No game has been so influential in it’s origins but so forgotten by a generation of role playing fanatics. Some games gave birth to the ideas of tactical game play some gave artistic influences and some just emulated the previous and made better on the genre. One game however, invented an entire genre, reviewed gamer’s views on the perception of story telling and changed the face of gaming forever. That game is Phantasy Star, or Fantashī Sutā ファンタシースタ- .
RPG fans will always tell you their favorite game. The game they first played and the game that still strikes a chord in the mind of their alternative second life conscience. Some will give you an in depth time line of the story, characters, areas & maps and most likely the entire team behind the game, including the composer, not to forget the young intern who made the tea in the office. These people are role playing gamer’s and they are serious end of the gaming community. Of course, as highlighted by certain journalistic and reviewing platforms on the Internet in recent times, RPG games are a dying breed, along with its fans. Mention RPG in today’s industry and you most likely get the reply ‘Yeah, RPG’s are wicked in COD’. I can only guess that some journalists in the industry these days don’t leave London or don’t know of a world outside of America, simply because it’s still a big deal in Japan. But we would not be discussing this issue if was not for a team of people from SEGA, that included the legendary Rieko Kodama ,Yuji Naka the former head of Sonic Team and Tokuhiko Uwaba, the composer.
Released in Japan, December, 1987 for the SEGA MKIII, Phantasy Star took the industry by storm. This game would be the platform of future RPG’s, by any developer, including Nintendo. The game also set SEGA up for a very unlikely push for the MKIII console against Nintendo’s Famicom. With the Famicom taking gamer’s to ‘action adventure’ heaven with Zelda, SEGA knew they had to push the limits and boundaries if they were to make a great role playing game.
So, first things first, the graphics along with the artistic design is flawless for an 8bit game of this age. Notably,the radiant colours are striking, easily handled by the Master System. Secondly, our hero and protagonist, Alis, is a woman. A gaming first to my knowledge.
These simple ingredients along with superb sound and music, easily combines with the story line The story line consisting of religion, politics and cruel dictatorship, is set on the planet of Algol. Along with Algol, the planets Palma, Motavia and Dezoris. Each planet has its own characteristics.
Our hero Alis’s mission is to track down and defeat her brothers murderer, King Lassic, who had him murdered for leading a rebellion against he’s brutal kingdom. King Lassic has not always been like this, but after deciding he wanted to change religion, he’s become a bit of an ass, as you do. The game play is as you would expect, an RPG. Although being a basic RPG, this obviously being because it was the first of its kind, it still packs a punch today. The storyline is not as strong as you would expect from listening to the hype. The game is more recognised for its technical advancements.
The fighting system may have confused some eight year old kid’s in 1987, including me, but this is what makes the game enjoyable. While having to juggle and save life energy for bigger enemies within those amazing 3D dungeons or the forests, Alis is able to power up her Exp Points and her Magic Points. This can be done easily with patience and steering clear of any woodland or caves, just stay in the open to fight simple creatures like a Scorpion. Also, collecting money from the dead creatures in a treasure chest will enable you to save up and head over to the shops to purchase new swords, shields and magic. It’s worth doing this, simply because some enemies can’t be out run or defeated while on a certain Exp-Lv or without a more powerful weapon. The landscape is a great too. Attention to detail on the trees, water and some settlements are ground breaking while it lacks character design in the form of ‘Humans’. Others will aid you on your quest of revenge, which is a first too. A Multi Fighting System is delivered with great intentions, but control over the team that aids you is limited. It helps to defeat the tougher opponents, but has no real bearing on the story (not that I would want give the story away).
With such a great collection of attributes in one game that includes a smooth Turn Based fighting system, great graphics and cool digital, ( if not a bit annoying ) music, it’s hard to see how anyone would not enjoy playing through this must have part of gaming history. It’s just a shame that it has almost been forgotten.
What Rieko Kodama, Yuji Naka & Tokuhiko Uwaba have done here, is basically invented modern gaming as we know it. With story lines spanning across a galaxy of planets, roaming 3D first person style dungeons and music that accompanies the aesthetics and emotions of the player, this game could most likely be the most important of all time.