Hello all! Last week, I wrote a joke article, so there’s that.
This week, we get back on track, as I revisited a Sega Genesis classic to see if it still holds up. Does it? Well...
That’s NOT what Rolf and Nei look like. Also, that was a lot of memory back then, kids.
Phantasy Star II was a JRPG back before Phantasy Star was a series of MMO’s. Published and developed by Sega, it released here in America in 1990, twenty-five (!) years ago. Here, you played as Rolf, a soldier in employ of the government of Paseo. He sets off with Nei to slay monsters in a typical JRPG setup; basically, small story becomes giant story.
Right off the bat, playing the game today proved difficult. See, the original Genesis copy (which I’m working on tracking down) came with a manual and a giant hint book. It’s right there on the cover. I don’t own a copy, so I played the version on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection on Xbox 360. I look forward to your rage-filled comments, but keep in mind it’s the only version I own.
Anyway. Starting Phantasy Star II without any sort of direction...well, it’s tough. Back in the day, there was a lot of info covered in the manual (and, in this case, hint book), especially for a big game like this. Without a manual, the game sadly does a poor job explaining itself.
The battle screen gives you a good idea of how old the game is.
Phantasy Star II plays like a traditional JRPG. You explore, gear up in towns, talk to NPC’s, and battle in random encounters. The encounter rate is pretty high, and the game can turn you off pretty quick if you’re not into this style of gameplay. The battle system itself is pretty simple, but effective; battles typically don’t last too long; at least, most random encounters don’t.
The problem is, as I said earlier, the game doesn’t really explain itself too well. Take items, for example. In most RPG’s, even from around this time, highlighting an item in a menu would describe what said item does, i.e. “Potion: slightly restores health,” or something like that. Phantasy Star II doesn’t do this. Potions are called “monomate,” “dimate,” etc. And you aren’t told what they do in game. You have to use them to find out what they do, and that’s pretty rough, considering money can be pretty tight. Same goes for weapons and armor; you’re given no indication who can or can’t use certain equippables.
We do get this awesome 80’s/90’s anime art style, though.
So Phantasy Star II is kind of tough to get into without some kind of guide to at least get you started. I played it way back in the day, but it’s not like I can remember everything about it. I mean, I’m all for challenge, but not the kind of challenge that occurs when a game doesn’t explain how any of it’s systems work. Just a nudge in the right direction would be enough.
And still, I love the game. I love the futuristic sci-fi setting, which is something you really don’t get a lot of even in JRPG’s today. I love the artwork, which, as I mentioned, is in that late 80’s/early 90’s anime style. The whole thing looks like Macross or something.
*SPOILERS FOR A 25 YEAR OLD GAME AHEAD*
...that moment when Nei dies.
Nei’s last stand, shown here.
See, Nei decides to battle a human-biomonster hybrid called Neifirst, who’s origins are similar to Nei. Nei is one of the toughest characters around (hell, she levels much faster than anyone) but Neifirst still kills her. Permanently.
Keep in mind, this was years before Final Fantasy VII killed off Aeris and shocked you by killing off a playable character. And then all those “resurrect Aeris” rumors dominated the Internet for a time, or that kid in school had a brother whose friend totally revived Aeris.
People seem to forget that you definitely, really, 100% could resurrect Nei, though! Briefly. For the second part of the Neifirst battle, anyway. Still, Nei’s death is the centerpiece of Phantasy Star II; there’d likely never been a playable character death in any JRPG that had this kind of impact. She’d been with the party since the beginning, and it’s pretty devastating to lose her. And this was in freaking 1990, when stuff like this just didn’t happen in games.
So! Get a guide, read a walkthrough. Do something to get you started, because while Phantasy Star II can be nebulous and grind-heavy, it’s still great. Oh, and the music is awesome. Almost forgot.
Next week-We’re going with another JRPG, but we’re keeping it light. On a related note: vote for Geno and Mallow in Smash Bros.