The Phantasy Star games are, by far, the most popular and highly-regarded RPGs to appear on the Sega Genesis, so our decision to eliminate them all in one fell swoop was not one that we took lightly.Because of this, we actually had Stryker attempt to play the role of devil’s advocate, arguing on behalf of the Phantasy Star games while I made the case for their execution.Enjoy the transcript:
Brad:Well, I’m getting what I wanted for Christmas – we’re eliminating the Genesis’ most popular RPG series!
After years of having RPG dorks tell me how awesome the Phantasy Star games are, I have to admit I’m pretty disappointed.This series is about as typical as RPGs come – walk 5 steps, get teleported to some magical battlefield to fight a lame, menu-driven, turn based battle against generic monsters, and repeat for about 20 minutes.Then walk around and talk to every idiot in town to advance the plot until the game sends you to your next location for even more level grinding and boredom.No thanks.
Stryker:Yeah, but it’s not really fair to judge a Role Playing Game by action game standards – you have to judge it relative to other RPGs. And in terms of how the game is designed, Phantasy Star isn’t any different from Final Fantasy or most other RPGs from that era.
Brad:And that might be ok for an NES or SNES game.But the Genesis was home to some really pioneering RPGs and RPG hybrids.On a system with more than a few innovative titles, it’s no longer ok to pretend that this was the best idea anyone had come up with so far.Because when you really think about it, as games, RPGs simply don’t work – there’s no game here at all, just mindless repetition.
The combat in most of these titles plays like a demo of a game they haven’t quite finished yet.It’s as if the guys who programmed the first RPG originally just put the combat screen in there as a placeholder so he could test the rest of the game.You know, like they hadn’t programmed the controls yet, so they just threw a menu up to use while they debugged the combat.Then when they went back later to make it so you could actually control the characters and stuff, they were like “Screw it, picking stuff off a menu works fine.”
Stryker:The gameplay in a turn-based RPG isn’t supposed to be about action – it’s strategic, just like the old pen and paper RPGs.
Brad:Except there is no strategy.The fact that games like Shining Force are broken out into their own genre called “Strategy RPGs” kind of implies that regular RPGs lack strategy.With minimal (if any) attention paid to factors such as terrain, range, or movement, there’s hardly any thought required at all.The “strategic” aspects of most battles generally come down to telling your mages to cast spells and choosing fight for everyone else.The later Phantasy Star titles even go as far as to let you put the battles on automatic pilot, with each character doing the exact same thing every round if you want.You call that strategy?
Stryker:Fine, but RPGs are all about the story anyway – gameplay shouldn’t even matter.
Brad:Playing an RPG for nothing other than the story would be like watching a movie that keeps exiting back to the DVD menu every 30 seconds, and then you have to spend a minute pressing the play button repeatedly until it starts again.
And lets talk about the story for a second – Here’s a quick summation of the opening to Phantasy Star III:
It’s the wedding day of the prince.He’s about to get hitched to a woman who, a few months earlier, washed up on the beach.Nobody, including her, knows who she is, where she came from, or if – oh, I don’t know – she’s already married.Despite the obvious consequences this could have for national security since this mystery woman could theoretically become queen someday, everyone thinks this is an awesome idea.But then, during the ceremony, a dragon swoops in and flies away with her.The Prince vows to get her back, which causes the king to have him thrown into the dungeon… for some reason.And of course, the dungeon is full of treasure chests, which contain money and weaponry. I hear they have the same setup in a lot of prisons these days.
This is pretty typical of the storylines you get in the Phantasy Star series.No, in fact, that’s actually considered to be the high point for Phantasy Star 3.After that, the plot starts to get silly and hard to believe.Look, if you expect me to grind through 40 hours of picking “Fight” off of a menu over and over, you’re going to have to come with something a little less retarded than this.
Stryker:Yeah, well a lot of those “non-traditional” RPGs you keep talking about aren’t that great, either.I noticed Faery Tale Adventure didn’t last very long in this contest.
Brad:No, not all of the unique RPGs on the Genesis are good.But with so many fresh approaches to the genre on one system, its impossible to justify keeping relics like Phantasy Star around any longer.The argument against the traditional RPG is that they’re mind-numbingly boring and tedious; and the counterargument to that has always been that it’s just how the genre is.But once you have games like Rings of Power or Shining Force proving it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way, then guess what?RPGs like this are just boring.
Stryker:Well, I tried.Screw it, Phantasy Star sucks.
Brad: You were an effective straw man.