Phantasy Star II - Review

The horror, the HORROR!
By: LordoftheFleas

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 1
   Interaction 1
   Originality 2
   Story 3
   Music & Sound 2
   Visuals 2
   Challenge Hard
   Completion Time 60+hrs.  

The icy planet of Hoth  I mean, Dezo.
The icy planet of Hoth I mean, Dezo.

I’ve never played the original Phantasy Star. The reverence that it enjoys, however, is both widespread and unanimous. Thus one may deem it unnecessary to dissent against a game that incurs such unanimous opinion, as the overwhelming majority cannot be wrong, right?

Wrong. Case in point: the sequel to the game in question, which also enjoys great critical and public opinion: Phantasy Star II. If Phantasy Star II was supposed to be the best RPG on the Sega Genesis, as it has been labeled, than I really wouldn’t want to play another on the system. It’s extremely troubling when I see this game mentioned in the same vein as the SNES Final Fantasies and Chrono Trigger as one of the best 16-bit role-playing experiences. When I see things like that, it makes me think that I am not ‘getting’ something that everyone else did.

Especially since it took me approximately two years to finish this game! Yes, TWO YEARS! Not because it is especially long or extremely difficult or anything—it’s just BORING! I lost interest in this game so many times that I had to stop playing it out of fear that I would degenerate to a dysphoric state of catatonia. The horrendous enemy encounter rate, the sheer tedium of the battles, the grand monotony of the dungeons themselves, the dull characters…there is NOTHING redeemable about this game besides a respectable story and like one or two music tracks.

I say the story is respectable because it was very ahead of its time. You are Rolf, an agent of the government of the planet of Motavia. You are commissioned to retrieve information as to why monsters are suddenly increasing in population. The story soon evolves into a conflict with an entity known as Mother Brain, who controls all aspects of living on the planet. Yes, I’ll admit that the story is very well thought-out and deep.

But that’s the MAIN story. The counterpart of story, the PLOT, is executed hideously. You go from place to place, looking through garbage dumps and climbing mountains for little to no apparent reasons at all. It doesn’t help that often times the levels (dungeons in traditional RPGspeak) are dreadfully long, and are designed so tediously that every single one of them feels like an unintelligible maze. The characters don’t add anything to the game either; as a matter of fact they detract from it, as the only thing any of them say is a blurb they spout out when you meet them, and from then on most of them end up as a waste of space.

Babe, I need to go and take a leak
Babe, I need to go and take a leak

Lifeless characters and horrible level design could be forgiven if battles were fun, but inexplicably that is not the case with this game. Part of the problem is due to the localization, as the names of the skills and spells seem to be based more on a system of onomatopoeia than on what they actually entail (Fireball or Swordslash, for example). This, coupled with the fact that Dragon Warrior II boasts a more enjoyable battle system (with better effects, on the GBC version!) spells nothing but trouble for this game.

And now my friends we have…interaction. This game’s menu system is sooooo bad—but I am prepared to admit that part of the reason is because the Genesis’ controller is not intuitively designed for role-playing. But you will find yourself opening up unwanted menus and canceling out of something accidentally more than once. You don’t have to open a menu to talk/search/open doors mind you, but the inconsistency of the various status menus is a real pain. Also, you cannot see stat upgrades when you buy weapons/armor; and each character can only carry a set amount of items. This can make those long dungeon treks especially time consuming, as many times you will find yourself having to leave just to re-stock on items. Thankfully, later in the game there is an item in the game that allows you to save anywhere. With that, you can stop playing this game and play something much more worth your while any time you want.

As for the music, there are like 12 tracks in this game. Most of them sound the same and they repeat infinitely throughout the adventure. There are a couple of memorable tracks, but you will most likely get tired of this game’s music and resort to playing your favorite CD’s or something.

The graphics are plain: nothing too much to fault, but definitely nothing spectacular either. At least you get to see all members in the active party onscreen though. Lastly, this game is original only in the sense that future games learned the what-not-to-do’s of presentation from it (ok that’s kind of harsh…it is slightly original). There, I think that covers everything.

In conclusion, this game sucks. That’s all I have to say. As you can see I was highly disappointed, and that was only made worse because I was looking to be thoroughly impressed. When one learns that Final Fantasy IV, A Link to the Past, and Dragon Quest/Warrior IV were released around the SAME TIME, it makes you realize just how bad this game really is. Maybe I just didn’t ‘get’ it…I don’t know.

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