A bright, polished, and fun remake that retro RPG gamers should definitely take for a spin, but those unfamiliar with the series might be turned off by what’s under the hood, an engine that still has that 80s feel.
Overall Score: 7/10
Release Date: 8/23/2003
Developers: Sega, Japan Art Media
Phantasy Star Generation I is a remake of the original Phantasy Star, a turn-based RPG released in 1987 (the same year that the original Final Fantasy was released). Phantasy Star was Sega’s answer to the success of Dragon Quest. The series kept a similar format during its formative years on the Sega Master System and Sega Genesis, but took the form of a multiplayer-focused action RPG with Phantasy Star Online for the Dreamcast. Recent games in the series have followed the Phantasy Star Online formula, but continue to have a distinct feel that is present throughout the entire series. Phantasy Star is a bold series that isn’t afraid to reinvent itself to stay fresh and relevant.
The original Phantasy Star was noteworthy for many reasons. Though Ms. Pac-man was the first game to have a female protagonist, Phantasy Star is considered second, and certainly it is the first game with a full narrative to have one. Phantasy Star’s Alisa (also known as Alis in the original English localization) is far from a damsel in distress, as the story takes her across the galaxy on a quest to avenge her dead brother. The original also introduced some other interesting aspects to RPG gaming of the day, such as interplanetary travel and first-person wireframe dungeons. Phantasy Star was innovative from the very beginning.
Generation I is a full remake of the first game, with vibrant 2d animated graphics, a remastered soundtrack, and an expanded narrative. Many features of the game have been improved or simplified to dull the difficult sting modern players feel when playing a pre-Super-Nintendo era RPG. The battles now have animated character sprites (like the later entries in the original series) and the dungeons are significantly easier to navigate due to updated visuals and a handy map system.
The Pros and Cons (in order of importance)
+ The visuals are well made and really add to the feel of Phantasy Star world. This is probably the biggest improvement on the original, which, despite its former greatness, now feels outdated and merciless.
+ The expanded narrative gives us much more insight into the characters and the world. The story does still feel a little forced in some parts, but through the dialog and story events you’ll really get to know and love your fantastic four. You can also consult your party about story events, which not only adds depth to the characters, but also helps keep you on track with the main story.
+ The dialog, even with NPCs, is often pretty interesting and whimsical, which builds on the colorful, fun sci-fi world of PS.
– The game doesn’t seem to fully utilize the power of the Playstation 2. Though it’s a huge improvement on the original, it definitely feels more like a Playstation era RPG than a PS2 era one. Fully animated cut scenes and voice acting could’ve made this title feel less cheap.
– Perhaps these are purpose nods to the original, but the remake still retains some irritating features of old school RPGs that didn’t make it into the PS2 era. You have to speak with NPCs sometimes two or three times for them to give up vital information, and some quests (like getting the roadpass) require an annoying amount of NPC chatter and backtracking. The game menus are stiff and unhelpful sometimes, especially when it comes to inventory and magic use. The enemies can also be quite unforgiving if you don’t spend a little time grinding (the grinding really doesn’t take long, however). Like many retro games, there is almost no hand-holding from the very beginning, but neither is there well thought out gameplay events that expand your understanding of how the game works. You just have to experiment and figure stuff out. Retro gamers used to old school RPGs probably won’t have a problem with most of this though.
– The remastered soundtrack is pretty good at first, but game music has come a long way since 1987, and this music is still obviously from that era. After the first ten hours or so, some heavily played tracks can become annoying.
Should you import it? If you’re a fan of the original or a fan of the series, definitely. The game is really fun and there are a couple English guides to help you get through whatever you don’t understand. If you love the PS or PSO feel, you’ll enjoy this game. It also might even enhance your understanding and enjoyment of the newer games.