OK, so I back-slid to Phantasy Star I last weekend after trying in vain to enjoy Phantasy Star II and Phantasy Star III. The later games have not aged-well, but, even though I can't stand some of the "puzzles" (too much repetition involved) of the first Phantasy Star title, the game itself is not so bad.
There is something very charming about the way the story in Phantasy Star unfolds, and I can see why so many people think it is a great game. I do not think it is "great", but it is "good", and it something worth playing, even in this modern age of games like Fallout 3.
And that brings-up the point of this post. I'm currently playing both Phantasy Star and Fallout 3. I play Fallout 3 on my Boot Camp iMac when I'm not working on the new version of the 8bitrocket.com web site, and Phantasy Star is played on my GBA whenever I have a spare moment.
Even though Phantasy Star was not the in any way the first "RPG", it was one of the first RPGs for a console that allowed you to save your progress. And even though I'm not playing Fallout 3 on a console, it is available for the 360 and PS3. So, in a way, I am currently experiencing both the beginning and the ending (currently) of console RPGs at the same time. The Alpha and the Omega is you will.
So how do they compare? Well, not as unfavorably as you might think. First of all, there are some interesting similarities between the two games:
- Both involve a family member, introduced in the pre-game back story, you must track-down/avenge in the game.
- (I'm guessing here) both stories involve a twist the involves your family member at the end of the game.
- Both are "single player" RPGs at the outset, but companions are found along the way.
- Both are set in futuristic worlds that are flavored by an alternative past.
- Both are highly addictive.
- Both allow you to [SAVE] any where (making them mid-core favorites of mine)
Now, what are the features of Fallout 3 that shadow over Phantasy Star?
- Atmosphere: Never have I played a game that so eloquently made me feel depressed about the state of a whole world.
- Impact: The impact the player has on the world is felt in nearly every action you take in the game.
- Linear: The game has a linear story, but there are many paths and many sub quests and the feeling is a game of an open world with things to do.
However, even though Fantasy Star is just about 20 years old, there are some nice game play and game design elements that would have been nice for Fallout III
- Higher Level Cap: While Fallout 3 has a level cap at 20, Phantasy Star logically levels out at 30. However, the difference is that by the time you reach level 30 in Phantasy Star, there is not much left to do in the game. However, by level 20 in Fallout 3, there is still much that could be accomplished and it is frustrating to not be able to advance your character.
- Sense of purpose: One of the downfalls of having such an intense and well developed distopian atmosphere in Fallout 3 is that, to be honest, it is kind of bummer. At times while I'm playing I find myself getting depressed, thinking "why am I doing this? the whole world is just crap any way." In Phantasy Star I always know what I'm trying to. I have a clear sense of accomplishment every time I save the game and stop playing.
- That Crazy Japanese Nonrandom Fighting Thing: I've noticed this in many Japanese RPGs, and it seems different from American RPGs. In Phantasy Star I KNOW without a doubt, how much damage my weapons will do to any particular monster. I did not like this at first, but now I'm OK with it. It makes the game more of a strategic exercise.
- Those crazy random battles: I love random battles because they are the best way to grind and level-up. I love finding new monsters to fight, working hard to advance my characters, and watching my guys go from screaming away in fear to kicking monster-ass and picking monster pocket. Phantasy Star has this in spades. In Fallout 3 I fear any new creatures, as they will either kill me or make me waste my ammo. In that way, Fallout 3 is less classic RPG and more survival-horror.
Anyway, I'm not here to argue that Fallout 3 is better than Phantasy Star (it is by the way), or vice versa. However, I do find it interesting that even thought I started playing Fallout 3 a week ago, it did not make me want to quit playing Phantasy Star. In fact, I restarted the game again after I thought I had left it for good. Apparently, one game does not make playing the other moot. I think I returned to Phantasy Star because, even though Fallout 3 is an amazing game experience, it lacks some of the very things that had me fall in love with the RPG genre in the first place. I get those things from Phantasy Star. I suppose, even 20 years down the line, a good game is a good game...even if the puzzles are sorta lame.