I did a Phantasy Star 1 review the other day. I found it revolutionary but a bit dated, so also check that out if you are interested. The reason of I got into Phantasy Star(PS) at all is because of a friend who grew up with the Sega Mega and insisted that Phantasy Star IV was just as good or even better than other JRPG greats like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger.
Alright, I’ll try it…… And even though I was told by many that I did not need to play any of the other PS games to enjoy PSIV I am so happy I did!
I played PS1 and PS2 beforehand and saw that PSIV was the final chapter or climax for the story of the Phantasy Star Universe and it was great! Not only was the interwoven story really good but the gameplay and presentation of PSIV are at an A+ level!
Yes Phantasy Star IV: The end of the millennium is a futuristic fantasy JRPG for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis and it was first released in Japan in December of 1993.
The main character of this game is Chaz, a handsome young man just graduated from the Hunters Academy. He and his mentor, the beautiful and comedic but still serious Alys go to investigate a strange event involving an appearance of monsters in the academy basement and from there epicness ensues.
The gameplay is similar to what you already know about JRPGs with a few small twists. You get the standard stuff like a story-driven mission, go to a dungeon, have a world map, have random encounters et cetera.
Then you have the things that set the gameplay apart from the others like combo attacks, macroing and the behind the characters perspective in battle.
You meet all sorts of interesting characters through the course of the game but unfortunately, though understandably you can only use 5 of them at a time. In battle, you choose an action for each character and then the turn plays out so the characters and enemies act in order of their agility. I always like to know 100% in what order my characters act in like in Final Fantasy VI where I can cast phoenix down on a character and then choose the cure him. Instead here in PSIV where I might do it in a reverse order cure a dead character first and then revive him because your characters did not act in the order you wanted them too.
This for me is a minor flaw that does not overshadow the fact that the gameplay is good and maybe it was good that they weren’t messing with what already works(They got burned by PS3 big time). The battles in PSIV are fun even though they might be a bit generic and the boss battles are also great and very challenging.
I found myself needing to grind a bit in the earlier parts of the game but that might have been because I missed all the Hunter’s Guild side missions that you can do in between the man story when you feel like. excessive grinding is definitely a minus but in PSIV it should be pretty minimal at best and “some grinding” at worst. Random encounters in a long dungeon can also be tiring but that is how it is in all games of the genre from that time. The dungeons themselves can also become stale since many of them are pretty similar and the same music is reused way too often.
One thing I would like to praise this game for is the macro system I slightly mentioned above. You can make sets of pre-determined moves for your characters to use each round in battle, save them and use them over and over again. For example, instead of issuing commands to all characters you can choose a macro you built like: Attack, Attack, Sar, Gifoi, attack(yeah the abilities have weird names but those are basically fire and heal). Another example is what you commonly do at the beginning of boss fights: Attack, Barrier(mag def up), Saner(agility up), Deban(phys def up), Attack.
This system is very easy and comfortable to use and saves you the time and effort of always putting in the commands manually.
Phantasy Star IV really shines in the visuals department. Just look at the pictures above and that should be enough proof. The battle screen and monsters look amazing and the animated stills in the cutscenes really shine and to this day still look good. The world map sprites do not look anything fantastic but they are good enough. The visuals are not as revolutionary as the Phantasy Star 1 graphics were in Master System and NES days but they still are one of the best in the 16-bit era.
Sadly the music does not hold up to the storytelling or the great looking graphics. The music is not bad at all, it is even very good at times but fails to be on par with games like Zelda, Final Fantasy and Ys. The PSIV ost is maybe not something that will make its way on your phone or mp3. The above youtube clip is the boss theme.
The game is pretty long, I didn’t count the hours but roughly estimating I say it was 20-30 hours. The game has numerous side quests including the Hunter Guild’s missions and a mission to get Chaz’s ultimate skill but unfortunately, the game does not have an ultimate boss like Emerald weapon from FFVII for example. FFVI original release did not include an ultimate boss either but it was planned and it finally showed up in the GB Advance remake. Either way, Phantasy Star lasts quite a bit and maybe you will become a PS superfan like me and play the game again and again.
Where the game excels, and the part of the game I want to emphasize the most is the story of the game and the Phantasy Star series as a whole. If you google or ask around whether you should play the other Phantasy Star games prior to this one then the general opinion will be leaning pretty generously towards that it is not that important to play the other games to enjoy Phantasy Star IV.
In this review I want to emphasize that to me, playing Phantasy Star 1 and 2 before IV was very important. Why….? Because PSIV the game that wraps up the PS series’ story and it is littered with references and homages to the earlier games and their characters. To me, those moments were nostalgic, profound and even touching at times. I’m not going to name all those moments cause that would be spoiling but you will become more versed in the history of the PS Universe and will have a better idea about what’s going on in the game so all the little moments will mean that much more to you.
The cast from PSIV owe a lot to the characters from the earlier game and some even ride on their predecessors legacy.
For any individual, playing PS1 and PS2 first will make the PSIV a lot more profound and complete.
Phantasy Star IV is just well written, well paced and when you are about halfway through the game, for me at least I got so interested in the Phantasy Star lore that I could not stop playing until I beat the game. I also just love the futuristic fantasy atmosphere of the series.
Longplay for reference
Overall Phantasy Star IV is an amazing experience that no JRPG fan should miss. The classic JRPG gameplay is solid but it can be a bit old-timey and the dungeons a bit stale at times but as a 90’s JRPG that is pretty normal and Phantasy Star IV manages to be very fun most of the time.
The game looks absolutely amazing for a Mega Drive game as you can see but sadly the music could not be on par with the great graphics. The music is great at times but mediocre at others.
The strongest aspect of PSIV is the story but the game owes some of that to the earlier games of the series who paved the way for this grand finale. Like I said, PSIV will be so much more enjoyable after going through at least PS1 and then maybe PS2 and besides…those games a both really good on just their own merits. Phantasy Star 1 was revolutionary, just look it up or read my old review.
Phantasy Star IV is available for the Sega Mega in all regions, on Steam, numerous Sega compilations for the PS2, PS3 and XBox360 and even on the Wii virtual console.
The last words of the review will be… Yes, Phantasy Star IV totally holds its own against FFVI and Chrono Trigger and is totally on the same level maybe even on par with those games.
Lasting Appeal 9,5
Is it fun? 9,5
Overall 9,5 a masterpiece!
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