Phantasy Star. That name sends shivers through the spines of all those who have experienced the series on the Sega Master System or Sega Genesis consoles. This RPG franchise of Sega is widely considered a rival to Square Enix's Final Fantasy series. In light of its success, Sega decided to allow THQ to publish certain Sega titles on the Game Boy Advance. THQ, along with Digital Eclipse, then ported Phantasy Star 1, 2, and 3 to the GBA under the moniker "Phantasy Star Collection". Although missing arguably the best game in the series (number four), THQ did a good job, for the most part, in porting these three games to the GBA.
Phantasy Star 1 was an 8-bit game with revolutionary three-dimensional dungeons far ahead of its time. Following it, Phantasy Star 2 kept with the RPG standard with style and superb design. Next, Phantasy Star 3...was just Phantasy Star 3, and was widely considered to be the black sheep of the series. Fourteen years after the release of the first Phantasy Star on the Sega Master System, graphics in games have come a long way. It is fairly obvious that all three games in this collection look dated. Compared to other GBA RPGs, such as Golden Sun, all 3 games certainly show their age. Battle animations are decent in both 1 and 2, but are nonexistent in 3. Overworld maps are standard fare, but characters average one and a half times the size of an average town!
The music from the original Phantasy Star games was excellent. THQ and Digital Eclipse must have altered something something, because the game sounds horrendous when coming from the speaker on the GBA. Both music and sound effects seem as tinny as listening to someone speak with two tin cans and a string a quarter mile long. The GBA is perfectly capable of producing orchestral-sounding music -- listening to Golden Sun proves this -- but Phantasy Star Collection does not deliver this same level of expected quality. Sound effects fare no better than the music, but are not quite as noticeable due to the fact that most of them are meant to sound like metal.
The first Phantasy Star was the first RPG on the Sega Master system, and is widely held as a classic game. Released in 1989, most hardcore RPGFans have played it. The game is undeniably difficult, and yet extraordinarily fun. The battle system is standard, aside from the ability to speak to your opponents. The protagonist, Alis, can communicate with her enemies in an attempt to negotiate with them. In most cases, however, the game outputs the line, "Alis and the enemy cannot understand each other." Phantasy Star is also extraordinarily difficult compared to many modern RPGs. There is a decent amount of leveling up required by Alis and company. Those who were not bred on more difficult RPGs along the lines of Dragon Quest and the earlier Final Fantasy games may feel off put by this amount of required leveling.
Phantasy Star 2 tends to be the most favored of the games in this collection. Some believe that it is better than Phantasy Star 4. Either way, Phantasy Star 2 is an excellent game. Rolf, a governmental worker, wakes after a dream of a girl fighting a demon. He is then given a quest to go destroy a group of so-called Biomonsters that have sprung up. So starts Phantasy Star 2. Graphically, PS2 is the best looking game on the cart. The battle system is reminiscent of the first Phantasy Star's, albeit lacking the talk function. In addition, Phantasy Star 2's dungeons are among the best crafted in the series. While PS2 is just as mind-numbingly difficult as Phantasy Star, those who have grown up with it know how to love it.
Phantasy Star 3 is known across the Internet as the black sheep of Sega's series or, as many eloquently put it, "OMG That's the PS game that sucks lol!" Phantasy Star 3 took an entirely different route than its predecessors. You start the game as Rhys, Prince of Landen, who is about to marry Maia, a girl he rescued from drowning. A Layan worshipper took her, and his quest began to find her. But the game does not conclude with Rhys's story, because Sega managed to cram not just 1, but 7 mediocre quests into a single cart. The unique thing about PS3 is the generation system, which allows a player to select between two different wives for his character is to marry at the end of the each generation. Players will then control the child of the marriage in the following generation. PS3 is also the easiest game on this cart, with very little difficulty to be found in both random and boss battles.
The story of the Algo star system is as well known as Samus's adventures and the plight of Cloud Strife and his giant sword. In the first Phantasy Star, three planets are in danger from the sorcerer Lassic. The second introduces a greater evil known as Dark Force that threatens the existence of two planets. The third brings back Dark Forces who now endangers a traveling spaceship. The Phantasy Star series also introduced many now-clichéd plot elements before the other RPGs did. PS2 had the death of a major character and the destruction of a planet. Phantasy Star had a talking cat. Phantasy Star 3 provided a link between the descendants of an ancient planet and our very own. These pertinent and well-thought-out storylines are what made the Phantasy Stars such a classic and enduring series.
All in all, Phantasy Star Collection is worth the $30 entry fee. $10 each for two classic games and one mediocre one is not bad at all. These games do show age, but this is expected given that they are, in fact, many years old. With the release of Sega Ages in the US up in the air, this may be your easiest chance to adventure in the Algo star system without having to resort to finding a Genesis and Master System. The lack of Phantasy Star 4, arguably the best in the series, hurts this collection quite a bit. However, it is still worth your hard-earned cash.
© 2002 SEGA