5/13 – Phantasy Star

Hello and welcome. My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s Video Game of the Day.

The Sega Master System is an enigma to many players outside of Europe. In other regions, the NES dominated the market and the Master System struggled to find a foothold but in PAL regions as well as Brazil, the Master System lived on and fostered some of Sega’s most enduring franchises. Let’s talk about the first game in one of these franchises, Phantasy Star. Phantasy Star was developed by Sonic Team and published by Sega in 1987.

Phantasy Star melds sci-fi and fantasy to tell the story of Alis, a woman who must travel throughout her star system to defeat the evil King Lassic, who was responsible for the death of Alis’s brother. Along the way, she gathers a party of fighters and must level up by fighting monsters and helping the towns she encounters.

Gameplay follows a traditional JRPG format for 8-bit consoles. The overworld and towns show Alis and her party from a top-down perspective. During these sections of the game, Alis can talk to residents to gain clues about where to go next or enter shops to buy items and equipment. Battles take place from a first person perspective, very similar to the early Dragon Quest games. In battle, players can attack, use special attacks or spells, use items or attempt to run away. One thing that sets Phantasy Star apart from Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy is that dungeons are explored in the first person, rather than using the top-down menu. The Master System uses static drawings to show players the dungeon corridors from different angles.

The other main thing that set Phantasy Star apart was it’s relatively complex story. Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest had both been released in Japan by this point but neither featured the detailed character portraits, fleshed out characters or sci-fi worlds quite like Phantasy Star. This was even less common in the US or Europe, which wouldn’t see either RPG series for another two years, if at all. Thus, Phantasy Star offered an experience unlike much else players could find on consoles at the time.

Phantasy Star was praised for its complexity and uniqueness in the console market at the time. Both European and US outlets called it one of the best titles on the Master System. To this day, it is remembered fondly not only for the RPG gameplay and impressive 8-bit graphics but also for being one of the first video games to feature a female protagonist. Many of the staff would go on to work on later Phantasy Star titles as well as games such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Skies of Arcadia. The Phantasy Star series would continue for three more main series games, as well as branching off into the first ever online console RPG, Phantasy Star Online.

Thanks so much for listening to the show. If you want to hear more episodes, check out the archives on videogameoftheday.com and also follow me on Twitter @vg_oftheday for updates and polls and random thoughts about whatever I happen to be playing or watching. Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow for another Video Game of the Day.

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