Phantasy Star II
|Phantasy Star II|
North American cover art
|Release date(s)||Mega Drive/Genesis
June 10, 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, which was released in Japan in 1989 and in Europe and North America 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 1987 game 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 and was the first video game to use a 6 megabit cartridge. Since its release Phantasy Star II has been the subject of critical acclaim. The game has been cited as 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 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 begun to malfunction, and 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 the character Rolf recalling a strange recurring nightmare he has been having. In the dream, a young girl who Rolf does not recognize (but who resembles Alis) is battling a demon. Finally, just before the demon would kill her, Rolf awakens. From his home in Paseo, Mota's capital, 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 each different, but same purpose. Along the way, the group discovers a 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 both Mota's climate control system and the biosystems laboratory. Nei confronts Neifirst and battles her in a one-on-one fight, but is defeated and killed. Anguished, Rolf and the remaining party defeat Neifirst, bringing an end to Mota's Biomonster hazard.
However, this sets another incident in motion: the exploding impact causes the central lake, the residential reservoir of Mota, to overflow with water. To prevent a massive flood, Rolf and his friends decide to open up the surrounding four dams. After unlocking the last one, they are captured by Mother Brain's security robots 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, Tyler.
The group boards Mota's last plane to Dezo. Located at a far corner of the planet is the Esper Mansion. Upon reaching there, Rolf awakens the legendary Lutz from a long sleep. Lutz reveals the secrets of Rolf's past, as well as the dark secret of Mother Brain which relates to the fate and destruction Algo is now facing. In order to save the system, 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 eventually revealed that Dark Force has been behind every threat Rolf has faced, including Mother Brain itself. Rolf confronts the two evil entities and defeats them. After the final battle, Lutz alerts him that there are still people on the ship: the remaining survivors from Earth. They reveal they 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 game ends there on an open-ended note, with the outcome of the fight left revealed.
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 due to the game's space (because of this, 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: 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 a balanced-type character and 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: Nei (Japanese: ネイ, Nei, Nei) is one of the few Numans to have ever lived. At the start of the game, she pleads with Rolf to take her along on his mission; though Rolf initially refused, he eventually agreed. As a speed-type character, 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: 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 without any use of 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. All of these factors explained about make him a power-type character.
- Amy Sage: 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 employed at a hospital in a Motavian village named River Town. Amy is a skill-type character: she is the slowest fighter in the game, so she is usually the last one to attack (or perform) in a battle phase; therefore, she is not proficient in melee combat. However, she 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: 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 Motavian University alumni who adapts a mutual understanding of plants and biomonsters. Although he is not particularly strong (seemingly not counting the early parts of the game), his techniques are very effective against biomonsters, which most of them appear on Dezo in the late stages of the game; however, he is not very effective against robotic enemies, as he only learns a few techniques that can damage them. Like Amy, he can wield knives, staffs and small guns and is a skill-type character.
- Anna Zirski: 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. Anna is a power-type character: 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: 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 once aspired to be an engineer, but instead became a self-proclaimed "wrecker" (whose purpose is destroying any electronics). He is a balanced-type character 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); however, his techniques are ineffective against biomonsters, so, therefore, players should be aware of this since Dezo is home to many biomonsters, even in the story's later stages. He can also wield short weapons and some handheld guns.
- Shir Gold: 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 nimble, cunning thief who harbors the nickname of "Shir of The Wind". As a speed-type character, she is the fastest character in the game, usually attacking before some other characters. She can wield small weapons and eventually learns to draw upon a moderate size pool of techniques which can damage any enemy. Her thieving ability is also very useful, since she can steal items that are otherwise impossible to obtain; however, the catch is 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 said Esper "Noah," this point is lost.
- 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.
The game was well received upon release. The March 1990 issue of VideoGames & Computer Entertainment gave it a 9 out of 10, stating that it is "far longer, tougher and graphically superior to the original. It's also a little less cute and significantly more dramatic." In the April 1990 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, its panel of four reviewers gave it scores of 9, 8, 8, and 7, adding up to 32 out of 40 overall. Ed Semrad, who gave it a 9, described it as "Incredible" and "the hardest, longest, and best RPG cart ever made!" Martin Alessi, who gave it an 8, stated that RPGs are not his "thing, but this one has a monstrous quest anyone can get involved with and lost in" and that "PS2 is presented well." Steve Harris, who gave it a 7, stated that it "never really offers that much action or excitement" but "the storyline is interesting for a while."
In the August 1990 issue of 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 the November 1990 issue of 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." The July 1991 issue of GamePro gave it a positive review, with reviewer John Sauer describing it as a "stunning sequel" that "offers a level of complexity and play that is unrivalled on any other system." He recommended that for "players who want the near ultimate experience in adventure role-playing, this is it!"
Retrospective reviews have also been positive. 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 one of the highest-rated games of 1989, with an average score of 85% based on a sample of 4 reviews.
Phantasy Star II was a landmark game in its time, "a game of many firsts" according to Nintendo Power. 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 (768 kilobytes) of data, making it the largest game on any game machine up until that time. It was thus the first cartridge to cost $90, equivalent to $162 in 2014. It was also 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.
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". It was also listed among the best games of all time by Electronic Gaming Monthly in 1997, 2001, and 2006, and by Stuff magazine in 2008.
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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