GENESIS: Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom:
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:
79- Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom:
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.
Among Phantasy Star fans, the third game in the series is usually derided for being different than the rest, and is considered inferior to the second and the fourth game. Finding Phantasy Star II to be a terribly aged experience, I cam into this game with some reservations. Anything that is considered "inferior" to that game would be damn near unplayable.
Yet, I found a significantly better game in Phantasy Star III, one that while retaining some of its predecessor's major faults still manages to push the envelope RPGs in general. Ironically, this game might feature one of the earliest misguided fanboy tantrums in videogame history.
"We are the keepers of our people's history"
The major change that ticked Phantasy Star fans off was replacing the Sci-fi setting to something more similar to medieval fantasy but with clear remnants of that space-faring past. It flagged the game as yet another standard RPG, instead of the unique setting of the series.
For me, the fact that PSII's setting was poorly used (it could have been set in a bathtub and it would work), makes this a non-issue.
Clearly, this third entry works much better in a story-level. While retaining the poor quality dialogue and minimal character interaction, the game's central premise makes the player much more involved with the game. Phantasy Star III takes place in three generations, and in each generation, the main character can marry. Essentially, this is one of the earliest choices in RPG history, and it has noticeable difference in the game even if the endings are not as drastically different.
Getting married in videogames always ensures an extra layer of interaction with the game
Apparently, the space-faring age came to an end due to the sereis's big bad, Dark Force. Then, a war broke out between the people of Orakio, and Laya. Early on, we learn that Layans are the scume of the earth. However, the plot unravels in a way as to question that assumption. Immediately, this is much more engrossing than the Dam hunting escapades of the second game, even if there is just as little exposition.
Generations Mechanics: +4
Limited Dialogue: -1
"I can see the pity and confusion in your eyes"
A lot of the time you will spend in Phantasy Star III is divided between two things, grinding, and looking in confusion for where you need to go next. Even though this is a linear game (when not choosing who to marry), there are still difficulties in finding where you need to go next. The map the game gives you is pitifully inadequate, and sometimes the game's environment adds insult to injury.
One entrance for a cave is hidden under the snow, and there is no physical indication of its existence whatsoever. If someone is not lucky enough to find it, they might search for hours to look for it. Especially since they do not know what they are actually looking for.
This issue is actually exacerbated in this sequel, but is made better with the decreased random encounter rate.
Other issues of the past game still remain. Grinding for one thing is just as important as it was, but at least new characters are not as useless. Outside of battle, trying to navigate the game's many menus still is a labyrinthine task. With everything taking thrice as much as it should.
You will get used to seeing the menu screen
Thankfully, this time around you won't need a GPS system to navigate the game's dungeons, as they are made much better.
Caveman Design: -4
"Come back here you dragon-spawn of Laya"
Outside of the mindless grinding battles against the bottom feeders, the battle system in PSIII actually manages to be tactical and interesting. Far more so than PSII, which is one possible reason some didn't like it. It actually necessitated planning your party's equipment more so than buying the best stuff.
It changes things from normal by adding enemy position, changing the spell system, and by the fact there are no misses or critical hits in the game.
With enemy positions, weapons have different attacking range. Some weapons weakly hit all enemies in a row, while other pierce through the first row and hit the back. Generally, the prime result you should look for is being able to finish each battle in one round.
Don't think you can beat Dark Force in one round though, but you are welcome to try
To do that, you will want to utilize the spells in your disposal. Unique to this game, is the fact that all spells for each character are unlocked from the start, but get stronger with leveling up. Additionally, you can change the balance for those spells. This means you can increase the strength of one spell at the expense of the others. Initially, you would want a balanced healer for instance, but once you get two of them, you would want specialize more.
Back to the one round rule, once you understand the battle system, you realize you could finish most battles in one round only. Through a clever combination of weapons that can hit multiple enemies, and one hit strong attacks, you can game the system on your favor. But you can even go further than that.
For instance, you can equip your front tank with two shields, making sure you spend minimal time in the archaic menus healing yourself. As for spells, you can either upgrade the spell that hit multiple enemies to prepare them to be mowed down by your melee attackers, or have a slow caster specialize on one target spells to kill that extra strong enemy at the end of the round.
This all combines to make a battle system that is engrossing if you take the time to understand it, even if it appears chaotic and confusing at first.
Good Battle System: +4
"You used and escapepipe, normally a smart move but you will need to restart the game"
Eve though this game was released only 1 year after Phantasy Star II, it nearly looks a generation better than that game. Sprites are more detailed throughout, and the environment, while less interesting, is much more detailed than before.
In the battle system, we no longer see the backs of our characters, but the enemy sprites are more varied well designed, and there is actually varied backgrounds instead of one black screen.
The "scene" screens are actually pretty nice
Generally, the game's presentation is acceptable for its time, even if the overall design is a bit stale and repetitive. Looking back at what I thought of PSIIs graphics, I cannot believe I was as generous as I was.
Musically, the same trend continues, with higher number of tracks of higher quality. However, these tracks do lack the catchy nature of its predecessor. One thing of note though is how battles feature more than one battle track, with planning phase and attack phase each having a different tune.
Sometimes in gaming history, you go back to a much maligned game and do not understand what all the fuss was about. Clearly, Phantasy Star III is a much better game than Phantasy Star II, yet it consistently gets lower ratings, and is derided by fans of the series as an inferior game.
With its unique generation mechanics, and its overall better presentation, this is a better sequel, and one with enough qualities to offset the many sins of its age.
1- Save before you make any marriage decision in a different spot. Maybe you would like to go back to see another ending.
2- Make sure you rebalnce your spells for what you need.
3- Many spells are cheap to use, so don't be stingy with them.
4- Generally, offense is the best form of defense, so prioritize having better weapons over defensive gear.
This game actually gives me hope in Phantasy Star IV. After experiencing the second game, I was beginning to think the series is just hyped by Genesis fans against the mighty Final Fantasy series, but this is actually a good (if a bit aged game).
Next in the list is ARPG and the first of many Treasure games on this list, Light Crusader @ 65. Here is hoping for a good time.
For Previous Genesis game Reviews: