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Phantasy Star III - Review

The Black Sheep of the Series

By: Jake Alley


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 5
   Interface 6
   Music/Sound 6
   Originality 8
   Plot 7
   Localization 7
   Replay Value 7
   Visuals 8
   Difficulty Easy-Medium
   Time to Complete

20-25 hours

 
Overall
6
Criteria

Phantasy Star III
 

   The Phantasy Star games all share a common setting, development team, and style. Except for Phantasy Star III. With a setting only remotely connected to the rest of the series, and different developers, Phantasy Star III is more of a side story than part of the series proper. However, it's unique plot and intriguing Generation system make for an interesting experience.

   The combat system of Phantasy Star III is essentially the same as Phantasy Star II. Really, this means it's just like any other RPG except for one small difference. Rather than being asked to input actions for each character each round, the game assumes everyone will do the same thing as the round before unless you go out of your way to change actions. Unique to the third in the series however is the ability to customize the effectiveness of your spells. For example you can increase the power of the spell which heals all party members at the expense of the poison curing spell. There is also the highly atypical quirk of the healing spells. While many games refer to losing all one's HP by euphemisms such as swooning or being knocked out, in Phantasy Star III, characters who have "lost the will to fight" are still able to cast healing spells, and even bring themselves back.

   In a strange twist on the standard RPG world design, Phantasy Star III is set in a grouping of seven small flat miniature worlds linked by high tech maze-like tunnels. The end result of this is that most of the game is spent fighting your way from town to town, world to world, in order to advance the plot. While quick travel becomes available later in the game, the overall amount of time spent navigating mazes just to get around causes this game to stand out amongst it's peers.


THIS is your wife!
The woman that starts it all off.  

   Musically speaking, the game is something of a mixed bag. Some tracks stand out as being very good, while others seem somewhat bland. One interesting feature worth noting however is that the overworld score grows more complex as your party grows, with each character adding a new element.

   The most outstanding aspect of Phantasy Star III is the Generation system. Roughly one third of the way through the game, the main character is given the choice of marrying one of the two women on your party. Then after a brief cut scene describing the passage of roughly twenty years. The game then resumes as one of two plot branches depending on your choice, with focus switching to the main character's son. When those plots resolve, more the process is repeated, branching the plot into four final paths, each with their own central character and ending.

   Although the plot is branching, it isn't terribly varied. Both variants on the second generation are quite different from each other, but all the tasks you missed out on are required in the third, so precious few things are unique to any one path. Additionally, the three sub plots that move the game along are all fairly weak. On the other hand, the massive revelation connecting Phantasy Star III to the series proper balances out the blandness.


Purdy
Anime style cutscenes  

In terms of graphics, as with most other things, this game offers something of a mixed bag. While the character closeups and cutscenes are gorgeous, the maps have a sterile bleached look to them. Monster designs, while artistically sound, are simply odd, ranging from piles of syringes to giant cybernetic green corn flakes to vague nude humanoids.


Just married
Passing on the torch  

While it could be said that Phantasy Star III offers four RPGs for the price of one, it's really more like four or five vignette RPGs. Party members are gathered, a single boss defeated, and you're done. The lack of real variation in the four branches deflates the replay value said branches should offer. These abbreviated RPGlets also don't offer much challenge. Bosses are laughably easy, and with the exception of the Crys path, healing is abundant enough that attrition is not a problem.

In summation, Phantasy Star III is a solid game in it's own right with some intriguing features, however, particularly when compared to the rest of the series, it is very disappointing in some respects. The completest may enjoy it, and the way it ties in with it's predecessors, but it simply doesn't live up to its peers.





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