Role-playing games have the ability to take us out of ourselves and whisk us off to fantasy lands where we can choose to be warriors, mages, dwarves, and any other imaginary creature that suits us. We can select our own weapons, and if we are successful, gain strength and are harder to defeat. Phantasy Star promised to whisk us off to such a fantasy universe.
Phantasy Star is a single-player role-playing game developed and published by Sega. It was released on the Sega Master System in 1987, and latterly re-released on the Sega Saturn, PS2, and Nintendo Switch. To review, I played this game as part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009).
The game is set in the fictional Algol star system which contains three planets: Palma – a lush and green planet, Motavia – a desert planet, and Dezoris – an ice planet. Algol is ruled by King Lassic, who early in his reign was considered kind and benevolent. He later becomes a cruel and sociopathic ruler. Soon, a rebellion begins to overthrow the now evil king. One hero, who falls during a battle, is Nero. His sister, Alis, the main protagonist (incidently, one of the first female protagonists for video games), swears to avenge her brother. She assembles a party consisting of a warrior named Odin, a wizard named Noah, and a cat-like creature named Myau. Together the party swear to kill King Lassic and restore peace to the kingdom.
There are two gameplay modes. The first is from a near top down perspective whilst walking around the villages and planet surfaces. When walking around the surface of the planet, outside the cities, and in caves etc. You come across random battle encounters where you must choose to fight your opponent or attempt to run away. When exploring dungeons and caves, and in a battle, the view switches to first-person mode.
If you are successful in battle, you will gain experience points and money. Experience points allow the level of the character to increase and subsequently, your characters stats making them stronger in attack and defence.
How Does It Handle?
The game is easy to learn and enjoyable. The fight mode is simple, but it can become frustrating that when fighting multiple enemies, you seem unable to select which enemy to attack, which can hinder fighting tactics. The game contains a back-up save option, which if you play RPGs will know that this is very useful.
For an 8-bit game, I think it is a really beautiful game! The colours are vibrant, the sprites are well designed, and there is a great variety of them to fight. The backgrounds during the fight scenes are also varied and are very detailed. I’ll wager this game pushed the Master System to its limits.
The music becomes tiresome after a while but since it is not essential to the game, you can simply turn the sound off and listen to your own music or podcasts.
Did I Complete The Game?
I did complete the game, but with the assistance of a walkthrough. Sadly, as I have gotten older, I simply don’t have the time or inclination to spend countless hours on these sorts of RPGs.
What The Critics Said:
Computer & Video Games Magazine: “Real RPG fans should definitely check Phantasy Star out, but anyone with a passing interest in this type of game might not feel they’re getting their money’s worth. Overall 75%”
S: The Sega Magazine: “An excellent entertainment – once you’ve teamed up with Odin, Noah and Myau and built up some strength, it’s like controlling an interactive movie. Brilliant? Yes it is. Overall 94%”
Mean Machines: “A sprawling RPG which offersa great depth of gameplay, decent graphics and a good challenge. There are slightly better games of this sort (and cheaper too – this cart costs £40), but if you’re an RPG fan who has them all, this is well worth getting. Overall 75%”
Sega Power: “If you’re into RPG adventures this is the one to go for. Explore stunning 3D labyrinths and solve a quest big enough to last for months. Huge. Astounding Get it. Overall 5/5“.
Sega Power: “If you’re into RPG adventures this is the one to go for. Explore stunning 3D labyrinths and solve a quest big enough to last for months. Astounding and huge. Get it. Overall 5/5.”
Best Graphics – 1989 Electronic Gaming Monthly’s Player’s Choice Awards
My Verdict: “A beautiful 8-bit game, just a pity the story is a bit thin. However, all RPG fans should enjoy this game.”
What are your memories of Phantasy Star? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
 Rignall, J., ‘Mean Machines Review: Master System – Phantasy Star’. Computer & Video Games Magazine. Issue 89:92-3.
 ‘Special: Phantasy Star’. S: The Sega Magazine. (June 1990). Issue 7:11.
 ‘Games Index: Master System – Phantasy Star’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:135.
 Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – Phantasy Star’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:58.
 ‘The Hard Line – Review: Master System – Phantasy Star’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:100.
 ‘The “Player’s Choice Awards” – Best Graphics: Phantasy Star’. Electronic Gaming Monthly – 1989 Annual. (March 31 1989). :19.