Late To The Game: Sorry, Phantasy Star Is NOT One Of The Best Games Ever Made

I hate to do this. I like to keep these blogs as positive as possible, but in this case I just can’t do it. I am finished with Phantasy Star. I did not finish the game mind you, but I have finished my time with it. I ran into another “puzzle” that required the player simply to revisit a location several times before an intended outcome would surface. I did not find this out on my own, but instead, “discovered” it by reading the walk through. I’m a fairly good RPG player, so if I have to read a walk through more than a few than a few times, it means something is amiss. Either I simply suck at the game, or the game has not been designed logically. In this case, I blame Phantasy Star. Logically, I just don’t consider “talking to the same person multiple times until they tell you what you want to hear” either a puzzle or a solution. It’s just lame. If, for instance, I had to find something to give the player, or do something to make the player think I was worthy of the information, or maybe find a magic ring to increase my “negotiation skill”, then I might be able to accept this as a puzzle. However, as it stands, it is just a game design flaw. I suppose, to console players in 1987/1988 this might have seemed like a “brilliant” idea, but really it was just a needless roadblock to make a very linear adventure story last long enough to be considered an RPG.

I might be able to forgive Phantasy Star for it’s flaws if it was not for the fact that other games managed to fix these problems years earlier. Back in 1985, Ultima IV included a very complex puzzle engine that included characters that would react to things you had done in the game world. For instance, if you went around killing beggars all the time, you might run into someone who would not speak to you until you redeemed yourself by doing “good works”. While it was a relatively simple idea, but it gave the player a reason for “why” someone would not speak to you, and it also gave you a logical path to get out of the situation. And if you are thinking to yourself something like “Ultima IV was a computer game so it could have sorts of features because computers games could be as large as the developer wanted to make them and my little Sega Master System could not make games that large and my favorite game needs to be judged by the standards of consoles at the time blahditty blah blah blah” I would respond to you that Ultima IV ran on my Atari 800 on 2 double sided 90K disks. That 360K of space (including save games). Your Phantasy Star was a 512K, 4-megabit cartridge. So it had nothing to do with space. It all had to do with design, and Phantasy Star, sadly, was not a very well designed game. It was pioneering ONLY as the first real RPG released in the USA as console game, but not as an RPG. It might make short-sighted best-of lists, but it certainly doesn’t stand-up over time.

So, now I’m moving on to Phantasy Star II. Hopefully the next game in the series will show me what all the Phantasy Star fuss was all about.

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