Phantasy Star II (Genesis)

Phantasy Star II Box Art

Phantasy Star II

System: Genesis

Release Date: March 1990

Developer: Sega AM7

Publisher: Sega

Genre: RPG

A sequel to the premiere RPG on the Master System, we welcome Phantasy Star II to the Sega Genesis! It’s been quite a slow start to 1990 for Sega, but this blockbuster RPG is more than enough to occupy your time, boasting 30+ hours of grinding, questing, and wandering action. You are Rolf, descendant of Aris from 1000 years past. The planet Mota is under control by the Mother Brain, but recently monsters have been created and are terrorizing the planet. Nightmares grip your sleepless nights and you are given a mission to infiltrate the Biosystems Lab and recover a Recorder with information on what’s going on.

You are set up for failure right off the bat with party member Nei not having any weapons equipped and it not being made clear that party members can dual wield for extra damage output. Overall, equipping your party is a chore because you don’t really know what weapons are appropriate for which characters. Once you step out on the overworld, random battles are relentless and will appear after every few steps. Battle strategies are set at the beginning of a battle and then are automatically carried out. You can cancel the automated battle strategy for the next round by pressing the C button. Targeting within battles is still nonsensical. Instead of focusing on one enemy in a group to kill it, oftentimes you’ll split attacks among several enemies and not kill them, instead taking a bunch of damage in return.

You have to suck it up and learn to enjoy the battle system, because you’ll be spending hours and hours in battle screens. The grinding is really, really heavy, like Dragon Warrior 2 heavy. You need to build up large amounts of cash to upgrade your weapons, which is difficult early on. I ended with just under 19 hours of playtime footage, but that number should have been at least double. The only way I got through was liberal use of the fast forward toggle after I collected my entire party. Normal random battles start to take a long time as you move forward without much input into what’s going on. This was fine when I was 10 and could spend 50 hours over a couple weeks playing a grindfest. That’s not the case now and speeding up a minute long battle into 5 or 6 seconds was a godsend.

Like any RPG, the story and plot are key to the enjoyment of the game. Phantasy Star 2 is a game in three acts. The first act is trying to find out why the Mother Brain’s systems have gone haywire, creating monsters roaming the planet. Finding the recorder takes you across several cities and dungeons. Before you finally complete this first act, every time you reach a new city you can go back to Rolf’s home and find a new party member. Each party member has a distinct role to play in combat. Or in Shir’s case, robbing the stores blind. None of them are particularly important for the story, but instead are there for your differing playstyle pleasure. When I finally reached the Biosystems Lab, it took me several attempts without losing anyone to finally get the damn recorder and get out of there.

The second act has the party moving among four dams in order to open them and stop an imminent flooding threat. This act is all about exploring these four dungeons and finding the computer at the end. Dungeons are designed to force you into making steps you don’t want to take by obfuscating the path that is open. This is mostly done with a graphics layer in the foreground that covers up walls and open paths. Act three shoots you into space and sends you to the ice planet Dezo. Here you must collect pieces of equipment before being granted the Nei Sword and sent to the final dungeon.

I found the first act to be linear with enough hints to keep you going, but after getting the Recorder, the game begins giving hints at a trickle and then a full stop. If you don’t consult a walkthrough, you will be wandering forever until you stumble into the next plot point. The wandering is exacerbated by the random battles. These are constant and can quickly wear you down if you aren’t careful. Many trips into the current dungeon were cut short by a death or lack of healing items and techniques. Luckily, Rolf comes equipped with the Hinas-Ryuka technique combo to escape dungeons and teleport to the last town you saved in.

It took a lot of willpower and patience to get through to the end. Dungeon layout gets downright rude near the end, forcing you to fall down the right pits to move forward and punishing you by restarting the dungeon if you do it wrong. A lack of items to replenish technique point and a cap on inventory and storage space is a real hindrance to finishing dungeons in one go. The story has a couple twists, but nothing awe-inspiring. In the end, you may be left a little unsatisfied.

Graphics: 3.0

Overworld sprites aren’t that great. Battle sprites look a lot better, but there are no backgrounds.

Sound: 3.0

I like the music a lot, but annoying sound effects really bring down enjoyment of the sound.

Gameplay: 2.5

Figuring out what to do next is a chore. The battles are too long without precise control of attacks.

Difficulty: 2.5

Difficulty comes from ramped up encounter rates, overpowered enemies, and lack of control.

Fun Factor: 2.5

There’s not enough differentiation in gameplay or story to keep the attention of anyone but the most devout RPG fanatics.

Overall Grade: 2.7

Phantasy Star II earns a B-. It’s too long for what it gives you with too much time spent in boring battles. Play it, but don’t expect to be hooked until the end.

Phantasy Star II Video Review on YouTube