Over the past few years I have been making an attempt to find and play many of the Japanese RPG games that I otherwise missed when they were originally released. For many years I had an aversion to Japanese RPGs because I felt they were too heavy on story and did not provide enough classic RPG game play. However, since that view was based on playing only a handful of games, I decided it was time to give this very popular genre a fair shake. What I found was interesting. Some of the games were too my liking (Final Fantasy I, Final Fantasy III, Paper Mario 1000 Year Door, Tales Of Phantasia), and some were not (i.e. all other Final Fantasy games). One of the things that noticed was that the very early Japanese RPG games were the ones I liked the most.
Today I started playing another very early Japanese RPG: Phantasy Star. This game was originally released for the Sega SMS. Since I did not know much about the game, I found these interesting (and possibly completely incorrect) details from Wikipedia:
- Phantasy Star was released on Dec. 20th 1987 for the SMS, 2 days after the first Final Fantasy was released for the NES
- Wikipedia states "Phantasy Star was one of the pioneers of the traditional console RPG format, featuring fully traversable overworld maps, complete with interactive towns, and sprawling dungeons. Unique amongst all games of the time was the faux 3-D graphics of Phantasy Star's Dungeons, a widely praised technological feat.
- The game has been routinely named on "best of" lists by publications with limited memories.
These facts might excite younger game game fans, but to an old guy like me they sort of piss me off. This is because:
- True RPG fans should know that the technology "Advances" stated above were actually pioneered in Ultima II, released more than 5 years prior in August of 1982.
- At the same time this game was released, an actual full real-time, pseudo 3D dungeon crawl was released for the Atari ST named Dungeon Master .
After playing Phantasy Star for about 1 hour, my first reaction was "huh?" The game starts with the thinnest of stories (little more than "you're brother is in peril"), and drops the player in a tiny town with a tiny dungeon, stores with very things for sale, and little else. After about 10 minutes of searching, I realized that my only option was to try to "level grind.". I was correct. I have never played an RPG where "grind" was the only real option from the instant you start the game! Fortunately, I enjoy level grinding in games like this, and I have developed vast patience for doing it. After about an hour I had reached the level where I could more move around a bit more freely and discover more of the world.
At this point. compared to the original Final Fantasy, Fantasy Star does not hold-up at all. From what I have seen though, the game seems to hold some interesting surprises down the line:
I plan to give this one a fair shake and report back periodically on my progress.