Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Game 11: Phantasy Star II (Genesis) - Bad Habits

Game 11

Title: Phantasy Star II
Year: 1990 (1989 JP)
Platform: Genesis
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Genre: RPG
Exploration - Top-down (w/ layering)
Combat - Turn-based (random order)

"I had the same dream. A nightmarish vision of a giant demon and a woman warrior locked in combat. I'm but an observer to this, unable to act in any way. The horror releases a flurry of blows, and I awake with a start. I am alone in my room, the early dawn showing through the window. I'm Kyle, an agent of Paseo, capital of Mota. Shaking off the dream, I rise for the day ahead. I've been called into the commander's office to report for a special assignment first thing this morning.
Static scenes show the introduction above
The commander confides in me that he is having reservations now about the trust we've placed in the hands of Mother Brain to plan and control our future. Born of the biosystems lab, many monsters have invaded the surrounding countryside. Controlled by Mother Brain, this should never have happened, but it has. We must recover a data recorder at the lab that will tell us how the monsters were created. I say 'we' because while preparing for the journey, Nei insisted on accompanying me. I took her in some months back; I'm not really sure where she came from, but she didn't deserve the scorn and ridicule every laid on her just because she's a halfbreed of humans and the bio monsters from the lab."
I forgot to mention the release of the Sega Genesis back in 1989, a full two year head start on the competition, it was hoping to out do Nintendo by offering arcade ports of many popular games. It was also competing with the TurboGrafx-16 at the time, and had a price point $10 lower at release in the US. It usually takes 2 - 3 years to see anything other than ports or first-party RPGs come to console, so we'll have to wait to pass judgement on the console. I do hope it offers more than the SMS (hint, it does).
(Source: Wikipedia)
Phantasy Star II is the first RPG on the Sega Genesis (Mega Drive to the rest of the world), and a direct sequel to Phantasy Star. Direct probably isn't the best word to use since it picks up the story some 1000 years later after the events of the first.

The Algo (shortened from Algol) Star System is now run by a giant computer named Mother Brain. (With both this game and Metroid mentioning Mother Brain, I wonder if this is a cultural reference of some kind.)

All of the planet names have been shortened as well. Alis' home planet of Palma is now Palm, the previously dry desert world of Motavia is now a lush fertile world called Mota thanks to the biolab, and finally, the icy and desolate Dezoris has become the mysterious and mostly unknown planet Dezo.

My first task was to name the lead character. Not giving it much thought, the first four letter name that came to mind was Kyle (default name is Rolf). The game offers the option of renaming each character as they join the party, except for Nei. I'm going to take full advantage of this, and name them all differently, to protect their true identity.

Before venturing too far, I explored Paseo and gathered as much information as I could from the library and townspeople. Not much was really of note, but the manual mentions any tidbit of info could prove helpful later on. I have a bad habit of not taking notes, and not mapping, especially when there's no grid. I really should correct this: map everything, note everything, and not worry about taking my time.
'Room', nice descriptive text
I noticed right away in the first combat that Nei didn't come with a weapon (actually I noticed in the equip menu, but figured she'd fight with fists... she doesn't). I'd definitely have to take care of that. Luckily Kyle had Foi, an offensive spell, that could take out an enemy with a single hit. I used this to get some extra cash (Mesetas again) to buy her a weapon. Our combined forces got us as far as the first town, Arima.

Arima had been hit hard by a band of scoundrels. Using dynamite, they blew open most of the houses, leaving them in heaps of rumble devoid of valuables. Once here, I headed back home to find Rudo (short for Rudolf) offering to join my cause. I renamed him Luke and accepted his offer.
I feel like if I ask "where is Shure?" that I'm starting a joke I don't want to get into...
The next couple hours were a blur of grinding through the first dungeon, finding the key item to get into the second dungeon, and a run in with bad luck. I realized that I hadn't saved for a good while at the exact same moment my party was wiped during the last fight before heading back to town. My save is about an hour into the evening, looking at my party, I did manage to save after purchasing a shotgun for Luke, which is where the tide in battles really started to turn. I've since learned I can dual wield hand weapons, so that's what I'll be doing for Nei and Kyle.

If you couldn't tell, my second bad habit is not saving regularly when visiting towns. Unlike the first Phantasy Star, there's no save anywhere system. Granted the port I'm playing offers save states, but I'm not going to take advantage of them. I'm forcing myself to only save in towns with the memory bank (save point). It was a hard lesson to learn, but 2 hours lost will hopefully teach me to save at every opportunity.
This seemed like a battle I could win. In two rounds I'm facing the title screen
One other change of note is the lack of first person dungeons. The technology that was so praised in Phantasy Star on the SMS was dropped for Phantasy Star II (and possibly the rest of the series). Battles are also now in a slightly third person over the shoulder perspective from the party. I'll get more into combat in a future post, but there are quite a number of changes to the system.

Even though the world seems small--and so far there's no mention of traveling between planets--I have hope things will open up. There are after all more party members that will join my merry company than can fight in the four person expedition. I can only guess they decide to move in with me because that's where party management occurs.

Session Time: 3h10m (Total Time: 3h10m)

Extra Edition:

Since having written up the above, I decided to put the time in to get back to about where I was last night. It only took an hour to make the same game progress, although I'm short a couple of levels, and some extra gold. I've had a much easier time thanks to dual wielding bars on Nei and knives on Kyle. I hope my previous encounter with the Blasters was a fluke, and I can find a way to up my defenses or something before facing them again.

I also want to mention that there was a hint book, and maps that came with the original game. It's hard to tell what originally came with the game and what didn't though from the online resources I've found, so I won't be using any maps. The fact that they call it a hint book dissuades me from using it, so I'll refrain from either resource. The manual is my only reference material.

Session Time: 1h12m (Total Time: 4h22m)


  1. I hope its not too much of a spoiler but I'm pretty sure much later in the game you can get an item to allow you to save anywhere. But I can't remember if its an automatic item you get or you have to do something to get it. Should make things easier though. The problem with the hint book that comes with the game (I bought it out to watch your play though.) Is that while it does have every map of every dungeon in the game, it gives hints and and walkthougs right on the same pages of the map so it is hard not to only look at the map and not read the walkthrough. But I certainly used all the dungeon maps when I played this when it first came out. If only too make sure I got all the treasues in all the dungeons being the completist I was at the time.

    1. I look forward to getting that item. I'm re-reading the manual after having played for a bit, and realizing that some equipment might cast spells in combat. Probably not this early, but remind me of this if I miss one. I'm glad to be avoiding the hint book then, and the maps sound like they give away a bit too much.

      Personally, I think world maps are fine when it comes with the game, but dungeon maps feel a bit too much like using someone else's maps.

    2. Yeah, if you use some equipment, it'll cast spells. Also, you do get a mobile save item later. IIRC, it's not until quite a bit later in the game.

  2. I was a huge fan of Phantasy Star back in the day, so I have a lot of experience with these games. Two things: 1. Yes, the game definitely opens up. Like most Phantasy Star games, you get more and more modes of transportation as the game goes on. 2. This game is hard. Bloody hard. Hard enough that young killias2 had to use the hint book.. and still never beat the final dungeon. Keep in mind, I beat Final Fantasy 1 a couple years earlier than when I played Phantasy Star 2*, and I didn't have the map or monster chart or any help really with FF1. So.. yeah.

    *I played FF1 when I was around 7 or so. I remember barely being able to read, yet I was able to beat it without assistance. After FF1, I played (and beat) PS3 then PS4, before finally playing PS2.

    1. Sounds rough. I hope picking the right party members isn't part of the game. The difficulty was fairly manageable up until the third floor of the second dungeon where I got wiped out. Without finding additional equipment it looks like I might have to grind for a bit.

    2. I mean, it's nothing like, say, Wizardry or Rogue or some of the insane shit CRPG Addict has dealt with. However, the end-game is very grindy, and the dungeons get rather absurd. There is also a somewhat high encounter rate. I remember having difficulty with the final dungeons -with- the hint book.. and it provided detailed maps. It's easily the hardest game in the series. PS1 is somewhat difficult, but PS3's difficulty is more moderate. Also, except for the two or three times that the difficulty spikes suddenly, PS4 is super easy.

      Don't get me wrong: this is a great game. It's easily one of the best RPGs on the Genesis and the second best game in the series (after PS4). Don't worry about picking the "wrong" characters. That's not it. It's just a game that ends with crazy grinding and labyrinthine dungeons. I'd still recommend it as a "necessary" RPG for an JRPG fanatic.

    3. I don't think I'll be getting into any games as punishingly difficult as Rogue, but Wizardry is coming up soon. I believe they were made easier for the console ports though. I just hope the sessions don't become grind for 3 hours, make an hour of progress.

  3. I agree. You don't have to worry about the game being too small, and you're definitely in for a while. This game is really hard, from start to finish and has very confusing dungeon layouts (which is a nightmare or a great thing depending how you like your rpgs ;). However, it's still got a very special place in my heart, along with the other PS games. I still burn candles every day hoping for a true sequel (please don't get me started on Phantasy Star Online).

    1. What I mean by open up is having a choice of different places to visit. At the moment everything is pretty much in a line. There's a tunnel that's blocked by some madman that attacked Nei, so I'm sure he'll move if I save his daughter.

      I've never played any Phantasy Star game beyond 1 before. It does have some charm about it, but it's definitely not an easy game you can rush through. Phantasy Star Online will come up in a decade or two. There's also Phantasy Star 0 and Phantasy Star Universe. I'm not sure if Phantasy Star Portable is a new game or a remake. Anyway, it looks like Phantasy Star does have more games, if only in name.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. You can't hide your comments from me, I get emails. ;)

      I see now that I wasn't clear in my meaning. Sorry about that, it was late. I meant to say it's hard to tell what came with the game and what didn't based on looking for maps online.

      In any case, I think it'll be more fun to beat it without the hint book. If things get sticky though, I know it's there, and I won't feel as bad using it as I would a walkthrough.

  5. I played (and really enjoyed) Phantasy Star IV (emulated, not sure if it was ever released in the UK), but although I had a look at PS2+3 I never gave them much of a chance.

    Looking forward to seeing what they were like, but if they're anything like the fourth one you'll have plenty of grinding to look forward to!

    1. The first also had a bit of grinding, for the final bosses mainly. The gaps between the games get larger as we move forward (I guess more games released during each year), so we have about 30 games between this and III, and about 80 games before getting to IV. Based on my current pace we should wrap up the epic in about 5 years. I'm not sure if any of the other Phantasy Stars are actual sequels, but the I - IV seem tied in some way as the main series.

      The grinding I don't mind so much, so long as I have some warning that the enemies are going to gain death rays. I think a lot of play sessions will be centered on grinding out some levels or mesetas for equipment.

    2. If you thought PS4 was grindy.. well.. I just suggest not playing 2. PS4 is, far and away, the easiest in the series. The major problem with it are the difficulty spikes (you-know-who with the tower and you-know-who on the asteroid). Otherwise, it's more or less a cakewalk.

      @Zenic: PS4 is a great game. I'd say it easily belongs on a list of best 16-bit RPGs. Off the top of my head, I'd say it gets a place in the top 5. I can't wait to see you play it.

      And, yes, I-IV are all connected in the same way that I-II are connected. III-IV's relationship is.. complicated (to say the least), as the particulars depend on whether you follow Japanese or English canon. Still, all four games are directly related.

      None of the new Universe/Online/Zero games have any connection with the original four. There are a couple of spin-offs of the original four. There are a series of Sega CD adventure games about the various characters of PS2. On the Game Gear, there is an adventure game spin-off that takes place during PS2 (Phantasy Star Adventure), and there is also an RPG spin-off called Phantasy Star Gaiden. PSG is connected to PS1 but not really the others. It's hard to explain without spoiling.... All of these spin-offs are available in English thanks to fan translations. However, the only one I played at any length was PSG, which was decent but not incredible or anything. It would've been nice to have had access to it on my GG as a child though.

    3. I'm both glad and a bit sad that I'm not including games with no US release. I know I'm missing out on a lot of games, many good, but at the moment I'm still holding on to hope that I'm able to get through the current list within my lifetime.

      If you're still around in about 5 years, then you should be able to see me play through it. It really all depends on how often I get to play, how quickly I get through the games, and if I end up cutting any off (or adding any more).

    4. I'm always tempted to go back and try to finish PS4, there are some really good bits to it.

      I originally got stuck at "you-know-who at the asteroid", then on my second playthrough I got a bit further (there's a bit with trees... I remember that much). Was never sure how much further there was to go, it seemed endless.

      Slightly surprised there's never been a remake of PS1-4, although it's probably only as likely as a FF7 remake.

    5. For PS1 remake. For PS2 remake.
      Sadly these were never released in the US but were released as part of the Sega Ages line in Japan for the PS2. Also some of the collections make small improvements to the games but aren't quite remakes.

    6. @Andy: You were actually pretty close to the end of the game. IIRC, there was a minor dungeon, a couple mid-level dungeons, a bunch of optional stuff, and the final dungeon. Dungeon used figuratively, of course. None of the difficulty spikes from early come back, especially if you do the side content, of which there is quite a bit. There may have been another mid-level dungeon depending on exactly what you meant with the tree reference.... Still, none of these are even -close- to either the tower or the asteroid.

    7. @Sean697

      Those remakes look pretty good (although for a second I thought PS1+PS2 meant playstation remakes!).


      I'd be a bit more specific, but I don't want to spoil anything for Zenic! If I wasn't that far from the end, I might have to play through it again some time and finally see the ending!

    8. @Andy: Or, you could wait until I start my playthrough and play along. ;)

    9. That's a great idea! I will definitely do that.

      I might start with PS3 (I'd try 2, but I'm away all weekend, so won't really have the time to catch you up!)

    10. I actually play a rather conservative amount I think. Usually I aim for 10 - 15 hours a week, and often don't make it. So, depending on your free time you may be able to catch up, but no pressure. So far, it's only been 6 hours (4 if you discount my lost time from dying early without saving).

    11. "Those remakes look pretty good (although for a second I thought PS1+PS2 meant playstation remakes!)."

      Both of the remakes are Playstation 2 remakes. However, they certainly aren't full blown Playstation 2 games. They have somewhat updated graphics and a few other tweaks/changes/additions. PS2, in particular, has a major change that I won't discuss here. (Don't look into it Zenic!)

      "I might start with PS3"
      Warning: PS3 is probably the worst in the series. It has its own charms. The generation system is neat, and there seems to be some tweaking available for your characters. However, a lot of the systems don't work as they should, and the whole game comes off as less polished and less playable than 2.. much less the glory that is 4.

    12. There is an english fan translation of the PS1 remake out there.

  6. I think 3 gets a bad rap due to how different it was than the others. The first part of the game it feels like a whole other series with more of amphantasy element. But it is by design and as soon as you progress to the second and third generation the Phantasy star feel is definitely there. I love the fact that each different choice of bride plays out differently with different plots. The good thing is they bought back the backgrounds. The bad is that the monsters seem less detailed and animated. But looking back I think I liked it the same or better than 2. Just that first generation really throws you off until you figure out what is going on.

  7. I loved this game when it came out, but don't recall ever beating it. Seems like I wound up with a corrupted save or something and just never got around to trying to beat it again, though I've seen the ending on Youtube since. I enjoyed parts 3 and 4 as well, but didn't play the first Phantasy Star until years later as part of a compilation game.