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The Third Time Isn't Always The Charm

Mike Moehnke

Phantasy Star III is known as the black sheep of the Phantasy Star series nowadays, not without reason. Its ties to Phantasy Star I, II and IV take awhile to discover, the combat system lacks the nerve-wracking intensity of its predecessors and the finesse of its descendant, and the seven sub-systems of its satellite lack the personality of the others in the series. The game does give more reasons for immediate replay than the others, but the consequences of bride selection are not easily known without looking at a FAQ.

In particular, the Generation system lacks the dialogue necessary to turn its participants into something more than ciphers known only through their combat aptitude. Maia and Lena in the first generation get about four lines of dialogue each, making it extremely difficult to care about either except as the possessor of a womb for Rhys' son. This problem repeats in the second generation, with Ayn and Nial's potential brides getting no character development whatsoever. The paucity of dialogue is understandable given that Phantasy Star III dates from 1991, but it need not remain so ineffectual.

Sega's treatment of the original Phantasy Star games since their release hasn't exactly been stellar, but they keep showing up on compilations. Phantasy Star I and II even saw remakes through the Sega Ages line, which of course did not cross the Pacific because they were budget releases in Japan and Sega of America could not be bothered to expend the resources for localizing such tiny niche titles. Those two games were less in need of remakes than the III, but the fact that new versions were created shows Sega of Japan (back when the Sega Ages line was still being released, at any rate) is not averse to the idea.

If it was remade, there are several areas Phantasy Star III could be immensely improved in. The inclusion of plentiful dialogue is one, and probably the most important. Caring about the choice of bride is a lot easier if the women have spoken more than 40 words, after all. Changing the battle music is another key ingredient to making this game better, because while some of its environmental themes are neat, the horrid noise played prior to commands being chosen is nearly at the level of hearing 'Endless Love' repeatedly. Making some simple modifications to the map that displays the names of locations would make the plentiful backtracking this game requires much less aggravating. Visually, seeing characters attack onscreen would make a world of difference (as they in fact do in the other Genesis Phantasy Star games). Doing such things might make the modern RPGamer generation take a look at Phantasy Star III, and decide it's not such a black sheep after all.

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