Enjoying the classics in a proper way
The first two
Phantasy Star games were great pioneers of the Japanese RPG genre. I've always had a fondness for those games, but their very high difficulty level prevented me from going back to them.
The recent remakes
tried to update these very old games to modern sensibilities. I'm afraid that goal was not achieved: the remake of the first game eliminated its open-ended gameplay, while the second one did nothing to fix the outrageous difficulty of the original. In my opinion, the remakes also didn't look very good, failing to capture the magical atmosphere of the ancient RPGs.
And then Sega
suddenly released all the four main Phantasy Star games (plus the lesser-known "side story" and adventure game spin-offs) in one package for the Playstation 2. At first glance, it appeared they were simply re-releasing their compilation
. But this time, there was a fundamental difference: the games come with a special menu that allows the player to choose between three difficulty levels and game speeds!
This might not sound like much, but remember - the biggest flaws of the first two games (especially the second) were, by far, the agonizingly slow speed and the outrageous difficulty level. Now it's possible to enjoy these classics in a "fast-forward" way.
Believe me, the difference is huge
! Before I noticed, I was already searching for Noah in the first Phantasy Star; it didn't take long to get Myau and Odin this time around! I remember how painful the process of initial leveling up for Alis was in the original version. Now I could set the whole game on "turbo", lower the difficulty level, and the pain turned into a pleasant exercise.
What is really good is that the lower difficulty levels do not tamper with the actual difficulty of the battles. They simply reduce the amount of random encounters while giving you much more money and experience per each. This is exactly
what the first two games needed. The challenge is still there, but it is now free of mindless, tedious walking around in circles, trying to gain enough money to buy a basic weapon or enough experience to defeat a pesky giant bee. Particularly Phantasy Star II
is still very demanding. But now, finally, the player's attention can be dedicated to actually exploring
the intricate dungeons rather than crawling through them, being stopped every two steps.
Lower difficulty levels and speed increase are also available for the third and fourth game - though in my opinion, the latter didn't need them.
Oh, I almost forgot: the four Phantasy Star games can be played either as Japanese originals, or English translated versions!
Well, this is nitpicking, but I think they could have included some extras - art gallery, interviews with designers, sketches, whatever. The visual design of the main menu is rather bland. When I fired up the game, I thought it would be really nice if they made a pre-rendered intro for the entire series. I mean, this is the best release of four genre classics, but all we see is a simple "low budget" title screen, then the old Phantasy Star individual titles... something could have been done to make the whole thing more appealing.
Also, beside the difficulty/speed levels, nothing was changed in the games themselves. I know it is probably too much to demand from a Japan-only release, but perhaps they could have corrected the inconsistencies in the English translations - at least give characters their proper names and get rid of pointless censorship (like what happened to the gay music teacher in Phantasy Star II
). A few graphical enhancements (for example, battle backgrounds in the second game) could have been nice, too. And I missed the mapping item from the remake of the first Phantasy Star
The Bottom LinePhantasy Star Complete Collection
is a very pleasant surprise. The ability to play the first two games "fast-forward" style makes them much more accessible and enjoyable. This is the definitive version of the entire series, and the best opportunity for new players to get acquainted with the classics of the genre without frustrating themselves.