The Phantasy Star Complete Collection (developed by emulation masters M2) was originally released on the Playstation 2 in 2008 as a celebration of the series’ 20th anniversary, but unfortunately only saw release in Japan. On December 19th, 2012, almost exactly 25 years to the day after the release of the original Phantasy Star, SEGA made the compilation available as a PS2 Classic on the PS3 Playstation Store for only 800 yen. And this time, it was far easier (and cheaper) for those in the West to acquire and enjoy (see the How to Buy the Phantasy Star Complete Collection from the Japanese Playstation Store section that follows the review).
The games included in this collection are some of the greatest ever made and this collection is the absolute best way to play them. Here’s why:
-Includes Phantasy Star I – IV, plus Phantasy Star Adventure, Phantasy Star Gaiden, and the Phantasy Star II Text Adventures
-Japanese and North American versions of PS I-IV means they are playable in both Japanese and English
-Gallery mode for each game includes covers, original and concept art, manuals, and more
-Sound test mode for each game, complete with all music themes and sound effects
-Move speed options to make characters walk faster
-Difficulty options cause enemies to give more xp and meseta to reduce the need to grind
-Hiragana option for Phantasy Star I (Japanese version only) as opposed to the gaudy all-katakana text of the original
-Display settings: options for 480p, scanlines, smoothing, deflicker, etc.
-Fast Battle and Fast Window: (Phantasy Star II only) speeds up battles and… windows?
Phantasy Star (Mark III, 1987 / Master System, 1988)
Between its distinct cast of characters, engaging premise, first-person dungeons, sci-fi setting, and multiple planets to traverse, Phantasy Star was absurdly ahead of its time when it was released in Japan in 1987. It’s still an excellent (though occasionally obtuse) RPG to play now, and improved quite a bit for this collection. In addition to benefits of the lower-difficulty mode, there is also an option to increase the clock speed of the game, resulting in smoother first-person dungeons. Curious fans whose only experience with the game was on the Master System can switch to the Japanese Mark III version to hear how much better the music sounded (fair warning though- this will cause intense feelings of jealousy).
Phantasy Star II (Mega Drive, 1989 / Genesis, 1990)
With its surprisingly philosophical and emotional narrative, Phantasy Star pushed the genre forward in terms of storytelling more than any other game of the time- a fact that is still remarkably apparent today, despite the game’s questionable English localization. This is probably the title in the collection that benefits the most from the lowered difficulty options, as the original required obscene amounts of grinding in order to make it through the game’s long and complicated dungeons.
Phantasy Star III (Mega Drive, 1990 / Genesis, 1991)
The reviled third entry in the Phantasy Star series really isn’t as terrible as you’ve heard. It has some problems, sure. The character art lacks charm, some of the enemies are pretty unsettling (the giant, torso-up sprite of a naked man with what seems to be an all-seeing block of cheese balanced on his head who jiggles his pecs to attack comes to mind), and the towns are all a bit too samey looking, but it’s not all bad. The multi-generational branching story is really cool for its time and there is some excellent music to be found here (minus the bizarre and somewhat irritating contextually-shifting battle theme). It’s definitely the worst game in the series, but still one of the better console RPGs of the time and certainly worth checking out or revisiting in this compilation.
Phantasy Star IV (Mega Drive, 1993 / Genesis, 1994)
Arguably the best game in the series and certainly one of the greatest in the genre- a true classic. Read my full review here.
Phantasy Star II Text Adventures (Mega Drive, 1990)
Originally released via the Mega Drive Meganet modem service, these text adventures serve as character-specific prequels to Phantasy Star II. Unfortunately, they are only in Japanese.
Phantasy Star Adventure (Game Gear, 1992)
(Hold right and press Start on the title screen to unlock). The first Game Gear Phantasy Star is a first person text adventure, but sadly only in Japanese.
Phantasy Star Gaiden (Game Gear, 1992)
(Hold right and press Start on the title screen to unlock). This (again, Japanese only) Game Gear release is much closer to a typical Phantasy Star title than the other spinoffs, with its top down view and turn-based battles.
How to Buy the Phantasy Star Complete Collection from the Japanese Playstation Store:
Step 1: Create a Japanese PSN account
Step 2: Familiarize yourself with the Japanese PSN store, download a demo or trailer or something to make sure your account works
Step 3: Buy a 1000 Yen PSN point card (the Phantasy Star Complete Collection costs 800 Yen)
Step 4: Find the collection on the shop (look in the PS2 games) or search by switching to katakana and inputting ファンタシースターコンプリートコレクション
Step 5: Select it, put it in your cart, add funds (the middle option), and input your code from your point card purchase
Step 6: Download, install, and play (you can even log out of your new Japanese account and still play the game with your standard one)!
Important hiragana to know:
はい (hai) – Yes
いいえ (iie) – No
When changing settings or saving your game you will be asked to confirm things. Make sure you say yes!
Important katakana to know:
ファンタシースタ – Phantasy Star
ファンタシースターコンプリートコレクション – Phantasy Star Complete Collection
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On the topic of accessible English language versions: the Sega Genesis & Mega Drive Classics, is on Steam and has Phantasy Star 2, 3, and 4. Pretty good for PC gamers.
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