Review by SWhite

Reviewed: 01/21/01 | Updated: 01/21/01

This game hooked me on my five year obsession with RPGs. Truly one of the best games ever for any system, and I'm writing this review in 2001.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I was looking for a different kind of game. I picked up Phantasy Star IV at a used game store, and it simply blew me away. For the first time in my life, I was ''addicted'' to a game, and that ''addiction'' has lasted even after completing the game 7 times. Don't be fooled by the red ''Genesis'' band on the side of the game box -- despite its obvious 16-bit graphical deficiency (however, the graphics are very good for a Genesis game), Phantasy Star IV deserves to rise to the ranks of Final Fantasy, Grandia, and (in my case) Suikoden.

Story (8/10): Obviously, the development of the story cannot compare to games like Final Fantasy VII, The Legend of Dragoon, or Grandia, for only so much information can be stored in the feeble artificial mind of a Sega Genesis cartridge. However, although the plot tends to move a little faster than Playstation RPGs, the story makes perfect sense, fits together well, and has many twists and turns. At the opening of the game, a mysterious man named Zio has appeared on Motavia, and destruction seems to trail his every move. Chaz Ashley (main character) and Alys Bragwin are hunters who take on jobs of removing monsters from places to pay the bills. However, the monsters continually increase. The mysteries of the monsters and Zio unfold as Chaz's journey takes him throughout the Algo Solar System. The story strays fromt the path of the traditional RPG stereotype slightly, for it incorporates futuristic ideas along with the traditional swords and armor. The story interests players and remains interesting throughout the entire game.

Character Development (10/10): Character development and story seperates the men from the boys, and Phantasy Star IV definately deserves a Bar Mitzvah. It's amazing -- it's truly amazing. Sixteen bit RPGs could often have interesting storylines, but they lacked the final kick to earn the stamp of great RPG -- character development. In most Pre-Playstation games, characters meet, maybe talk once in awhile, but the task of deciphering the difference between characters' personalities remains futile. In fact, labeling a name to each snipet of conversation remains pointless -- it makes no difference who says the line. However, in Phantasy Star IV, the player KNOWS the characters' personalities. They KNOW how a character will respond to a situation. They KNOW a character's feelings on an isssue. They KNOW of Alys's confidence and skill. They KNOW of Rune's arrogance. They KNOW of Chaz's often confused and shifting emotions. The characters are real, and the characters help to make the game more meaningful.

Gameplay (9/10): The gameplay *SURPRISE!* freshly seperates itself from other 16-bit games (or Playstation games, for that matter). No game quite reaches the options of this battle system. The controls are not at all confusing, and the battle remains chose-and-watch style (you don't physically control your characters fighting performance as you would in The Legend of Dragoon or Mario RPG). However, the fighting system has TWO types of ''magic'' (although neither actually carries the label of ''magic'') as well as attack, item, and defend. The magics are unique to each character, but everyone has SOME (some have many more than others, however). Techniques use technique points out of a technique point pool that each character has (much like the magic point system), and the skills have a set number of times a character can use each skill without resting. Also, techniques can be combined with techniques OR skills to produce bigger and badder damage. However, the real gameplay quality that EVERY RPG should use (and I've never seen it in any other) has to be the Macer (or Macro, the name is confusing) system. Using this system, a player can set up to ten different sets of commands for all the characters (up to five in a party at a time) AND set the ORDER. Want to make sure someone gets healed right away to prevent his potential death but don't know who will go first? Using the macer system, this problem can be solved. The gameplay has some noteworthy differences from other games.

Music/Sound (8.5/10): Although the music obviously isn't CD quality, and although the music has to contain those artificial twangs that a real instrument couldn't immitate through a lifetime of practice, the music remains interesting and fits all the dungeons/scenes perfectly. Sad themes are sad and happy themes are happy. The sound effects are interesting enough.

Ending (9/10): The ending does not compare to some endings; however, it certainly concludes the story and helps you to further appreciate the characters. Don't get me wrong -- the ending was spectacular (especially, again, ''for a Genesis game'').

Conclusion (9/10): After meditating day and night and losing sleep for weeks on end, I honestly cannot decipher a single fault in this game (other than system limitations). Phantasy Star IV obviously cannot reach the level of some Playstation RPGs, but it comes close to many. By comparison to every other Genesis RPG, Phantasy Star IV rises as a boss. Although Sega Genesis games may seem outdated -- play Phantasy Star IV (I'm sure you can find it for a fairly low price). It's not a waste of time.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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