Best in the series! Instant classic!
Since the original Phantasy Star for the Master System, this is the only game in the Phantasy Star series that's gotten the formula completely right; and they really did get it right - this is probably the best rpg the Genesis ever had.
First some context:
The original Phantasy Star was well-balanced, filled with creative touches, really innovative for its time. I mean, it had an involved plotline across three planets,
several vehicles, great characters, even the fake-3D dungeons were pulled off in a way that's still really fun and not cheesy. ::remembers drawing the maps of each
dungeon - my god, has it been that long::
Then Phantasy Star II came out: the graphics were kind of weak (especially considering that it was written for *better* hardware than the original), and the interface was kind of clunky, but there was some good art and design, and the storyline was solid, maintaining the combined magic/technology-based setting of the original. The music was alright, too.
The only game in the series developed without the aid of Yuji Naka and Rieko Kodama - Phantasy Star III came out with the promise of being BIG. Three generations of heroes - and at the end of each generation you decided which of two people you wanted to marry, thusly determining who your offspring and next playable character would be. In all, that meant 1+2+4=7 different character/quests. That's the good part - the bad part is that there weren't enough save slots to cover all this distance. Ouch. The random encounters were irritating and bland, and a lot of the new enemy designs (which had been such a solid aspect of the first two games) were either uninspired or just plain bizarre; too many enemies seemed determined to inflict mortal damage on you by flicking their wrists or wiggling their ears (I wish I were joking). The storyline hardly touched on the rest of the series at all. Some people have played this game without prior exposure to the other Phantasy Stars and enjoyed it - but coming into it with the expectations of someone familiar with the first two games the disconnect is a real disappointment.
And so we come to Phantasy Star IV, the last game to be made with the traditional top-down rpg approach. The original creators' influence is back on this one. Great graphics, great soundtrack, great story - you're planet-hopping again, just like in the first game, but with far more places to go - planets, asteroids, satellites, a floating castle... Lots of references to the prior games, particularly
the original (although even the characters from PSIII make a quick appearance in one vision-scene). At no place does it bog down - some dungeons and bosses are difficult, but just enough to make things interesting. There are lots and lots of side-quests: your original job within the game is as a bounty-hunter/all-purpose problem solver, and the Hunter's Guild provides several money-making quests nonessential to the main storyline - not to mention all the abandoned facilities strewn across the planets where you can discover interesting weapons/devices and things that relate to the previous games. The characters are all solid. The cutscenes are done in a comic/manga style with overlapping frames and are well drawn. All the vehicles that were so handy and fun to drive around in the first game are back - and this time you can fight in them, using their advanced weaponry to absolutely vaporize some monsters. The best creatures from the first and second games are back: sandworms from PSI, robots from PSII - they even brought back the "baby chick" monster from PSIII that was kind of boring and stupid and made it the focus of a fun quest! Random encounters - the achilles heel of so many rpgs, are handled with a smooth combat system, and the combination of this system, cool weapon animations, cool *combination* attacks, and good enemy designs make it one of the game's seemingly endless strong points.
Long story short - this was made by people whose love for the best parts of the series is obvious and they crammed every good thing they could into this overflowing game cartridge!!! Get it!!! Get it now!!!
There's nothing not to like about this game - this is where they got it perfect.
The Bottom Line
The best of the Phantasy Star games!