Review by ImOldSkool
"One of the best RPG's ever created"
This RPG ranks #2 on my all-time RPG list, behind only Final Fantasy VII. It was, simply put, a masterpiece. They just don't make RPG's like this anymore, it's a lost art. Before graphics and lengthy anime cut scenes became the selling point of RPG's they actually focused on things like gameplay, plot, and fun. The 16 bit era was the golden age of RPG's. Instead of them being like anime movies they were more like a good book. You become engrossed by the story line and the characters. You just can't put it down. You think to yourself, just one more dungeon as you would say to yourself "one more page" when reading a good book. Sooner or later you realize hours have been spent off the clock and you don't smell so good. Whoops... I got so into this game I forgot to bathe! Oh well... I'll get around to it after this next town.
This game is a classic RPG without doubt. As time goes by it doesn't diminish one bit. In fact, to the contrary, it just gets better because even with all these snazzy graphics these next gen. systems are capable of they cannot emulate a game like this today. All of the characters have their own unique and striking personalities... wit, humor, baggage. You can even relate to some of them (I related to one in particular). This game just has such a quite charm to it. You even feel that you are going through what the characters in the game are going through (again, like a good book). I was actually pissed off at Zio for killing Alys. I wanted to kill the guy... like in real life. I may have even shed a tear, though it was long ago and I can't exactly recall. I could feel Gryz's rage and lust for revenge... And Zio's blatant, cold disregard for human life... And Rika's raw innocence... Rune's arrogance and Kyra's helplessness.
This game also does a good job of explaining things that may have been a bit gray in the previous 3. It tied everything together nicely. The part where Chaz takes up Elsydeon payed a nice tribute to the fallen ones from the previous games who gave their lives to protect Algo. The characters from PS2 can be seen (hinting that they perished at the end of that game)... another gray area that has had much debate. PS3 also begins to make sense and you realize how it fits into the storyline after a certain cut scene.
There are many fantastic parts in this game that just make you go "Wow!" The part where you first set foot on Rykros and Le Roof explains the story of Algo's Genesis is one of those moments. The music is wonderful and the story is engrossing. All the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. Behind able to do battle with the actual vehicles themselves was a nice touch too. They have their own weapons and HP's. It makes them very useful because if you're on your way to a cave/dungeon and don't want to waste your HP/TP on the way there you can just use the vehicle instead. The Ice Digger in particular is very powerful. It has the best insta-death attack in the game (N-Spher)... it never fails.
Well I feel I've given enough of a general overview of the game now. It's time to get into specifics:
Gameplay/Controls - 9/10
Very tight gameplay. One big improvement was the speed in which your characters walk compared to PS3. Now it doesn't take forever to explore a town. There is a nice balance of story-line/missions/grinding. The grinding isn't bad at all, but there are times where some is necessary which I like in an RPG personally. You don't want things to come too easily but at the same time I don't want to spend hours saving up for some weapon that's going to become obsolete soon anyway. There are enough cut scenes and points where the story is established to get you immersed in the game and understand what's going on, but it doesn't go overboard and distract you from the gameplay itself like some modern RPG's do with their anime movie-like lengthy cut scenes. The controls make sense. For awhile I'd confuse A & C but after I got used to it no big deal. You can't screw up too much with a 3 button controller.
Fun Factor - 9/10
I had a tremendous amount of fun playing this gem. I feel I've elaborated on this enough above.
Storyline - 9/10
To me this is a very important criteria for an RPG. Again, I think I've gone into enough detail above about this facet of the game.
Graphics - 8/10
When judging graphics of a game I always take into account the capability of the console it's on. You can't expect much more given the limitations of the Genesis than what you get in this game. The character animations are attractive and creative. Everything is pretty sharp looking. If this was released on the SNES it likely would have been more detailed given the hardware advantages that console had.
Sound - 8/10
There is some good music in this game. The music in Rykros is beautiful. I was pleased to hear the Air Castle music. Those who played the original will get a dose of nostalgia. Zio's music is evil. Some of the dungeon music is wonderful. The Bioplant music should sound familiar to original PS fans as well. The only thing that keeps this from scoring higher is the repetitive random battle music. It doesn't change throughout the entire course of the game and it's pretty boring and unimaginative... but I don't want to penalize it too much for this because the same can be said for pretty much EVERY RPG I've ever played.
Challenge - 6/10
Not a very challenging RPG. The length and complexity of the mazes/dungeons/caves are a mere shadow of what they were in Phantasy Star 1 & 2. Most of them are fairly straight-forward and hard to get lost in. There isn't much grinding required. Like I said above I think it was a good balance. Too much is too much, but regardless this does make it less challenging when compared to other early RPG's. Most boss battles are easily won without much thought process. It's just a matter of - Deban, Barrier, beat the crap out of them. I like more strategy involved in boss battles and more of them. I think a good example is Chrono Trigger. Lots of boss battles in that game and many of them required some strategy to beat.
Replay Value - 4/10
The only reason this game has any replay value at all is because it's a great game. Other than that there isn't much reason to play it again. There is no alternate storyline. There's only 1 ending. Everything is the same from one play-through to the next. RPG's really don't have very good replay value in general because of these reasons. It's nothing personal against this game. PS3 actually has much more replay value because of the alternate story-lines and multiple endings. However... it is an inferior RPG overall compared to this one.
This is one of the best RPG's and games period I've ever had the pleasure of playing.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 06/02/08
Game Release: Phantasy Star IV (US, 12/31/94)
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