September 07, 2011

Phantasy Star - Ranking

Story & World

The Phantasy Star world successfully blends a classic fantasy world with high tech society.  The shiny domed dwellings in the unruined towns give a slick look that Phantasy Star makes all its own.  This is nicely balanced with the dirty look of the ruined villages, giving a constant reminder that all is not right in the worlds.  Since this is a game more about personal revenge than it is about saving the world, it doesn't offer much in fleshing out a back story (in game anyhow, the manual gives a few paragraphs).  Most of the quests undertaken don't have much impact on the world other than opening up access to different areas for the party.

Towns are filled with people, both standing around outside and standing around inside.  A small fraction give plain flavour text but most give some nugget of insight into the game world however vague.  Practically everyone had only one thing to say though there was a branching dialogue with Damor the Soothsayer which was ultimately lame (I failed it multiple times).  Certain characters are necessary to talk to in order to unlock a certain event but these are few.

In the same vein as Final Fantasy, any side quests to speak of are merely there to gain some item that allows the characters to advance to the next section of the plot.  Not all dungeons need to be complete as each one usually contained one item or event that needed to be done to keep advancing.  No dungeons contained any kind of special weapon or items which dampened the desire to search every nook and cranny.  9/20

Character Development

All four of the characters are static in class and identity.  There are a bare minimum of stats (Attack, Defense, Hit Points, Magic Points) and increases are automatic upon gaining a level.  No customization available at all.  Alis and Myau are both fighter / magic user hybrids though I didn't really use many spells other than for healing and transportation.  Odin is definitely a pure fighter class with Noah a pure magic user (though most of his attack spells suck).

Weapons and armour came in three distinct sets: one for Myau, one for Noah, and one for Alis and Odin.  Most of the weapons are melee weapons though Odin has a choice of guns to choose from as well.  Further restricting weapon usage is that each character only upgrades their arms around three times (sometimes less for shield slots) throughout the whole game.  It follows the standard "more expensive means more power" model prevalent in most RPGs.  Weapons show up with differing visuals in combat but after awhile all you see are a bunch of slashes (with the occasional pew pew of a laser).  All equipment is purchased through shops and shops give access to all weapons and armour available in the game.  4/20

Combat & Monsters

Most combats tend to be button mashers with everyone going full tits forward with melee attacks.  Combat magic was usually saved for boss creatures but was only about as powerful as the best melee weapon in the party.  By far, magic points were sunk into healing and transportation spells.  Lack of status ailments for characters and foes alike restricted any tactics (only one status of being Binded resulting in the loss of one or two turns).

Like the game world itself, Phantasy Star is full of unique-looking monsters with the majority having standard melee attacks and some having additional spell-like abilities.  Limited role play is available with intelligent monsters either through the menu choice to Talk to them (as long as they speak the same language) or using magic, such as Noah's Tele (telepathy) spell.  This merely results in some idle chit chat and the encounter is avoided.  A nice touch to counter the hack 'n' slashing-through-everything approach.  I already whined about the encounter rate before and that didn't change by the end of the game either.  6/20

Graphics & Sound

The annoying encounter rate was muted somewhat by the spectacular monster sprites.  Good use of colour and a wide range of monster body types (with some real strange and fantastic ones).  Monsters got larger and more intimidating as the game progressed (so glad Dragons never came in groups).  Crawling around the monotonous-looking dungeons became mind numbing to try to map.  On more than one occasion, the party would become lost and have to exit the dungeon and try again from the start.  Music was suitable for the tone that the Phantasy Star universe sets but nothing too special.  Sound effects were annoyingly clunky and most sounded like they were taken from early 80's arcade games.  The laser gun was especially annoying with its high pitch squeal that would go off once for each enemy in the group.  10/20

Gameplay

In the Phantasy Star world, people use meseta instead of golds.  It is a crucial resource since weapons and armour are rarely found in the dungeons.  Whenever the party came across a new town, there was always some new piece of equipment to note to come back to and purchase.  We rarely had the meseta available to purchase all the goodies at once and decisions needed to be made on who needed what the most.  There were also a few essential pieces of equipment, mostly vehicles, that were very expensive and kept the party nice and poor and hungry for more meseta.  There's not a whole lot of equipment to buy though and very few useful items outside of healing.

The worlds within Phantasy Star were somewhat nonlinear in that you could enter most areas but random encounter difficulties would soon press you back from whence you came.  The game did well in keeping the party advised on the next quest that needed to be done and where it was.  The difficulty was really high off the start, then became more managable as the party gained its other characters.  At end game, it became more difficult again although mostly do to insanely long dungeon paths.  Replayability gets a big fat goose egg (see Character Development).  It was a blast to play for the first 4/5ths but then got bogged down by too many fights in too long of dungeons.  12/20

Final Ranking: 41/100