Phantasy Star

aka: PS, SEGA AGES: Phantasy Star
Moby ID: 8194

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Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 85% (based on 36 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 3.9 out of 5 (based on 73 ratings with 5 reviews)

The Greatest 8-Bit RPG Ever Created.

The Good
In the days when the Nintendo Entertainment System was king, Sega released a little game called Phantasy Star, which blew away everything else that came near it.

There's a lot to like about this game. It starts out with highly detailed cut scenes focusing on a young girl named Alis, who swears to bring justice to Nero's death. From this point, the game introduces lush, well-animated landscapes, a remarkable soundtrack, and the biggest technical marvel of them all....

The dungeons.

No 8-Bit game ever came close to emulating the smoothly animated and scrolling dungeons found in Phantasy Star. In fact, several 16-Bit games had trouble touching the graphics found here. The result was nothing short of impressive.

It would be a crime not to mention the graphics and sound in further detail. The planets, towns and dungeons offered a rich, haunting soundtrack full of moody themes and poppy, upbeat music in an unforgettable soundtrack.

The graphics were lush and colorful, with lots of animation in the planet, and even in the battle scenes, where the numerous monsters each had their own animations, as did the attacks from the heroes. There was very little repetitive anything to be found in the graphics.

The game also had an interesting, generally well-written story about revenge, deception, mystery, heroism, sorcery, space travel.... It felt very "Star Wars" in its approach of mixing swords and magic with hovercrafts and laser guns. And even the characters had their own identities. Gone were the generic "fighter" and "wizard" characters. The team of Alis, Odin, Noah, and Myau all had personalities and individual abilities. They may be generic by today's standards. But back in the time it was released, this was something special.

The Bad
There were a few minor complaints. Mapping was a must, as some of these dungeons were as confusing as they could be. A few careless spins could mean wandering the hallways and fighting monsters for quite some time. Map making for the game was almost mandatory.

Some of the Japanese to English translations were a little questionable. It would have helped to have run this through just a little more in some places, but you got the gist of the conversation regardless.

And a word to the unwary: Be careful how you answer those "Yes/No" questions. A wrong answer can lead to a lot of backtracking.

The Bottom Line
As much as I enjoyed series such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior, the true gem in the Sega Master System crown was Phantasy Star. It's a fantastic game, untouched by other 8-Bit (and some 16-Bit) games in the RPG genre. Even now.

The game offered great graphics, sounds and plot that surpassed most games of the time. It's a shame that every SMS game wasn't this remarkable. Otherwise, they could have been a much stronger contender against Nintendo. The series, however, still survives in its 16-Bit sequels and current online versions today.

Any Sega fan, old-school gamer, or RPG enthusiast owes it to themself to play this game. It's a remarkable benchmark in console gaming history.

Highest possible recommendation.

SEGA Master System · by Guy Chapman (1748) · 2004

A good old-school RPG.

The Good
I really liked the simplicity of the game. Really, modern JRPG's are great and all, but there's something to be said about a game as simple as Phantasy Star. You go out, kill stuff, go up in levels, rinse repeat. You also do down dungeons to get some good loot.

Really, that's pretty much all there is to Phantasy Star, and I loved it. That's why I played the game, and I got what I wanted out of it. To enjoy Phantasy Star, you need to know exactly why you're playing it. You're playing it to sit back, fight, and fight some more.

The graphics look great for a game this old. The colors are vibrant, and the scrolling in the dungeons is impressive. But not all is great with the graphics..

The Bad
Phantasy Star is old, and with age comes a lot of problems.

The graphics look great, but they're all static. There's barely any animations in the characters. All of the NPC's look like pieces of cardboard. They don't move their bodies, and they don't move their feet, hands or heads like NPC's do in other RPGs of the era. It gives the game a very..unlively look.

The story is barely there and that's a GREAT thing considering how bad the translation is.

Oh and, the ending really sucks.

Finally but not least, I personally feel that this game has some of the worst music of any RPG I've ever played. Only a few of the themes stand out, and they don't stand out because they're good, rather they do because everything else is so bad. The soundtrack just doesn't stand up to other RPGs of its time like Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior or the Ultima series. Really, it's that atrocious.

Of course, there's the extreme simplicity of the whole thing. This is NOT a game for modern gamers. Like I said earlier, there's barely a story, there is a LOT of random roaming, a lot of fighting. But then again, you shouldn't be expecting a storyline of epic proportions from a game made in the 80's.

The Bottom Line
In the end, all of the problems in Phantasy Star stem from its considerable age­. In 1987, this game would have been absolutely top notch. Even though I liked my experience with the game, it's far too simple a game for me to give it a high rating. It's really clunky and I feel is inferior to a lot of RPGs out at the time. I think Final Fantasy is better, Dragon Warrior I might not be better, but I feel it's more fun, and obviously there's Ultima IV and V, the latter being the best game of the bunch.

But really, if you like old school RPGs and don't need any modern fancy stuff to keep you interested, give this game a try.

SEGA Master System · by GrahfZilla (16) · 2008

Unique & convincing game world with some "1st in the series" shortcomings.

The Good
Phantasy Star is a series that has it's own unique look and feel while capturing what is specific about being an RPG.

Even though this is an 8-bit game the graphics are clean and easy to look at. They're not overly attractive but clearly convey the world as intended and most important never obfuscate game play. Cut scenes using the familiar anime style helps give the game it's unique look.

Phantasy Star sports a wide variety of monsters that are both interesting and intimidating. Most of the random encounter drawings are large and reasonably detailed. During these encounters the background matches the world map terrain (nicer than seeing solid black), which adds to game atmosphere.

The music is pleasant enough and doesn't grate on your nerves after a few hours. The tunes are simple affairs similar to what can be found in Dragon Warrior.

A nice attempt at adding magic is present (3 of 4 characters can use spells) but I found myself saving magic points for some anticipated battle at the end of a given dungeon. While this may be somewhat normal for an RPG, in Phantasy Star the magic points are very limited, so this effectively turns your party of characters into hack and slash warriors.

A linear storyline unfolds during game play, but the gaming world is not linear, except where constrained by the strength of random encounters or impassable geography. Two great design choices contributed to this:

  1. Multiple vehicles are available for travel, including an ice digger for burrowing through glacial plains, a hovercraft for water, and a land rover for some hostile grounds.
  2. Access to inter-planetary travel between 3 planets, a defining point for the Phantasy Star series.

Furthermore the story, not being stereotypical, has Alys the female protagonist remain the game’s strongest character. Even her axe-wielding, non-magic using warrior friend Odin is inferior.

A final comment on the story: as game play progresses you never lose sight of the fact that the antagonist has caused much suffering; in various ways NPC's remind you why you are trudging about the world.

The designers decided on 3D dungeons like in early Wizardry titles – this is both good and bad. They attempted to add something not found in other competing titles like Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior, unfortunately the result is a bit boring, but at least each dungeon has a different colour and it's more than just a wire-frame outline.

The Bad
Being first in the series means a few bad design choices shouldn’t surprise us too much. Here is my list of personal gripes:

  • The contents of many chests found in the dungeons are meaningless. For example it is quite common to find a chest with 20 mesetas, meanwhile each random encounter renders 2-3 times that amount. Obviously there is little motivation to seek out and retrieve chests if they are often disappointing.
  • This was a BIG complaint for me when I first played Phantasy Star: At the end of each random encounter the dead creature(s) leave(s) behind a treasure chest and you have to decide whether to open it or not. This happens at the end of EVERY fight for the ENTIRE game. This was almost enough to turn me off the game but somehow I got used to this and didn't think about it (maybe it was the wonder of how a blue slime could manage to carry a chest). The idea behind this is that each chest has a 5-10% chance of being booby-trapped depending on the monster that leaves it, so you have to decide on the risk of opening the chest, but the thing is you need mesetas to buy some very expensive items so you always say yes, and it just becomes an annoyance.
  • But my biggest complaint was not being able to selectively attack an enemy when fighting a big group during a random encounter. The game would randomly select a monster for each attacking character. It was very frustrating to see a couple of enemies linger with 1 hit point while the party hammers away at the others.
  • The game has another problem with time spent levelling up at the start of a new game. Things get interesting after a new character joins the party, which doesn't take too long, but this obligatory levelling-up period could be enough to turn away interest in Phantasy Star. Personally, walking in circles to generate random encounters to grow in strength enough to access new areas is a pain. Fortunately this character growth happens naturally by travelling the world map and traversing dungeons after Alys hits level 5 or 6.
  • A final complaint: I found having to heal each character separately at a hospital to be a nuisance, it wasn't so much the cost (1 meseta per lost point) but this task slowed down game play for no good reason. Although in the first town a place exists where instantaneous party healing can occur (for free even), but for the other towns this was not the case and the player had to use the cumbersome hospital interface.

To the credit of Phantasy Star designers these 'features' for the most part do not make a re-appearance in the other installments of the series.

The Bottom Line
Phantasy Star came out in 1988 for an 8-bit system. The designers did a lot with the hardware they had and it shows by how convincing the game world is. Being the first in the series also means that the designers discovered some features work great and others ensnare the player with unnecessary maintenance. Despite design problems enough balance is present in Phantasy Star to call it fun and worth trying out for those who are curious about this unique series.

SEGA Master System · by jlebel (2190) · 2006

Wonderful RPG

The Good
The story and graphics are just beautiful. It´s deep, but doesn´t complicate anything too far. It´s a good RPG to start on, if you´ve never tried the genre before. With diligence you see how your characters improve and how you find all kinds of places and gadgets to help you defeat the evil and save the world. Three different worlds to travel and a party of four very different characters makes this excellent. Top that off with different means of transport in the game!

The Bad
It is very easy to die and lose in the initial part of the game, struggling to defeat random enemies in the fields. Some clues are less obvious, some locations can be difficult to find.

The Bottom Line
A wonderful colorful cute RPG. The line drawing and text rendering of speech is just perfect. Try this and you´ll fall in love. The sequels departed a lot from the original colour and feel, unfortunately, but then, they were on faster machines. An 8 bit rpg that truly showed what the Sega system could do. worth it.

SEGA Master System · by dave taylor (5) · 2015

The Game the started it all.

The Good
Phantasy Star, was the first Japanese rpg to be released in America. In Phantasy Star, Alis Landale's brother is murdered by the diabolical King Lassic. Thus begins her quest for vengeance. As well as the start of one of the best rpg series' ever! Along the way three others will join Alis on her journey. Myau, the musk cat, Odin the warrior, and Noah the wizard. Spanning all three planets of the Algol solar system. Battles play out in a first person perspective, with animated monsters and colorful back rounds, unlike earlier Final Fantasies and Dragon Warriors. The graphics are among the best of games of the time. The story was fresh and original for it's time as well. When you hear of an rpg cliche it likely originated from Phantasy Star. I.e. "Cute" mascots. And anime style characters, among many others. The music is good, and catchy. I find myself humming the tunes often. Phantasy Star is one of the best examples of an rpg ever! Past and Present.

The Bad
The sound chip on the Master System was weak, so some sound glitches abound. Those not used to "old school" rpgs will likely find this a difficult game.

The Bottom Line
Phantasy Star is one of the finest rpgs ever created. With three sequels and several spin offs it also has built quite a legacy.

SEGA Master System · by MasterMegid (723) · 2006

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by Kayburt, Jeanne, chirinea, SoMuchChaotix, Riemann80, Alsy, Alaka, ryanbus84, coenak, Wizo, Gianluca Santilio, Dario Lanzetti, jaXen, Tim Janssen, Patrick Bregger, Thomas Helsing, Sonikku225, A.J. Maciejewski, ☺☺☺☺☺, Kim Haug, jumpropeman.