Monday, January 30, 2012

Game 1: Phantasy Star (SMS) - Introduction

This is a game that needs no introduction, but I'll give one anyway. Possibly first console RPG released in the US (I can't find an accurate date for this or Miracle Warriors) and definitely the first to have a sci-fi theme, Phantasy Star kicks off an epic adventure that spans four games in the main series. With strong influences from Ultima (evident by the overhead view for towns and the world map, and first-person for dungeons), Phantasy Star sets itself apart by telling a story with characters that show personality and are deeply involved in the events. Alis watches as her brother is killed; swearing revenge, she sets out to vanquish the one responsible for his death.

I had never heard of this game as a kid. Our family was a Nintendo home (at least until Nintendo 64, but that's another story). So I heard little of the Genesis, and much less of the Sega Master System. However, even if I had heard of this game, I probably couldn't talk my parents into paying $200 for the console and this game. A few years back I was fortunate to have found GameTap, and played this through there for about 5 hours. Being on a time limit I was trying as many games as I could and jumped from game to game to get a feel for them. I remember getting a cat, and finding a statue of a man in a dungeon. Beyond that it's a little hazy, and I probably didn't get much further than that. I'm looking forward to getting into this tomorrow night.

Seeing as how I'm still without a Sega Master System, I'll play through this on the Xbox 360 version included on Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection. I've planned ahead and already unlocked the game, which required playing a 2-player game of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (yes, it needed to be a 2-player game); it seemed odd for unlocking a 1-player RPG, but I've learned that the same person programmed both, so I guess that's connection enough. It's unfortunate there aren't digital copies of the manuals for the games included on this compilation, but I was able to find one online that I'll read through tonight. Tomorrow, I'll play.


  1. Oh, goody goody! I love Phantasy Star. It's so cool that "fantasy" needed to be spelled with a "Ph!" ;)

  2. It's old school like that. I'm looking forward to it to, and considering that I found out that Miracle Warriors is release the same year (not sure which month), I technically haven't skipped it yet.

    For games that only have the year, I'm going to insert them in the list at my whim. I'll take requests into consideration as well, although I don't believe many people care about the blog enough to give opinions on it. Hopefully interest picks up. I probably need to get through a few games before that happens though. ;)

  3. After a few games, I'm sure there'll be a few of us who value this blog. Until then, just keep on truckin'!

  4. I'm sure interest will wain and surge depending on what game I'm playing through, and how much exposure this gets. I'd be playing through anyway, although maybe not detailing as much (see previous attempt to do this). Just wait until I start hitting the big name titles like Dragon Warrior, Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, et al. Then my readers will double! :D

  5. Good to see you're off and running Zenic. Once you get a few games under your belt, I will happily give your blog a mention and link from mine. Not that I have an incredible amount of readers, but a fair portion of the CRPG Addict gang seem to be migrating across.

    The important thing is that you enjoy it. I'd write my blog even if only 5 people were reading it, because I really enjoy playing and analysing the games. As long as I do, I'll keep going.

    I've never played a console RPG, but I'll still be reading. :)

  6. Good to see you here Trickster, I'm enjoying your blog very much. I'm sure I'd be putting this together in some form with or without an audience, but it's definitely nice to have some banter between more formal updates. I appreciate the nod and understand your waiting until I've put some meat on these bones.

    I haven't played many of the PC adventure games you're going through, but I check for updates from you daily. Tass Times was quite the adventure, and I look forward to hearing how you progress through the rest of the strange and unknown. I hope I keep this interesting enough for you and others to continue reading.

  7. I wouldn't call it underrated. It's highly rated, but may have been obscure compared to Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior/Quest.

    Should I include more of the back story? I suppose I haven't mentioned there are three planets to explore. Of course, without knowing how large these planets are, they might as well just be continents without controlled space travel. Also, the manual mentions things changed when he donned some kind of armor, and mysteriously no one has ever met the members of the religious cult (which begs the question of how Lassic was able to find them).

    Fans of the series say it actually gets better with each sequel. We'll see how it does when compared to other CRPGs of the time. I took another look at my list and see that Phantasy Star II is actually the first CRPG released on the Genesis. For some reason I had thought the Shining series was around the same time, but the first (... in the Darkness) isn't out until after Phantasy Star III.

    In Japan, Dragon Quest was first to market, so I can see how Nintendo got a foothold with RPG fans, and this may explain why Phantasy Star isn't as big as the RPGs that got their start on the NES/Famicom.

  8. @Zenic Yes more backstory. As The Trickster can tell you I'm always after him to give more detail about each game, so that I can get a better feel for it.

  9. @Zenic: Canageek means it! He is indeed constantly at me about it. ;)

    I appreciate it too as it can sometimes be difficult to know whether you're giving the readers enough information to understand what's going on. We know exactly what's going on because we're playing the games, but getting that knowledge into posts can be difficult.

    Canageek, you haven't criticised me for a couple of posts. Am I doing something wrong? ;)

  10. Nah, you are fine, I just haven't seen much to criticize in your Maniac Mansion posts-- Lots of detail, examples, etc. Also I've been crazily busy.

  11. @Trickster: I completely agree, and I think it's the greatest thing I struggle with. I'm often questioning myself over what I should discuss, how much detail is interesting, or if it'll all just be too much to read. I try to hit key points in each post, covering a bit of my progress, but what I find difficult is describing in enough detail something I already know. Bridging that knowledge gap is what I need to work on.

    Previously, I had assumed more familiarity on the reader's part, but with canageek and Amy's help I've come to realize that I should aim my posts towards those that may read based on only a passing knowledge of the title and maybe a main character. Gaining an overall reader base that stick around game after game, I really should write towards someone with no idea what the game is about.

  12. I just found this blog from Adv. Gamer, and I'm highly interested. Despite following CRPG Addict and Adv. Gamer, I never really played many PC RPGs as a kid, and I still am not really into adventure games. However, I -loved- me some console RPGs as a wee one.

    One little irk though: should you really be going by U.S. release date? I mean, this is a blog predominantly about JRPGs, right? Shouldn't you go by their original release date

    You're probably thinking, "Why would this matter?" However, with a blog like this, I think you really want to chart the course of console RPG development. To do that.. you should really start with Dragon Quest/Warrior. I know it didn't come out until 1989 in the states, but it came out in early 1986 in Japan (compare to the end of '87 for PS). This baby started the whole trend, and all JRPGs, including Phantasy Star, owe a heavy debt to the Dragon Quest series. Hell, Dragon Quest 3 is more of a contemporary to Phantasy Star than the first one, as it was released within a few months (in Japan) of PS.

    If you want more reason.. well.. CRPG Addict plays games in their original release order -despite- the release date of the PC port. That seems like sort of.. maybe.. a little bit of a comparable decision. Although, to be honest, this blog is sort of on its own in this respect. Also, no decisions made by other blogs should necessarily dictate what you do. I'm just really reaching for some sort of comparison point here, haha.

    Keep in mind, I'm saying this as a person who is a far bigger fan of Phantasy Star than of Dragon Quest. How big of a fan? My internet handle for almost a decade was Phystar, and, when I was a kid, 'Chaz' was my password. Phantasy Star IV took me from RPG fan to fanatic. Does that give you a sense? :-)
    I just think you should follow the development arc of console RPGs, which should give you a better platform to discuss, occasionally, how that arc is progressing.

    Sorry if this is out of nowhere, and I understand that you just need some basic rules to structure your attempt. However, given that this blog will likely focus on JRPGs (the predominant console RPG), it seems like you should favor Japanese release dates of Japanese games.

    1. I understand where you're coming from. There are two reasons why I'm doing it this way:

      1) I'm more interested in looking at this from an American perspective. Answering similar questions to, "what was it like for the American market to get Phantasy Star and Ultima: Exodus before Dragon Warrior?" is what I'm hoping to cover. Maybe this isn't as interesting as following development influence on through each game, but...

      2) Dr. Sparkle of Chrontendo is already doing an excellent job of covering all console games based on Japanese release dates. He's also considering all genres, while I'm only covering CRPGs, so he's able to take into account a greater range of influence.

      After these initial years, the overall delay between each game becomes less noticeable, so going forward there aren't many cases of a seminal game coming out in Japan before other CRPGs that are released first in America.

      I do plan on making mention of the release order in Japan compared to the release order in America, and while it's true that Dragon Quest 1 and 2 were released before Phantasy Star, it was Phantasy Star that many Americans(well those that had a Sega Master System) saw first. It's that perspective I'm trying to capture here.

      I'll talk about this more once I get to Dragon Warrior since that is the one that had the greatest lag at the time for such a popular game. I can't do much about the irk you feel, but I hope it's clear why I'm going about it this way.

    2. Understandable. In any case, it's your blog, so you do it how you want. I just assumed DQ/DW would be the first game, and I was sort of surprised that it wasn't. You're right that, as we move forward in time, this is less and less of an issue.

  13. As a SMS owner I can tell you hat !iracle Warriors was out first. The sega newsletter I got in the mail hyped this for aeile as being the first RPGs before they even mentioned Phantasy Star. I got miracle Warriors the week it was released. I can't remember the exact date but it was in Summer I believe. was not for many more months until Phantasy Star came out. holiday season possibly. but there was a good few month gap between the two. I've also read various places crediting Miracle Warriors as the first American console RPGS.

    1. I had a hunch this was the case. Thank you for confirming. I'll get to Miracle Warriors soon too, so you can look forward to that. My current thoughts are to put it in between this game year and the next. I've been tracking Sega Master System prices, and so far they haven't dipped far enough to encourage me to buy one.

    2. As another SMS owner I can tell you that he was wrong, and Phantasy Star came out well before Miracle Warriors (in America, anyway). It was the summer, but the summer AFTER Phantasy Star.

      Check out issue 2 and then issue 3. Miracle Warriors was first.

      Also I wish I could find it , but there is promotional tape that had release times featuring both of these games that gave release time months. Also I lived it. I was calling the store every day for both of these to release. More axle Warriors was beaten for me before Phantasy Star was even released. ( I was a die hard SMS fan back then. But they were within about 2 months of each other. So still pretty close all things considering.

    4. Thanks for the sources. Always good to have those.

  14. Are you ignoring anything from the pre-crash era, such as the AD&D games for Intellivision?

    1. I have been. Should I not be? I actually thought maybe I should take a look at older consoles like Intellivision, but I didn't think they had anything I'd consider a CRPG anyway. I'm probably wrong on that though. I skipped it mainly because I figured getting one, the games, and hooking it up to stream just wasn't worth it.

      With the idea of emulating not being a completely alienating one, I've looked into these older games just now. I'm already planning on going back to play Miracle Warriors, so at the same time I'll play through these too. Here's my current list, let me know if I'm missing anything:

      Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Cartridge
      Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin Cartridge
      Swords & Serpents
      Tower of Doom

      Gateway to Apshai

      Now I just need to figure out how to play them. :D

    2. There's a Forbes article you can Google for that credits Dragonstomper for Atari 2600 as the very first console rpg (and more interestingly as the best game ever or something just as questionable) .

    3. I'm definitely looking at the Atari 2600 games, and Dragonstomper is on the list. I might play it, but it seems more like an action-adventure instead of an RPG. We'll see though, I might play through it anyway.

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