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The game that started it all.
By Jake Alley
For those few who owned the Sega Master System, Phantasy Star, the first console RPG ever released in the US, was a truly mindblowing game. A vast world to explore (actually three of them), illustrated cut scenes, and the ability to speak to intellegent monsters are just some of the innovations none attempted to emulate for years after its release in the mid-80s.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of Phantasy Star, especially for its time, are the in-battle graphics. When a battle begins, the player is treated to a full screen portrait of a monster with full animation on attacks. Needless to say, this means only one type of monster can be encountered at one time. However, multiple monsters of the same kind are common. Interestingly enough, it's impossible to chose one's own targets in such situations. Phantasy Star is also one of the rare variety of games where one can talk to intellegent monsters, and in fact, this is the only way to obtain some rather important hints.
One of the most innovative features of Phantasy Star has since evolved into a staple of the modern RPG; cut scenes with graphics far beyond those normally found in the game. In modern RPGs, this translates as anime or CG cut sceens, but Phantasy Star made do with large illustrations. For their time, these were quite impressive, and they serve to move things along quite well.
As wonderful as Phantasy Star was for its time, the modern gamer may be turned off
by its challenge. Nothing in the game is frustrating per se, but there is a certain amount of mapping
and character building involved. There's also a challenging degree of exploration in general. The best
equipment in the game, which is more or less required to win, is scattered all around an entire planet
full of very deep caves.
All in all, Phantasy Star is mind blowing for its time. It is by far the most robust and impressive RPG ever to grace the Master System and rivals most 16-bit games in complexity. If you have the means, and you don't mind the grainy look and the character building, it is definitely a game worth playing.
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