Friday, June 3, 2011

Phantasy Star II -- Part One

I killed Lassic. Peace could now return to the Algol system, but the game instructed me to go to the Governor's mansion on Mota. There I fought a demon, the real boss of Phantasy Star. Rolf, the protagonist of Phantasy Star II, dreams about Alis fighting this demon in the into to his game. He wakes up on Mota. The star system is a very different place than the one Alis inhabited.

The Mother Brain handles all of humanity's problems: from money to the weather. One suspects early on that this power extends towards the government as well. Rolf works for the Mother Brain, in fact, he's its top agent. Right from the start, a tension exists between what the player knows must happen: information about Mother Brain's supposed evil plans needs to be gathered, and what Rolf wants: to do his job as a field agent, go home, and watch TV.

In Phantasy Star, the people of Algol were beaten down, but some of them have hope. In Phantasy Star II, this virtue has degenerated into apathy and amorality. A band of rebels dynamites an entire town and steal everything in sight, and still it remains unclear to me as a player who, if anyone, I should be rebelling against. Probably not the misguided rebels, but probably not Mother Brain either. If there is one thing Star Trek has made perfect clear: computers lack the human emotion to rule people. Still, the question is chillingly relevant, and, surprisingly, Phantasy Star comments on real life more effectively than fantasy-RPGs.

The battle system is greatly improved, and I'm glad to say goodbye to first-person dungeons as well. Phantasy Star II compensates by providing the player with amazing music, easily on par with Final Fantasy 7, Sonic, Mega Man, Lufia, Ninja Gaiden, and other acclaimed video game soundtracks. Usually the battle theme in an RPG is "okay" and sounds vaguely "tense" which sometimes just translates to "unbearably annoying" or "seizure inducing." Phantasy Star II's battle music could roughly be categorized as "fucking awesome."

Sega brings this level of quality to every single track in the game.

I really enjoy the new battle layout, it's nice watching Nei and Rolf slash at the enemies. Battle formations are now varied, and Phantasy Star feels futuristic and exciting. Many genre perks missing from Phantasy Star (moving NPCs, huge cast of characters, dual wielding, etc.) are now, thankfully, present. Sega takes full advantage of the Genesis hardware and create a technical rival to Final Fantasy. But Final Fantasy 4 was really easy, even the Japanese version. You could basically beat it and sleep at the same time. I'm hesitant to call Phantasy Star II "underrated," because it's actually quite popular and I know many gamers out there already consider PSII to be the best 16-bit RPG ever created. I look forward to testing that claim.

Continue reading in Part Two!

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