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But I'm getting way back in prehistory.
Flash forward past Rogue and Ultima, and Wizardry, on the RPG-paradise known as the PC, and you wind up with two systems battling for control of the jacked-into-the-TV world in the wake of The Great Video Game Collapse (thanks, Atari!) of 1983-1984.
Nintendo released their, quite honestly, ugly little gray box known as "Famicom" (Family Computer) in Japan and Sega, a year later in 1986, released their PC derived Sega Master System. While the Famicom in 1986 in Japan had released the first Dragon Quest (Dragon Warrior in the US), Sega was busy telling Sega Development And Research Team 1 (later Sonic Team), led by the legendary Yuji Naka, to make an RPG that combined the easy-to-play elements of Dragon Quest with the difficulty curve and first-person dungeons of Sir-Tech's Wizardry.
This was not a short order, folks. Yuji Naka literally played through Ultima I and II, Wizardry I and Dragon Quest to make a game that was the opposite of - yet similar to - those games. However, he hit upon something that all those games desperately lacked - an engrossing story and graphics that pushed a system and looked better than, well, to be honest, pixelized vomit.
However, he ran into a small snag from a company that made a (bad) racing game ripped off of Sega's own OutRun - the game known as Rad Racer in the US (lawsuits GALORE have been fired from Sega against them over the years) - the meager and then horrifically understaffed Square Soft. But, they had talent in their ranks - Hironobu Sakaguchi.
Final Fantasy hit the NES in 1987 and made a thunderous appearance in Nihon-land, which gave Yu Suzuki, who was then more famous than Mr. Miyamoto in his home country, the head of Sega's R&D the equivalent of irritable bowel syndrome. So, in defense of his zaibatsu (honored company) and Mr. Suzuki, Naka went to work.
His efforts culminated in taking the most unlikely of heroes (a teenage girl) and a quest of both revenge and salvation, while throwing in the talking cat, Myau ("Meow"), to appease the Japanese preoccupation with anything cute, against the maniacal King Lassic.
The game's jaw-dropping graphics (still the best of the entire 8-bit era) and controller-throwing, graph paper required, profanity shouting first-person dungeons drew in a large amount of support in Japan and Brazil (in Brazil the NES was DOA and the Master System was produced there until, no joke, 1993) the United States couldn't get past the fact that the box art was TERRIBLE. This in an era when games lived or died by them in the States.
The story, presentation, gigantic world(s), legitimately near-unbeatable difficulty and beautiful, haunting music make it reverently beloved by RPG fanatics to this day and even the most jaded of PC gamers hail it as the best console RPG released until the 16-bit age.
Few RPGs can claim to be near-flawless and all are judged at the time of their release against the tour de force of 1988 known as Phantasy Star.
On my own personal list of games it firmly sits alongside Fallout 2, Panzer Dragoon Saga (not a poser - I bought my copy in 1998) and Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn as RPG perfection, be it PC or console. Few games are masterpieces, this one is a work of art.
That aside, this game is surprisingly well put-together, for an 8-bit game. The first-person dungeons are well animated, in my opinion, better animated than some of the late SNES first-person ungeon crawlers (hello, MegaTen, even though I love you to death, your dungeons were very static).
The story is well-written, which is kind of sad, in a way. Sega did such an awesome job with this Phantasy Star's story. It makes you wonder where these writers went when it came time for the sequels. PS II & III's stories weren't ba, but neither of them got me as interested as the first game's did. Only when IV came out did I get interested in the game's characters again. Too bad they can't create a better narrative for the PSO games.
If you love old-school RPG goodness, play this game. If you want a lesser challenge, go play Final Fantasy. Before all you fanboys attack me, I'm a big fan of the Fantasy games...they're just too easy. Money & EXP in a FF game comes way too easily. In PS, you have to WORK for your EXP and Meseta. I love that, which is why I'm a fan of the "traditional" RPGs like Dragon Quest & Phantasy Star.
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