Sega's great RPG series, that has been around as long as Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Over the years, the series has been in the hands of several of Sega's development studios (in chronological order: Sega RD4, Sega AM7 (Overworks/Sega Wow), and Sega AM8 (Sonic Team)).The original tetralogy of the series takes place primarily in the Algol solar system, consisting of the planets Palma, Motavia, and Dezoris (and one more), which are menaced by an evil entity known as Dark Force.Also related to the tetralogy are a number of Gaiden Games that appeared on the Sega Genesis: Phantasy Star II Text Adventures provided a look into the history of each of the protagonists from PSII.Phantasy Star Adventure, another text adventure (for the Game Gear this time) also took place during the era of PSII, but the player's character was a nameless government agent of Motavia (like Rolf) that partook on an adventure unconnected to the plot of the main game. All of these games were Adventure Games rather than Eastern RPGs. Then there was Phantasy Star Gaiden, an Eastern RPG for the Game Gear which took place 471 years after PSI in a star system colonized by Algo's people, named Copto. It centered around two colonists, Alec and Mina—the latter of which just so happens to be a descendant of Alis Landale herself ...... Too bad that nobody outside Japan got to see any of these games.A number of times, the games of the tetralogy have been ported to newer consoles. At one point, there was even a Remake of the first two games in the tetralogy—Phantasy Star Generation 1 and Generation 2—for the Playstation 2. On top of a more fleshed out story (far more in Generation 1's case) and updated graphics, there were a few additional quests and tweaks made to the remakes. Of course, nobody outside Japan got to see these either. A similar remake of 4 was planned and a US release bundling the 3 was announced, but the remake of 4 disappeared and the US release along with it.Sega's continued to make games in the Phantasy Star series, but they've largely taken place in entirely new settings with only tenuous connections to the Algo System ... well, apart from the fact that Dark Force just can't seem to leave the universe alone. For more information on the sub-series that came after the tetralogy, see Phantasy Star Online, Phantasy Star Universe, and Phantasy Star Zero.As of 3rd of May of 2012, the original versions of Phantasy Star 2, 3 and 4 for Sega Genesis can be purchased and played on PC via Steam. The Phantasy Star series includes:
Anyone Can Die: This series is not even slightly shy about killing off its main characters. PSIV's Wham Episode had Alys dying from the effects of the Black Wave.PSIII never killed anyone in the active party, but was absolutely murderous to the heroes of the first and second generations. And then there wasPSII.
The android/cyborgs of III and IV probably count as well. And then there's Seth in IV.
Awesome McCoolname / Fail O'Suckyname: The Japanese versions have some seriously WTH-worthy choices for character names. For just a small sampling throughout the series: Rolf was "Eusis", Rhys was "Kein Sa Riik", Crys was "Noin", and Kyra was "Shess".
Can't Drop The Hero: Rolf. I and III don't have enough characters per party to use this trope, while IV selects your party for you up until the end, and then, you only get to choose one Optional Party Member to take along with the four required ones.
Con Lang / Spell Levels: Techniques from PSII onwards. The base spells (such as "Foie" or "Resta") are augmented with prefixes, with "Gi" and "Na" strengthening them and "Sa" making them target multiple subjects. This is much less obvious in the English translations with their five-letter limit.
Cut-and-Paste Translation: In this case, overlaps with Pragmatic Adaptation and Macekre. Due to differences in language, a name in Japanese that easily fit in a short space can't when translated to a Western alphabet... and due to the hardware limitations of the era, simply making more room for "proper" English wasn't in the cards. As a result, localization teams often had to make new names for characters and items, but they often went out of their way to change the names into something entirely different—even for names that didn't need to be changed. They weren't consistent about the replacement names used, either.
And then there's the mistranslation of Dark Force into "Dark Falz"... Which ended up becoming the canonical name for the godlike cosmic horror that would debut in Online and have final boss roles in multiple games after that. Whether the name was the result of the mistranslation or just a coincidence is unknown, though it's still amusing in hindsight.
Darker and Edgier: Compared to many JRPGs of the period, the series was far darker and far less willing to pull its punches. The first game started out with the heroine's brother being casually murdered by government agents, and the second through the fourth established that not only can anyone die, but that important characters will die and that your actions and failures will have consequences even if you succeed.
Dead Character Walking: Can be done in the second Phantasy Star game. First, kill off everyone except Shir, then enter a shop repeatedly until she steals something and leaves the party. You'll now be able to walk around with an all dead party, though the second you get into an encounter, you'll die immediately.
Devil in Disguise: In Phantasy Star 4, you are accompanied for the span of one dungeon by an adventurer named Seth. While his name doesn't really say anything of what he really is, using the Talk command from the menu gives subtle hints, and his abilities (most, if not all of which were used in previous fights by Dark Force) are almost a dead give away if you are paying attention. "Seth" is also the name of the ancient Egyptian god of darkness.
Dual Wielding: Possible with every character, starting with PSII, and highly encouraged when it's not more effective to use a two-handed weapon. You can even dual-wield shields if you need to beef up a magic user's defense.
Expy: There's a reason why Numans seem catgirlish; Nei was deliberately meant to carry on Myau's legacy. During development, she even had a musk cat's tail. Rika was originally meant to be Nei herself, as was said by Tohoru Yoshida in an interview; conflict within the staff compelled him to make subtle alterations to keep Rika in.
In fact, the four main characters of PSIV are, in a sense, representative of the games of the tetralogy. Rune Walsh given his identity as the fifth generation Lutz represents PSI. Rika, originally meant to be Nei, represents PSII. Wren represents PSIII, as another android of the same model was part of the main cast in that game. Chaz himself represents PSIV.
Fighting a Shadow: Dark Force's relationship to the Profound Darkness—especially true in PSIV. Lassic also has a "shadow" fought partway through his castle in PSI.
Genre Shift: The jump from classic console RPG to MMOAction RPG between Phantasy Star IV and the later sub-series, as well as the sidestory text-based adventure games like Phantasy Star Adventure.
Global Currency: Meseta. One of the mainstay concepts of the series, even after the tetralogy.
Hijacked by Ganon: Dark Force/Falz has a nasty habit of appearing in nigh every game in some way, shape or form.
Required Party Member: Nei insists on joining Rolf for the first third of PSII. In PSIV, there is even less options on who to take, as the party makeup is often entirely decided by the plot. Even prior to the final dungeon, four characters in the five-man party are required.
Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness: Subverted in PSII. Dezo sells Laconia Daggers for 18,400 meseta, and only Shir can equip them. You'd think they'd be her ultimate weapon... But it only boosts her damage by 4. That's even less than the Scalpel.
Generation 2 plays it straight thankfully, they've been heavily buffed into being Shir's best weapon.
Spell My Name with an S: Localization teams lacked consistency with translations (see the Cut-and-Paste Translation example above); as an example, the name of the Algo System's planets have plenty of variations on their names (Palma/Parma/Palm/Parm, Motavia/Motabia/Mota, Dezoris/Dezolis/Dezo).
Squishy Wizard: Noah in PSI; Hugh and Amy in PSII; Hahn, Rune and Raja in PSIV.
Allowing Shir to steal something from Motavia's Central Command station nets you a visiphone that allows you to save your game anywhere (through the use item command), but she has to be over level 10 to do it.
Trauma Inn: Averted in the first two games, where you actually visit hospitals to heal your characters and churches/clone labs to resurrect them.
Unobtainium: Laconia, a specific mineral found in the Algo star system (typically on Dezoris) which is among the hardest known to man. Your party's best gear will typically include several pieces crafted from it.
It should be noted that Laconia itself isn't rare, but the knowledge of how to refine it doesn't get spread around. In IV, several stores sell "Silver" weapons and armor, which one of the shop residents explains is Laconia, but a low-grade form of it because out of outdated processing techniques.
Vaporware: PSIV was supposed to be remade in the same vein as Generation 1 and Generation 2. However, it was canceled in favor of a Compilation Re-release.
Vicious Cycle: Dark Force is slated to arrive every millennium to destroy the world.
Until A space station slams into Palma in PSII, destroying it, and thus weakening the seal, allowing not 1 but three seperate versions of dark force to slip into their dimension during PSIV
What Could Have Been: Design documents for Phantasy Star II, which were published in a 10th Anniversay collection, show a great deal of cut functionality and content from Phantasy Star II. Originally all characters would have had their own types of weapons and armor, and would have had PS 4-like Skills in addition to their techniques. Shir was also supposed to be able to steal items from enemies in battle at higher levels. Hugh also was supposed to have techniques that allowed him to control Biomonsters and communicate with them to avoid conflict (like the Talk and Chat spells in PS1).
As stated above, Rika of PSIV was originally meant to be Nei.
When Trees Attack: The trees surrounding Garubrek Tower in PSIV are carnivorous. There's also a few biomonsters in PSII that appear to be trees, too.
You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Probably the series with the most impossible hair colors ever. To this day, very few video games and even fewer anime use a color best described as "electric laser limeade" for hair even once, let alone five times.