Took a Decade to Get Past the Intro, ‘Phantasy Star III’ Retrospective
Why is it Phantasy and not Fantasy?
In the early 90s I played my first RPG. As the title implies my first playthrough didn’t quite go so well. I had no idea what I was doing or even how to play. It was one of those games in which I did everything; I talked to everyone and went everywhere, and still made no progress. Back then there were no guides or internet for help. It wasn’t until a stroke of luck that finally allowed me to advance. I’ll get more into it later.
The game is called Phantasy Star 3, Generation of Doom, an RPG for the Sega Genesis. Long story short, there was an ancient war between two medieval races, the Orakians and Layans. Their leaders were attempting to make peace but they both disappeared. Each faction blamed each other for their leaders’ disappearances and closed off all connection to one another, including to their respective realms.
A thousand years later, you take control of an Orakian prince named Rhys. You are about to be married to a woman named Maia, who one day washed up on a beach near the kingdom. At the wedding a Layan monster appears and scoops up Maia. Rhys has a fit and his father, the King, tosses him into a dungeon to cool off. After escaping with the help of another woman named Lena, Rhys heads out to find his bride.
Immediately I had absolutely no idea what I was supposed to do. Immediately, I was free to traverse three medieval towns at the beginning of the game. I went through each one and spoke to the people who gave me very obscured clues on what to do.
On the overworld random encounters happened. On my first playthrough I didn’t know how to fight or defend myself. I just ran from the battles whenever they happened. I couldn’t run forever and was forced to endure punishment from powerful monsters. Most of the time I was defeated. Other times I barely made it to the next town.
This was like this for eight years.
I eventually did learn how to fight in the game and how to buy armor and weapons. The battle system is similar to Earthbound for Super Nintendo. Only the enemies are present on screen while you select the commands. You can choose attack, auto-attack, items, and escape. You can also choose magic spells, but more on that later. After a while even the rare stronger monsters fell immediately. Even still I didn’t know where to go.
One day I was in the third town and spoke to a man who said there was a woman to the north. I just so happened to be in that area while training. Out of nowhere a red-haired woman appeared! She wasn’t there at first, so you must speak to the man in the third town to make her appear. It would have been useful to know a decade earlier. Her name was Mieu and she joined me.
Afterwards the game is pretty straight forward. In an earlier town a man who owns a boat said he would only give rides to cyborgs. Guess what Mieu is? Then again cyborg is a loose term, cyborgs in this game are really androids, since they can function for thousands of years. So you ride the boat to a dungeon where you’ll find treasure and fighting monsters, talk to someone at the end and continue along.
Here’s what makes the game weird. Shortly after completing the sea dungeon you go through a cave. Inside you instantly find yourself in a mechanical facility. While Mieu being an android is also out there, you just went with it. Here, it’s a heavy dose of mood whiplash to see machines in a medieval world.
When you’ve passed through the cave you’ll find yourself at another medieval overworld with more medieval towns. Eventually you get three other characters joining your party, Wren, who’s another cyborg, Lyle, who’s a Layan Prince, and Lena, the girl who saved you a while back. Together, you and your companions go through another mechanical cave to another medieval overworld.
Eventually you do end up rescuing Maia and plan on finishing the wedding. However, Lena has also fallen in love with you. You then get a choice to marry either Maia or Lena. This is actually a major part of the gameplay and what gives the game its ‘generation’ subtitle. The game spans through three different generations, starting with Rhys and moving on to his descendants.
The game then picks up around twenty years later and has you take control of Rhys’ son. His son varies depending on which bride you choose. If you choose Maia, you play as Ayn. If you choose Lena, you play as Nial. No matter who you choose, you start the next generation with the protagonist who’s accompanied by both Mieu and Wren. Ayn/Nial also have Rhys’ stats from his journey so it’s still a continuation of the game and not necessarily an all new adventure.
I’m not going into detail about the next two protagonist you play as since their stories all end the same. Like Rhys, his sons get to choose who to marry. You then get to play as one of four other protagonist that ultimately leads to the game’s end.
Remember how I said that it was weird to have mechanical caves that connected the different medieval worlds? It gets weirder. At the end of the second generation you find out that the seven worlds you traverse through are actually different sections of a space colony. The people evacuated their homeworld to live out in space. You also find out that the world is in danger of a giant monster called the Dark Force.
After more shenanigans you go through one final dungeon. At the end is a chest containing the Dark Force. You fight it and the game ends. Despite which choices you made the game ends the same.
Overall, I can recommend Phantasy Star 3, Generation of Doom, but only as a minor recommendation. The game really reminds me of Earthbound but without the charm. It is quite a shock to see the medieval setting mixed with futuristic technology and to learn that all the worlds are actually one big station. The generation concept is unique, but it doesn’t really matter since the game ends the same way. If you play it, have a guide ready since the dungeons are long and easy to get lost in.
I’ve also purposely avoided talking about the game’s magic, which in the game is called technique. None of the techniques work properly, except when the enemies use them. Healing techniques rarely work, in fact if you get poison you will have to cast ‘anti’ several times to cure it.
Another thing, I have since played other games in the Phantasy Star series which all have better gameplay and stories. If anything, I recommend playing Phantasy Star 2 also for Sega Genesis first.
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