Phantasy Star

In my opinion, this is the best game that was released for the Sega Master System, and a necessary addition to any Sega Master System roleplayer’s library.

It wasn’t easy being a Sega fanboy back in the days of the Master System. Though it had a better color palette than the NES and the hardware was technically superior, the Master System suffered because of a lack of games. It wasn’t until the Genesis that Sega was finally able to get much third party support (the result of the often-discussed policy Nintendo had in place preventing third-party developers from supporting other systems), and the Master System’s limited library just didn’t have a lot of really good games. Certainly, there were enjoyable titles, but the gameplay of the Nintendo games generally seemed more advanced. So, the loyal Sega supporters like myself waited patiently for more good games to arrive for our underappreciated system.

Fortunately, there were some great games that were finally released for the Master System—games that could not be bought for the NES or any other console. One of these games was the now-classic Phantasy Star, which introduced me to the world of RPGs and had perhaps the best graphics on the Master System (maybe on any 8 bit system).

One of the biggest complaints I had during the 8 bit era was that I finished games too quickly. Most were action titles that could be mastered within a couple of days, and I often didn’t feel like revisiting them after one or two playthroughs. It seemed like I really wasn’t getting my money’s worth. Phantasy Star changed all that for me. Here was a game that I couldn’t play through in one sitting. It required a time investment, and I had time in abundance. Finally reaching the end and defeating Lassic, as well as vanquishing the unexpected foe Darkfalz, was extremely satisfying. Unlike most titles, Phantasy Star felt epic, with its progression from a lone girl trying to avenge her brother to a party of trained warriors overthrowing an evil tyrant.

Recently, I played through Phantasy Star again to see if it still holds up after all these years. I can say, with a few reservations, that it does.

The graphics in Phantasy Star still look nice, with large, well-designed enemies. Some of these are mythological, such as centaurs and dragons, while some seem to have been borrowed from more contemporary sources (for example, an obvious Star Wars influence can be discerned in some of the designs). What is great is that each creature is animated, which is an improvement over a game such as Miracle Warriors, in which the enemies are more static and less interesting. Unfortunately, the overhead graphics while traveling are not very impressive, but players will spend so much time in dungeons and fighting random battles that they can be easily forgotten.

For anyone familiar with roleplaying games, Phantasy Star plays very much as you would expect it to. Battles are run through menus in which you can choose to attack, use items, use spells, talk, or run. The only real problem I had with the interface is that I was not allowed to choose which character would attack which enemy, so I was often annoyed when my characters would attack a healthy enemy instead of finishing off one who was low on hit points and removing that enemy from battle. Phantasy Star is an early RPG, though, so I am able to accept that the game lacks this feature, no matter how frustrating my character’s choice of targets could be.

Phantasy Star is not as long as a contemporary RPG gamer might expect. If you know the game’s secrets, an avid gamer can actually finish it in a day or two. Still, it is a lengthy quest for the time, and after finishing it again, I felt that the length was adequate.

Aside from the few small issues I’ve mentioned, there is a lot to like about Phantasy Star. Heck, I even like the music in the game. In my opinion, this is the best game that was released for the Sega Master System, and a necessary addition to any Sega Master System roleplayer’s library.

Recommended (highly recommended for Sega Master System or RPG fans)

My Sega Master System Collection

This list last updated June 28, 2008.

After Burner
Alex Kidd in Miracle World
Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars
Alien Syndrome
Altered Beast
Black Belt
California Games
Double Dragon
F-16 Fighting Falcon
Golvellius: Valley of Doom
Hang On/Astro Warrior
Hang On/Safari Hunt
Missle Defense 3-D
The Ninja
Out Run
Phantasy Star
Pro Wrestling
Teddy Boy
Wonder Boy in Monster Land
World Grand Prix
Y’s: The Vanished Omens

Current game count: 31