Late To The Game: Phantasy Star #2: Ground To Halt

Note: I started this series to document my “return” to the old RPG series Phantasy Star played via the Gameboy Advanced cartridge “Phantasy Star Collection”. The previous entry in the series is here:

My name is Alis and I have a problem. I’m addicted to walking around the space woods killing everything in my path. Sure, the stuff I kill are dead trees, owl bears, and the mysteriously spelled sworm but it still seems like kind of problem, doesn’t it? The thing is, I would gladly do something else in the countryside, IF THERE WAS SOMETHING ELSE TO DO, but there is not (or was not until late last night).

The “grind” in Phantasy Star hits near the beginning of the game and seemingly never ends. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as again, “grind” is part of all good old school RPGs. Watching those little number increase a bit at a time is part of the fun of these games. However, I was shocked that the game dropped to this so quickly. I spent about 10 hours traveling around the small part of the world that is accessible at the beginning of the game. It was enjoyable until I finally realized I had nothing left to do. I was beating most of the monsters handily, and I could not find a way to advance any further. All the caves had locked doors, and all cities were surrounded by impenetrable forests and barriers. There was no place to go.

A store in one of the towns offered “Secrets” for sale, but the shop keeper keeper kept telling me to “get lost” every time I asked him about it. All the the other dungeons (save for one with a stone man inside) were locked. I was stumped. The game had ground to a halt, literally, and figuratively.

I was so stumped in-fact, that I looked for an online walk-through. I hate doing this, but I really wanted to continue in the game. I easily found one on Google, and and quickly scanned it for the pertinent information. I found out that, indeed, the “Secrets” were what I needed to buy. however, I had to repeatedly ask for them or it would not work.

I went back to buy the “Secrets”, and after three tries I was able to purchase them. “Them” turned out to be an “it” as in “road pass”, which allowed me to get to the space port, travel to another planet, acquire a cat as a fellow adventurer, obtain a serum to make the stone-guy “not stone”, go “un stone” the stone guy “Odin” who then joined my party. Odin led us to a compass in the same dungeon (only unveiled after Odin is “un-stoned”), which then let us travel to a city that was as-yet unreachable because of a thick forest. In the city I found a guy who told me he had hidden the “dungeon key” in a warehouse in the starting city of the game. I retrieved this “dngn key” and then made my way to one of the previously un enterable caves on the landscape where…I got totally lost inside after about 10 minutes. All of the exposition occurred within 30 minutes of buying the “Secrets”.

I was shocked at how much fell into place at once. The “Secrets” thing seems like an unnecessary game design flaw that would have rendered the game unplayable for me if it was not for that fact that 20 years after it was released there are online walk throughs every where. I suppose this is the sort of thing I would have talked heatedly about with my fellow SMS owning buddies on the 5th grade playground in 1988 trying to come-up with a solution (except for the fact I was in 12th grade and no one else I knew owned a Sega Master system…plus with a girlfriend and a car to support there is no way I would have bought an 8-bit video game cartridge for $69.99 or be caught playing dead it, but that’s a different story).

Anyhow, besides this one fatal game design flaw, I very much enjoy Phantasy Star. I can see why it was such a popular game in 1988. I do not think it is quite to the level of Final Fantasy 1, but it is still a very good ride. There is still much to discover and and many adventures in which to participate, so I am far from done writing about the game experience.

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