor, though still somewhat unsophisticated. This game was remade for a Japanese only release as Phantasy Star Generation 2 (2005 3D Ages, PS2), with similar enhancements to those made for Phantasy Star Generation 1. Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom (1990 Sega, MegaDrive; vt Phantasy Star Collection GBA 2002) designed by Hirota Saeki, Yang Watt is a more innovative design, with a story that follows a single family over three generations. It is set on a pseudo-medieval colony world outside the Algol system, founded by refugees from a planet devastated in Phantasy Star II who split into two warring factions soon after their arrival. At the end of each generation of the story the player's main character must choose which of several possible candidates they will marry, thus determining the identity of the protagonist in the next generation. The eventual goal is to find a path through the multilinear branches of the story which will bring peace to both factions (see Interactive Narrative). Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium (1993 Sega, MegaDrive; 2008 Wii) designed by Rieko Kodama, Toru Yoshida, Toru Yoshida is a more conventional sequel to Phantasy Star II. While the gameplay is generally similar to that of the second game, the linear story is much deeper. The setting returns to the Algol system, where a new but equally cataclysmic threat must be defeated. With its appealing if roughly sketched characters and frequent references to the background established in the first two games, The End of the Millenium presents what is undoubtedly the most involving narrative in the Phantasy Star series.

The release of Phantasy Star Online (2000 Sega, DC; 2001 Win; 2002 rev vt Phantasy Star Online Ver 2; 2002 rev vt Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II GC, XBox; 2004 rev vt Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II Plus GC) designed by Yoshihiro Sakuta marked a radical change of direction for the series. While all previous Phantasy Star games had been for one player, Phantasy Star Online was the first attempt to make a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game for home consoles rather than personal computers. Interestingly, the game also allows players from different cultures to interact using simple pretranslated phrases which can be combined into messages without using a keyboard, though this feature received mixed reviews. The game is set in a different solar system to the earlier works in the series, one in which the members of an interstellar expedition have begun colonizing a new world after fleeing the imminent destruction of their own. As the players' ship arrives, however, the initial exploratory mission on the planet's surface mysteriously explodes. This setup leads into a story-based single player game, with a simple and somewhat derivative plot concentrating on real time combat displayed in a three-dimensional view. As an MMORPG, however, the gameplay focuses on four player teams participating in the story together, in their own private Online Worlds. This aspect of the game could almost be described as the epitome of a combat-oriented "dungeon crawl" of the type often seen in pen and paper Role Playing Game adventures from the 1970s, featuring frequent battles, occasional traps, and little in the way of conversation.

While the original game was expanded by a second episode, later included in revised releases, Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution (2004 Sega, GC) designed by Yuji Naka makes so many alterations to the earlier versions as to essentially constitute a separate work. Set two decades after the initial colonization attempt during a period of civil war, it uses a turn-based system based on a virtual Collectible Card Game to represent combat, with characters positioned on a regular three-dimensional grid. The gameplay continues to focus largely on physical conflict, however. Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst (2005 Sega, Win) returns to the initial concept, including the content from the original and the second episode as well as new material. Phantasy Star Universe (2006 Sega, PS2, Win, XB360) was then launched as a replacement for the first game, the multiplayer aspects of which were shut down in 2007-2008. Universe is set in a third solar system in the shared galaxy of the Phantasy Star games, one which is being invaded by an army of alien monsters. The gameplay is again similar to that of Phantasy Star Online. Phantasy Star Universe: Ambition of the Illuminus (2007 Sega, PS2, Win, XB360) is an expansion, based on a conflict with a group of "human supremacists".

Related works: Several games associated with the original Phantasy Star series were only released in Japan. Phantasy Star Gaiden (1992 Japan System Supply, GG) is a Console Role Playing Game with similar gameplay to Phantasy Star II, dealing with the later life of the protagonist of Phantasy Star on a colony world she founds outside the Algol system. Phantasy Star Adventure (1992 Sega, GG) is a menu driven illustrated text Adventure with some CRPG elements, the story of which is contemporaneous with Phantasy Star II. The Phantasy Star II Text Adventures (1990 Sega, MegaCD, MegaDrive) is a series of 8 illustrated text Adventures which act as prequels to Phantasy Star II; each one further develops the background of one of that game's major characters.

Phantasy Star 0 (2009 Sega, NDS; vt Phantasy Star ZERO) is similar to Phantasy Star Online, but is available on a handheld device. Phantasy Star Portable (2009 AlfaSystem / Sega, PSP) and Phantasy Star Portable 2 (2010 AlfaSystem / Sega, PSP) are again similar, but act as sequels to Phantasy Star Universe. An expansion pack for the latter game, Phantasy Star Portable 2 Infinity (2011 Alfa System / Sega, PSP), was only released in Japan. [NT]


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