Blast from the Past: Phantasy Star

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There’s a school of thought floating around out there suggesting whatever a person is into when they’re 12 years old will stick with them the rest of their life. I’m a believer of this notion. Personal experience and ad hoc research (i.e. asking around here and there) bears it out.

So it’s no surprise that Phantasy Star II holds a place of reverence in my nerdy heart.

Phantasy Star Blast from the PastPhantasy Star II forever

Released in 1989 for the Sega Genesis, Phantasy Star II is the sequel to the Sega Master System’s Phantasy Star. And although I played the hell out of Rastan, The Ninja, Alien Syndrome, Altered Beast, Lord of the Sword and a bunch of other games, for some reason I never got Phantasy Star. Never even heard of it! Kind of weird given my love of Dungeons & Dragons for years prior and the roleplaying game genre in general.

Nevertheless, I snatched up Phantasy Star II from Children’s Palace posthaste, mustering all the money my paper route could provide (after buying comic books of course).

“In the vastness of space the Algo Star System floats like a dust fleck in a sunbeam. Cruise closer. See its three twinkling planets? The middle one gleams like an emerald! This is Mota, a beautiful beckoning jewel – gripped by madness!” – from the Phantasy Star II package

The cover art hit every note a voracious fan of science fiction and fantasy could want. A John Carter of Mars vibe with a laser rifle toting dude and elfish woman on a bizarre alien landscape, creepy crawly critters and robots skittering around them and lurking in the distance, a giant brain with a huge central eyeball. Clearly, the big threat of the game. Protip: giant malevolent brain creatures make wonderful mastermind powers in any roleplaying game.

Phantasy Star D&DI played Phantasy Star II relentlessly. Before school to grind away on toaders, spitfangs and leechers. After school meticulously following the full dungeon maps included with the game. All night on weekends immersed in the fantastic story of Rolf, Nei, Rudo and the rest. When Nei died, sacrificing herself to try and stop her evil twin, I cried. When the party takes a Mota’s last ship to travel to Dezo, I couldn’t believe it – a whole other planet to adventure on! Once Dark Force is defeated and the epilogue reveals a deeper threat, I cheered at the cinematic battle and uncertain outcome.

Phantasy Star II informs my sensibilities to this day. For over eight years I played a character named Schir Gold in Dungeons & Dragons Online, and I’m about to start playing a character named Rolf Eusis in an live stream D&D game. And no matter what the setting for a fantasy roleplaying game – whether tabletop or video game – the inclusion of technological elements captivates my imagination.

After Phantasy Star II, several other titles were added to the franchise. I tried most of them, but none came close to the awesomeness of Phantasy Star II. (Except Phantasy Star Online for the Sega Dreamcast – one of the best games of all time!)

It wasn’t too long ago that Taliesin Jaffe, a voice actor and Critical Role cast member who plays Percy, mentioned his love of Phantasy Star II. The executive goth himself praised the game. Around the same time I first became aware of Esper Genesis, which cites Phantasy Star II as a source of inspiration for a fifth edition D&D-fueled system. and reignited something inside. I had give the game another go-around! Believe it or not, Phantasy Star II is available free for iOS and Android.

Blast from the Past D&DUnfortunately, after playing for several days, the app ate my save game file and it was irrevocably lost. If I’m honest frankly I was pissed and didn’t start another game. It seems intermittent loss of save games is a known thing. I read on some forum the issue was fixed, but the post was dated earlier than when I lost my game so obviously the fix wasn’t foolproof. Drawbacks aside, the game held up. It was just as much fun as a 40-year-old nerd playing on my phone in 2017 as a 12-year-old nerd glued to the TV screen.

And it’s an amazing story, too! You could do a lot worse playing an RPG campaign based on Phantasy Star II. It’s got dungeons, wilderness travel, exploration, layers of plot and believable progression and escalation. Monstrosities and mechanical foes exist side-by-side to battle a diverse party of characters wielding swords, knives, shotguns and blasters, employing magic-like techniques.

With no news of any new titles in the franchise (a real shame) thankfully fans of the series can still find ways to enjoy Phantasy Star II and other entries. There’s even fan-maintained servers and methods to play Phantasy Star Online. Hmmm…

Did you play Phantasy Star II back in the day? Or do you play it now? What’s your favorite title in the Phantasy Star franchise? I’d love to hear about your experiences with this awesome game in the comments below.

Until I see you in the Algo star system, stay nerdy!

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Nerditor-in-Chief Doug Vehovec is a proud native of Cleveland, Ohio, with D&D in his blood since the early 80s. Fast forward to today and he’s still rolling those polyhedral dice. When he’s not DMing, worldbuilding or working on endeavors for Nerdarchy he enjoys cryptozoology trips and eating awesome food.

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