||Phantasy Star IV - Review
Still incredible after so many years...
| Battle System
| Replay Value
| Time to Complete
|The title screen beautifully captures PS4's unique setting!
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 could have been a bit more challenging.
Most of the innovation in Phantasy Star 4 can be found in the game's battle system. While at first, PS4's battle system seems to be no more than generic turn-based fare, numerous innovative 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 by sleeping at 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. Also noticeable is the flow of the battle, which is quick, exciting, and, in a few cases, fairly tense. Furthermore, there are eight macros, where one can program the characters to use abilities in any
combination they choose and then have them use these combinations in battle by seleecting the macro. 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. All-in-all, Phantasy Star 4 exquisitely marries the traditional turn-based battle systems with countless refreshing innovations.
|The mighty Land Rover allows our heroes to travel over quicksand!
Outside of combat, Phantasy Star 4 does not offer anything that new in the gameplay department, but what's there is damn good! The interface is a snap to use, the game is well-paced, the dungeons are creatively designed, and the towns are fairly large and are a joy to explore. Problems in its predecessors, such as the monotony of Phantasy Star 3 and the ridiculous amount of leveling-up required in Phantasy Star 2 have been practically eliminated, allowing for more focus on what really matters: fun. Simply put, Phantasy Star 4's gameplay more than delivers.
Phantasy Star 4 has fantastic music that is so catchy and well composed that it easily transcends the Genesisí many sound limitations. Takeuchi and Nakagaki'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 dungeonís environment in a way that very few other games have succeeded. Also of special note are the battle themes, which do an incredible job of capturing the essence of your foes and the ferocity of the skirmish. PS4's sound effects, particularly those of the enemy attacks, are rather unique 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 phanatics can also attest to that.
While one could easily be justified in classifying Phantasy Star 4 as just another town-rushing, dungeon-thumping RPG, such an opinion is far too simplistic as it greatly ignores all Sega's masterpiece brings to the table. While nothing more needs to be said about the creative facets of the game's battle system, the setting is certainly worthy of note, although such a discussion is probably more appropriate when presenting the game's plot.
The Phantasy Star universe, with its rich history, unique mythology, and seamless blending of the medieval and the technological, is so laden with character that Sega would have a hard time butchering its culmination. 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 the planet Motavia. Over the course of an adventure that eventually spans three worlds, they meet up with a cast of colourful party members who each add their own flavour of characterization to this magnificent story. Sega must also be praised for giving Phantasy Star 4 one of the best, most witty Japanese-to-English localizations that has ever been produced and for providing each character with brilliant dialogue along with a distinct and interesting personality that matures over the course of the game. Overall, Phantasy Star 4's story is outstanding and is only overshadowed by the gameís rich setting. Simply awesome.
| One of PS4's many gorgeous cutscenes.
Without a doubt, PS4's graphics are some of the best the 16-bit Sega 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 Fantasyís monsters were not animated until the series' 7th installment, released 3 years after PS4.) The boss of the Air Castle has especially memorable graphics, and will bring a tear to the eyes of Phantasy Star veterans. Overall, Phantasy Star 4's graphics
Unfortunately, Phantasy Star 4 is a bit too short and could use a little more challenge. For the most part, 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 should fall to the sheer might of your party. On a more positive note, a couple of the game's dungeons are somewhat devious. As well, the save system is fairly convenient, as the cartridge contains three game save slots and the game can be saved anywhere but in battle or in a dungeon. Overall, Phantasy Star 4 is not a particularly challenging game, but since its other aspects are so strong, this oversight can be forgiven.
|Mere pictures cannot do justice to PS4's splendid battle scenes.
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. Since PS4 is not all that lengthy (25 hours tops) and is an extremely enjoyable gaming experience, however, most gamers will play through it a few times and never shelve it for good. I myself played through it at least 5 or 6 times back when I owned a Sega Genesis and at lease twice through the wonders of emulation.
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 game library.