Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium
|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. This game is seen as the last of the original Phantasy Star series of games, closing the Algol system story as a sequel to Phantasy Star II (Phantasy Star III does not involve the Algol System). Since its release Phantasy Star IV has been subject to very positive critical acclaim and is viewed today as one of the greatest role-playing video games of all time.
Phantasy Star IV is an archetypal role-playing video game in the spirit of the series, 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," abilities similar to magic spells in other games, drawing upon a character's pool of "Technique Points" (TP) to be used, with new techniques being learned as a character gains levels.
Phantasy Star IV has a number of features new to the series, including a more-streamlined battle system, an addition of many manga-style panel illustrations that accompany the narrative, an expanded script, and a much reduced difficulty curve compared to the previous entries in the series.
- The long, long struggle of ancient times finally ended...
- The victor sacrificed the vanquished to the heavens.
- Four bells tolled. Four torches were lit.
- And the world continued for thousands of years...
Phantasy Star IV takes place 1,000 years after the events of Phantasy Star II. It is the story of Chaz Ashley, a young bounty hunter, who, along with his friends and allies, unwittingly becomes the savior of the Algol solar system. The story begins on the planet Motavia, which has gone through dramatic climate changes since the end of Phantasy Star II. After an event called the Great Collapse, much of the once-thriving ecosystem had been reduced to desert, and life had become progressively more difficult for the planet's inhabitants. To make matters worse, there had 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", and it is during an investigation into such an outbreak that the characters learn 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 therefore decide to 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, more dangerous enemy, long buried in the past. The secrets of the Algol star system are revealed as Chaz and company progress through the story, discovering 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, as well as the professional partner of his mentor, Alys Brangwin. His first full assignment sends the two of them to the far-off city of Piata in order to investigate disturbances at the local academy, thus setting the game into motion. Near the conclusion of the game, Chaz's role in his own destiny is finally revealed. In battle, Chaz can use either swords, knives or daggers as his weapons, and can wear heavy armor, making him a stereotypical protagonist for the genre. He also has a moderately-large pool of techniques, allowing him to deal great damage with spells, a trait he shares with the previous PS protagonists.
- 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". She shares a veiled history with Rune Walsh, the specifics of which are never discussed. She took Chaz off the streets and raised him as her apprentice, serving as an unusual combination of a mother and an older sister while mentoring him in the ways of life. Her time with the party is short, as she falls victim and succumbs to Zio's black wave after the first encounter. In battle, she serves as a generalist; she is able to use strong attack skills and some supportive techniques, and she can use slashers, bladed boomerangs that automatically target all enemies. She is a speed-type character.
- Hahn Mahlay (ハーン・マーレイ (Hān Mārei) in the Japanese version) is a young scholar who studies under professor Holt at the Piata Academy. He joins Chaz and Alys as they begin their investigation into the disturbances that brought them all the way from Aiedo. Hahn, as a student, is not a strong fighter, allowing Alys to repeatedly extort money from him under the guise of providing protection. Hahn remains with the party until the first encounter with Zio, after which he parts ways to report the current events up from there, though much later he becomes available as an optional party member. Hahn uses daggers in battle, which migrates his weak physical attacks, but has a wide variety of attack techniques that allow him to deal damage; this, combined with his low defenses and health scores, makes him both a stereotypical magic-user and a skill-type character.
- Rune Walsh (スレイ・ウォルシュ (Surei Uorushu) in the Japanese version) is an enigmatic, somewhat caustic man who is first met in the smoldering ruins of the permanently-destroyed town of Molcum, whereupon he joins the party to travel to Tonoe. He leaves the party soon after arriving there to perform some arcane errand, but finally rejoins permanently soon after the first encounter with Zio. He and Alys share some shrouded history, but the specifics are never mentioned. Rune is one of the few people remaining in Algol with knowledge of the forgotten power of "magic," (a force distinct from the series staple "techniques," abilities that fill the role commonly occupied by magic spells in most RPGs) in which he uses one of its spells to destroy an obstacle barring the party's way forward. Rune serves as both a stereotypical magic-user in battle and skill-type character, 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 Motavian warrior and, along with his sister Pana, one of the two sole refugees from the razed city of Molcum. He is met in Tonoe, living under the protection of the Motavian Elder, whom Alys punches him for trying to learn of the latter's measurements. Gryz is driven by a need to protect Pana, his last remaining family, as well as by a powerful thirst for vengeance against the one responsible for the devastation of his home, Zio. He joins the heroes for the latter purpose, parting ways with Chaz before the party first heads into space. Gryz once again becomes available as an optional party member much later in the game. Gryz is very strong yet slow and uses axes in combat; however, he has few abilities aside from his powerful physical attacks. Despite the weaknesses explained above, he fits as a power-type character.
- 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; she is effectively a descendant, clone, and superior version of Nei, originally born to carry out the will of Seed and had since her birth developed into a surrogate daughter for the artificial intelligence. She joins the party soon after she is met (before Seed sacrifices himself by self-destructing), and her travels with Chaz and company are Rika's first experiences with the world outside of Seed. Rika is a speed-type character, being 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 is discovered to be a prisoner of Zio, her captivity part of his scheme to disrupt the support systems of Algo. Once freed by Chaz and friends, she joins the party throughout the rest of their adventures on Motavia, providing material assistance in the form of lost technologies and access to hidden or otherwise sealed facilities as well as acting as another ally in battle. She parts ways with Chaz once the party defeats Zio and they head into space, her duties at Nurvus requiring her complete attention and all of her energies, though she becomes an optional party member much later in the game. Demi is particularly strong in combat; she uses guns as her weapons and possesses several internal devices to assist in her defense, though she is especially weak against magic. One of her additional skills, Phonomezer, can be found in the Plate System dungeon in Motavia, which is required before Demi leaves the party to maintain Nurvus.
- 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; it is on Zelan he is met, and from that point on he is one of Chaz's constant companions, remaining with them through the game's conclusion as one of the four mainstay characters. Wren is knowledgeable and insightful, having been functioning for almost 1,000 years, and possesses a wide variety of scientific and mechanical skills, allowing him to both pilot and maintain spaceships. Despite his many physical similarities to Wren from Phantasy Star III, the two characters are unrelated (the PSIII Wren was named Searren in the Japanese version, and the events of PSIII are far removed from those of Phantasy Star IV). 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. Few of his additional skills (like Hyper Jammer and Burst Rocket) can be found in some important locations, such as the Positron Bolt, which is required before reaching Rykros and taking the "Silver Soldier" side-quest from the Hunter's Guild in Aideo (before obtaining the "Elsydeon" sword).
- 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 crushes Raja's temple. He is an easy-going elderly man, with an avid, if quirky, sense of humor (of which Rika is the only fan), whose knowledge of Dezolis proves to be an invaluable resource to the now-marooned party. He remains with Chaz and friends until the events at the town of Meese where he somewhat falls ill; they will, however, occupy Raja until close to the end of the game, at which point he becomes an optional party member. Raja is a stereotypical healer in battle; he is physically frail and has few attack options, yet he is easily the best healer in the game and is highly resistant to magic damage; this makes him fit as a skill-type character.
- Kyra Tierney (シェス・ティアニー (Shesu Tianii) in the Japanese version) is a young, aggressive, tomboyish Esper (one of the dwellers within the Esper Mansion, abode of the great Lutz) who is often known for the impulse decisions she makes. She meets the party when she is rescued from an altercation with the "Forest of Carnivorous Trees". She treats Chaz as though he were her kid brother despite the relative closeness of their ages. Her (self-appointed) mission is to investigate the cause of the never ending blizzard afflicting Dezolis, coinciding with Chaz's goals when they meet. She remains with the group until the mystery is resolved by defeating the second form of Dark Force, after which she bids the party farewell, though she does return as a possible optional party member later in the game. Kyra is a balanced-type character with few strengths and few weaknesses; she uses slashers and has a decent repertoire of attack techniques, while being far more durable than other mage-type characters, yet her statistics do not allow her to excel in any specialized role.
- Seth is a middle-aged, yet polite and curious, traveling archaeologist who meets the party outside the Soldiers' Temple; he agrees to join up with Chaz and company for the purpose of delving into the ancient structure; he demonstrates his knowledge by commenting on the antiquities the party encounters once inside. In battle, Seth functions exactly like a much-simplified Hahn, being a magic-user with a short list of powerful abilities, making him a fellow skill-type character. Like Alys, however, his time with the group is short; he is eventually revealed to be the third form of Dark Force to defeat Chaz and company.
- Zio, the Black Magician, is the mysterious and baleful cultist whose acts are menacing Motavia. Zio possesses frightening powers of unknown provenance, claims to have the favor of a god, and controls vast resources, enough to grant him effective political control of the city of Kadary, a large fortress headquarters, and even a private army. He also seems to know an incredible amount of forgotten lore, understanding the secrets of Motavia's past in a way that eclipses the learning of the world's greatest scholars; every indication is that Zio's intended course of action using his unique insight is not a wholesome one. The first part of the game is spent piecing together Zio's movements and motives, in the beginning by happenstance as Zio's acts are necessarily preventing Chaz and company from completing their mission, and then by design as the nature of Zio's intentions are revealed. The party eventually sets out to stop Zio's machinations before the damage is irreversible, and especially after he impales Alys with one of his most powerful attacks.
- 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 in order to lure the Esper Lutz deep into space, to the ruins of the Air Castle (the fortress that originally served as La Shiec's seat of power), found amidst the asteroid belt that was once the planet Parma, in an attempt to get revenge against the only surviving member of the party that originally killed him.
- Dark Force is the recurring final enemy of the Phantasy Star series, always nightmarish in form though its appearance changes between games. It is the "god" at the center of Zio's church, and serves as Zio's patron. Dark Force is ultimately responsible for the turmoil and catastrophe that are disrupting Algol, though it is now present in several places simultaneously, each with a different appearance and each engaged in a separate act of widespread destruction. Dark Force does not serve precisely the same role in Phantasy Star IV, and speculation about what Dark Force is and what it wants plays a part of the plot.
- The Profound Darkness is the final boss of Phantasy Star IV, as well as (arguably) the main antagonist of the original Phantasy Star 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, its fate to be sealed within an inter-dimensional prison that is kept locked by the Algol star system. While not necessarily originally an evil or malicious creature, the eternity of being sealed away had made it bitter and hateful. The Algol seal weakens for a short time once every thousand years, and The Profound Darkness began to exploit this flaw send an avatar back into reality; this entity became known as Dark Force.
The game was released in Japan on the Mega Drive in December 1993. It would be more than a year before the English-translated version of the game was released on the Sega Genesis in the United States. After delays beyond 1994, Americans were finally able to play Phantasy Star IV in February 1995. In the United Kingdom and Europe it was released on December 8, 1995. However, Portuguese audiences would have to wait for a 2004 fan translation, as End of the Millennium became the first Phantasy Star title not to be officially translated to Portuguese by Tec Toy.
In Japan, the game had been named Phantasy Star: At the End of the Millennium, but in the American and European releases, the box read simply Phantasy Star IV. At the time, this was seen by the gaming press as an attempt to make it perceived as closer to the widely praised Phantasy Star II rather than the less well-received Phantasy Star III, although there are references to both titles during the story of the game. In spite of this, the title screen of all versions of the game reads Phantasy Star: The End of the Millennium. The combination of the titles is Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium, as seen in the Sega Genesis Collection compilation.
In an effort to appeal to the aesthetic sensibilities of Western gamers, the cover art for the American and European releases was re-done by Boris Vallejo. Both covers depict Chaz, Rika, and Rune, but the American/European box art deviates from their appearance in-game.
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."
Ports and remakes
The game was ported as part of the Phantasy Star Collection for the Sega Saturn, released only in Japan. There was a Windows port released in 2004. American and European gamers would have to wait for the The Sega Genesis Collection for the PlayStation 2 and PSP. Most recently, 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 of this game 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 is often seen by fans, critics and RPG enthusiasts alike one of the greatest 16 bit role-playing games of all time and one of the best games Sega ever developed. The title maintains an 85% rating on the aggregate site Game Rankings, where it is also the fourth highest ranking game for the Sega Genesis. It is also considered to be the definitive end of the original Phantasy Star series, as future games bearing the series name, such as Phantasy Star Online and Phantasy Star Universe, have no direct relationship to the original games.
RPGamer awarded Phantasy Star IV a score of 9/10, with the reviewer praising the title as one of the best RPGs they've ever played. RPGFan was also just as complimentary, awarding the game a score of 90% whilst also praising its stature as one of the very best RPGs available. HonestGamers gave the game a perfect 10/10, with the reviewer stating that "If you're a role playing enthusiast, you can't do any better than Phantasy Star IV". Reviews for the Virtual Console port were also extremely positive. Nintendo Life awarded the title a score of 9/10, saying that you couldn't have asked for a better end to the 16-bit series. In their list of the 25 greatest video game consoles of all time (a list where the Sega Genesis was ranked fifth), multimedia website IGN listed Phantasy Star IV as one of the 5 definitive titles for the system. They also awarded the Virtual Console port a score of 9/10, praising it as one of the definitive 16-bit role-playing games.
In 2007 IGN ranked Phantasy Star IV as the 61st best game ever made. Complex Magazine ranked the game number 2, behind only Gunstar Heroes, in its list of the best Sega Genesis games. Nintendo Power has also labelled the title, along with Phantasy Star II, as one of the greatest RPGs of all time.
Phantasy Star IV makes a number of references to previous games. Some references are direct tie-ins to the overall plot, while others are so-called easter eggs placed into the game for the appreciation of series fans. There are also a number of references to other popular Sega franchises. In the final dungeon, "The Edge", players may experience a random encounter with an enemy called "Prophallus", which looks identical to Dark Falz (Dark Force) from the original Phantasy Star; this is an even closer reference than it appears, as "Prophallus" is considered by some to be an incorrect transliteration of "Dark Falz". There is also a ship wreckage in the fields near the town of Nalya. It is a purely optional dungeon full of robotic enemies, some of which are strongly reminiscent of enemies from previous games: For instance, "Whistles" and "Tracers" are similar to those found in Phantasy Star II, and the "Warren286" enemies are a reference to the androids from Phantasy Star III. The wreckage itself is a crash of a spaceship habitat similar to the Alisa-III, the world-setting of Phantasy Star III. The town of Termi, near Ladea Tower, is an homage to the original Phantasy Star, featuring statues of Alis and Myau and the shop called "Bayamare," a reference to the tower of Baya Malay, which sells numerous Easter Egg items that previously appeared in Phantasy Star.
Some music tracks from previous Phantasy Star games have reappeared as remixes (PS1 Dungeon Arrange 1 and 2). Also, "Pao-Pao", the track that has played in an area of Aiedo's Hunter Guild, is a remix of a track used in Sega's "Fantasy Zone" series. "Pao-Pao" is likely to be a reference to Opa-Opa, the main character. One of the young Musk Cats in Myau's cave brags about being able to get the top off a bottle. In the original Phantasy Star, Myau needed help getting the top off a bottle, which contained a potion necessary to save his friend, Odin. Sonic the Hedgehog is referenced in the game in a book titled Run, Hedgehog, Run! in Saya's Grammar School along with Ecco the Dolphin in the book titled A Day With Ecco. A reference to Golden Axe also appears in a book called The Golden Axe Volume 3. There is also a Game Gear located in the cupboards of the inn in Nalya.
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