RPG Review #92: Phantasy Star IV

NuMetalManiak
At number nine on our countdown to the 100th RPG, I pick up Phantasy Star IV, The End of the Millenium, the actual conclusion to the main Phantasy Star series. Kinda sad when you think about it, considering Phantasy Star Online is completely different and all the side games afterwards aren't really that important either. But still, my hat is off to Sega. They actually managed to make a great Phantasy Star game and I'm about to say why.

Gameplay: Well, the gameplay is basically similar to the previous iterations, standard navigation, travel by vehicles as done in Phantasy Star 1, combat is fairly similiar to 3 but is actually sleeker, which is good. TP is thankfully NOT done the way that Phantasy Star 3 did it, reverting back to how it was done in 1 and 2 which was just good enough to handle. So there's actually a few things new here. One is the Hunter's Guild, where basically every sidequest is, a nice break from the main game doesn't hurt. There's a new system called Macros, allowing for preset battle arrangements, which could help because picking commands manually can be a hassle for some battles. Another new thing, skills, which are slightly different from techs, these things are of course strong attacks but have a finite use. Finally, combination attacks can come into play in accordance to which characters use which attacks, such as having three characters use the techs Wat, Tsu, and Foi, creating Triblaster, a powerful combination.

Yeah, there's not a whole lot new, but Phantasy Star IV feels a lot fresher than it's previous two predecessors. Also, the gameplay is less of a grind-fest, which really pleases me. Leveling up isn't so tedious, and neither is gaining meseta! Props. Grade: A-

Characters:
Chaz Ashlay: Chaz is our main hero. A newcomer to the Hunter group, Chaz used to be a poor robber until Alys brings him in. He is a competent but sometimes stupid hero, and he's well-rounded, but better on the physical side with swords.
Alys Brangwin: A very tough hunter who's skilled with slashers, also known as the Eighth Stroke Warrior. Alys is basically a crutch character for reasons that will be shown later.
Hahn Mahlay: An academy student. He's fairly weak in combat but actually gets some pretty good techniques later on.
Rune Walsh: An obvious mage character in the same vein as Noah from the original game with a load of powerful spells, but he's weak physically.
Gryz: A Motavian mole-like creature who joins for revenge. He's a full-on physical warrior.
Rika: She's a Numan similar to Nei from 2, at age 1, but surprisingly at the appearance of a teenager. Rika's fast and strong, and can heal pretty well too. Rika uses claws in battle.
Demi: An android who gets rescued by the party. She gets an interesting upgrade later on, and has a great healing skill. In this game, the two android characters are capable of self-regenerations, so they heal to full at the end of every battle, even if killed. Demi uses guns in battle.
Wren: The other android, who is actually different from the Wren in 3. Wren manages Zelan and can get several upgrades, also he fires with guns. A powerful defensive tank in battle.
Raja: Raja is a Dezolisian (green guy with large hat). He tells weird jokes, and is the greatest healer in the game, but he completely lacks physical power.
Kyra Tierney: A member of the Espers, Kyra is a jack-of-all-trades character who uses slashers and has decent skills.
Seth: A mysterious archaeologist who the party meets. He doesn't have a lot to him though since he is around for a very short period of time.

One thing I love about this game compared to every other Phantasy Star title is the amount of character interactions. Panels in cutscenes also make that feel a lot better, fledging quite a bit of personality out of the game's characters. Grade: A

Plot: An interesting thing to note about the Phantasy Star series is that, apart from Phantasy Star 3, they all take place one thousand years after each other. In other words, 2 takes place a thousand years after 1, and 4 a thousand years after 2. The things that happened here in Motavia (one of our main planets) is something known as the Great Collapse, where the once-terraformed Motavia has somehow become a wasteland desert once again, although a few towns are still around. Biomonsters continue to roam Motavia during these harsh times, and as a result, a guild known as Hunters has formed to cull these biomonsters. Alys and Chaz are two such hunters, first going to the bottom of an academy at a principal's request and helping Hahn get rid of them.

We hear more about this evil dude named Zio, who's clearly tyrannical and wishes for a new age, apparently turning people to stone in another town. Rune helps the party in finding out about Alshline, but leaves and then Gryz joins, wanting revenge for his hometown which got destroyed. Hahn helps out Professor Holt, one of the few that got stoned, and into an underground laboratory we find a mastercomputer named Seed and the Numan Rika, the former shut down and destroyed and the latter joining.

Later on, it's time to confront this Zio and rescue the kidnapped android, Demi. Only when Zio fights the group, he uses what's known as the Black Energy Wave, hitting Alys as she takes the blow for Chaz. Rika can't heal her, and Hahn stays behind to look after Alys. Alys tells them to find Rune, who will help in finding the Psycho Wand, which removes a barrier in Zio's fort. Unfortunately after the wand is retrieved, Alys is at her last moments, and dies in the bed. A funeral is held, and the party goes back to shutting down Nurvus under Zio's fort, killing Zio in the process. Demi goes into the Nurvus system to shut it down, and Gryz leaves back to his sister. In the meantime, Wren joins upon reaching Zelan, and a mishap happens en route to a different satellite causing a crash-land on Dezolis, the third planet.

Raja joins for the fun after a crash-landing destroyed a temple and the party eventually gets a spaceship, the Landale (named after Alis from Phantasy Star 1). Back to the Kuran, they fight Dark Force, yep. Despite defeating it, there's still a raging blizzard on Dezolis. Raja says to reach Garuberk Tower to remedy the blizzard, and eventually the party goes there, but not long before Raja falls ill. Kyra gets helped and invites the group to the Esper Mansion, where it's revealed Rune is the fifth generation of Lutz (Noah), and that the Eclipse Torch is needed to get to Garuberk Tower. Unfortunately, it's stolen, and the perpetrators retreat to the Air Castle, a landmark that surprisingly survived the destruction of Palma. Lashiec (Lassic) from the first game is resurrected, but beaten again, the Eclipse Torch retrieved, the Air Castle and Lashiec destroyed, and the way to Garuberk Tower is now open, where the party once again fights another iteration of Dark Force.

And yet trouble still brews. The blizzard clears, Kyra leaves, but the Gumbious Temple where the Eclipse Torch used to be has been destroyed. The Bishop there mentions the real villain BEHIND Dark Force, known as the Profound Darkness. Back at Motavia, Seth joins the group to help in finding the next major item, the Aeroprism, but transforms into yet another Dark Force that the party has to fight. The party also uses the Aeroprism to reveal a fourth planet in the Algo solar system, Rykros. The party must prove courage and strength to be considered "Protectors", then a return to the Esper Mansion sees Chaz get a legendary sword, Elysdeon. Afterwards, Hahn, Kyra, Raja, Demi, and Gryz; one of them can be chosen as a companion as Motavia is wrecked by Black Energy. Fighting the Profound Darkness, the Elysdeon shines to protect the heroes and allow them to leave, saying farewells and feeling happy. The end.

To be frank, there were confusing moments in the plot, things I couldn't care for, but the character interactions and the twists actually help it out a lot. Grade: B+

Music: You know what? This might be the best music in the series. Great job. Many good overworld, dungeon, and town themes. Lovely how there's a few themes that feel like homages to Phantasy Star 1 songs. Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A

Congrats Phantasy Star IV, you were a good game in the series. Something that the other games couldn't accomplish on account of being tedious to grind through or rather boring. Well, the first game was a landmark, but this one was the most fun. Great additions to an otherwise cliche battle system.

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