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LONG BLOG

Genesis REVIEWS: Phantasy Star II

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For those reading one of my Genesis review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:

I already reviewed a bunch of SNES games, so its natural that I am going to review the games of its prime competition. Does the SEGA Genesis stand a chance against the legendary SNES library?

My review series is based on the top 100 list of Retro Sanctuary

Originally, I post most of my stuff in a football forum"Goallegacy" which is the first online community I have ever joined. Which is the best place for a football fan (the REAL football, not handegg) to hang out in the internet.

Also, here are a number of extra rules for Destructoid:
-If you have any suggestion of a game that is not in the Gamesradar list that I should review, please suggest it.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.

Without further ado, here is:

67- Phantasy Star II:
Year: 1990.
Genre: RPG.
Publisher: Sega.
Developer: Sega.


First things first, I am changing my rating system to better rate different genres according to their own rules. It will still be from 50 quality points, but every title will start from 25 and earn/lose points according to criteria important to the titles and genres themselves.

The Phantasy Star series is nearly as old as the Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy RPG series, and while it is held in high regard, it never reached the acclaim of those other two franchises. The second game in the series is the first on the Genesis, and is highly regarded by Genesis fans.

Unfortunately, this is an example of an early JRPG that didn't age well. Still, there are glimpses of the brilliance that made gamers love it 26 years ago.

"Mother Brain is essential to our life"

In theory, the plot of PSII can be both unique an engaging. Its about a society that came to depend on a super computer that manages all of its needs, and as such struggles when that super computer starts malfunctioning.

However, in practice, the game's story can only be implied through its archaic and poorly translated dialogue. With sentences having limited punctuation, no indication of tone, delivery, or basic dramatically nuance, the game struggles at delivering any story.

This was common-place in the early RPG days, which is why many pre-SNES RPGs aged terribly.


This is one of the few times you actually get any story


Take your party members for example. Other than their introductory dialogue, they do not speak for the reminder of the game. There is no exposition, no character growth, and you will only depend on the very few clues provided and outside information to make sense of the story and game world.

Thankfully then, the PS series is unique in that regard. Set in outer space, its generally an interesting idea to explore a frontier planet.

Terrible Dialogue: -3
Weak Characterization: -4

"Fool! You say such things but your powerless to stop me"

Like all the RPGs of the day, gameplay is divided into exploration and turn-based battles, which starts randomly in dangerous areas such as dungeon and the over-world. PSII's combat system is geared toward automatic play, where you can interrupt the combat to issue orders to your party.

This means that battles finish more quickly, with only the toughest battles demanding close micro-management from the player.

Of course, this doesn't mean its all on autoplay, as the player must observe all the information on enemy and ally attacks to see if they need to intervene and change the game plan. Some enemies can cause a lot of damage to all party members, which will require special focus on them with magic attack, or simply healing to counter their damage.


I feel this guy is ill prepare to fight these monsters


Outside of battle, you will be visiting a lot of dungeon and cities. The over-world is interestingly designed, especially the second planet you visit.

Unfortunately, due to its ancient design principles, this game is a chore to play. In order to progress through the difficult dungeons, you will simply need to grind for levels and equipment. Roughly more than half of my gameplay time was spent grinding. Since there are party members that cannot be in your party, the grinding time will increase if you want to use other characters. Which is why I ignored a lot of the other characters because I didn't feel like
grinding more than I already did.

However, its not only grinding that will waste your time, but a multitude of other problems as well. It simply takes too much time to do anything in the game. Take healing for example. Once out of battle and you want to heal your party members, you must open the menu, go to the skill menu, choose the character whose skills you want to use, choose the skill, and then choose the character you want to use that skill on. Once you finish that five step procedure to heal one character, you are booted out of the entire menu and you need to repeat it again to use another healing spell.

Ironically, when you use items instead of healing spells, the menu doesn't boot you out of the whole thing, and instead you can choose to use another
healing item. Suggesting the developers could have figured the same thing for the skills as well.


Without a Map, you could get lost before the first dungeon


This is of course assuming you have a guide explaining what each skill and item does, because the game doesn't explain anything about items and skills. You are left looking online for clues about what each magic skill does.

Then we come to the game's dungeons, which are IMPOSSIBLE to navigate without a map or a guide. I have never seen such mazes in an RPG. Even with the manageable encounter rate of PSII, trying to navigate these mazes alone would be impossible.

Good Combat: +3
Too Much Grinding: -3
Caveman Design: -5

"The Many tragedies which have come to pass as the world falls into turmoil"

The visual design of PSII's world is both colorful, and aged. Especially out of combat. These are not the chunky sprites of other early RPGs, but an attempt at creating more "realistically" proportional models. This results in more unique models, and a different kind of world.

In battle, its similar to the style of Dragon Quest, but the backs of your characters are visible, and they are animated when they attack. Enemy models also animate when attacking (instead of the vibration effectsin Final Fantasy games) and are varied and interesting enough.

However, dungeons and cities are poorly designed, with some visual effects actually working against the player obscuring their view.


Its not always easy to find what you need in some cities


As for the game's sound, it must be said that it suffers a little from the Genesis's lacking sound capabilities. This results in several tunes sounding the same. Yet, these are some really catchy tunes, that fit well with the game world and are a delight to listen to.

There are only about 20 different tracks, which is small for an RPG but still OK considering this game's age.

Graphical Design: +3
Sound: +3

In Conclusion:

This is a review I know many would disagree with. Many would say I am judging PSII harshly for a game of its time, and that it was a much better game
if played in 1990. However, I am not reviewing this game in 1990, but in 2016. When making this review, I am making a recommendation for someone wanting to play the game now.

With that in mind, PSII has aged terribly, and as such I can only recommend to the retro enthusiasts. I can see how the game managed to attract such a fanbase back in the day.  Yet, where games such as Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy 6 managed to stay great despite their age, PSII suffers too much from it.

Final: 20/50

**************************************************************************************

Tips:

1- Character order is important, those in the front are more likely to be attacked.
2- Use maps in the internet to play the dungeons.
3- Use guides in the internet to learn about Skills and Items.
4- Whenever you go to a new city, go back to your house and see if a new party member joins.
5- Grind a lot.

Next Game:

Although PSII might be historically important, it didn't age practically well. As such, I spent most of my time with it struggling with its archaic design choices, rather than enjoying myself. I am hoping PSIII and PSIV aged much better.

Next game is apparently an interesting Adventure RPG also set in space. At #76, Starflight is another EA game on the Genesis. Here is hoping for some good time.

Stay Tuned

For Previous Genesis game Reviews:

The List


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About Lord Spencerone of us since 5:57 PM on 01.12.2014

Hello all, I am Lord Spencer, your friendly neighborhood royalty. Yes, the ancient bloodlines are letting absolutely anyone in these days.

Being the lurker that I am, I have been following Destructoid for more than four years. Well, its 3 AM where I live now, and I just plunged in getting HUGE in the way.

Here is hoping for a fun time.

Oh yes, here is a little more info about me that is probably not as interesting as I think it is:

-I owned and played about 1000+ games.
-I owned and read about 2000+ books (I counted comic books I read as a kid so this is not as impressive as it sounds).
-I absolutely love Legos.

Out of all the games I played, I only regret playing a few. I am a big fan of gaming, and thus I really like most of what I play.

Thanks to the excellent work of community member Dango, now I have a cool infographic of my top 20 games. This list is not my final one, but what I thought off at the moment. If you notice, they are presented in chronological order:





Oh, and here is a link to my blogs:
My Blogs