Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium – Review

After six years and four games, Phantasy Star IV sees the conclusion of the original Phantasy Star series. In the Phantasy Star universe, the games have spanned several thousand years and players were introduced to many different characters including Alis, one of the first female protagonists in computer game history. I have throoughly enojoyed playing through the series but as George Harrison wrote, “All things must pass”.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

PSIV is a role-playing game that was developed and published by Sega and released for the Sega Genesis in Japan in 1993. It would not make an appearance in North America and Europe until 1995. It was later released on the Wii U Virtual Console in 2008. For this review, I played the version found on the Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for the PlayStation 3.

Taking place 1000 years after the events of Phantasy Star II, a cataclysmic event known as the Great Collapse has turned Motavia back into a desert planet, and once again there is an increase in biomonsters appearing throughout the world. Chaz Ashley, a young hunter, learns of the link between the biomonsters and the ecological crisis on the planet. The computer system put in place to control the climate is malfunctioning, and the planet is reverting back to its original desert-like state. It also seems that Dark Force is back, hellbent on destroying the Algol system once and for all.

Sadly, the overworld graphics seem to have reverted back to the PSII model making it look a little dated (Screenshot taken by the author)

Firstly, the story is more fleshed out than it’s previous instalments, and a lot more engaging. The dialogue in general feels like there was a better translation of the original script. Additionally, during dialogue moments, character profile boxes appear which are beautifully illustrated. It also clarifies exactly who is speaking. During cutscenes, more illustrated boxes are added giving the illusion that you’re reading a comic book. There are also a few nice surprises in the form of characters from previous games reappearing, but I won’t spoil it by telling you who.

Originally the game came with a very comprehensive 40-page manual explaining every aspect of the game including: Information on each character, what the main items are for, what all the spells and techniques do when used, what injuries you can incur, a map of Motavia, and information on weapons and armour.

The gameplay has been kept the same – that is, top down view with the exception of battle mode. There is a significant increase in walking speed for the characters, meaning you can get from A to B a lot quicker. You are also able to increase the speed of the battles and text to help hurry the game along. One annoyance was that when you approach a person and/or object, whilst still pressing that direction, you walk around the target as oppose to stopping in front of it. When you play it, you’ll know what I mean.

The graphics in battle mode have also reverted back to a similar style to PSII, with the addition of illustared backgrounds (Screenshot taken by the author)

Oddly, the sprites in the overworld seem to have reverted to PSII style graphics as oppose to PSIII or creating newer, more improved graphics. Comparing the two, one could be forgiven for thinking PSIII was a later instalment. Sadly, these graphics look dated for the mid-90s, especially when compared to RPGs such as Al-Qadim: The Genie’s Curse (1994) and Shining Force 2 (1993). Also, the PlayStation had been released in 1994, upping the expected standard for games in general. When the PlayStation could produce RPGs like Suikoden (1995), what chance did the Mega Drive have?

The menu system is easy to access and straight forward to navigate. What made me particularly happy is that you no longer need to manually go into your menu and pass items between characters in order for them to equip or use them. The weapons and armour will automatically be available to those who can wield them.

On Dezo – added snowy effects give the impression that you are in a blizzard. However, this effect is heavy on the eyes. (Screenshot taken by the author)

Buying and equipping weapons and armour has been simplified, and for the better. When you buy a new weapon or piece of armour, arrows appear by the name of the individual who can wield it. Sadly, you cannot see if an item will improve the stats of that character until you buy it and equip it.

PSIV reintroduces fighter animations back into battle mode, similar to that of PSII. However, this time the backgrounds have also been kept. The animations of the physical attacks of the characters are the same as they were in PSII which is a little disappointing. The backgrounds during the battles are more detailed and, in some cases, animated. Additionally in PSIV, you can now use your transport vehicle during battles instead of using your characters.

A nice new feature is that two or more characters can combine their spells and techniques to create bigger and more powerful attacks. Sadly, this is very trial and error and it doesn’t always work (Screenshot taken by the author)

The enemies are beautifully illustrated and animated. There are some real ugly bastards in this game. A nice little extra is that sometimes, when two or more fighters use a certain technique or spell, it can combine to produce a stronger attack. Sadly, this doesn’t happen everytime you attempt it.

One added bonus is that you no longer need to  pay to restore a fallen comrade. You simply go to a hostel, and bed down for the night. In the morning, said comrade will be right as rain.

Finally, and thank Christ, the battle menu is now wonderfully intuitive. It is very easy to learn, and they have finally simplified the way you can chose which enemy to attack. This makes strategic attacks a hell of a lot easier.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, a walkthrough was needed on several occasions though.

What the critics said:

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “This is the fourth instalment in the Phantasy Star series with an improved magic system that allows you to combine spells for more power. Overall 7.75/10[1]

GameFan: “The graphics are gorgeous, the music is some of the best I’ve heard in a while on the Genesis., full of batchin’ samples, and the game exudes nothing but pure, joyous power. Overall 93/100.[2]

Mean Machines Sega: “The best pure RPG for the Megadrive…” Overall 88%.[3]

Sega Saturn Magazine: “The gameplay – controlling inventories, arming combatants, and using spells – is not to everyone’s taste. But the game succeeds by creating climactic moments, introducing new characters and powers, and taking many weird and wonderful plot turns. Overall 90%.[4]

Game Players: “Newer RPGs like Final Fantasy III make this game look ancient…this still feels like every other Phantasy Star Game…The game offers plenty of items while staying clear and user-friendly. Fighting every other step drives you crazy. Overall 70%.[5]

My verdict:

“Although the graphics are beginning to look a bit dated, they are still pleasing to look at for the most part. The story is compelling with some nice surprises, and they have simplified the menu systems making them easier to navigate. Personally I feel this is the best Phantasy Star in the series.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Phantasy Star IV? 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.


[1] ‘Review Crew: Genesis – Phantasy Star IV’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (June 1995).  Issue 71: 46. (https://retrocdn.net/images/2/21/EGM_US_071.pdf Accessed 17th February 2020).

[2] Rox, N., ‘Genesis Review – Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium’. GameFan. (April 1995). Volume 3 Issue 4:19 & 27. (https://archive.org/details/GamefanVolume3Issue04April1995/page/n25/mode/2up Accessed on 26th March 2020).

[3] ‘Megadrive Review – Phantasy Star IV’. Mean Machines Sega. (July 1995) Issue 33:76-7. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-33/page/n75/mode/2up Accessed 26th March 2020).

[4] ’16-bit Megadrive – Phantasy Star IV’. Sega Saturn Magazine. (December 1995). Issue 2:91. (https://archive.org/details/Official_Sega_Saturn_Magazine_002/page/n89/mode/2up Accessed 26th March 2020).

[5] Slate, C., ’Genesis: Review – Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium’. Game Players. (February 1995). Issue 49:38-9. (https://archive.org/details/Game_Players_Issue_49_February_1995/page/n37/mode/2up Accessed 26th March 2020).

Phantasy Star – Review

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.

Screenshot taken by the author

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.

The overworld is how you traverse the landscape (screenshot taken by author)

There are two gameplay modes. The first is from a near top down perspective whilst walking around the villages and planet surfaces. When exploring dungeons and caves, and in a battle, the view switches to first-person mode.

The battle scenes are highly detailed and look great (screenshot taken by author)
The dungeon-crawling sections are very atmospheric (screenshot taken by author)

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 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. 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%[1]

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%[2]

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%[3]

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.[4]

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.”[5]

Awards:

Best Graphics – 1989 Electronic Gaming Monthly’s Player’s Choice Awards[6]

My verdict: “A beautiful 8-bit game, just a pity the story is a bit thin. However, all RPG fans should enjoy this game.”

Rating:

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.


[1] Rignall, J., ‘Mean Machines Review: Master System – Phantasy Star’. Computer & Video Games Magazine. Issue 89:92-3.

[2] ‘Special: Phantasy Star’. S: The Sega Magazine. (June 1990). Issue 7:11.

[3] ‘Games Index: Master System – Phantasy Star’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:135.

[4] Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – Phantasy Star’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:58.

[5] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Master System – Phantasy Star’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:100.

[6] ‘The “Player’s Choice Awards” – Best Graphics: Phantasy Star’. Electronic Gaming Monthly – 1989 Annual. (March 31 1989). :19.