In 1990, Sega released Phantasy Star II in North America, the second installment in the sci-fi RPG series. The story takes place 1000 years after the events of the first game. There’s been a sudden increase in bio-monsters on your home planet, and Rolf is given a mission to locate a recorder in a labratory in hopes of finding out the cause. You travel with your partner Nei, and meet up with several other companions in your quest. For an older game, the plot is very interesting, and features a couple of nice twists.
The jump from 8-bit to 16-bit meant that the graphics would be a huge improvement over the first Phantasy Star, however, the presentation is a bit lacking. The first game had colorful backgrounds during combat, that would change depending on your location, but this one just has a grid background that never changes.
The first game also had 3D dungeons. They were a little plain looking, but were still really cool to navigate. Phantasy Star II’s dungeons are viewed from an overhead perspective, and are confusing as hell. You’ll find that drawing your own map won’t even help at times. For example, one of the first dungeons you come across, will seem to result in a bunch of dead ends, and will require the player to think outside the box to complete it. The dungeons are so confusing that the original NA release actually included a hintbook with maps. I guess they knew gamers would get stuck.
There are only 2 planets to explore this time, and thankfully Dezolis isn’t super annoying to navigate like it was on the Master System. You can easily warp from town to town, and if you need to go back to Motavia, getting to your ship is simple as well.
Combat in this game is your standard fare, random encounters and turn-based battles. A new feature to the series is the continuous-battle mechanic. All you have to do is select “fight” and your characters will use physical attacks or whatever the last tech or item you selected was. If you need to change your strategy or heal, simply press any button (including the d-pad), and when the next round begins you’ll be able to issue orders again. The continuous-battle feature comes in very handy, because you will be doing lots of grinding in this game. Whenever you enter a new town, you’ll generally have to fight the monsters around town for about an hour until you can afford the latest gear. You will definitely want the strongest weapons and armor, because this game is extremely challenging.
The enemies are very well designed (especially the robotic ones), although there is a bit of pallette swapping going on. At first you will be battling bio-monsters, but after a certain point in the story you will only fight robotic enemies. Later on, you’ll get a mix of the two.
One big flaw the game has is one of it’s final boss fights. After dealing with so many hours of grinding and confusing dungeons, it’s a huge bummer to have your success against one of the villains rely entirely on luck. He randomly chooses characters to turn evil which will either make them unable to fight, disable their techs, or cause them to steal from other party members. The only way to cure the condition is if one of your items decides it wants to dispel the evil or not. Sometimes it takes 1 turn, other times it takes 5. I had a great strategy for the battle but it still took me 15 tries.
The soundtrack isn’t quite as good as the first game, but still features many memorable tracks. Sound effects could be a bit better though, they really clash with the awesome battle music, and seem to be a little too loud.
Even though it is not as good as the first game in the series, Phantasy Star II is still a great RPG. While it may not be for everybody, those who don’t mind a little grinding and old-school challenge will enjoy it. It’s one of the best RPGs on the Genesis, and in the 16-bit generation.