Video Game / Phantasy Star

Saving the universe from Dark Force since 1987!

Sega's answer to the RPG craze of the late 1980s, the Phantasy Star series was a classic contemporary to Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Having 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 franchise has taken several different forms since its inception.

The original tetralogy of turn-based role-playing games is primarily set in the Algol solar system, focusing on the planets Palma, Motavia, and Dezoris. Across thousands of years, various heroes rise to combat those who would threaten their home worlds, particularly the evil entity known as Dark Force.

Three Gaiden Games, mostly focused on Phantasy Star II, were released as well. Phantasy Star II Text Adventures and Phantasy Star Adventure, a duo of text-based Adventure Games, explored the past of the PSII cast and told an unrelated story set in the same era of the Algol system's history, respectively. Phantasy Star Gaiden, an Eastern RPG for the Game Gear, took place roughly halfway between I and II in the Copto star system, a sector of space colonized by the Alogols. The protagonists are two colonists, Alec and Mina—the latter being a descendant of I's heroine, Alis Landale. None of these games were released outside of Japan.

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 IV was planned and a US release bundling the III was announced, but the remake of IV 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 Algol 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.

All four games from the original series are available on Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, though the first installment (because it isn't a Genesis game) must be unlocked, which isn't that hard to do.note  As of 3 May 2012, the original versions of Phantasy Star II, III, and IV for Sega Genesis can also be purchased and played on PC via Steam.
The Phantasy Star series includes:


The series provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: From Alis in the first game, to Nei, Rika, and Alys in the sequels.
  • Algol Is the Center of the Universe: Thoroughly justified in PSIV, as it's revealed that the entire star system and all that live in it were originally created by the Great Light to imprison the Profound Darkness.
  • A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away...: Inverted. Though the tetralogy's set primarily in the Algol star system, seemingly in its own universe, Algol is actually a real-life star system, its name is Arabic for "demon star." Now, think back to the plot in IV ....
    • Additionally, although obliquely, hinted at in I, it's confirmed in II that Earth does exist within a far future context, as its race tries to conquer Algol to colonize it for resources and living space.
  • 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 was PSII.
  • Art Evolution: PSII, the Gaiden Games, and PSIV opted for a cel-drawn art style for cutscenes that was evocative of late '80s and early '90s anime. PSI and PSIII have a different (but still animesque) style. Generation 1 and 2 sport their own cel-shaded style as well, distinct from the original PSII and PSIV.
  • Artificial Human: The Numans: Neifirst, Nei, and Rika.
    • The android/cyborgs of III and IV probably count as well. And then there's Seth in IV.
  • Awesome McCool Name: 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.
  • Character Name Limits: Four letters max.
  • Clarke's Third Law: Throughout the series, the explanations for the games' equivalent of magic, "Techniques", has differed. For instance, the manual for Phantasy Star II describes the fire Technique "Foi" as compressing oxygen into a small space until the molecules ignite and create a fireball, suggesting they are technological or psychic in nature. Meanwhile, Phantasy Star Universe describes TECHNICs and their melee equivalent, Photon Arts, as computer programs uploaded to weapons on discs.
  • Compilation Re-release: No shortage of these with the original series. The Sega Saturn and PlayStation 2 both offered collections which combined all four original games into one package, the Game Boy Advance offered one which combined the first three, and compilations of Genesis games tend to contain at least the three for that system (the collection for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 contains all four, albeit requiring the first to be unlocked).
  • 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.
  • Cute Monster Girl: Nei and Rika, Numans in general.
  • 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 Phantasy Star II 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 IV, 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.
  • Dropped A Bridge On Her: Alys.
  • 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.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Dark Force in all the games. The Profound Darkness in PSIV, even more so.
  • 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 MMO Action RPG between Phantasy Star IV and the later sub-series, as well as the side-story text-based adventure games like Phantasy Star Adventure.
  • Global Currency: Meseta, which is more of an interplanetary currency. 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, except Nova, for whatever reason.
  • Hollywood Silencer: On a laser gun, no less.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: As with most RPGs' inventory systems.
  • LEGO Genetics: Numans are humanoids comprised of human, monster, and animal DNA. To top it off, the first Numan may have been created accidentally. (Exactly what happened is unclear.)
  • Luckily My Shield Will Protect Me: Men get traditional shields, while women instead wear emels — basically thick gauntlets. Unfortunately, in a franchise which offers higher rewards for Dual Wielding, these are largely useless except on your Squishy Wizards.
  • Magic Knight: Alis, Rolf, Chaz, and every third-generation protagonist in PSIII.
  • Mana Potion: Many games use Fluids as the magic restoring item. Dropped completely from Portable 2 onwards, as the Tech Points system was replaced with the Photon Points system, which serves the same functions, but has a much lower cap and regenerates automatically.
  • Master Computer: Mother Brain in PSII. She's got a "daughter" named Daughter in PSIV.
  • The Medic: Amy and Raja are the best examples, and several PSIII characters can be turned into this with proper tech distribution.
  • Nintendo Hard: All four games of the tetralogy, although PSII is the most punishing, even with Level Grinding.
  • Ominous Floating Castle: Lassic/La Shiec's castle in PSI, Skyhaven and Lashute in PSIII.
  • Phantasy Spelling
  • Plotline Death: Tiem and Nei in PSII. Alys in PSIV.
  • Redundant Researcher: Subverted.
  • Required Party Member: Nei insists on joining Rolf for the first third of PSII. In PSIV, there are 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.
  • Robot Girl: Mieu and Miun in PSIII, Demi in PSIV.
  • Science Fantasy: The setting is more or less sci-fi, but magic is commonplace in PSI and continues to exist in the games set afterwards (though its role is mainly taken over by Techniques).
  • Series Mascot: Rappies, little fat fluffy yellow birds. It wasn't until PSIV that they started to fill this role; it's more pronounced in the later games. They also appear in PSIII by the name "Chirper."
  • Shout-Out: In PSII Text Adventures. Shir's quest involves stealing the Opa Opa, a famous treasure.
    • Some of the books Chaz finds on bookshelves in PSIV also reference other Sega franchises, like Sonic the Hedgehog.
  • Single-Biome Planet
    • Crystal Spires and Togas: Rykros.
    • Ghibli Hills: Palma before its destruction, and Landen, Draconia, Elysium, and Terminus on the Alisa III... before you factor in their sci-fi elements, of course. Motavia in PSII, due to terraforming.
    • Shifting Sand Land: Motavia started out as this, and is regressing back toward it after Mother Brain's destruction. Also Aridia on the Alisa III.
    • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Dezoris, along with Frigidia and briefly Aquatica until Rhys fixes it.
  • 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; as an example, the name of the Algo/Algol System's planets (as well as the system itself, as noted here) 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.
  • Sticky Fingers: Shir, PSII's resident thief, has a chance of stealing something from every item, weapon, or armor store that the party walks into and taking it back to Rolf's home in Paseo. This includes any stores on Dezoris, which is extremely counter-productive given the circumstance.
    • 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.
  • Sword of Plot Advancement: Nei Sword in PSII, Orakio's Sword in PSIII, Elsydeon in PSIV.
  • Talking Animal: Myau, and all other musk cats.
  • 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 Algol 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.
  • Underground Monkey: Like other console RPGs, the creatures and enemies found in the tetralogy have lots of cousins, many of them Palette Swaps.
  • 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 one but three separate versions of Dark Force to slip into their dimension during PSIV.
  • When Trees Attack: The trees surrounding Garubrek Tower in PSIV are carnivorous. There are also a few biomonsters in PSII that appear to be trees, too.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: In addition to blue, purple, and pink, the series has some of the most impossible hair colors ever. To this day, very few video games and anime use a color best described as "electric laser limeade" for hair even once, let alone five times.