Man, Phantasy Star can be confusing. There are so many different kinds of games in this series, but they all get tossed under the same umbrella. The oldest games are turn-based RPGs. The newer ones vary between MMOs and action-RPGs. Wouldn’t it be nice if things were simplified, so you could better understand what’s going on? Hey! Look! It is a Phantasy Star guide! How convenient.
Is there a common theme in the series?
There are plenty of connections between all of the games. I’m talking even the ones that appeared all the way back on the Master System through the more recent MMORPGs and action-RPGs. They are all futuristic RPGs set in a world where space travel is possible. This means there is advanced technology to work with and we are play exploring multiple planets in a system.
Certain races appear in each Phantasy Star games. There is always a humanoid race. Sometimes they can use magic, other times they can’t. Robots appear, with CASTS being the newest name for them, while the original game focused only on androids and robots. There are also the Numans, referred to as Newmans in recent entries, which are hybrids genetically engineered to possess traits from humans and biomonsters.
From Phantasy Star IV on, there is also the notion of a guild to which warriors belong. This group heads out to fight monsters for the good of the world. In each case, this ends up cascading. Things start small, with fights against small scale baddies, before ballooning into influential battles with far greater stakes.
There is also the trend of evil being an actual physical force. In each game, the big bad is this concept personified. It goes by Dark Force, Dark Falz and Dark Phallus, depending on the game. But in each installment, there is a very high chance that the major antagonist is evil itself.
How did Phantasy Star get started?
The Phantasy Star games got started as traditional, turn-based JRPGs. Each one is a self-contained, single-player adventure. They involve planets from a single solar system, though Phantasy Star III gets a little creative. All of them are very easily accessible, as they are available via Steam, in Sega Genesis Collection for the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable, Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and Phantasy Star Collection for the Game Boy Advance and Sega Saturn.
Let’s go over the four original games!
Phantasy Star (Master System, 1987)
This is where it all started. A young woman named Alis Landale travels to three planets in the Algol system, Palma, Motavia and Dezoris, to fight against an evil king. She fights alongside a warrior named Odin, an Esper (magic user) named Noah and a Musk Cat named Myau to protect the entire solar system. In Japan, it received a PlayStation 2 remake called Phantasy Star Generation 1.
Phantasy Star II (Genesis, 1989)
Phantasy Star II takes place on the terraformed Motavia. The systems that maintain the planet are behaving strangely, monsters are appearing and it is up to Rolf, and his allies to explore this planet and Dezoris to defeat a lingering evil. Like Phantasy Star, it received a PlayStation 2 remake in Japan called Phantasy Star Generation 2.
Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom (Genesis, 1990)
Okay, remember how I said Phantasy Star III was the oddball? It starts out like a more traditional, fantasy RPG with more subdued futuristic elements. This is because it is a colony ship that set off after Palma’s destruction that is still under Dark Force’s influence. Players go through three generations of heroes as they fight to defeat dark force.
Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium (Genesis, 1993)
The final Phantasy Star, it features a massive scope that takes people to Motavia and Dezoris again. The Dark Force has struck again. It feels like there is much more to do on both planets again, and it is interesting to see how the lack of terraforming affected both planets. Expect lots of space travel in this one!
In 2000, Sega took the series online. Phantasy Star Online is the MMO line of games. Now, some of these get a little tricky to play. You may need to use private servers or make Japanese accounts. But if people really want to play these multiplayer titles, there are some available.
Phantasy Star Online (Dreamcast, 2000)
Players pick a Human, Newman or CAST character. Each race has their own stat advantages and disadvantages and techniques, with genders also influencing things. Once they have that set, they can have the physical attacking Hunters, the ranged Rangers, and the magical Force users. They then join the Hunter’s Guild and defeat monsters across the galaxy, making it a better place. There is an offline mode, but it is more limited. While it began on the Dreamcast, it ended up on PCs in Japan a year later. In 2001, Phantasy Star Online ver. 2 was released and brought with it a battle mode and ultimate difficulty level. How do you play? Form a group, run up to an enemy and start beating them up in real-time!
Phantasy Star Online: Episode I & II (GameCube, 2002)
The GameCube version of Phantasy Star Online, which eventually went to the Xbox as well, was slightly different than the GameCube release, so it gets its own entry. There is single and multiplayer offline play, thanks to the new split-screen multiplayer. There is a new episode in the story to go through, complete with new areas and enemies. HUcaseal RAmarl, and FOmar classes were added, thanks to the inclusion of the new Braver classic. It also was easier to reclass and do things online. The best version of this game on consoles was Phantasy Star Online Episode !&II Plus on the GameCube, since it added more offline quests and bug fixes. But if you had a PC, Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst, the Windows counterpart, was best due to it getting an Episode IV storyline and improved graphics.
Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution (GameCube, 2003)
Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution is a rather unusual MMO. It takes place after the original Phantasy Star Online: Episode I & II and uses a card-based battle system. This is due to Compressed Alternate Reality Data (C.A.R.D.) being discovered in-game, of course. You build a deck of 30 cards and fight against virtual and actual opponents. There is an offline battle mode, which is handy. Online play has been shut down, so you can still make use of that option!
Phantasy Star Online 2 (PC, 2012)
Now this is the new hotness. Phantasy Star Online 2 is a traditional sequel to the original game. Humans, Newmans, CASTs, and the new Deuman races are available, as well as Hunter, Ranger, Force, Braver, Bouncer, Fighter, Gunner and Techer classes. These classes can be swapped at any time, with each one leveling on its own. The fight against Dark Force is on again in a traditional sort of MMORPG. While it launched on the PC first, it has since come to the PlayStation 4 and Vita. Android and iOS users can play Phantasy Star Online 2es. And, sometime next year, it will head to the Switch. While this is a Japan-only game, there is an English patch available.
What about those action-RPGs with optional online elements?
The action-RPG Phantasy Star games are for people who like the idea of the MMO, but might prefer to play alone. The structure is similar. Create a character, join a hunter’s guild, take quests, fight monsters, grind and maybe save the day along the way. Just they allow you to play alone or offline if you would prefer.
Phantasy Star Universe (PlayStation 2, Xbox 360 and PC, 2006)
In Phantasy Star Universe, Ethan Waber and his sibling end up being present when an odd meteor shower nearly defeats the entire Alliance Space Fleet on its 100th anniversary. Ethan joins the Guardians to find out what is going on. Of the action-RPG installments, this one is the most story-heavy when offline. Which is good, because the servers for the online portion are closed. It was fairly popular in its time, though, even getting an Ambition of the Illuminus online expansion.
Phantasy Star Portable (PlayStation Portable, 2008)
Phantasy Star Portable is when the series began taking cues from the Monster Hunter series. It is set after Phantasy Star Universe and involves creating a new character who will become a Guardian and defeat leftover antagonists from the previous game, the SEED. People can be a Human, Newman, Beast or CAST, and can choose from Hunter, Ranger, Force and eventually Vanguard. Like in the MMO, gender can matter and influence strengths and weaknesses. You take missions, complete objectives and eventually save the day after a lot of grinding.
Phantasy Star 0 (DS, 2008)
Rather than playing like Phantasy Star Portable, Phantasy Star 0 feels more like an offline Phantasy Star Online. People create a custom character. When offline, you can work with AI allies to complete an actual story as they go through various quests. (And of course, there is level grinding.) If you went online, you could play solo missions or work with other people. Of course, you can no longer play online. But there is still a lot of offline content here!
Phantasy Star Portable 2 (PlayStation Portable, 2009)
Now that the day has been saved in Phantasy Star Portable, Phantasy Star Portable 2 sends people to a new galaxy three years after the SEED are sealed. Now, people get to be Little Wing mercenaries. Again, people’s custom characters can be Humans, Newmans, CASTS or Beasts and the classes are Hunter, Ranger, Force and Vanguard.
Phantasy Star Nova (PlayStation Vita, 2014)
After crash landing on a strange planet, players must build a character, fight massive monsters, and essentially find a way to survive as people deal with the strange new world. This is another Monster Hunter-style game, even more than its PlayStation Portable predecessors, as there are now huge Gigantes enemies that players fight alone or with others. But, it also has a bit stronger story than the Phantasy Star Portable games, due to it not relying so much on Phantasy Star Universe’s mythos. People can be a Human, Newman or Cast and can choose from the Hunter, Ranger, Force and Buster classes.
Are there any weird Phantasy Star games?
Oh boy, are there! Quite a few oddities appeared back in the old day. These capitalized on the success of the first two games. Each one gave people a better opportunity to understand the motivations of characters like Alis Landale, Rolf Landale, Amy Sage and Nei. Naturally, none of these received an official release outside of Japan.
Phantasy Star II Text Adventures (Genesis, 1991)
Phantasy Star II was a weird game! After visiting new towns on the planet, Rolf could return to Paseo and find a new party member at his door, waiting to join him. The Phantasy Star II Text Adventures were a series of adventure games released via the Sega Meganet service in Japan and acted as a backstory for him and his allies. Amy Sage, Anna Zirski, Hugh Thompson, Josh Kain, Nei, Rolf Landale, Rudolf Steiner and Shir Gold each had their own chapter. Fortunately, the eight entries are not lost forever, as they were divided up and appeared on the Sega CD in 1994. They appeared in Game no Kanzume Vol. 1 and 2 for the Sega CD in Japan. They also appeared in Sega Ages 2500 Vol. 32: Phantasy Star Complete Collection on the PlayStation 2.
Phantasy Star Adventure (Game Gear, 1992)
This is a supplemental story for fans of Phantasy Star II. It stars an entirely new Paseo agent, someone in the same sort of position as Rolf, who is investigating the disappearance of his scientist friend on Dezoris after coming on a visit to see a new invention. In addition to its Game Gear release, it appeared on the PlayStation 2’s Sega Ages 2500 Vol. 32: Phantasy Star Complete Collection in Japan.
Phantasy Star Gaiden (Game Gear, 1992)
Think of Phantasy Star Gaiden as a bridge between the first two RPGs. It stars Phantasy Star’s Alis Landale in a new adventure against a different evil. Then, it jumps 400 years into the future to follow two new heroes, Alec and Minina, as they prepare to fight that same evil. After waking Alis from cryogenic sleep, she joins their ranks and they fight to defeat that evil for good. Like the other two oddities here, Phantasy Star Gaiden is in Sega Ages 2500 Vol. 32: Phantasy Star Complete Collection on the PlayStation 2.