Review by Sephirstein

"Despite its few minor flaws, Phantasy Star 4 is hard not love"

Called Phantasy Star: End of the Millennium in Japan, Phantasy Star 4, developed and published by Sega and released in North America for the Sega Genesis during late 1994, is an RPG of epic proportion that spans three worlds and serves as the glorious culmination to what can certainly be called one of the most spectacular RPG series of all time. While Phantasy Star 4's magnificent graphics, sensational soundtrack, gripping story and incredible battle system make it the deepest, most enjoyable game in the series, Phantasy Star 4 was somewhat on the short side, and slightly lacking in the challenge department.

Graphics (9.5): Without a doubt, these graphics are some of the best the16-bit Genesis has to offer. The characters look great on the game's various maps, something that has been a staple of the series since the first game. The anime cut scenes that accompany certain dialogues are simply gorgeous and do a tremendous job in conveying the characters' emotions to the gamer. In addition. the character portraits that appear in the dialogue boxes are nearly as nice looking as the ones found in Der Langrisser; however, they are somewhat unimpressive when compared to the jaw-dropping portraits that accompany Phantasy Star 4's phenomenal cut scenes.

The world map also produces a strong showing, sporting some nicely animated water and some masterfully designed environments that vary between the game's three worlds. The dungeons and towns are also exquisite looking, and the combination of a medieval and a sci-fi look are a tremendous improvement from the monotony that plagued Phantasy Star 3 . Phantasy Star 4's battle graphics continue to amaze, with extremely well_drawn and well-animated monsters. (As a side note, Final Fantasy’s monsters were not animated until the 7th installment.) The boss of the Air Castle is especially memorable, and will bring a tear to the eyes of Phantasy Star veterans.

Unfortunately, the attack and spell graphics, along with the battle backgrounds, are decent, but do not quite match the graphical splendor of Final Fantasy 6's. Overall, Phantasy Star 4's graphics really push the limits on the Genesis’ primitive graphical hardware, like many of its last generation contemporaries, and also demonstrate an extremely well-coordinated effort between the graphic artists and the programmers.

Sound/Music (10): Sweet! Phantasy Star 4 has fantastic music that is so catchy and well composed that it easily transcends the Genesis’ many sound limitations. Bo and Ippo's soundtrack combines emotional ballads, adventurous journey music, heart_pumping battle themes, and futuristic techno tunes that really bring out the character and the emotion of a universe where the sci_fi and the medieval collide. Especially memorable are the dungeon themes which, in some cases, invoke nostalgia for the first game of the series and always capture the atmosphere and intensity of the dungeon’s environment in a way that very few other games have succeeded. The sound effects are rather unique, especially those of the enemy attacks, and serve to further enhance the game's already powerful atmosphere. Overall, Phantasy Star 4's sound and music are simply the stuff of legends, and almost any of my fellow fanatics can also attest to that.

Story (10): The Phantasy Star universe, with its rich history, mythology and technology, is so detailed that there is virtually no way anybody could screw it up. As such, Phantasy Star 4 has a phenomenal story that does a nice job of wrapping up the series. The main character, Chaz Ashley, a Hunter from Aiedo, the largest city of the planet Motavia, and his mentor, Alys Brangwin, embark on a simple quest to rid Piata academy of Bio Monsters and then proceed to investigate the resurgence of Bio Monsters throughout. Over the course of an adventure that eventually spans three worlds, they meet up with a cast of colourful party members, and experience tragedy and indecisiveness as they fight increasingly powerful evil while learning about the Algo Solar System and its history before embarking on a quest to pull Algo from the clutches of darkness once and for all. Sega must also be praised for giving Phantasy Star 4 one of the best, most witty Japanese-to-English translations that has ever been produced and for providing each character with a distinct, interesting personality that matures over the course of the game. Overall, Phantasy Star 4's story is outstanding and is only overshadowed by the game’s rich setting. Simply awesome.

Gameplay (9.5): Phantasy Star 4 is typical RPG fare combined with a few innovations. One can ride the traditional plethora of vehicles, explore bustling towns, conquer exciting dungeons, and defeat the numerous denizens that haunt the three worlds and three satellites of the Algo Solar System. Most of the innovation in Phantasy Star 4 can be found in the game's battle system. At first, PS4 seems to be no more than a run_of_the_mill Final Fantasy clone, sans ATB, but a few new features separate it from the pack.

First and foremost, it is possible to discover up to 14 combination attacks by combining various skills (learned abilities that can be used a certain number of times before being restored in an inn) and techniques (spells or spell-like abilities that are handled using a traditional magic point system) into more powerful ones. Combination attacks can involve between two and four of the up to five party members fighting on your side and are always discovered by trial_and_error. Enemies are also capable of performing combination attacks and can even join together to form more powerful enemies.

Furthermore, there are eight macros, where one can program the characters to use abilities in any combination they choose and then use these combinations in battle. These macros are particularly useful for storing combination attacks. Finally, it is possible to battle while in vehicles, but unlike most games, the vehicle does the battling rather than the characters. A vehicle battle is similar to a standard battle, except that the vehicle has a certain number of Special Points (HP) that are replenished after each battle and can either attack or use skills in the same way that characters can.

Challenge (5.5): Unfortunately, Phantasy Star 4 is a bit too short and could use a little more challenge. For the most pare, the dungeons are not overly difficult and few enemies provide a serious threat the your continued existence. Some of the major bosses can be difficult but, if you make the right defensive preparations at the beginning of the battle, they will easily fall to the sheer might of your part. The last dungeon, too short to be a legitimate challenge, was a severe disappointment. On a more positive note, there are a couple devious dungeons, and the fact that the save system is fairly liberal, containing three save slots on batter backup and allowing the game to be saved anywhere but in battle or in a dungeon, is of great convenience. Overall, Phantasy Star 4 is not a very challenging game, but since its other aspects are so strong, this can be forgiven somewhat.

Replay (7.5): Aside from completing all the quests in the Hunters Guild and a few optional dungeons, there is nothing special that makes Phantasy Star 4 worth replaying, but since it's not all that lengthy and is an extremely enjoyable gaming experience, many gamers will play through it a few times and never really shelf it for good.

Whoo Hoo!

-Phenomenal graphics
-Atmospheric dungeon themes
-The Combination system
-Excellent setting
-Nice translation
-Liberal game saving system

Doh!

-A little short and easy
-No real incentive to replay besides the game itself

Legacy

-Concluded a magnificent series of RPGs (Phantasy Star online is pretty well a new series)
-Many Fan Fics and fan games in the process

For Fans: There are many excellent Phantasy Star sites on the net, but www.phantasy-star.net is the place to go for all things Phantasy Star. It has tips, timelier, a busy discussion forum, and even a large library of Phantasy Star fan fiction. You can also check out www.camineet.com, www.classicgaming.com/orakio, and naflign.dhs.org/ego/index.htm for more Phantasy Star information along with some information about fan-made Phantasy Star PC games in the development process. Additionally, for fans of Phantasy Star 4's music, there are many places on the Internet (or Napster) to download Phantasy Star Collection Volume 2, an outstanding selection of remixed Phantasy Star 4 songs that just have to be experienced at least a few times.

For Emulation: Sega Genesis emulators can be found at www.zophar.net. I recommend the latest version of Gens for Win9x/ME/2000, but Genecyst or KGEN 98 are also excellent choices for those who prefer DOS-based emulators. There are many places where the Phantasy Star 4 ROM can be found, and www.pe2000.net is the best place to look.

Judgement Day (9): Phantasy Star is Sega's answer to Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, and in many ways, it's a better series. Phantasy Star 4 contains everything that makes the Phantasy Star series such a special gaming experience and then some. Overall, it's one of the greatest RPGs I have ever had the pleasure of playing and deserves a place in everyone's library or ROM collection.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/24/01, Updated 02/22/01


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