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Game Profile
FINAL SCORES
9.0
Visuals
8.0
Audio
9.5
Gameplay
8.5
Features
8.0
Replay
7.5
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
Game Boy
PUBLISHER:
THQ
DEVELOPER:
Digital Eclipse
GENRE: RPG
PLAYERS:   1
RELEASE DATE:
November 25, 2002
ESRB RATING:
Everyone
IN THE SERIES
Phantasy Star 0

Phantasy Star 2

Phantasy Star Portable

Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom

Phantasy Star II

More in this Series
 Written by Ilan Mejer  on January 07, 2003

Review: Alis, Rolf, and Rhys? Generations' worth of Phantasy Star heroes reunited, in a way, on one cartridge.


Imagine paying thirty dollars for three classic RPGs that originally cost anywhere from sixty to ninety dollars each. Imagine getting these three games together, in one collection, for one system. What you've imagined is Sega and THQ's Phantasy Star Collection for Nintendo's Gameboy Advance. Three of Sega's masterpiece RPGs are reunited for one more outing, this time as handheld games. If you are already salivating at the prospect of some of Sega's greatest games on your GBA, then stop reading now, go out, and purchase Phantasy Star Collection. You will be greatly rewarded for your dedication. If you need to further convincing, then read on, and perhaps be swayed.

Not including the remarkably inaccurate Phantasy Star Online side story, the Phantasy Star series spans four games; the first of which released on Sega's ill-fated Sega Master System. The subsequent games all launched on the Sega Genesis to world wide success. Phantasy Star Collection for the GBA takes the first three games in the series (one 8-bit, and two 16-bit titles) and essentially emulates them on the GBA hardware. Phantasy Star IV could not be implemented in this package because it is about three times the size of the first three games put together. Presumably, should PSC see successful sales on the GBA, a stand-alone PSIV will follow. Sega and THQ's track-record for porting games onto the GBA is not exactly pristine but PSC was handled by Digital Eclipse and was supervised by the original Phantasy Star team, Overworks.

The result is a collection of RPGs that remains very true to the original sources, both technologically and from a gameplay standpoint. This is both good and bad. Purists will rejoice, but newcomers will not be impressed by the 10 to 14 year old technology. Speaking of technology, the original Phantasy Star was one of the most beautiful games of that generation, easily trouncing anything that followed, both on theMaster System and even on the more popular NES. It manages to hold up remarkably well today with its fully animated enemies (something the Final Fantasy series did not start doing until the PSOne game, FF7) and remarkable 3D dungeons. PSII and PSIII were obviously prettier given the hardware boost the Genesis afforded the developers at the time, and greatly enhanced the science-fiction themed world. Phantasy Star II and III boasted standard (though much more difficult) overhead 2D dungeons. Phantasy Star II perfectly extended the scope and immersion of the first game for a new generation. Unfortunately, Phantasy Star III remains as unimpressive today as it was then, being the only game in the series not handled by Overworks originally.

Any RPG that is ported to the GBA will face ?screen cropping? issues, and PSC is no exception. Since the games were all designed with television displays in mind, porting the same artwork to the GBA results in a smaller viewing distance while exploring. Typically, this can be written off as a rather pleasant side effect, since it usually helps to bump up the difficultly level for RPGs, which are generally too easy to begin with. However, the Phantasy Star games were never accused of being simple. PSII, in particular came with a robust hint guide that included full breakdowns of every area of the game. Playing through PSII's ridiculously complicated dungeons without the benefit of that hint guide and with the added challenge of a smaller viewing distance during exploration may just break less avid RPG gamers.

Another minor consequence of the port is ?touched? audio. Save the groans, for the issue is not at all critical. The Phantasy Star games all feature magnificent soundtracks, and amazingly enough they show up in their entirety on the GBA game. Some of the sound effects and songs sound slightly affected by the new hardware. The music and sounds are not at all bad, they just sound slightly different, and not necessarily in a bad way. This is most likely a consequence of passing music designed for two Sega systems through the GBA's mono speaker. Playing the game with a decent set of headphones helps to offset that touched quality, and restores the soundscape to most of its former glory. Some in-house Nintendo ports suffered much more from their SNES adaptations to the GBA. As an added bonus, the new (and stylish) game-select screen features a magnificent medley of all three PS title screen songs, with upgraded instrumentation and composition. For audiophiles, that one medley song alone might be worth the purchase price, as it's remarkably ?Phantasy Star? in every respect.

Now that we have established that the Phantasy Star games are wonderfully intact, what are they actually about? The Phantasy Star mythos (not including PSO) revolves around the three major planets of the Algo (Algol) Star System; Mota (Motavia), Palm (Palma), and Dezo (Dezoris/Dezolis). The names of all things Phantasy Star vary slightly from game to game, as the titles span millennia and history distortion tends to occur over such spans of time. The games tell the tale of a recurring and cyclical evil, called the Dark Force (Falz) as it threatens to overwhelm the Algo civilization.

The first game tells the tale of Governor Lassic's corruption at the hands of the Dark Falz, and Alis Landale's quest to end his tyranny on Palma. Alis is joined on her quest by three companions, Myau, Odin, and Noah, and their travels take them to all three planets of the Algol Star system. From the capital planet of Palma, to the scorching deserts of Motavia, and the frozen drifts of Dezoris, the companions will seek to unravel the mysteries surrounding Lassic and his unknown puppet master.

Phantasy Star II takes place approximately 1000 years later, and begins on Mota, the desert planet. The game begins with Rolf, an agent of Paseo's central government, and tells the tale of his investigations into the malfunctions of Algo's ruling entity, the Mother Brain. Rolf, who suffers from strange nightmares of a young woman hopelessly battling an evil demon, is joined on his quest by over half a dozen companions, including Nei, one of the greatest characters to ever grace an RPG. Their journey takes them through two of the three planets of the Algo Solar System, and culminates in a truly climactic endgame against Dark Force and the Mother Brain. The game's entire mood, which climaxes during the ending, is one of nostalgia, mourning, and incredible sorrow and it catapults the entire experience beyond almost any other RPG created. For those that find the recent Phantasy Stars overbearing and simply overdone, this will be an ideal experience.

Phantasy Star III was always the oddball of the family. Designed by a different team, it neither felt like, nor resembled the Phantasy Star games that we grew up with. Consequently, it was never very well regarded. Be that as it may, PSIII started by telling the tale of Rhys, an Orakian prince, and his beloved Maia, a Layan noble. PSIII spanned three generations, and culminated in an almost haphazard encounter with Dark Force. The game takes place approximately 1000 years after the events of PSII occurred and coincides with the events of PSIV. Discussing the story any more will result in major spoilers for PSII, though the games are barely related. Sadly, the connections with PSII and PSIV that do exist feel forced, almost as if the team was developing a new RPG and late in development made the decision to call it Phantasy Star.

Bottom Line
Phantasy Star Collection is more than worthwhile, since PS and PSII alone are worth the purchase price. Representing the very best of both turn-based role-playing games and science-fiction fantasy, this collection is a must-have for any serious RPG GBA gamer. The only obstacle that mars the experience is a complete lack of handheld consideration. Namely, the games require the dedication of console RPGs, since it lacks either a sleep mode or a handheld-friendly ?bookmark? save option. Ultimately though, this is only relevant for PSIII, since PS allows you to save anywhere, and in PSII you can steal an item that allows the same function in that game. I cannot recommend this game enough. I will admit to being an avid fan of the series, since I own all four titles independently on their original systems. Nevertheless, being able to revisit ? of series on one package, intact, is a big deal. Whether you are a returning fan looking for a solid nostalgia trip, or simply seeking a challenging a


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