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Written by  :  Guy Chapman (2001)
Written on  :  Feb 21, 2005
Platform  :  SEGA Master System
Rating  :  5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

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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.