The Weekly Five: Why I love the Phantasy Star series

Phantasy Star Series

The Weekly Five has made its most triumphant return this week. Since this month marks the 25th Anniversary of the Phantasy Star franchise, I decided to talk about my five favorite moments in its history. So hit the jump and let’s talk Phantasy Star.

Opening for Phantasy Star


Right when you start a  game in Phantasy Star it gives you that epic space feel in 8-bits: the camera moving from space down on earth, the awesome music in the backdrop. Right at the start it shows soldiers throwing out a person who is barely alive, who happens to be called Nero. Your character pleas for him not to die, then he turns around and tells you that Lassic has plans to destroy the world, and to go find a man named Odin.  Sadly Nero, your brother, dies. This is literally before you even start playing. I never played Phantasy Star when it came out, I played it in the 90’s when I was finished playing Phantasy Star IV and I couldn’t believe the opening.

I think the reason is because the game is so unique. First of all, you play as a girl, and this is something that was rarely seen in games. Even when you did play as a woman, it wasn’t really up front about it (Metroid). This girl, Alis, was a girl’s girl. Not someone in a mech suit who could pass off as a man. The second thing was the idea of a loved one dying and getting revenge. It’s something that is always explored in storylines these days, but for the time the game came out it was pretty unique. Was it the first game? No. Of course not.

PS1
But how rare was it? Final Fantasy II had a group of four youths getting revenge against the empire of Palamecia due to an army invading and killing everyone in their village, including their parents. But that game came out a whole year after Phantasy Star and Dragon Quest‘s early games were the generic ‘save the princess from the dragon’ type of affairs. The opening in the game captured the franchise perfectly.

Darkfalz’s invisible health


Darkfalz  (mistranslated, was supposed to be Dark Force) has appeared as a final boss in many of the Phantasy Star franchise video games, but for me the most memorable fight with him was Phantasy Star on the SEGA Master System (twice already? We just started the list!). It is already bad enough that the 8-bit RPG is so freaking hard, the only reason I actually got through it was because I cheated and used a strategy guide. Even with that, it was pretty tough. At some points in the game I literally would be scared just getting into a fight due to the fact that I could have died. Now imagine getting to a door, knowing that something big is on the other side and finally seeing Darkfalz. But that isn’t all, the bastard doesn’t tell you his health!

It’s like giving you mechanics that you are so used to, even little things like enemy HP, and then taking that away. After losing over and over against Darkfalz I had the rage moment, the moment where I threw my controller and cursed at the television. But in the end when I did beat him, I felt accomplished, like someone lifted a curse on my young fragile body. It’s funny that we remember the small details in games, like a boss hiding his health.

Phantasy Star Online

Hey, when I bought Phantasy Star Online I really expected the game to take pages from the earlier entries. Sadly Phantasy Star Online wasn’t anything that I wanted when I purchased it. I had my bit of anger, cursed the Sonic Team name on the box and shook my fist. After awhile of sobbing and bitching, I decided to take the title online. Then I found out what true addiction was like. The first thing that I loved were the lobbies, I loved the idea that I could talk to anyone around the world from my phone line. This was my first, true online game. I didn’t have computers growing up, the Dreamcast was my first online home experience and Phantasy Star Online was the first online game.

PSOlvl200

[Level 200? Yeah, goodbye life]

After a few months I was on at least 4 hours a day with friends I met online doing runs to level up, trading rares and finding out how to evolve my MAG into different things. Even though I whined about the game at first, I had quite a lot of fond memories with it and probably wouldn’t trade its existence for Phantasy Star V. Phantasy Star Universe on the other hand…

Phantasy IV’s Her Last Breath

People say that it’s things that impact you emotionally the most that you remember for years to come, and the death of Alys Brangwin was one of those emotional moments I will remember forever. Alys plays the roll of a mentor, being the highest regarded hunter in the guild, who decides to take your character (Chaz) under her wing. One of the villains in the game is called Zio, who basically worships Dark Force. They never really stated how he contacted the Dark Force, but it granted him power. He also starts a church to worship Dark Force in a weird Satanic goth sort of way.

 

PSIV-Zio2

When you first encounter Zio in the game and fight him you really can’t do much to him due to his being protected by a barrier of magic created by Dark Force. He then unleashes a ‘Black Energy Wave’ to try and hit your character, but Alys jumps in and gets blasted. You retreat, but sadly it’s too late for your mentor. I think what made the scene even more touching is how damn good SEGA got with cinematics. Using multiple panels like comic books or imangas and showing some artistic pixel art (Chaz’s bangs covering his eyes, only showing a single tear) made for very heart breaking stuff and one of the best moments in RPG history.

Phantasy II’s death of a monster


So, isn’t this what you expected to be number one? If you haven’t played Phantasy Star II, then you might not want to read on. To me the character of Nei was always that one person in the game who you cheered for. You wanted her life to get better. But why was her life so screwed up? Well, she was born due to experiments of combining human and biomonster DNA. Nei the character is a separated part of one person. The other half is Neifirst. After she tries to get her revenge, they escape with a bounty on their heads.

Nei gets taken in by an elderly couple. Sadly a hunter by the name of Darum is hunting her, kills the adopted parents and burns down their home. Nei wonders in the Motavian wilderness, until she reaches the city of Paseo. There she encounters another hunter who beats her and leaves her behind until she meets the game’s main protagonist Rolf, who treats her like his younger sister.

neiload
[Heavy Load? -.-‘ ]

So yes, quite a bit of backstory filled with tragedy; not to mention that when you start the game you realize very quickly how much everyone hates Nei, since she is considered a monster. She was someone who young people could identify with, after all everyone has that moment in their life when they consider themselves ‘strange’ and ‘misunderstood’.

So after I cheered for this character, hoping she would have a happy ending, SEGA had to punch me right in the balls. Yep, they killed her off. During a fight with Neifirst, Nei jumps in the way and has her tragic end. She is buried outside of Paseo.

Even though some of my favorite moments were a bit sad, it is what makes these games amazing. This is my love note to the Phantasy Star franchise and the incredible 25 years of entertainment it has given us gamers. Now we look forward to Phantasy Star Online 2 (Western release) and maybe Phantasy Star V? Is that asking for too much? 

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5 responses to “The Weekly Five: Why I love the Phantasy Star series

  1. Tiago says:

    I dont know why i missed this series, right now i’m playing Shining Force 2 (almost done btw) and then i’m gonna play Phantasy Star 1 on PS3, looks epic :3

  2. Gelloh says:

    Phantasy Star turned me into a huge Sega Phan! The original PS is still my favorite, thank you for this awesome article!

  3. Phantasy Star 1 I find much easier than 2. At least you can map the dungeons with graph paper, and there’s not as much grinding as 2, but there’s still a lot.

  4. radrappy says:

    great article and lovely memories. My first PS experience was PSO in 2001 and it is to this day one of my all time favorite games.

    I’ve tried to get into the older titles (with PS collection on GBA) but found them a little too dated to get into to. Your article makes me want to try again though.

  5. Motoki says:

    I miss the Phantasy Star series so much. PSI is what got me into RPGs and really video games in general in a big way. I really wish the series continued on (PSO is pretty much its own thing so not really counting that) but I supposed it’s good that it ended on a high note.

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