It's a wonder what $10 can buy you these days. Whilst shopping for
Playstation stuff at the mall recently, I perused the used Genesis
rack as I am often prone to doing (primarily to find a copy of
also keeping my eyes open for anything else good.) Lo and behold,
I come across Phantasy Star 4. Though I was a Sega Master System fan
back in its day, I had never played the original Phantasy Star,
and a screwed up save game caused me to give up on Phantasy Star 2
years ago. I picked up Phantasy Star 4 given that the game usually
goes for high prices online, but finishing it, I realized what
a truly great game it was. Since then I've played the other games in the PS
series, but found Phantasy Star 4 to be on the top.
Like most RPGs, the plot starts off small and grows from there.
Chaz and Alys are a team of bounty hunters recruited to investigate
strange happenings in the basement of an academy on the planet
Motavia. Along the way,
a curious biologist named Hahn also joins up to help your search.
In addition to the bizarre monsters, you find strange breeding
capsules way in the depths of the basement. You soon learn about
an expedition team that found these things, brought them to the
academy, returned to their archaelogical dig, then disappeared.
Curious as your characters are, they journey off to find out what
happened to the dig team. Mysteries unfold with a strange wizard named
Zio and his worshipping of...yep, Dark Force! You'll venture onto
space stations, explore other planets in the Algo Star System (Parma
was blown up but there's still Dezolis, which is having climate
control problems similar to PS2) and save the world as we know it from
all evil. Though it's a pretty standard plot on the outisde, there's
enough neat twists to make it worth playing.
Everyone who was disappointed with Phantasy Star 3's departure
from the series (both in storyline and style) will be pleased to
note that it's been fixed in Phantasy Star 4. The graphic style
of the overhead world and towns very much resembles PS2, but
much more detailed and colorful. The battle scenes are also the behind-the-back
view, with backgrounds rather than that silly grid. The monsters
look and move quit a bit cooler than their wimpy PS3 animations. They tend to move
quite quickly, so battles really don't seem too repetitive or annoying.
you can assign attacks individually or set up a macro for each
character (you can have as many as five at any given time) to
execute a certain action (attack, defend, technique, etc.) There
are also combination attacks vaguely similar to Chrono Trigger, where
two or more characters combine their attacks to form a super weapon.
However, you need to discover these attacks on your own (or cheat
and find them on the Internet)...they aren't handed out to you.
There are little other bits that distinguish the Phantasy Star series
from other popular RPGs. There are a few cyborg characters like Wren (who
should be familiar to Phantasy Star vets) that can't be healed by normal
convetions, but instead regenerates his life by every step. You'll
also find a few vehicles to play around in, like a Sand Rover or Ice Cruiser, plus
the spaceports to travel to different places in the Algo star system.
There are still techniques that most characters can use (the equivalent
to magic) but there are also special powers, unique to each character, that
can only be utilized a certain amount of times. Luckily, this number grows
with each level and is replenished at inns.
Vital storyline points are explained through the use of still anime panals.
It's nothing like any of the Working Designs games for the Sega CD, but
they're still quite good for the cartridge. I've always found that seeing
a character other than walking or in battle tends to give more to their
personality. The chararacters themselves are pretty cool as well...the
protagonists Chaz and Alys are cool characters, Rika is a naive numan
(bioloiglcal experiment similar to Nei in PS2) that wields a mean claw;
Gryz is a powerful, blue-furred, axe-wielding warrior; Kyra is a powerful
esper magician; Rune is an arrogant yet handsome wizard (some females
I've met online utterly adore him); Wren and Demi are the two cyborgs
mentioned earlier; and Raja is a wise-cracking Dezolian priest (who
serves to lighten the mood with blitheringly idiotic jokes.) It's a great
cast of characters, certainly better defined than most RPGs on the market.
Heck, there's even an option for the party members to talk amongst each
other and discuss the current objective!
The music here is very impressive...since it is one of the later Genesis
titles, the sound technology had advanced quite a bit farther than
the previous installments. The drums all sound very cool and complement
the music well. And no good RPG would be complete without a good battle
theme (since you have to hear it so often.) Phantasy Star 4 definitely
has this...the main battle theme is awesome, plus the other fight tunes (inside
a vehicle, the various boss music) are full of fury. When you beat
the game, you can even access a sound test (press B when highlighting
the continue options.)
People annoyed with the walking speed in other RPGs will have no qualms...
everyone moves quite fast and with the vehicles, move even faster when
out in the open. There is one control problem I had with the menus though.
The blinking cursor seems to be a bit too sensitive, moving down two notches
instead of one. It's not my controller either...as long as you
take it slow, it won't be a huge problem, but it can get irritating in
battle scenes when you wish to choose Macro but instead hit Run.
Alot of people have complained about the easiness of Phantasy Star 4; on
the contrary, I think it's just the right difficulty. You'll need to
spend plenty of time building up levels, as there are certain really
tough spots that require strong characters. But there's not so much
level-upping as to annoy most people. I do think that the combination
attacks are a bit too powerful and probably contribute to the reason
why everyone says it's too easy, but I honestly prefer something that
flows well as opposed to a game where I constantly get killed.
Of course, there's still the question: will there ever be a sequel?
The box exclaims that Phantasy Star 4 is "The Explosive Finale!!", which
is both good and bad news. Sega never made any PS game for the Saturn,
just a Sega Ages disc with all four games on the same disc. But if this
is the last PS game, at least it went out with a bang. Because Phantasy Star 4 is, quite simply,
one of the best 16-bit RPGs out there...
right up in my book along with the Lunar and Final Fantasy games. Everyone
owes it to themselves to own a copy of this game, certainly one of Sega's