Review by Bobo The Clown
Reviewed: 08/28/01 | Updated: 08/28/01
Phantasy Star? Someone Failed Fourth Grade Spelling...
Phantasy Star 4, despite the fourth grade spelling job, is by far the greatest role playing game ever created for the Sega Genesis. That in itself is a dubious distinction; it's about equal to being called the best basketball player in Iceland, there's really not much to compare yourself to. However, Phantasy Star 4 is an excellent game, and shoots to the top of Genesis role playing games due to its quality, and not because of the lack of titles.
Unfortunately, Phantasy Star 4 never got the credit it deserved for two reasons. First, Sega did not do a good job of pushing the game. Sega has NEVER been known for any role playing games, until the releasal of Phatasy Star Online for the Dreamcast. When people thought of role playing games, the Super Nintendo immediately popped into mind. Outside of the three Phantasy Star games, the Genesis has two or three recognizable role playing games to the casual gamer, maximum.
Secondly, because of the large staff and expensive extra chips included inside, Phantasy Star 4 costs eighty dollars at it's release. Most games go down in price at they're out longer; not the case with Phantasy Star 4. Quite simply, there was a small but devoted demand for the game, one which did not require Sega to produce more copies. Instead, retailers took advantage, and jacked up the price, exploiting gamers. In some stores, a copy of Phantasy Star 4 could go for as much as $150, and even today the price is still $60 at a minimum, more likely near $80, due to the scarcity of the game. It is one of the rarest games, in scale with the Dragon Warrior games of Nintendo lore.
In Phantasy Star 4, you play the role of Chaz, a young hunter and mercenary. Along with your fellow adventurer Alys, you go to investigate a disturbance at an academy. The ensuing drama will throw you into a plot so big, that money and monster hunting become much smaller concerns...
The story of Phantasy Star 4 is one of the strongest ever seen before the releasal of next generation consoles. The game easily spans over forty hours, all of it chock full of story and insight into ALL of the characters, a very welcome change. Phantasy Star 4 arguably contains the greatest single console story ever, on the scale of Final Fantasy 7 and Chrono Trigger.
The gameplay is extremely well put together. Each character has distinct strengths and weaknesses, and more intelligence than usual is needed to balance your party. A maximum of six characters can fight in one battle, which is still a record for a strictly console role playing game. You can even program macros for the game, which execute whatever commands you program for them.
The game is not especially easy; novice gamers will find it almost impossible. However, for the hardcore gamer, Phantasy Star 4 provides an excellent challenge. It's not frustratingly cheap or anything, it's just legitimately hard. You can't hack and slash your way through each and every enemy. The dungeons are no pushover either; they're deep, winding chasms, with pitfalls all about, inhabited by tough enemies. The boss characters are not especially strong, but after roaming through a dungeon looking for them, they can be difficult to take down.
If there is one problem with the gameplay, it is with the naming of items, spells, and other usable commodities. Quite simply, whoever created the name for the spells is an idiot. What exactly would you except a spell named Foi to do? Or how about Ramza? When you first get new magic, it's a guessing game as to what it does. It feels like they only translated half the game, leaving all the equipment names in Japanese to save a couple months. Maybe it's attempting to impart some knowledge on me, but I'm a stupid American, and I want my spells to have simple names like Freeze, Fire, Bolt, or something like that, not Foi.
Graphically, Phantasy Star 4 is a pleasure to behold. When talking to people, your characters are represented by bright, beautiful potraits, which also show facial expressions. It's an outstanding system, and it's mind-boggling that other games have not stolen it. Despite not having full motion video, cutscences are present, and also done well with still pictures of the events. It features the greatest presentation values in a console role playing game.
Musically, Phantasy Star 4 is a bit above average. There's a few memorable themes, such as the overworld map theme, and the dungeon theme. However, it is all midi, nothing orchestrated. They're catchy, but not great. Luckily, the music does not get in the way of enjoying the game though. You can easily play the game with the sound muted if it bugs you too much.
Overall, Phantasy Star 4 is an outstanding role playing game, even if it is for the Sega Genesis. Is it worth the over sixty bucks it commands? I'd say yes, it really is that good. If you're a role playing enthusiast, you can't do any better than Phantasy Star 4.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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