Think about how you have made friends in your daily life. Or how you have found new coworkers at your company. Bonds develop over time. Sometimes, because of applications. Things proceed quite differently in real life than they do in games, as a JRPG can suddenly pair you with partners willing to die for your avatar moments after meeting. There are exceptions to this, with Phantasy Star II being among the most notable. This game handles recruitment in a different way, one which makes a lot more sense.
Let’s go over how things work, in case you are unfamiliar with Phantasy Star II. The adventure begins in Paseo, on the planet Motavia. Our hero, Rolf, is a Motavian Agent that essentially works for the government, investigating suspicious issues and protecting people. In this instance, he is off to investigate biomonsters at the Bio-Systems Lab. When the game begins, you only have one ally with you: Nei. She is a Numan he rescued on a past mission who lives with him. When he goes to let her know he’ll be heading off on a job, she insists on coming along.
This initial recruitment makes sense. Rolf and Nei live together. They have an established history. He saved her life; she is loyal to him as a result. When he needs to leave for a substantial period of time, of course she will want to join him. And, because there is this past relationship and knowledge, he is comfortable bringing her along. Where things get interesting is when other people start to come along.
In Phantasy Star II, you do not come across new people as you explore, suddenly all agreeing to fight against unimaginable evil together. Instead, they hear about your exploits. Your notoriety spreads. Let’s use your first recruited ally as an example. On your way to the Bio-Systems Lab, you will come to a town named Arima. If you head back to Paseo before dealing with the Shure Tower bandits plaguing that smaller city, you’ll find Rudolph Steiner waiting at your door. He heard about you after your visit to Arima and wants to be a part of your investigation. This happens with each character who joins Rolf’s party.
Now, Phantasy Star is not actually keeping track of your exploits. This is a Sega Genesis game, after all. Instead, the game is keep track of which cities you visit. After you have reached a new town, it will trigger an event in your home town that makes someone new show up at your door, ready to join your cause. Even still, the effect is the same. As you make your way around the planet and reach new places, this mechanic makes it seem like your influence is spreading.
This also makes it more likely that notable people of similar levels of strength would suddenly join forces with your hero. In other games, it seems a bit odd that the best and brightest would somehow reunite out of nowhere. In Phantasy Star II, it only makes sense that other major players would hear of you and seek you out. People who are also that notable are paying attention to your travels and deeds. So when Dr. Amy Sage, a notable medic, shows up on your doorstep, it is not at all suspect. There are enough Motavian agents out there that Anna Zirski might not have known about Rolf until he made a name for himself in his investigations, causing her to appear in Paseo and offer her services.
Phantasy Star II may be a rather typical Phantasy Star game in every other way, but its recruitment process is something special. It handles the addition of allies in a way that is more in line with real life relationships. We don’t suddenly commit to spending extended periods of time with strangers in an instant in our daily lives, and it does not exactly happen like that in Phantasy Star II either. We travel, make a name for ourselves and only then do other notable people seek us out and join our cause.