Phantasy Star II
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|Phantasy Star II|
North American cover art
|Release date(s)||Mega Drive/Genesis
June 10th, 2009
August 26, 2010
May 2, 2012 (Steam)
|Genre(s)||Role-playing video game|
|Distribution||6-megabit cartridge, DVD, digital distribution|
Phantasy Star II, released in Japan as Phantasy Star II: Kaerazaru Toki no Owari ni (ファンタシースターII 還らざる時の終わりに), is a console role-playing video game developed by Sega AM7 for the Mega Drive/Genesis that was released in Japan in 1989 and Europe and North American in 1990. It was later ported to a variety of different platforms. Its remake, Phantasy Star Generation 2, was released for the PlayStation 2 in 2005.
It is the second installment in Sega's acclaimed Phantasy Star series and serves as a sequel to the original Phantasy Star for the Master System. Phantasy Star II is set 1,000 years after the events of its predecessor and follows the journey of a government agent named Rolf and his friends, who are on a mission to find out why the protector of the planet Mota, Mother Brain, has started malfunctioning.
Phantasy Star II was the first 16-bit role-playing game released in the west (it was released months before the original 8-bit Final Fantasy for the NES) and it was the first video game to use a 6 mega-bit cartridge. As a result Phantasy Star II was far bigger than any game before it and the title became the new benchmark for the genre. Many of the title's game play elements, such as its sci-fi setting, random battles and high difficulty level, were brought across from its predecessor, but Phantasy Star II innovated thanks to its sprawling environments, graphical improvements and its strong, character driven story.
Since its release Phantasy Star II has been the subject of universal acclaim from critics, fans and RPG enthusiasts alike. The game is generally viewed as ahead of its time, mainly thanks to its narrative and its dealings with serious subject matters, something that other console role-playing games never tackled until years later. The title is widely considered to be one of the greatest and most influential role-playing video games of all time.
Gameplay is similar to the original Phantasy Star, the first game in the series. Its battle system is turn-based, allowing the player to choose commands for their party of up to four characters. Each of the eight characters has a different set of preferred weapons and armor, as well as techniques, suited to the character's job. The player must defeat enemies in the overworld and in dungeons to advance in the game.
The game menu and preintro of Phantasy Star II use its prehistory and the plotline's precurring events to give the player an insight about this game. The series' primary antagonist, Dark Force (known as "Dark Falz" in the first game), the embodiment of evil, returns as one of the main enemies the player must defeat. Mother Brain, a computer system built to control and maintain the Algo Star System, has began to malfunction, in which the main character, Rolf, must determine why. Another character, Lutz, also makes an appearance in the middle of the game.
Somewhere deep within the Andromeda Galaxy lies the Algol Star System. The parent star, Algol (referred to as "Algo" by this point in the timeline), has three planets orbiting about it. First is Palm ("Palma"), the home of the government. Governors, treasurers, and great thinkers dwell here in great ivory towers, away from the hubbub of everyday life. Next is Mota ("Motavia"), the shining jewel. Once a dry desert planet infested with ant lions, Mota has been transformed into a blue and green tropical paradise. Domed farms grow crops, and the water is regulated into dammed rivers. Life on Mota is sweet, peaceful, and easy. The people have everything they want and do not need to work. Farthest out is Dezo ("Dezoris"), the ice planet. Little is known about this mysterious and dark planet.
One thousand years have passed since Alis and her friends liberated Algo from the evil Lassic. Algo has since prospered under the care of a giant computer called the Mother Brain. The Mother Brain regulates the climatrol tower, the bio-systems lab, and all other things that provide whatever the people in Mota need.
The game begins with a short monologue in which the character Rolf recalls a strange recurring nightmare he has been having. In the dream, a young girl who resembles Alis from the first game is battling a demon, although he, himself, does not know anything of her identity. Although Rolf is nearby, he is unable to even move or speak while the demon is striking at the girl. Finally, just before the demon kills her, Rolf awakens. From his home in the Motavian capital Paseo, Rolf goes to the central tower to meet with the commander, the head of government on Mota, in order to receive his newest mission.
The first threat is an increase in dangerous biomonsters (biologically altered animals). Rolf sets off with his companion Nei, a humanoid with cat-like features, to investigate, accompanied by six others with the same purpose. The group later discovers human-biomonster hybrid named Neifirst, who reveals that Nei's origins are the same as her own. Being part biomonster, she is an outcast from society, causing her to loathe mankind and, because of this, sabotage Mota's climate control system, as well as the biosystems laboratory. Nei confronts Neifirst and battles her in a one-on-one fight, but is ultimately defeated and killed. Grieved by this, Rolf and the remaining party then defeat Neifirst, bringing an end to the Biomonster hazard.
However, this sets another incident in motion: the central lake, the residential reservoir of Mota, begins to overflow with water, and Rolf and his friends decide to prevent a massive flood. They agree to open up the surrounding four dams, but after unlocking the last one, they are captured and sentenced to death upon the Gaira satellite; however, the satellite malfunctions and collides with Palm, destroying both. Rolf and company are rescued in the nick of time by a space pirate named Tyler.
The group boards Mota's last plane to Dezo. Located southwest of the planet is the Esper Mansion, where, upon reaching there, Rolf awakens the legendary Lutz from a long sleep. Lutz reveals the secrets of Rolf's past, and informs the group that the people of Algo have become entirely dependent on Mother Brain, and the entire system is facing destruction because of this. In order to save Algo, the heroes seek to recover the powerful Nei arsenal, found in four hidden dungeons, capable against the enemies on the spaceship Noah, where Mother Brain resides.
It is revealed that Dark Force has been behind every threat Rolf has faced, including Mother Brain itself. In the end, however, both Dark Force and Mother Brain are defeated by Rolf. Afterwards, Lutz alerts him that there are still people on the ship: the remaining survivors from Earth; they reveal themselves to have created Mother Brain to satisfy their greedy lifestyle at the expense of Algo's resources, and a fight between the heroes and the earthmen ensues.
The conclusion of the fight remains unknown, although Algo's fate is canonically told throughout the game's sequels (Phantasy Star IV takes place 1,000 years after the events of Phantasy Star II).
There are a total of eight playable characters in Phantasy Star II, each with his or her own personality, weapons and abilities. With only one exception, all of the characters can be renamed by the player at the time of their introduction. While most of the characters' personal impact to the story in this game is negligible at best (due to the game's space and its characters being interchangeable at the player's leisure, none of them besides Rolf and Nei have any speaking roles apart from their own introduction and the game's ending), all of the characters' backstories and motivations are further given form and explained in their respective text adventures.
- Rolf (representation color: blue): Rolf (Japanese: ユーシス, Yūshisu, Eusis) is the primary protagonist of Phantasy Star II, as well as the latest descendant of the main protagonist of the original Phantasy Star, Alis Landale. Rolf is a government agent of Paseo in employ of the commander of Mota. He is the best all-around fighter in the game, as he gains the most average stats and even learns a wide range of techniques, although some do not reach the level of potency as other characters such as Amy. He is the only character to wield a sword as a weapon of choice, but he can also use knives and some guns.
- Nei (representation color: purple): Nei (Japanese: ネイ, Nei, Nei) is one of the few Numans to have ever lived. At the start of the game, Rolf initially refuses to take Nei along on his mission in fear for her safety, but agrees after she pleads with him. Nei is extremely agile, yet starts out rather strong physically, even stronger than the likes of Rolf. She also grows twice as quick in level as all other characters, allowing her to catch up, but this term later tells that she becomes weaker. However, she possesses a few curative techniques. Her main, and only, choice of weapons are bars (claws in the Japanese version).
- Rudolf "Rudo" Steiner (representation color: black): Rudo (Japanese: ルドガー・スタイナー, Rudogā Steiner, Rudger Steiner) is the first character to join Rolf and Nei on their adventure, after they reach the destroyed town of Arima. Rudo is a former member and general of the Algo army and now a hunter in dedication to his family. He is physically the strongest character in the game, although he is the only character without any techniques. Because of his massive strength, however, he can also wield heavy armor. He mainly wields guns as weapons, but can use knives as well.
- Amy Sage (representation color: yellow): Amy (Japanese: アンヌ・サガ, Annu Saga, Anne Saga) is the fourth member of the party to arrive after they reach Oputa. Amy is a doctor who once worked at a hospital in River Town, one of the Motavian villages. She is the slowest fighter in the game, so she is usually the last one to attack (or perform) in a battle phase, but possesses the highest levels of healing and supportive techniques, including ones exclusive for her. Amy can wield staffs, knives and small guns as weapons.
- Hugh Thompson (representation color: green): Hugh (Japanese: ヒューイ・リーン, Hyūi Lean, Huey Reane) is the fifth member to join Rolf's party after the player has investigated the Biosystems Lab. Hugh is a leading biologist and former Motavian University student who adapts a strong understanding of plants and biomonsters. Although he is not particularly strong (not counting the early parts of the game), his techniques are very effective against biomonsters. Like Amy, he can wield knives, staffs and small guns.
- Anna Zirski (representation color: navy blue): Anna (Japanese: アーミア・アミルスキー, Āmia Amirusuki, Amia Amirski) is the sixth character to join up with the adventuring party after the player reaches Zema. Anna is both a hunter and a guardian (also known as a Counter-Hunter) who hunts both biomonsters and renegade humans. She is one of the most physically strong fighters, but only learns a few techniques (which otherwise prove to be valuable in such harder fights). Her main weapons of choice are slashers, but she can also fight with knives and whips, as well as ordinary boomerangs.
- Josh Kain (representation color: red): Kain (Japanese: カインズ・ジ・アン, Kainzu Ji An, Kainz Ji An) is the seventh character to join Rolf's party, arriving after the player visits Kueri. Kain is a self-proclaimed "wrecker" (whose purpose is destroying any electronics) who once aspired to be an engineer. He is a balanced fighter with very strong techniques against robotic enemies, which proves valuable as the game progresses (although some of his attack stats are considerately not as potent as Rolf's or Rudo's). He can also wield short weapons and some handheld guns.
- Shir Gold (representation color: aqua): Shir (Japanese: シルカ・レビニア, Shiruka Rebinia, Shilka Levinia) is the final character to arrive and join up with Rolf's party after they reach Piata (the last city on Mota the player visits). Shir is a fast, cunning thief who harbors the nickname of "Shir of The Wind". She is the fastest character in the game, usually attacking before some other characters, and can wield small weapons. Her thieving ability is also very useful, since she can steal items that are otherwise impossible to obtain; however, the catch is that she will only occasionally do this upon entering a shop and at random, and when she does, she will disappear from the party, requiring Rolf to return to his home in Paseo to retrieve her.
- Lutz, a refugee Esper who lives in the Esper Mansion on Dezo, aids Rolf and friends in their mission. He is supposed to be the same Esper who accompanies Alis in Phantasy Star, but due to the English version of Phantasy Star naming the said Esper Noah, this point is lost. It should be noted, however, that Noah is an incarnation of the character.
- In the Japanese version, Ustvestia, a musician who teaches the characters the Musik technique, is openly gay; when requested to teach a male character the Musik technique, he comments, "He looks cute", and charges less than he would for teaching female characters. Any obvious references to this were removed from the American release; he instead comments, "He looks smart" – and still charges less for teaching the male characters.
- While the tracks in the soundtrack are the same for both versions, the snare drums are much louder in the Japanese version.
- In the Japanese version the game is set 942 years after the events of Phantasy Star I.
Phantasy Star II was re-released as a port in two different forms for the Sega Saturn and Game Boy Advance as part of Phantasy Star Collection. It was also released on the Sega Smash Pack Volume One for the Dreamcast. It is also part of the Sega Genesis Collection for PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable. The game is available in Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
The game was made available through Nintendo's Virtual Console service in 2008. On June 10, 2009, it was released on Xbox Live Arcade under the Sega Vintage Collection banner. On August 26, 2010, an iPhone port of the game was released.
Phantasy Star II was a landmark game in its time, "a game of many firsts" according to Nintendo Power. It was the first RPG for the Mega Drive, and the first 16-bit console RPG to be released in North America, arriving several months before even the original Final Fantasy, another key game in the genre's popularization in that territory.
The original Phantasy Star game was a big game for its time, and because of the advancements in technology between the Master System and Sega Genesis, Phantasy Star II featured a much larger cartridge than its predecessor, holding 6 megabits of data, making it the largest game on any game machine up until that time. In Dragon, Phantasy Star II was described as "one of the best role-playing games yet to be released for any video game system." Wizardry designer Roe R. Adams wrote in Computer Gaming World that Phantasy Star II was a killer app for the Genesis, stating that its "16-bit graphics are gorgeous, but the real fun lies in the science fiction story plot." He concluded that it is a "challenging and enjoyable" game with "superb combat and animated graphics." Raze concluded that it is a "challenging quest packed with gameplay." IGN's Levi Buchanan praised it as an "awesome game" with a "real sense of discovery" and one of his "favorite final twists in videogames." On GameRankings, it is listed as the highest-rated game of 1988, with an average score of 85% based on a sample of 4 reviews. It also has an average press score of 9.0 out of 10 on GameStats.
Phantasy Star II is regarded by many as a forerunner for certain aspects of role-playing video games, such as an epic, dramatic, character-driven storyline dealing with serious themes and subject matter, a strategy-based battle system, and the demand for extensive strategy guides for such games (Phantasy Star II included one with the game itself). Phantasy Star II's purely science fiction setting was also a major departure for RPGs, which had previously been largely restricted to fantasy or science fantasy settings. 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 II has made a number of "greatest games of all time" type lists, including being inducted into GameSpot's list of greatest games of all time in 2005. Mega placed the game at #29 in their "Top Mega Drive Games of All Time" in 1992. In 2003, IGN ranked it as the 92nd top game, choosing Phantasy Star II for how it "surprised everyone with the death of a major player 1/3 the way" years before Final Fantasy VII, in addition to "a balanced experience point system, tough-as-nails bosses, and one of the biggest and most difficult RPG quests that we've ever seen." In 2009, Nintendo Power called Phantasy Star II, along with Phantasy Star IV, one of the greatest role-playing games of all time. In 2011, GamePro included it in its list of "20 Games That Defined Role-Playing Games".
A remake, Phantasy Star Generation 2, was released in Japan for the PlayStation 2 as a part of Sega Ages in 2005. Much like Phantasy Star Generation 1, the remake mirrors the events of the original game while adding character development and fleshing out the story in more detail. It featured enhanced graphics, a revised combat system, and a rearranged soundtrack. Other new features included the ability to play the original Mega Drive version, and to load a system file from Phantasy Star Generation:1 to allow the ability to play as Nei throughout the entire game.
It was originally slated for North American and European release by Conspiracy Entertainment as a part of the Phantasy Star Trilogy, a compilation of the remakes of Phantasy Star, Phantasy Star II, and Phantasy Star IV. The compilation's future is uncertain, however, since Sega reclaimed the publishing rights for the North America and Europe. This is evidenced by the fact that the trilogy no longer appears on Conspiracy Entertainment's list of products on their website. Sega of Japan have abandoned their plans for a Phantasy Star IV remake in favor of a compilation featuring the original iterations of Phantasy Star I-IV.
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