Re-thought: Phantasy Star III

Most people dislike this title of the Phantasy Star series. This is because the story has very little to do with the other three Sega titles. I, however, couldn’t find many things I disliked about the game. Since the first introduction of the game back in 1991,  Phantasy Star III rarely gets the respect it deserves.

Originally, I was lucky to play this game back in the Sega Genesis. After years of practically forget about it, I got my hands in the PSP Sega collection that includes Phantasy Star III along with younger sisters Phantasy Star I and II. Still, after all these years, I found the storyline very original and engaging while the gameplay still holds there despise all the grinding you need to go through every two seconds.

Graphics: This game may not be eye-popping gorgeous to today’s standards, but for a 16-bit game, I think the graphics were pretty darn good. There were a few problems with the graphics, however. They reuse a lot of the same sprites, except they change the color. I also wish they would show the character attacking in battle, instead of the way they presented it by just showing a mark for an attack.

Storyline: Phantasy Star III has one of the most original stories I’ve ever played in an RPG. The Layans and Orakians have been at war for many generations, and prince Rhys of Orakio is caught in the middle of it. His wedding to the mysterious Maia was cut short when a dragon took her away. Rhys, being the noble guy he is, goes to rescue her.

Yes the beginning is clichéd, in par with many others (if not all) JRPG but there was something original in this game, at the end of Rhys’s quest, you get to choose his bride, play as their kid, choose his bride, then play as the third generation. This generational concept was very original back them. I can’t tell for sure if any other JRPG replicated these mechanics but in case there are games with similar options, please let me know in the comment section.

Gameplay: This is definitely a case where Sega definitely deserves credit just for trying a couple revolutionary ideas. First off, the game takes place over the course of three generations. Rhys is the main character for the first third of the game, and after accomplishing his goal, is given the choice of marrying one of two women. From there you keep going until this option present again and again eventually making you use several different characters through the game. In total, The game offers seven possible main characters and four different endings.

An equally innovative idea was the world design. Instead of having multiple planets like the rest of the series, Phantasy Star III has 7 world domes that are interconnected via various caverns or tele-transportation Palaces. Each world consists of a few towns, a slightly different world map theme, and some caverns and dungeons. Unfortunately, each innovation suffers from a serious flaw that hurts the game. First of all, despite the fact that there are 4 different quests to go on, depending on who you marry, each path feels similar at some points. The dome idea also suffers greatly due to the fact that the worlds are small, and lose the epic feeling that graces most RPG worlds, and secondly, traveling through the repetitive, enemy-filled caverns between the worlds becomes so tedious that you may feel like ripping the game out of your console.. The game play is dragged even farther when you get into an encounter, you will either be surprised or be able to prepare an attack. Instead of the typical turn-based or ATB system most RPG gamers are used to, this game features a pathetic variation of the typical turn-based system. First off, menu with 4 options is displayed. One allows the user to change your battle options from the default (all attack), another allows you the user to run away,. Another allows the characters fight it out for one turn, and yet another makes the characters fight until a button is pressed to return to the menu. This, as one can tell, is a very clunky variation of the typical turn-based system which would be a lot easier to use if each character was given an individual menu from which to select their actions, and that menu automatically appeared after each turn.

The game also offers seven possible main characters and four different endings.

Music: Like most of the series, the music in this game has a very ”techno” feel about it. And while none of the music is bad, the only really memorable theme I can remember hearing is the main theme music (which you hear on the title screen), it’s great. The rest of the music is basically average. It does the job, but I wouldn’t be adverse to muting my TV and listening to a CD instead. Good game music should be such that I don’t even THINK about doing that.

Overall: Phantasy Star 3 is not the best RPG you’ll ever play, but it’s a game with huge potential that fell short to deliver in certain areas and angered fans in the process when it was originally released. .Still, the game deserved better treatment from Sega back then and better appreciation from fans of classic RPGs. Now, Looking back, how many RPG stories span several generations, give you the power the choose the direction of the generations, and ties the generations together with a epic story? None that I know of and this would be it. With proper execution in a remake that can handle graphics, battle system, character development and actual town interaction this could turn into a great and memorable game.

The game is available for Mega Drive/Genesis, Virtual Console, Sega Saturn (Japan only), PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Game Boy Advance and just recently the latest incarnation of Phantasy Star III was released as part of the Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection with hi-def (720p) and 2-players co-op for PS3 and XBOX 360.


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