Thursday Aug 26, 2010
One of the greatest 16-bit console RPGs of all time, Phantasy Star II has made its way to the Apple iPhone!
It’s easy to wax rhapsodic about classic RPGs, particularlly from the early 1990s, when the genre was solidifying on consoles and the strength of the titles came from their epic breadth & depth. Phantasy Star II stands on its own for sure, though — it expands on the universe created in the first title, which came out for the Master System, while easing up on some of that game’s arcane difficulty level.
Phantasy Star II opens 1,000 years after the end of the first game, and features both the return of series antagonist Dark Falz, as well as the introduction of the series’ other major villian, Mother Brain. It also helps establish the aesthetics which would set Phantasy Star apart from other RPG series and make it SEGA’s longest running franchise, period: a gameworld featuring multiple, distinct planets; epic character-driven sagas grounded with a sly sense of anime humor; a preoccupation with genetically modified races and the racial conflict that emerges between those races; and a mesh of high technology and swords-and-sorcery.
The game is still very difficult, but not as mind-bogglingly so as the first entry in the series. For example, if you happen by the beach in Phantasy Star II — unlike in the first game — you will not be instantly murdered by a giant fish-man. This is still of the “old school” variety of RPGs, though, and you will not be presented with a clear linear path, and wandering too far in the game world too soon will result with an encounter with something huge & murderously beyond your level.
Here’s some tips to get started:
- Visit everyone in town, and talk to everyone! Make sure you find RUDO in the starting town, as well — he will join your party early on, and provide much-needed combat support. Without him you have only one character at the onset who can attack.
- Your first mission is being sent to investigate Mother Brain, but before you can even think of doing that (or anything else), wander around the small area outside of town for a bit. Encounters with monsters are — as was intended by the ancient RPG Prophecies — randomized. Fight monsters until all your characters go up a few levels, which won’t take very long.
- Spend your meseta on monomates at the supply shop, but don’t bother with the more expensive healing options just yet. Monomates will heal you fully for a while. You shouldn’t need any other supplies early on.
- Use Resta! Nei’s “Technic” power is a healing spell, which you will be able to use the “Orders” command to have her use each turn in combat. Learn to judge how much damage enemies are doing so you know when to use the spell — it doesn’t cost money but it does consume TP, which is the amount of points you can spend on spell casting.
- Plan to return periodically to the Healer (marked by a convenient red cross) in town. They are much cheaper than buying monomates and will heal you and restore your TP.
- You can grind up your meseta as much as you want, and use it to purchase new armor & weapons. Pay attention to what the shop owners tell you! There are a lot of restrictions on gear, and if you try to buy something for someone who can’t use it, the proprietor will ask “What, are you joking?” This means that person can’t use that item.
- Don’t wander too far too soon, but do push the edges of the map a bit — an early encounter with something that might be just a bit too strong for you is what makes games like this incredibly fun. Gearing up to go and beat the snarling scorpion-based monster that wiped out your party at the beginning of the game is one of the most pure pleasures in classic RPG gaming.
That’s all for now — try this game, and have fun! It’s one of the best in the genre, and a fine example of the majesty & mystery which made evolving RPGs such a natural fit for hard-core gamers.