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Capsule Review - Phantasy Star

Title Phantasy Star
Developer Sega
Year 1988
Platform SMS
Capsule Rating
 
Capsule Review: A seminal achievement in pretty much all respects, Phantasy Star was the first truly plot-heavy console RPG. While its contemporaries were still stuck in the "nameless knight saves nameless princess" phase, Phantasy Star had actual characters whose thoughts and feelings actually mattered. While the game's storyline is basically the same old "save the world" setup, the way it's presented is fresh enough to hold interest. Firstly, the game sported a female protagonist, something not very widespread in the era. Secondly, the game eschewed the old, boring medieval RPG trappings in favor of a sci-fi environment, establishing the Algo solar system and its three planets that would become the recognizable trademark of the series. Thirdly, the characters had actual backstory and actual dialogue, which made them more realistic and enhanced the game's appeal.

Although this is no longer viable, in its day Phantasy Star was even a technical marvel. Graphics were as advanced as possible for the time; sprites were made to resemble humans and not the super-deformed atrocities of other RPGs; furthermore, the game was far ahead of its contemporaries in paying attention to details like sprite and battle animations. The game also has a special format for the more important cutscenes that somewhat resembles Ninja Gaiden's; this format would be developed later in other games, and later still turned into FMV. Lastly, the game's dungeons were very innovatively designed, even if the multitude of trapdoors, floors and paths made them incredibly frustrating. In short, Phantasy Star is a lost classic in every sense of the term, far superior to any and all of the pioneering RPG titles of the time, and the start of what is arguably the genre's best series. Its successor would go on to improve upon all of its landmark achievements, and be underrated and ignored just as unfairly.

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