Written by  :  Andrew Fisher (617)
Written on  :  Oct 03, 2018
Platform  :  Genesis
Rating  :  3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars
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Summary

Worth playing to the end

The Good

It's tough, but playable. The overall routine is quite fun, find out in which direction I need to travel from townsfolk, find the one that has the map of the route, complete a dungeon or cave if necessary, then move on to the next town and repeat the routine. It's very linear, in a good way, there's only a bit of backtracking. The overworld consists of a primitive map, like early Ultima games, divided into quadrants, but you also have first person view, in fact the overworld, not just the dungeons, is like a giant maze with trees and stone pillars, actually resembling Space Harrier in the first person view(released by Sega about 4 years prior).

The town/village graphics strongly resemble Phantasy Star III's, which came a few months later. The towns and villages are cute, resembling dolls and doll houses. I think the dungeons play quite well, part of solving them usually requires finding a map in the dungeon itself, like in Zelda games. You need to have a light source in a dungeon, but you find better ways of creating light as you progress e.g magic spells. One interesting thing is the spellbooks, you buy a spellbook rather than learn a new magic spell. If you don't think you need a certain spell anymore, you can sell it, the way you'd sell redundant weapons and armor.

There isn't any real need for grinding in this game, I think the fighting has been planned out so that you're never completely out-classed by your opponents(if you are, you're probably going the wrong way).

The background music is often impressive too, nice and melodic, but also hard rocking at times. One of the credited composers is Hiroshi Kawaguchi(Hiro) whose composition credits include Hang-On, OutRun, Space Harrier and Fantasy Zone.

The Bad

The story is thin. It can be thin and still be good and the story of the evil warlord Tsarkon has its moments, things get revealed as you go, like you're solving a mystery, but like a lot of early RPGs e.g the first three Phantasy Star games, your dialogue with the townsfolk, which is really what tells the story, is pretty unrealistic. It's mostly "kill monsters to advance to the next town", a town tour.

So the game is playable and doesn't require grinding, but I'd still strongly recommending relying to save states as the combat system isn't exactly great. One false move and you can get caught under a hail of blows and die. Another problem is the combat magic, it would make sense to be able to switch spells during combat, depending on the type of opponent and the how many of them there are, but the game doesn't allow that, you have decide which spell to have at the ready, before the encounter. I also think the development team has too many laughs at the player's expense, putting in too many fruitless dead-end paths or worthless equipment that puts you under a curse. Then there's the matter of the sword of vermilion itself and the way it's hidden from the player. Maybe the developers think they're clever, that's highly debatable. And there's also that other "clever" puzzle involving sleepy Dr. Basil.

The Bottom Line

It's probably about as good as the first three Phantasy Star games, even better in some ways. The play routine is pretty satisfying and there's a little bit of decent story, backing it up.