Phantasy Star IV: End of the Millennium - Reader Retroview  

by JuMeSyn

25-35 hours


Rating definitions 

   The 16-bit wars were waged with words wielded working towards exclusion. The Genesis was supposedly the platform of sports, shooter, and action gamers while the Super Nintendo had the puzzles and RPGs. These crude generalizations were mainly for trash-talking or advertising purposes, but they did have a mild point in that certain genres seemed over represented on certain consoles. The RPG realm in particular was dominated by the SNES. This did not mean RPGamers had nothing worthwhile to play on the Genesis however, it just meant the quantity of quality software was lacking. At the top of the rather limited stack of quality traditional Sega Genesis RPGs can be found Phantasy Star IV.

   Outwardly Phantasy Star IV does not differentiate itself from the gamut of quality RPGs being released concurrently on SNES. Its battles at first glance are the archetypal random, turn-based affairs. The title does, however, provide a few unique attributes that make PSIV place itself firmly into the playerís memory. Foremost among these attributes is the technique system. Magic retains its usual place in Phantasy Star games, but each character learns his/her individual techniques (cleverly termed Ďtechsí) in addition to magical spells. Techs are independent of magic and can be used a finite number of times each, with that number rising upon level-up. Character techs can also be combined with the techs of another character for more powerful and visually resplendent results. Techs also do not exclusively deal damage to enemies, many grant status benefits that are quite laborious to apply with magic alone. Enemies in PSIV have their own techs that can be combined, causing certain enemies to merit immediate destruction ere the player finds him/herself in danger of death.

Yep, an android with green hair.  Go figure. Yep, an android with green hair. Go figure.

   Phantasy Star IVís story is fascinating, with far more time devoted to its unraveling than all previous Phantasy Star titles combined. At the beginning Chaz, an inexperienced Hunter (think pseudo-mercenaries who do whatever someone attaches a price to) and his mentor Alys have a job that requires the extermination of some nasty critters in the basement of a university. Bio-monsters are lurking about all too prevalently, and seeking their source brings the two (along with some friends) to a meeting with one rather nasty fellow named Zio. Zio is but the beginning however, as this mystery requires traveling from planet to planet in the Dezolis solar system.

   A Sega Genesis RPG with serious character development? It is to be found here. Chaz starts the game as a true wimp but is compelled to grow up as events force themselves upon him. Some characters receive less development but for Wren or Demi, a pair of ancient androids, to dramatically change in the time of this title is unrealistic. On the other hand Rikaís life is just beginning when she joins the party and her personality undergoes extensive alteration. The frequent story sequences allow for development to occur without too much combat in the interim.

   The story sequences of PSIV are mainly accomplished by comic-books style art panels. There are quite a few of these in the game and they all look very good, along with explaining where much of the art budget went. Other graphics are at the height of Genesis capacity. Spell effects never compete with the SNESís best, but then they arenít meant to. For the Genesis they are stellar. A number of different methods of battling are also present, with the cockpit of vehicles being the prominent ones Ė they are also represented via nice visuals that successfully differentiate every aspect of vehicle combat from on-foot.

No, you may NOT date my daughter! No, you may NOT date my daughter!

   The vast majority of music in Phantasy Star IV is delightful. Its only limitation is the Genesis sound chip. There are a few tracks that test oneís patience however, and unfortunately the primary offender is the regular battle theme. Not that it is necessarily BAD, but it does not repeat ad infinitum well. This is balanced by every other fighting music being very good. Sound effects are effective without being memorable. Being the Genesis, voice acting is not a factor.

   Phantasy Star IVís greatest detriment is a lack of challenge, unfortunately. Individual fights at times can pose a threat, and a few bosses stand up and make themselves noticed. By and large however the game requires little ancillary combat to make up for deficiencies in levels beyond what the player will encounter moving to and fro in dungeons and the world map. RPGamers with memories of the nasty challenges and confounding dungeons in earlier Phantasy Stars will find this title lacking in those areas.

   The main quest does little to promote replay, but there are a few side quests to warrant another play. Being a Hunter means Chaz will receive opportunities to take on side quests, usually for pay. The tasks involved in these side quests range from taking out a gigantic worm occupying a farmerís land to consoling a child by getting him a souvenir to pry him out of bed. Also, a few areas have optional content near the end of the game. There are a few optional areas as the game progresses also.

   Traditional RPGs on the Genesis are a scarce breed. The Phantasy Star series is the pinnacle of what is available, and Phantasy Star IV is the best of the Phantasy Stars. Despite being rather easy the game is just so engrossing and delightful as to prompt a joyous play anyway. Seekers of a great Genesis RPG that is NOT tactically based would do well to obtain PSIV.

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