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   Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom - Reader Retroview  

C, C, C, C, C, C, C, C…
by Tommy Moo

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Nope
COMPLETION TIME
30-35 hrs
OVERALL

1.5/5

Rating definitions 

   The recent release of the Sega Genesis Collection for PS2, in addition to the likely rerelease of the classic Phantasy Star titles on Nintendo’s Virtual Console demands a look at how well these 16 bit titles have aged. While there may well be rewarding experiences found in these nostalgic rehashes, after suffering through Phantasy Star III, this reviewer can safely conclude that the game does not merit purchase in this day and age.

   Not unlike its predecessor (but thankfully unlike its far, far superior sequel) PSIII scraps all character development for what it passes for a plot. Set in a cliché-even-for-then world of medieval swords and sorcery with dark undercurrents of technology, the plot spans three generations of characters in their quest to do all that RPG stuff, overthrow an imperialistic army, save the world from a threat of impending doom… yeah, you know the drill. There is one interesting diversion: branch points at the end of each generation determine which character will lead the group in the subsequent one. This amounts to a few changes in stats, a different menu mugshot, and a shallow reordering of the uninteresting plot elements. Late in the game some superficial name dropping connects the plot to previous installments of the series, but don’t expect to scream “Awesome!”

That says “I can’t believe you spent money on this game” in braille. That says “I can’t believe you spent money on this game” in braille.

   Towns are homogenous rectangles. Most houses have an upstairs, but you’ll quickly learn not to waste time exploring. There are no NPCs, treasure chests, or searchable dressers; only the same five shop owners inhabit the indoors of each village. One wonders why these rooms were included at all.

   Dungeons are crossword-puzzle-shaped knots and come with one of two skins: standard cave or maze of pipes and wires. You will be plagued with random encounters every five to ten steps. After one or two dungeons even the most stalwart RPGamer will say “to hell with it” and start downloading maps off of the internet. Adding to this fun is the fact that reliable transportation is not available until very late in the game, meaning that the lazy programmers added clock time by forcing the player to backtrack through the same network of passages over and over again. NPCs frequently give a dearth of clues as to how to progress the plot, leading to aimless wanderings and hundreds of pointless battles against enemies you fought twenty levels ago. I have to wonder if anyone ever beat this game before the age of the internet FAQ.

   For a cheap 10 meseta a helpful townsman can refocus your abilities to enhance your HP restore spell at the cost of the poison antidote spell or vice versa. This would lend an element of strategy to the game were magic not utterly useless. Even the weakest character can do more damage with a physical attack than with the most powerful black magic heightened to its highest level. What’s more, the assault of tedious random encounters demands efficiency, and just about any battle can be ended quicker by placing every party member on auto-fight and then reading a magazine for a few seconds. There ends up being no better way to play this game than to stare at the screen hitting C, C, C, C, C, C, C, C to speed through the animations until you receive your experience and meseta. You will be doing plenty of this, as the outlandish pricing of equipment often translates into twenty minutes or more of slogging for money to purchase a single weapon or piece of armor. Stop to heal between battles and you will never die, even once.

Could you teleport me into Phantasy Star IV while you’re at it? Could you teleport me into Phantasy Star IV while you’re at it?

   As you shoot, slice, and bop your way through droves of near-static, pallete swapped monsters, you may occasionally stop to appreciate the quality of the sprite art, particularly among the larger foes who occupy the back row. Even these effect laughable attack animations, however, such as wagging a finger or opening and closing a mouth. This is somehow supposed to look threatening. Heaven forbid that anyone should have to draw two frames!

   The battle music is a hate crime. It is a cacophony of bleeps and bloops that you will spend 70% of the game time listening to. When I stepped outside of the first town and encountered my first baby chicken thing, I literally thought that someone had spilled syrup in my cartridge. No, that’s just the composition. I’ve heard better quality come out of the NES. I actually found myself hanging out in shops for no other reason than to hear the one decent track stored on the cartridge.

   Replay value? Come on! This game doesn’t even have play value. 35 hours of this crap will make you want to switch to first person shooters for the rest of the year.

   To call this game the worst RPG ever made might be melodramatic, but off hand I’m having a hard time thinking of one worse.. The only reason I was motivated to finish it was to fulfill this website’s requirement for review writing. The most satisfaction I have gotten out of Phantasy Star III comes from smashing it to pieces in front of you all.

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