Old RPG Review #16: Phantasy Star II

NuMetalManiak So I reviewed Phantasy Star I for the Sega Master System, now I'm reviewing Phantasy Star II, the first ever RPG for the Sega Mega Drive and the sequel to Phantasy Star. Like with the first game I actually played this via the GBA Phantasy Star Collection. This game is a lot sleeker than it's predecessor, and actually garnered a lot more praise.

Gameplay: Fans of turn-based RPGs will find that the game plays very much similar to what they like. Phantasy Star II is even more futuristic than its preceding game, as there's technological towns, shops, dams, you name it. I like how this game sticks entirely to the high-tech theme. The dungeons in this game are no longer like the first-person viewpoint of the first Phantasy Star, so that actually makes navigation easier (although less suspenseful). There's no more booby-trapped treasure chests anymore, and the chests have a techno look as well.

Now that doesn't mean this game is easy, in fact, it is FAR from easy. Although combat is turn-based, it is pretty nasty overall. The enemy could usually have the initiative, but your party never has that which really sucks. Also, misses are very frequent, even for techs (which are the magic of this game). There's two types of enemies in this game, biomonsters and robots, and they are actually situational depending on the plot. Like the first game, there's a ton of grinding just to get what you need, either good levels for party members, or more importantly, money for equipment. Those weapons and armor are so expensive! And the dungeons are very difficult to conquer, especially the ones on Dezo like Ikuto and Naval. I can safely say that Phantasy Star II was one of the toughest RPGs I've managed to complete.

Interplanetary travel is a thing in this game just like the first one. The planets somehow have different and simpler names now: Palm (Palma), Mota (Motavia), and Dezo (Dezoris). And there are several key buildings you can visit in towns, for items, armor, weapons (by the way, that's a girl who is the weapon's dealer. I actually thought it was a long-haired dude) and also a cloning lab for reviving dead party members (WTF?) On planet Dezo, the Dezorians there cannot be spoken to unless you have a character wearing a certain type of hat. Gameplay Grade: B-

Characters: Eight playable characters appear in this game, and you can have four in your party at a time. You can organize them in different lineups, but the two front characters take more damage in combat than the two back ones. Starting players have both Rolf and Nei as party members, and more will come after you visit certain towns on Mota. What's interesting is that every new party member shows up at Rolf's house, which warrants some explanation as to why exactly all of these people are frolicking to his house of all places, instead of joining the party while in the plot.

Rolf: Blue hair, blue/white clothes, agent. The main character and the descendant of Alis from the first Phantasy Star, he has good physical attack power with swords, knives, and some offensive techs. Will always be the character you have in the party. Grade: A
Nei: Purple hair and clothes, cat-like features. Nei isn't human, let's get that out of the way. She loves Rolf so much that she can't be removed from the party until a certain event. On the other hand, she is fast, with average attack power using only bars as weapons. And if you're wondering, bars are actually claws. Don't ask about the horrible translation because I don't know about it. Not to mention she is a good healer with several healing techs at her disposal. Nei gains levels quicker than anyone else but her stat gains aren't gonna get better the more she levels up. Good to have while you have her. Grade: B
Rudo: Blonde hair, black/grey clothing, soldier. Rudolf Steiner is your best physical attack with the ability to wield powerful guns as weaponry. This comes at the contrast of not being able to use techs, but Rudo can work fine without them. Grade: A-
Amy: Red hair, yellow/white clothing, doctor. Being a doctor, you can expect Amy Sage to suck at combat, but she is essential for healing techs. Available weapons are scalpels and guns, and you'd be better off with the later if any weapon at all. Keeping her in the back of the line. Grade: B
Hugh: Purple hair, green clothing, biologist. Hugh Thompson's an average character in combat, but has a specialty against biomonsters. His techs are very good against biomonsters, but will not work well against robots. Only uses knives, staves, and guns as weapons. I didn't use Hugh much, as his usefulness is very limited. Grade: C-
Anna: Blonde hair, blue clothing, hunter. Pretty cool character. Her main weapons are slashers which can target monster groups, but are much stronger against biomonsters in general. Anna Zirski doesn't have much in techs though, and she's overall weak against robots. Her physical power is good though. Grade: B-
Kain: Gray hair, red clothing, wrecker. Josh Kain is essentially Hugh's opposite. His special techs are best used for robots but not useful against biomonsters. When the robots appear on Mota this is where Kain is really useful, so I'd recommend him for that segment of the game. Grade: B+
Shir: Green hair, white/green clothing, thief. I never used Shir Gold much. She has the best speed of the available characters but not the power, although can learn some good techs. Shir's main feature is that she can steal from a store with some item. Doing this means she disappears from the party and returns to Rolf's house. You'll have to fetch her there and when you do, find the item that she stole in your inventory. What can I say for a thief character. Grade: C

Plot: Phantasy Star II takes place 1000 years after the events of Phantasy Star, with no trace of the original characters. Or is there?

The Algo (formerly Algol) Star system has a new control computer known as Mother Brain (gee that's original) which controls the main systems of the planets in the system.

Mota (originally Motavia) has been terraformed into a more tropical environment with no traces of desert anywhere to be found. Rolf wakes up from a dream and goes into his job as an agent. He is accompanied by Nei and the two set off to investigate the rising numbers of deadly biomonsters that are inhabiting the Mota landscape. Along the way they go into certain towns, triggering other party members to appear in Rolf's house. It seems that they want to tag along too. When the party reaches Climatrol (that's climate control abbreviated somehow). they find a creature similar to Nei known as Neifirst (how original) who has developed a hatred for humans for being half biomonster. Nei engages her in combat, in a battle that's supposed to be lost. This results in Nei being killed, and Rolf and the others jump in and slay Neifirst. For some reason, after the events unfold, Nei cannot be cloned in the clone lab (there's gotta be some sort of explanation behind this).

This ultimately removes the biomonster threat from Mota, at the cost of Nei and Neifirst. However, this causes the four dams in Mota to overflow. Due to the damage Rolf's party has caused for Climatrol, the Mother Brain now brands them as fugitives, and the robots replace biomonsters on Mota (this is where Kain becomes useful). The party then goes through the four dams in Mota in order to prevent the catastrophe, and there is another boss battle against three army eyes. While not necessarily a forced loss, the bots deliver an attack which capture them. The scene shifts over to a satellite with the party stripped of equipment and they try to head back. The satellite crashes on planet Palm (Alis's homeworld in the first game) and completely destroys it, but Rolf's party is rescued by a space guru named Tyler who tells them someone on planet Dezo could be of some help.

So Rolf's party journeys to Dezo, eventually reaching the Esper Mansion. They awaken the Esper Lutz, who is actually the playable character Noah from the first game! He tells Rolf about his past as well as how he's a descendant of Alis, not to forget about the destruction that Mother Brain would cause to the Algo system. He instructs Rolf and co. to seek out the Nei equipment in Dezo's towers. Why this stuff is named after Nei, I have no clue, but these items are the strongest in the game.

Once they do that, they return to Lutz and he transports the party to the spaceship Noah (seriously what the hell is up with the naming? They rename Noah into Lutz and then name the final area of the game Noah? Why?) There, they fight two final bosses. One is Dark Force, which was formerly Darkfalz in the first game, and the recurring antagonist of the Phantasy Star series. A very difficult boss to defeat that's for sure. The final boss is Mother Brain, slightly easier than Dark Force but still quite difficult. It's here where Lutz says that there are still entities on Noah, and surprise, they're our people! Earthlings that is. So we earthlings were the ones who conceived Mother Brain to the Algo system. Rolf's entire party is then shown fighting off the earthlings in still pictures, but unfortunately this fine plot is ended via a cliffhanger! Damn it all! There's not any indication of the outcome of that finale.

Overall, the plot was quite cool, but it just had to end on a cliffhanger, which ruined it for me. Also, the naming of things really annoyed me. Overall Grade: B-

Music: This is thankfully a high point. While overworld themes are quite simple, they work that way. I did get tired of hearing the battle music a lot though, as it wasn't too great. I absolutely love the dungeon and tower music in this game though. Grade: B+

Overall Grade: B-
Phantasy Star II is seen as the best in the series by the critics, but it requires a lot of patience, grinding and strategy to be completed. The gameplay is rough despite being turn-based, but with the right characters and techs, some battles get a bit more strategic. I hate how the first two bosses have forced losses. I also disliked the naming of things, because it proved confusing (Lutz was Noah, and now Noah's a spaceship?). But the sleekness and strategy of Phantasy Star II is not to be missed, as well as the main plot pieces. I seriously don't like the cliffhanger ending though. Now, I have not played the third Phantasy Star game yet, but it might come.