Original Phantasy Star logo
|Genres||Role-playing video game|
|Developers||Sega AM7, Overworks, Sonic Team|
Game Boy Advance
|Platform of origin||Sega Master System|
|Year of inception||1987|
|First release||Phantasy Star
December 20, 1987
|Latest release||Phantasy Star Online 2
July 4, 2012
|Spin-offs||Phantasy Star Online|
Phantasy Star (ファンタシースター Fantashī Sutā ) is a series of console role-playing video games and other supplementary media created by Sega. The series debuted in 1987 on the Sega Master System with Phantasy Star, and continues into the present with Phantasy Star Online 2 and other extensions of the Phantasy Star Online sub-series.
Setting, plot, and themes in the Phantasy Star franchise vary considerably from game to game, but common threads run through them. All, for example, feature a science fantasy setting in which magic and technology coexist.
The first major story arc is told across three games: Phantasy Star, Phantasy Star II, and Phantasy Star IV. Set in the quadruple planetary system of the star Algol (β Persei), these single-player RPGs deal with the idea of Evil as a living, sentient being that takes an active interest in galactic events. Phantasy Star III (1990) is not part of that story arc and was the first major departure the series would take from the Algol plotline.
Later titles bearing the Phantasy Star name are for the most part massively multiplayer online games. Phantasy Star Online and Phantasy Star Universe are set in other galaxies, but nonetheless share certain canonical links with the Algol storyline of 1980s and 1990s Phantasy Star, most notably the recurrence of common themes, enemies, and the primary antagonist, the Darkers.
- 1 Original series
- 2 Compilations and remakes
- 3 Spin-offs
- 4 Phantasy Star Online
- 5 Phantasy Star Universe
- 6 Common elements
- 7 Development
- 8 Reception and legacy
- 9 Media
- 10 References
- 11 External links
In Phantasy Star, Algol's planetary system consists of four worlds — lush green Palma, harsh desert Motavia, dim, frozen Dezoris, and the mysterious Rykros, whose elongated orbit only brings it within visible range of the other planets once every thousand years. With its eccentric orbit, Rykros is (at best) a legend to the people of Algol, and only appears in Phantasy Star IV.
Denizens of Palma, Motavia, and Dezoris do not share common ancestry and evolved separately. Since establishing interplanetary contact, however, the three worlds have set up a prosperous, culturally progressive commonwealth with advanced technology and magic. In spite of some mild underlying cultural tensions, the Algol star system is generally peaceful and well-governed. Players will travel heavily between these worlds during the Algol Cycle, and inevitably discover ancient secrets that tie the solar system's genesis irrevocably to an ancient conflict.
Phantasy Star (ファンタシースター Fantashī Sutā ) was the first installment of the series, released for the Sega Master System in Japan on December 20, 1987, and then in the United States in 1988. It introduced players to the planets, races, and lore of the "Algol Cycle," (Phantasy Stars I, II, and IV), which told the story of that doomed star system. At the time of its release, role-playing video games (or CRPGs, for Computer Roleplaying Games) in the West were fairly predictable, with dense settings and play mechanics heavily inspired by tabletop roleplaying. Western CRPGs were popular on personal computer platforms, but practically nonexistent on the two major home video game consoles - the NES and Sega's Master System. Console gaming had been shaken just a year prior with Nintendo's blockbuster hit The Legend of Zelda and Sega was intent on developing its own roleplaying franchise. Phantasy Star was to be that flagship.
By any estimation, it was a massively innovative product, featuring advanced graphics technology; a complex, multi-layered plot; and (most notably) one of gaming's first female protagonists. Alis Landale is a young socialite from Palma drawn into political intrigue when her brother Nero is assassinated. The once-progressive government of King Lassic has been growing increasingly totalitarian, and Nero's efforts against the sudden political changes lead to his murder by military police. In a quest sparked by revenge, but sustained by urgent needs of Algol's citizens, she is joined by a muskcat (an incredibly rare animal with human-level intelligence and speech that otherwise resembles a housecat) named Myau, a warrior named Odin, and a wizard named Noah. Together, the group is pitted against Lassic, the formerly beloved monarch who has turned his realm into a police state ruled by fear. Only by defeating him does the group discover the truth: Lassic has been under the control of a malevolent entity known as Darkfalz, a living, conscious manifestation of evil that has taken an interest in Algol and appears to be amusing itself by causing its society to tear itself apart. Defeating Darkfalz restores peace and order, and Alis takes the vacant throne to rebuild Algol as it once had been.
Phantasy Star II
Phantasy Star II (ファンタシースター II 還らざる時の終わりに Fantashī Sutā Tsū Kaerazaru Toki no Owari ni , lit. Phantasy Star II: The End of the Lost Age), released in March 1989, marked the series' transition to the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. It benefited from an upgrade in graphics and in the scope of its quest, as it's more than twice the size of its predecessor. It tells the story of Rolf, a government agent from the town of Paseo on Motavia. In this new setting, 1,000 years after Phantasy Star, Motavia is no longer a desert world, but has been mostly converted into one lush with vegetation and animal life, thanks to a system-wide computer network known as Mother Brain. But as malfunctions throughout the network result in all sorts of catastrophes, from climate change to the appearance of mutant plant and animal life called biomonsters, Rolf changes from an agent of the government to a rebel fated to end Mother Brain's reign over the system. He is joined by a colorful cast of characters, all of whom have their own stakes in the conflict. Beset by monsters on one side and government-deployed robots on the other, Rolf and his allies are eventually pitted against an evil from time uncounted.
Phantasy Star III
Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom (時の継承者 ファンタシースターIII Toki no Keishōsha Fantashī Sutā Surī , Successors of Time: Phantasy Star III), released for the Mega Drive in 1990 and on the Genesis in 1991 was a departure from the norms of the series in that it mostly took place in a medieval fantasy setting, in contrast to the science-fiction settings of previous games. The game revolves around two factions, the Orakians and the Layans, who have been engaged in bitter conflict since their founders disappeared without explanation 1,000 years earlier. Unique to Phantasy Star III was a storyline that spanned three generations, starting with Rhys, an Orakian, and continues through two more generations, which ultimately mixes with the Layans. At the end of each generation, the player determines the next main character by choosing which of the women encountered during the adventure the characters will marry. The conflict between Orakians and Layans continues regardless of these choices, until ultimately it is revealed to be a mere consequence of a much greater struggle that connects to the two previous games.
Phantasy Star IV
Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium (ファンタシースター 千年紀の終りに Fantashī Sutā Sennenki no Owari ni , lit. Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium) was released for the Mega Drive in Japan in November 1993, in the United States in February 1995, and in Europe in December 1995. Building on its predecessors, it added a number of innovative features, such as pre-programmable combat maneuvers called "Macros", combination attacks between two or more characters and manga-style panel illustrations for major cutscenes. It was also the first game in the series to have in-depth character interaction and development.
Taking place 1,000 years after Phantasy Star II, Phantasy Star IV returns to the Algol Solar System, which has been in a precipitous decline after an event known as the Great Collapse. The people struggle to survive against an unforgiving climate and a resurgence of biomonsters. Amongst them are Chaz Ashley and his mentor Alys Brangwin, hunters who make a living performing various tasks for clients: From protecting citizens from monster attacks to investigating strange events. As seemingly random occurrences all tie back into the system-wide crisis, Chaz and the allies he meets during his quest must fulfill the series promise of fighting back the re-emergence of darkness. However, in this, the end of the original series, players will not only face off against the incarnation of evil, but penetrate to its very source, to rescue Algol once and for all from a bleak fate.
Compilations and remakes
The popularity of Phantasy Star in both the east and west prompted Sega to re-release the games of the original series, both within larger game compilations, and in standalone enhanced remakes.
Phantasy Star Collection
Phantasy Star Collection is a compilation of the four games from the original series, released in 1998 only in Japan on the Sega Saturn, as part of the Sega Ages series. It also includes full motion videos of the original television commercials for the games and 215 pieces of official art. A Game Boy Advance version, produced by Digital Eclipse, was released for international audiences in 2002. This version omits Phantasy Star IV, the full motion videos, and the art gallery. Three of the four games were released again on the PlayStation 2 as part of the Sega Genesis Collection, and all four appeared on Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles. This compilation includes special features such as behind-the-scenes information, and the ability to save the game anywhere.
Phantasy Star Generation 1
Phantasy Star Generation 1 (Japanese: ファンタシースター generation:1) is an enhanced remake of Phantasy Star, released in 2003 for the PlayStation 2, as Volume 1 of the Sega Ages series. It features newly designed graphics, arranged versions of music from the original game soundtrack, and fleshed out dialogue which results in both character development and a richer story.
Phantasy Star Generation 2
Phantasy Star Generation 2 (Japanese: ファンタシースター generation:2) was released in 2005, also for the PlayStation 2, and is an enhanced remake of Phantasy Star II, and is volume 17 of the Ages series. It mirrors the events of the original game while adding character development and fleshing out the story in more detail. It features enhanced graphics, a revised combat system, and a re-arranged soundtrack.
These games were tangents from the original series, in some cases featuring characters from those games, and in others following storylines only loosely connected to the main continuum. They were released for their respective systems only in Japan, and as such, fans have had to rely on fan translations of ROMs in order to play.
Phantasy Star Gaiden (ファンタシースター・外伝 Fantashī Sutā Gaiden ), released in 1992 for the Game Gear, is a spin-off of the original Phantasy Star and takes place on a colony known as Copto, founded by the heroine Alis Landale. In this new setting, Alis is once again called upon to battle evil, now in the form of a being known as Kaburon, which she is able to seal away. The majority of the game then follows the adventures of new characters, Minina and Alec, some 400 years later until they reunite with Alis, who had been in cryogenic sleep in a vigil against Kaburon's return. After Copto is saved, the game foreshadows the reemergence of evil back in Algol in Phantasy Star II.
Phantasy Star Adventure is a first-person puzzle adventure game released in 1992 for the Game Gear prior to Phantasy Star Gaiden. Taking place at the same time as Phantasy Star II, it puts the players in the shoes of an agent of Paseo. He receives a letter from friend and scientist, Ken Miller, who is studying on the ice planet Dezolis and invites him to see an important new invention. Once there, the player learns that Ken and his device are missing, initiating an investigation.
Phantasy Star II Text Adventures were a series of eight text adventure video games available to users of Sega Meganet, a modem for the Sega Mega Drive in Japan, and later released as part of a compilation on Sega CD. Each of the games takes place shortly before Phantasy Star II, documenting the backgrounds of its characters, and explaining what brings them to the town Paseo where they eventually team up to investigate the pervasive troubles of the Algol Solar System.
Phantasy Star Online
Phantasy Star Online is a series of online RPGs originally released for Dreamcast in 2000, and continuing on the Xbox, Nintendo GameCube, and Microsoft Windows. Phantasy Star Online started a new adventure, centering on the plight of a colony of spaceships called Pioneer 2, in another star system. Players fight through a number of levels spread over four distinct areas, finally facing off against Dark Falz, a nod to the original series. In addition to the main story, players can also take the Hunter's Guild sidequests, which explores the lives of Pioneer 2's citizens, and further delve into the backstory behind the game. In the tradition of MMORPGs, these sidequests reward players with Meseta, the chance to explore the stories behind Pioneer 2's NPC residents, and the opportunity to obtain special weapons.
Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II
Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II, was not a simple port of the Dreamcast game (only episode I). It included a brand new episode not available in the original Dreamcast version (PSO Episode II is not to be mistaken with PSO Version 2 available for the Dreamcast). The game was released for the Nintendo GameCube and Xbox in 2002, and introduced several new features, such as multiplayer split-screen mode, three new character classes, game rebalancing, reduced experience point requirements, class recalibration, and five newly explorable areas.
Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution
Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution, released only for the Nintendo GameCube, marked yet another departure from series establishments, featuring a card based play style. Taking place twenty-one years after Episode I and Episode II, follows the people of Pioneer 2 as they continue their settlement on the planet Ragol. The government, amidst inner strife, seeks to use a mysterious substance discovered on the planet, known as the germ, to power the newly developed Compressed Alternate Reality Data (C.A.R.D.) technology. Players take on the roles of both agents appointed by the government to explore, research, and capture the rebel elements, or the Arkz, rebel elements themselves trying to intercept and destroy the government's plans for the exploitation of the planet.
Phantasy Star Online Episode IV: Blue Burst
Released exclusively for Microsoft Windows, Episode IV was an expansion of Episode I and Episode II, and a return to the PSO's hack and slash format. It features new enemies, maps, and items, in addition to those included with previous episodes. The new maps include Crater Routes, Crater Interior, and Subterranean Desert.
Phantasy Star Universe
Phantasy Star Universe (ファンタシースターユニバース Fantashī Sutā Yunibāsu ) is an action role-playing game by Sega's Sonic Team for the PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox 360. It more closely follows the series' new direction as set by Phantasy Star Online, mostly played in both a persistent online network mode, but unlike its predecessor, featured a more robust single-player story mode.
The game is set in the Gurhal Star System, which consists of three planets, each with its own unique culture and inhabitants. After the "Final Conflict", a war ending 100 years ago, a union was formed between the three planets, leading to the establishment of the Allied Army. During a celebration of the peace accord, a meteor shower facilitates the invasion of the three planets by SEED – a race of strange monsters. The game revolves around Ethan Waber, a member of an elite soldier force called the GUARDIANS, which must rally against the new threat.
Phantasy Star Universe: Ambition of the Illuminus is an expansion pack for Phantasy Star Universe, featuring new enemies, weapons, levels, and cities. Ambition of the Illuminus continues the story online with the player's personal avatar. Now the central character, he or she will investigate and work to restore peace in the chaotic Gurhal System. The player investigates through a series of single-player missions, meeting familiar characters like Ethan Waber. The multiplayer world was greatly expanded with new missions and dungeons.
The plot, setting, and themes of the Phantasy Star series vary dramatically from the franchise's early installments to the multiplayer titles of today. Phantasy Star, Phantasy Star II, and Phantasy Star IV all deal with the concept of evil as a living, sentient entity that takes an active interest in galactic events.
A being known as "Dark Force" plagues the Algol planetary system every thousand years, resulting in mass destruction and loss of life. It begins its campaign of terror in subtle ways, usually subverting others to its will. Only once its pawn has either been eliminated or is no longer useful does Dark Force ever reveal itself. With each incarnation of Dark Force, a group of protectors arise to suppress it, ushering in a period of recovery and prosperity for the Algol system. This cycle of complacency and destruction continues every millennium. In Phantasy Star IV, the source of this being known as the Profound Darkness appears as well.
The original series takes place in the Algol system, with three major planets: Palma, Motavia, and Dezolis. Palma is destroyed during the events of Phantasy Star II, when the prison satellite Gaira crashes into the planet. Several colony ships fled from the disaster, and one of those ships, the Alisa III, is the setting of Phantasy Star III. Other locations within the series include several artificial satellites and Rykros, a planet with an extremely elongated orbit. Phantasy Star Online and Phantasy Star Universe take place in different solar systems.
Fictional races that re-occur in the series include sentient androids created by humans, called CASTs in the spin-off series, and Newmans, previously called Numans, elf-like humanoids created by genetically engineering DNA from humans and other, genetically engineered "biomonsters".
The original Phantasy Star was released for the Sega Master System in Japan on December 20, 1987. It was one of the earliest cartridges to include battery backed RAM for saving game positions. The game featured 3D maze-like dungeons, which players traversed in a first-person mode. Phantasy Star, along with Dragon Quest, and Final Fantasy, distinguished itself as a pioneer of what came to be defined as console role-playing. The first four games take place in the same universe, as opposed to many RPG series such as Final Fantasy, wherein successive game settings are unrelated, or, at most, superficially related. Each major Phantasy Star game adds onto the series' overall story, culminating in Phantasy Star IV which ties all of the series' plot elements together.
Both Phantasy Star Online and Phantasy Star Universe are their own series based on the original Phantasy Star games. They continue the theme of a persistent game universe, but are set in different planetary systems than the original games.
Reception and legacy
Games in the Phantasy Star franchise have overall been well received by fans and critics alike. The original four games in the series are typically regarded as classics for the RPG genre. Upon its initial release, the series was praised for its unique futuristic setting, something that had not been done yet in the genre. In 1996, the series was ranked as the 72nd top game of all time by Next Generation, even as "there really isn't anything especially innovative here - the titles just have good, solid gameplay."
An important innovation in the original Phantasy Star that would later become common in console role-playing games was the use of pre-defined player characters with their own backstories, in contrast to computer role-playing games such as the Wizardry and Gold Box games where the player's avatars (such as knights, clerics, or thieves) were simply blank slates. Phantasy Star is also recognized as featuring one of the first female lead characters, Alis Landale, alongside Samus Aran of Metroid. It was also one of the first RPGs to feature animated monster encounters, and to allow inter-planetary travel between three planets. The game was revolutionary enough to be inducted into the GameSpy Hall of Fame in 2000. James Fudge of GameSpy said of the game that "everything about Phantasy Star was uncommon, fun, and strange."
Phantasy Star II was considered one of the best role-playing games of its time, and is regarded as "a game of many firsts" according to Nintendo Power. It is regarded by many as the forerunner for certain aspects of role-playing video games, such as an epic, dramatic, character-driven storyline dealing with serious themes and subject matter, and a strategy-based battle system. The game's science fiction story was also unique, reversing the common alien invasion scenario by instead presenting Earthlings as the invading antagonists rather than the defending protagonists. The game's strong characterization, and use of self-discovery as a motivating factor for the characters and the player, was a major departure from previous RPGs and had a major influence on subsequent RPGs such as the Final Fantasy series. It also made a bold attempt at social commentary years before the Final Fantasy series started doing the same.
Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom featured an innovative and original branching storyline, which spans three generations of characters and can be altered depending on which character the protagonist of each generation marries, leading to four possible endings. Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium introduced the use of pre-programmable combat manoeuvers called 'macros', a means of setting up the player's party AI to deliver custom attack combos.
Nintendo Power's staff has praised the original games, saying that Phantasy Star "was the first RPG to break out of the Dragon Quest / Dungeons & Dragons mold of generic Arthurian fantasy by introducing sci-fi elements. Among its many other accomplishments were the inclusion of characters with actual personalities, the introduction of event scenes, and the presentation of pseudo-3-D dungeons that were a technical marvel at the time." IGN writer Jeremy Conrad stated that "anyone who played video games through the 8 and 16-bit eras would know that name [Phantasy Star]" and called the first four main series games "epic".
Many of the series' spin-offs, including Online Episodes I & II and Phantasy Star Zero, have generally favorable scores on Metacritic. Phantasy Star Online in particular is recognized as one of the most "revolutionary new games" of the past decade, for its impact in taking "consoles online" and defining "small-scale multiplayer RPGs," paving the way for larger-scale MMORPG efforts such as Final Fantasy XI, setting the template for small-scale online RPGs such as Capcom's Monster Hunter series and some of the later Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy games, and giving rise to "an entire pantheon of multiplayer dungeon crawlers that continue to dominate the Japanese sales charts." More generally, Phantasy Star Online made "both online gaming and the concept of fee-based services a reality for consoles," paving the way for the online gaming services later provided by all three of the seventh-generation consoles.
The Phantasy Star Compendium is a specialty book published by Sega in late 1995, filled with production art, game development details, and expanded information on the characters, worlds, and lore of the original series. It purported to establish a clear connection between all four games, and elaborate further on the full story of the Algol Solar System. Amongst the connections it established were identifying Laya and Orakio of Phantasy Star III as rebel leaders in a complex and political struggle between the royal family of Algol, including Alis Landale, and infiltrators from Earth who had taken control of Algol as of Phantasy Star II. Consistent with the series, all paths from the conflict still lead back to Dark Force and its progenitor, the Profound Darkness. As a retroactive effort, the details revealed in the compendium may not have reflected the original intentions for the series, and as such met with resistance from long-time series fans for over-complicating the storyline.
The Phantasy Star Memorial Drama, released in 1995 by Softbank, is a CD featuring music and dialogue to tell a new story around the characters of Phantasy Star IV. Set three years prior to the game's events, it involves Rune Walsh helping Chaz Ashley recall sealed memories of his days as a petty thief. The story revolves around an artificial intelligence called Gene, which in the wake of the Great Collapse, is convinced that humanity is to blame for Algol's troubles, and initiates a number of plans to eliminate them. It also features the "spiritual" return of Nei from Phantasy Star II in a new character of the same name, who helps Chaz stop Gene's sinister ambitions.
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- Phantasy Star Cave Complete Phantasy Star fan site with guides and a wide community.
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- Interview with Rieko Kodama, Creator of Phantasy Stars I, II, and IV