Over half the game is combat, so it's no surprise that the basic combat starts to wear my patience. Tech points are best saved for healing in the early game; it's more economical than casting spells in combat, which left me with one option, attack. It's helped mildly after finding items that give unlimited spell use, but even that gets old by the final dungeon. Having to use items or techs in the late game really drags out the combat, about a minute or two to each one.
Enemies are unique, and vary from robots to dragons, giant owls, mammoths, rabbits, and strange rock or golem creatures. It's a strange mix, but that's expected in these early fantasy games. Boss fights are few and far between, and actually do require some strategy. Once tech points and one-use items are gone though, everything reverts back to heal and stab.
|Enemies continue to be animated, some better than others|
The roster is impressive for it's time. When it comes down to it though, the need for this is very limited. The best well rounded fighter is the main character who can never leave the party. Rudo, the tank is also the most consistent damage dealer. Amy the healer comes early and is the best buffer. After that you have your pick of Anna, Hugh, Wrecker, or Shir once Nei becomes useless. Any one will do, as they all have their perks (some more than others). Each character comes with a personal story to give some background.
About the only customization possible here is naming each character as they join, except for Shir... she's bugged or something and wouldn't let me change her name. Each character has a set progression for stats and skills. Controls in combat are cumbersome once there's a need to do anything other than attack.
|If only this continued to show party equipment and techs|
There's a main quest, although motivation gets a bit fuzzy as things progress. You could call mapping dungeons a puzzle. The game originally came with a hint book. Forgoing that was my own choice, and seems to have added about 10 hours to game; I'm not sure it was worth it.
There are no side quests and there's only one area in a dungeon I'd call a puzzle (requires a certain skill). That one area really doesn't have a logical reason to exist, and that's a theme oft repeated. Everything is straightforward enough that the only difficulty is knowing exactly where to go.
|Dungeon puzzle: Left or Right?|
The story started strong, but seemed to get lost among all the dungeon delving. Speaking to NPCs offer some background, but are not much help in figuring out where to go. Dialogue options are unclear in many cases, and I found myself having to answer both to get anywhere. There aren't any descriptions for items, and any potential lore is not explained (for example, Nei, the character, and Nei, the equipment).
This is the first game to offer a progressive story. We don't get the end goal right away, although we get hints. There's no alternative or way to influence any part of the story. Due to the leaps of logic, I felt disconnected from the whole experience, and was glad to finally be done with the game.
|If Nei means that, what does that have to do with the equipment?|
Unfortunately, the game suffers from its interface in both battles and inventory. You must try on a piece of equipment in order to know who can use it, and if it's even worth having. Buying items from a shop will tell you if someone can't use it, but if they can, then you've just bought that item. Each character has an inventory, which is limited to two pages [16 items]. There is a storage container, but it's also limited to 16 items. In addition to the limited space, sorting an inventory is unbelievably difficult. Sorting goes like this: select the item, give the item, select yourself, the item moves to the end.
There is no way of knowing if your collection is complete. In fact, there's a point in the game where you collect items with the prefix 'Nei' and there's no way to see if you have them all other than returning to the quest giver. Some items have a tech/spell effect in combat, but most are low powered and repeated across multiple items. The economy did better than most games. I was running out right up until the last planet where rewards overwhelmed what I needed to purchase.
|Why does this room hold exactly as much as one person can carry?|
There's nothing that excited me about exploring the land. While some interesting places were described, once reached, these places looked very similar to any other dungeon. The explorable area is sectioned off into plot locations, with "keys" needed to progress to the next area.
This is the first game where I felt the graphics detracted from exploring. In every dungeon there's a parallax scrolling foreground that often obscures the surrounding area. Also, the view of the surrounding area is a little wobbly since it doesn't center on the party. The music is well done, and there's even a way to listen to each one.
|The majestic final stronghold of the Espers... looks like another dungeon to me|
Overall I expected more from this game. As a follow-up to the first Phantasy Star, I found it a little off-putting. From the changes to combat to top-down view of dungeons, it didn't quite feel like a proper sequel. The length of each combat coupled with the a sparse story that often left me wondering, "what's the point of that?" sapped my desire to play. I'm not sure the game would have been much better had I used the maps in the hint book, but it would have been shorter.
The rating puts it on par with Ultima: Exodus, but I'd much rather play through that game than take another shot at this one. Even with the possible challenge of playing through with only Rolf (this seems to be a thing), I can't see it offering much more.
Next up, I'll finally get to the poll and the next game, but first I want to clear up the list a little by cutting a few games. Also, I plan to update my other blog. I'll definitely be starting up Final Fantasy this weekend. I'm sorry for not being more consistent with posting and making progress. I think going more than a week without posting is a mistake, and I'll aim for twice a week, but won't let things get out of hand again. Thanks for sticking around.