Thursday, January 17, 2008

Phantasy Star 2

The beginning

I've never owned a Sega Genesis. Probably because I could count on one hand the numbers of games available for it that I actually wanted to play.

One of those was Phantasy Star 2. I've always been a big RPG fan and seeing a few articles about it in the video game magazines I read, I thought it looked bloody cool. Alas, there was still no way I was getting a Genesis just for one game.

Fast forward to today. With the miracle of modern technology like virtual consoles, I've had the chance to go travel back in time and play some of the vintage console games I couldn't play when they were around the first time.

So my inaugural caffeine-fueled review, I'll go over my first impressions of Phantasy Star 2.

The game opens in a futuristic world where all is supposedly well thanks to a system called Mother Brain regulating agriculture and whatnot (though, I seen enough sci-fi movies to have a pretty good idea as to where the plot is going to go...)

Anyway, you control some sort of government agent who gets assigned to investigate biohazards (violent creatures who've been terrorizing everyone) by retrieving a data recorder from a lab.

Sounds easy enough. As you're about to leave your roommate of sorts Nei stops you and insists on tagging along. She's half human and half-biohazard. (someone had sex with a biohazard?!?)

In the town you start off in, you've got the usual amenities - hospital for healing, weapon shop, armor shop and item shop. In the case of the item shop, I actually had to load up an FAQ because none of the items had names that indicate what they do. I mean, what the hell is Monomate? At least give me an item description!

Also located in town are teleport stations for going to towns you've already visited, a clone lab to bring back dead companions (run by some really creepy looking dude) and a building for saving your game.

So, after stocking up on supplies, I'm off to find this lab. You have to travel the usual old-school RPG overworld where of course, you get into random battles. Just as well, since I'm controlling weak characters and need to build up experience.

I soon find out heading to the lab won't be so easy. Some guy is blocking a tunnel I need to get through and is robbing and killing people, great. So I head off in the opposite direction to find a town that's been destroyed by people known as scoundrels. Apparently this is where the jerk from the tunnel is from and he's turned to a life of crime to pay the ransom the scoundrels have on his daughter. So, in order to get through the tunnel, I'll have to go rescue the daughter from the scoundrels. Yay for RPGs and their unrelated, but requires, quests.

Now, so far I haven't had an issue with the game...until I enter the scoundrel's hideout and I'm confronted with quite possibly the worst dungeon design I've EVER encountered!

Worst dungeon design EVER!

First off, it's a bloody MAZE! Normally mazes are only mildly irritating, but add in the random encounter system where every step I take, some algorithm in the game is calculating whether or not a bunch of monsters are coming to rape me, it's infuriating to hit a dead end.

But it gets worse, oh, it gets worse. The maze actually spans several FLOORS! I pretty much needed to have a walkthrough and a map open on my computer to get through. The directions consist of things like: Go north from the entrance then follow the wall east until you hit a dead end and go north again. Go up to the second floor. Go south until you hit a barrier, then west and then north once you find a wall until you find a chute back down to the first floor.

That's right! I have to go up to the second floor, to find a way back down to a difference area of the first floor so I can take a another chute back to the second floor, finally get to the third floor only to have to look for a chute back down to yet ANOTHER area of the second get the idea.

Anyway, after finally getting to the top, there's no big boss dude to fight. Instead a note that essentially says, "Sorry, the princess is in another castle."

So it's off to go find some tower, where I hope the dungeon design has gotten better....

No, NO IT HASN'T! In fact, it's WORSE! I did get to the top floor on my own, spotted the girl I'm there to save but can't get to her. At least I know her general location, so I know where to look for a chute on the floor below her....this would be logical. However, I can't FIND a chute one the floor below that'll take me to her general area. So I break down and look at a map again...only to find the area I need to get to is about as far away from the girl as as the Maritime provinces are to Zanzibar!


Okay, I have played significantly longer than I think I'm supposed to for this kind of review and I have to say, I'm disappointed. Not only have I had to suffer two infuriating dungeons, there hasn't even been an ounce of plot development. I thought this was supposed to be the strong point for RPGs, after all, it's definitely not the combat.


So, will I keep playing? has to get better than this. But if these stupid dungeon mazes continue, this one may end up with several other games I've abandoned over the years just because they were too frustrating.

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