Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium
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|Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium|
European box art
|Release date(s)||Mega Drive/Genesis
May 2, 2012 (Steam)
|Genre(s)||Role-playing video game|
Phantasy Star IV (sometimes PS4), released in Japan as Phantasy Star: The End of the Millennium (ファンタシースター 千年紀の終りに?), is a role-playing video game released for the Mega Drive in Japan in 1993 and Europe and North America in 1995. It is the fourth and final game in the original Phantasy Star series, concluding the story of the Algol Star System. The game was also made available on the Wii Virtual Console in Japan on June 24, 2008, in the PAL regions on November 14, 2008, and in North America on December 22, 2008, for the price of 800 Wii Points. Phantasy Star IV is also part of the Sega Genesis Collection on the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable and on Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Phantasy Star IV kept many of the gameplay elements of the previous game, including turn-based battles, overhead exploration, and magic spells. Phantasy Star IV met with mostly mixed reviews upon its release, but has been subject to very positive critical retrospectives. The title is now widely regarded as the best in the original Phantasy Star series, as well as one of the greatest 16-bit RPGs ever made.
Phantasy Star IV is an archetypal role-playing video game, featuring the staples of exploration, NPC interaction, and turn-based combat. Like the previous games in the Phantasy Star series, individual characters each have their own statistics and equipment that determine the character's performance in combat, improving their statistics by gaining experience levels (achieved through victory in combat). Additionally, non-android characters have access to "Techniques," i.e. magic spells, the use of which draw upon a character's pool of "Technique Points" (TP), with new techniques being learned as a character gains levels.
The instruction manual for the American version states that there are 15 possible combination attacks. However, only 14 were ever discovered. Occasionally, the "secret technique" Feeve, a useless technique accessible through hacking, is mistaken for the "lost 15th combo."
Phantasy Star IV takes place 1,000 years after the events of Phantasy Star II. After an event called the Great Collapse, much of the once-thriving planet Motavia has been reduced to desert, and life has become progressively more difficult for the planet's inhabitants. To make matters worse, there has been a marked increase in the numbers of the "biomonsters," a catch-all term for the strange and violent aberrations of Motavia's flora and fauna.
Keeping these creatures under control is the job of "hunters". During an investigation into such an outbreak, Chaz Ashley, a young hunter, learns of the relationship between the biomonster problem and the planet's ecological crisis. The planet is in the process of returning to its original desert state as the climate and biosphere-controlling devices installed over a thousand years previous begin to fail. The reasons behind the malfunctions are clarified as the plot unfolds, relating directly to the events of Phantasy Star II.
Chaz and his allies connect the world's troubles to a cult leader called Zio, "The Black Magician," whose aims appear to be total annihilation, not only of Motavia, but of the whole Algol solar system. The heroes stop Zio in order to restore the computer systems maintaining Motavia. However, it soon becomes clear that Zio is merely the vanguard to a much larger enemy, long buried in the past. The secrets of the Algol star system are revealed as Chaz and company discover both the nature of the threat to their worlds as well as the safeguards placed in a time long forgotten.
- Chaz Ashley (ルディ・アシュレ (Rudi Ashure?) in the Japanese version) is the sixteen-year-old protagonist of Phantasy Star IV, as well as a balanced-type character. At the start of the game, he had just become a fully-fledged hunter of the Hunter's Guild in Aiedo. Chaz displays great courage, and, though has a short temper, he also has a keen sense of right and wrong. At the near conclusion of the game, his main role in the game is revealed. In battle, Chaz mainly uses swords, but also knives or daggers as his weapons, and can wear heavy armor. He also has a moderately large pool of techniques.
- Alys Brangwin (ライラ・ブラングウェン (Raira Buranguwen?) in the Japanese version) is one of the most skilled hunters on Motavia, top-ranked at the Hunter's Guild in Aiedo. She is world-renowned for her no-nonsense attitude and great skill in combat, which is why she is nicknamed by her peers "The Eight-Strokes Warrior". In addition, she has several people who look up to her, including Chaz. Alys is a speed-type character: in battle, she is able to use strong attack skills, supportive and offensive techniques, and slashers (bladed boomerangs that automatically target all enemies).
- Hahn Mahlay (ハーン・マーレイ (Hān Mārei?) in the Japanese version) is a twenty-four-year-old scholar who studies under professor Holt at the Piata Academy. A professor himself, Hahn is determined and dependable, but is not often brave and gets nervous when it comes to facing any danger, but in the end, he decides to transform his unpleasant feelings into inner strength. Hahn uses daggers in battle, and, though is not physically strong, he has a wide variety of techniques that allow him to deal damage and heal his allies.
- Rune Walsh (スレイ・ウォルシュ (Surei Uorushu?) in the Japanese version) is an enigmatic and somewhat caustic man. Rune is one of the few people remaining in Algol with knowledge of the forgotten power of "magic". Rune is strong-mined and powerful, but, at times, he tends to argue with Chaz, but they eventually learn to respect one another. He is eventually revealed to be the latest reincarnation of the legendary wizard, Lutz. Rune serves as a stereotypical magic-user in battle, with low health and strength, few armor choices, powerful attack techniques, and high magic statistics.
- Gryz (パイク (Paiku?) in the Japanese version) is a nineteen-year-old Motavian warrior and, along with his sister Pana, one of the two sole refugees from the razed city of Molcum. Gryz is driven by a need to protect Pana, as well as by a powerful thirst for vengeance against the one responsible for the devastation of his home, Zio. Gryz is very strong yet slow and uses axes in combat; however, he has few abilities aside from his powerful physical attacks.
- Rika (ファル (Faru?) in the Japanese version) is a Numan, the product of a thousand years of continuous research in genetic engineering by the biological support system artificial intelligence, Seed. Rika is effectively a descendant, clone, and superior version of Nei, originally born to carry out the will of Seed. She is also very observant and open-minded, and is very fascinated by the outside world. During the events in the game, she develops a relationship with Chaz. Rika is very fast and agile, and she uses artificial claws as her weapons; she also has a number of healing and supportive techniques.
- Demi (フレナ (Furena?) in the Japanese version) is an android created by Wren to regulate the Nurvus central control system of Motavia. She was captured and held hostage by Zio, but is later rescued by Chaz and company. Her knowledge of the history of the development of Motavia and expertise in stabilizing the environmental controls prove to be a valuable asset. Demi uses guns as her weapons and possesses several internal devices to assist in her defense, though she is especially weak against magic. She could be described as a power-type character despite having a few healing and support abilities.
- Wren (フォーレン (Fōren?) in the Japanese version) is the android custodian of the space station Zelan, a surviving control complex and current center of Algol's remaining support systems, as well as Demi's master. He is driven by a responsibility of maintaining the environmental controls of Algo, and therefore goes to great lengths to ensure safety of the system. Despite his many physical similarities to Wren from Phantasy Star III, the two characters are unrelated. Wren functions much like Demi in battle, using heavy guns as his weapons while being loaded with a number of devices to assist him in combat; he is very strong against physical damage, but is especially weak against magic, so he is a power-type character.
- Raja (ス・ラジャ (Su Raja?) in the Japanese version) is a Dezolisian priest who successfully talks his way into Chaz's party after an emergency crash landing completely destroys Raja's temple. He also displays a witty sense of humor, of which only Rika appreciates. Raja is a stereotypical healer in battle; he is physically frail, has few attack options, but has many healing techniques as well as a skill that lets him restore the party's technical points, and is highly resistant to magic damage.
- Kyra Tierney (シェス・ティアニー (Shesu Tianii?) in the Japanese version) is an eighteen-year-old, aggressive, tomboyish Esper, one of the dwellers within the Esper Mansion, abode of the great Lutz, of which she has a fascination of. She is prone to making rash decisions, but displays determination when needed. Kyra is a balanced-type character; she uses slashers and has a decent repertoire of attacking and healing techniques and skills, while being far more durable than other mage-type characters.
- Seth is a thirty-nine-year-old polite and curious traveling archaeologist who meets the party outside the Soldiers' Temple. He is often full of wonders and is fascinated by the group's strength. In battle, Seth functions exactly like a much-simplified Hahn, being a magic-user with a short list of powerful offensive abilities, though he lacks healing powers.
- Zio, the Black Magician, is the mysterious and baleful, yet strong cultist whose acts are menacing Motavia. Zio possesses frightening powers of unknown provenance and holds effective political control of the city of Kadary. He wishes to rid Motavia of those he deemed "unworthy of life".
- Reipard La Shiec (Shortened to "Lashiec" in the game, "Lassic" in Phantasy Star I) was the tyrannical potentate of Algol and served as the primary antagonist of Phantasy Star. Resurrected by Dark Force, he orchestrates the burglary of an artifact called the "Eclipse Torch" in order to lure Rune deep into space.
- Dark Force is the recurring final enemy of the Phantasy Star series, always nightmarish in form though its appearance changes between games. In Phantasy Star IV, the entity is revealed to be manifested from The Profound Darkness' will, the true main antagonist of the series, serving to release The Profound Darkness from its solar system prison. It is the "god" at the center of Zio's church, and serves as Zio's patron, but there is now more than one of it, with each Dark Force orchestrating a separate destructive act to destroy Algo.
- The Profound Darkness is the final boss of Phantasy Star IV and the ultimate villain of the series. It was born when the creator of the universe, after having made reality, subsequently split into two antithetical beings, one being The Great Light, and the other The Profound Darkness. The two battled; The Profound Darkness lost and was sealed within an inter-dimensional prison that is kept locked by the Algol star system. The seal was weakened considerably when the planet Parma was destroyed a thousand years ago, giving The Profound Darkness its best chance of escape.
The game was released in Japan on the Mega Drive in December 1993. After, Phantasy Star IV was released in North America in February 1995. In the United Kingdom and Europe it was released on December 8, 1995. End of the Millennium was the first Phantasy Star title not to be localized to Brazil by Tec Toy.
The cover art for the American and European releases was done by Boris Vallejo. Both covers depict Chaz, Rika, and Rune, but the American/European box art deviates from their appearance in-game.
In Japan, the game was initially announced as Phantasy Star IV, but by the time of release it had been renamed Phantasy Star: The End of the Millennium. At the time, this renaming was seen by the gaming press as an attempt to make it clear that the game was a followup to Phantasy Star II. The American and European releases took the title Phantasy Star IV, though the title screen of all versions of the game reads Phantasy Star: The End of the Millennium. The titles are combined to Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium in the Sega Genesis Collection compilation.
Ports and remakes
The game was ported as part of Phantasy Star Collection for the Sega Saturn, released only in Japan. There was a Windows port released in 2004, as well as the Sega Genesis Collection for the PlayStation 2 and PSP. It was included in Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection, released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles.
The Sega Ages project planned a remake for the PlayStation 2 console, having revamped the first two games: Phantasy Star Generation 1 and Phantasy Star Generation 2. However, the Sega Ages website confirmed that a port of Phantasy Star Collection for the PlayStation 2 featuring all four of the original games would be released, leaving the previously announced remake in development limbo.
Phantasy Star IV: End of the Millennium received generally positive reviews. GamePro praised the ability to inspect background objects, the convenience of the macros and talk option, and the translation. However, they commented that the inability to purchase multiple items at once is irritating, and were especially critical of the story, describing it as routine, frequently incoherent, and derogatory towards women. The four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly gave it an average score of 7.75, commenting that the graphics are mediocre, the music is irritating, and the story is too slow paced, but that the magic/technique system, equipment, and general gameplay are all highly involving and enjoyable. Sega Saturn Magazine (previously Sega Magazine) gave the game a 90%, saying that the graphics were outdated even compared to other Mega Drive/Genesis games and that the game is incomprehensible to newcomers to the series, but that "the game succeeds by creating cinematic moments, introducing new characters and powers, and taking many weird and wonderful plot turns."
In 2009 Nintendo Power labelled the title, along with Phantasy Star II, as one of the greatest RPGs of all time. In 2012 IGN placed Phantasy Star IV at number 59 in their Top 100 RPGs of all time, citing the elegantly simple mechanics and the game's influence on Phantasy Star Online (which they ranked as number 23 on the list).
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