slimequest: (Hmhmhm)
[personal profile] slimequest
Taking advantage of owning Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection and all that it offers, I decided to try out "that one Phantasy Star I've never played", also known as the original one.





Confession time: Not only did I never own or play a Sega Master System back when it was on the market; I never even knew it existed. Somehow, "Sega" came into being with the Genesis in my eyes, and I only found out about the Master System years later via the internet. But enough retroshaming for now, let's talk about this game.

Phantasy Star is an 8-bit RPG that shares many traits with its contemporaries. The battles are "Dragon Quest style", meaning it's a first-person view of the monsters and the attacks you're doing to them, but you don't see your own characters. There's some grinding involved in order to progress in the game, which is naturally expected. However, this game does sport some unique elements, especially for its time.




For starters, you play as a female character in this game. Alis witnesses some horrible things and decides to right the wrongs in the world, you know, the usual. Really, there's not much difference between playing as Alis and playing as the various other 8-bit or 16-bit protagonists of that era, and that's kind of the cool part. The game doesn't really seem to treat her any differently because she's a girl. She has the typical well-rounded abilities and stats of a main character. There's a hulking guy (Odin) who joins you later that can equip heavier stuff and is physically stronger, but that type of character is found in just about all RPGs and always outclasses the main character in those ways, regardless of their gender.

Anyway, I just thought that whole aspect of the game was neat. I'm sure Alis was an appealing character to play as for some girls back in the day, and may have even been the inspiration for those girls to get into RPGs in general. Although, I do wonder if she was consequently responsible for boys avoiding this game for the same reasons. I never felt odd playing as Terra in FFVI or anything like that, since there were always male characters around, and playing as a female character has never been an issue with me (sometimes it's my preference, even).

I guess I should take this opportunity to talk about the game's graphics. They're actually... pretty impressive for an 8-bit game in a lot of ways. There are cutscenes (like above) with closeups of the characters that are really detailed. I guess the map sprites are the most goofy-looking (at first) because they look kind of like gingerbread men/women or cardboard cutouts.



It's also kind of awkward because the townspeople just stand there, always looking forward, and you have to actually walk up and face them to initiate a conversation. That being said, there's something kind of convenient about that. I can't tell you how many times I've had a townsperson walk in front of me and block my way or trap me in a narrow space.

When you do talk to someone, though, it switches to a close-up view (like the shop, see below) that are nice-looking indeed.

I like Alis' character design a lot. She gets to use a sword and can cut shit up but also has a pretty outfit, which I think is another thing young girls back then could've looked up to. Her map sprite sports a different hair color (not uncommon back then) that reminds me of either Princess Kara from Illusion of Gaia or Tron Bonne, depending on my mood.

There's also an adorable feline companion that joins you, who is also useful in battle (eventually).



D'AWW I WILL HELP YOU OPEN IT YOU CUTE WIDDLE THING YOU... oh and I guess there's some hulking mass named Odin who's also joined me recently. He's okay.

Now, thus far the graphics have been decent and all, but the second you step into one of the game's dungeons? Shit gets real. Take a look at this.



The dungeons are all in a first-person perspective. This video shows you the way the walls scroll as you move around... it's actually really impressive. Is there a word for when you are surprised/impressed by old graphics? Retropressed? Yeah, we'll go with that for now.

Several RPG series used the first-person perspective dungeons in that era, like Shin Megami Tensei, for example. In all honesty I don't think they've aged well, since... well, other than games that are outright dungeon crawlers, when do you ever see first-person dungeons anymore? I think it's just more interesting to control your characters running around in a maze. Not to mention much less confusing-looking. Still, considering the hardware limitations and all that, I think Phantasy Star utilizes them fairly well.

The setting of Phantasy Star is also unique, especially among 8-bit games. It's set in a futuristic world that still manages to have all the usual trappings of medieval RPGs - people use swords and axes even though guns exist, people live in dome-like cities and have interstellar flight and yet you find yourself traipsing through caves, etc. At least this was unique at the time...? Still, having those sci-fi touches does add a lot to the game and makes it stand apart from the rest. That's part of what makes the Phantasy Star series unique, after all.

Translation-wise... well, it could be worse, I suppose




Yeah, I think that's supposed to be "Fast Food", especially since they sell cola and burgers and all. A lot of the text seems to be way too literally translated: "Well, saving slot 1..." and various other sentences that just come across that way. So far, I haven't found anything that outright seems wrong (except First Food, although that's just a typo I guess), and it's still possible to use the clues townspeople give to progress in the game, which is more than can be said for many 8-bit games.

Music-wise, Phantasy Star doesn't stand out all that much in either the good or bad category so far, but it's at least not forced me to turn down my speakers when I play. I will say that the sound effects the enemies spout when attacking are kind of annoying, though.

So far, I'm enjoying playing Phantasy Star, especially because of its unusually high quality for an 8-bit RPG. Those unique elements it sports are also making it a fun experience. It's nice to see variety, although it's kind of sad that even today this game stands out uniquely because of them. I'd love to see more RPGs with female protagonists, especially awesome ones like Alis. Oh, and adorable feline companions, every game should have that.

As I mentioned before, I'm playing this on Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection (specifically, for PS3) which upscales the graphics and adds in support for save states. I'd definitely recommend this way of playing it if you're looking to do so on a TV. This collection also has Phantasy Stars II, III, and IV which are amazing games in their own right, as well as several other great Genesis games, so it's more than worth a purchase.

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