The Phantasy Star series has done its best to take us to new worlds. Each one involves different planets, filled with people of different races. In some cases, these creatures may defy our expectations of what we would consider human. With Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom, Sega presents a situation where players are able to consider the nature of many different characters with various backgrounds and see how human each one can be.
On the surface, Phantasy Star III presents people with a very “us versus them” situation. Our hero, Rhys, spends most of the first generation trying to recover his missing fiancé from another race that has kidnapped her. He is from a group of people calling themselves Orakians, after the great hero, and rely upon brute strength and technology. The opposing race? Layans, named after another legend named Laya, who tend to focus on using monsters and spells. In the second generation, a Layan named Lune can’t accept the war is over, creating a similar sort of situation. But what it really comes down to is the nature of humanity present in each race encountered.
Players see much of Phantasy Star III through the eyes of Orakians, though this can vary based on their choices. This group is branded as the stereotypical humans. They are good at almost everything. They rely on technology, like cyborgs and robots, to get by and wage war. It is easy to think of them as being just like us, because we see firsthand the situations they encounter with Rhys and his descendants, who all have some degree of Orakian blood in them.
However, Phantasy Star III quickly makes moves to show how similar the Layans are to Orakians, despite being considered opponents for so long. The one who took away Maia, Rhys’ fiance, commanded a dragon. Each one we encounter has different magical powers. We even eventually learn one of them is capable of an incredible transformation. But, it is not long before we realize one of our allies, a Layan named Lyle, is just like us. He has the same concerns for people. And, before long, we learn that Maia herself was actually a wayward Layan princess. The people Orakians were taught to fear and fight are just like them, only with better magic spells and greater agility. While they may have committed terrible acts when the two races were at war, they are humanoid beings just as concerned with the lives and safety of the people they love as the Orakians.
Another important race brought up during Phantasy Star III is an artificial one. There are plenty of robotic entities in the game. Two ever-present party members are “artificial.” Both Mieu and Wren are cyborgs. Wren is very obviously robotic, what with his ability to get different parts that allow him to transform, but Mieu looks more human. She is even capable of using techniques, like Layans. They grow attached to the party. Each generation, they stick with the heroes. Mieu even becomes more like a member of the family than some random tool designed for war. When the final battle is fought and it seems things are ending, they show fear. If that wasn’t enough to suggest these two possess loyalty and a soul, there is an entire town filled with robotic characters.
We could even consider the character Laya to be an exception. Her sister, a legendary heroine, is essentially considered a goddess in the world of Phantasy Star III. When she is woken from cryogenic sleep, she is revealed to not only share her sister’s name, but her appearance. Players are presented with a relation of someone who, for two generations in the game, has been heralded as a goddess by both Orakians and Layans. A whole race is named after her sister. Yet, she is quite human. She wants to do good and find out the truth about her sister. She may even marry either Ayn or Nial, if the player chooses, showing again how similar she is to an ordinary woman.
Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom continually introduces us to new people. At its outset, it only shows the Orakians as being “human.” Yet, it quickly challenges us to go beyond the preconceptions and prejudices we may have developed as we play; it shows us how human each race can be. It does not matter if someone is Orakian, Layan, related to someone considered to be a god or artificial. Each of these people has a heart and soul. The game shows us how each matters and can come together to overcome differences.