Title: Phantasy Star IV (North America) or Phantasy Star: End of the Millenium (Japan)
Developer: Sega
Date Published: December 16, 1993 (North America) and December 17, 1993 (Japan)
Platforms: Sega Genesis and Sega Saturn (as part of Saturn's Phantasy Star Collection)


~AW 2284. Monsters have swelled the ranks of those who call themselves "Hunters".

But as the attacks become ever more frequent and powerful, an elite few begin to wonder what is behind this outbreak... and when and how will it all end?



Phantasy Star IV, like so many other console RPGs, could just be another banal story of a youth who rises up to become the unlikely hero and savior of the universe. While one could argue that pretty much sums up the majority of the plot, that would be ignoring the abundance of nuanced details, memorable characters and a developed handful of worlds that makes this captivating, futuristic a Sega Genesis classic.

You begin the game on the troubled planet of Palma as a young "Hunter" named Chaz who (as his job class name implies) hunts monsters. He and his senior partner, Alys, are assigned to investigate an influx of monsters in an academy which, inevitably, leads to the discovery of a dark, vast right-wing conspiracy bent on the destruction of not only just this planet Palma, but rather the entire universe.

Overview

Phantasy Star IV sports pounding background music, colorful graphics (circa 1993), memorable characters drawn in anime style and a unique comic book presentation of story scenes.

Like most traditional RPGs, the interaction in the game comes in the form of an overview "walk around" screen, a menu and a battle system. The maximum five party members neatly line up behind Chaz while strolling through the Algo Solar System in a fashion identical to the Dragon Warrior series. The character sprites take up two vertically adjacent chunks of the background, however, and as a result look disturbingly tall for an older RPG.

The turn based, random encounter battle system takes a first person view. You get to see the back of your party's heads while you enter commands, then afterwards, they only appear when they are on the giving or receiving end of a battle animation. There are a plethora of requisite console RPG spells like three levels of Healing, Fire, Ice and Lightning. In addition to the spells are various techniques with really freakin' sweet names (e.g. Megid, Tandle, Efess, Flaeli, Ataraxia) that have various effects, but in general are the most damaging types of moves.

There's also an intriuging combo system. If two characters' actions spells or techniques are combo compatiable, they will combine their attacks to do a completely different, much more powerful combo attack. To balance these powerful attacks, the two or more characters involved in the combo must have their turns all adjacent. This becomes troublesome and strategic because you have to take into account that enemies will try to interrupt your combos.

Characters

...Or CHRS as the game would say. As a rule, no one No One NO ONE! that fights against evil is allowed to spell their name with more or less than four letters. (On a highly related note, noder TanisNikana reminded me that location names can never Never NEVER be more than 10 letters. For example, one of the first levels is called BIRTHVALLY.)

The important characters:

  • Chaz
  • - Our unlikely hero! He's the naive, energetic, cheerful, righteous, legendary sword-weilding stereotype we've all come to know and love from a thousand other stories.

    If you've played Star Ocean: The Second Story, then just insert Claude Kenni instead of Chaz; not only are their personalities and looks damn near identical, their names aren't too different either. If you haven't played SO2, well then Chaz has medium length yellow hair and wears a red and white space vest, part sci-fi and part superhero. And he uses swords, like any good main character. His obvious romantic interest is Alys, his mentor and partner.

  • Alys
  • - The disaffected and avaricious red-haired bounty hunter! Alys is plagued by the disease of fame. Dirty old men across the planet have dedicated her body's measurements to their memory.

    She's the leader of the group for the first large portion of the game in her quest for money, rank and prestige. Unfortunately, through a wacky turn of events, Chaz ends up taking charge of the mission for the majority of the game while she sits out. Equipped with a pair of boomerangs, she isn't all that great in battles despite what the entire planet of Palma seems to think.

    She's also sort of inhereited the first name of the hero of the original Phantasy Star, Alis Landsdale.

  • Rune
  • - The mysterious and patronizing guy! He has long, blue Sephiroth-like hair, joins your party at a high level, has amazing techniques and combos throughout the whole game and on top of all that, he's also alien royalty. He's the dude that knows exactly what's going on with the bad guys but doesn't tell the rest of the party because he's such an arrogant ass.
  • Rika
  • - The catgirl!! Although she looks like a nubile Sailor Moon-esque eighteen, she was only just hatched or built or something less than a year before she joins your party. That means she's lovingly childlike and piercingly virginal. Rika, being a catgirl, logically uses claws for fighting.
  • Wren
  • - A robot dude with explosive weapons! Wren actually looks frighteningly like Mega Man with a silver suit instead of blue. He's got the whole Frankenstien-mechanical-pieces-are-coming-out-my-face thing going on. As a robot guardian of the Algo Solar System, he joins up with the rest of the heroes just to save the universe. That's what good guys do.

And the other characters that join your party for great justice:

  • Hans
  • - The unlucky scholar! For Hans, being a scholar means two things: he's not fit for battle and he's poor. Well, he isn't that poor until Alys extorts several thousand Meseta (this game's currency) from him as part of the plot. And props to Sega for actually giving you the money! Hans is an optional fifth party member at the end of the game.
  • Demi
  • - A robot chick with explosive weapons! Demi does several things for the heroes besides having a sweet name that actually doesn't look restrained by only having four letters. She's got the hook-up with the space ships for interplanetary travel and a bunch of powerful healing techniques. Demi is an optional fifth party member at the end of the game.
  • Gryz
  • - The Motavian! Motavians are blue combination bat-humanoid creatures from the desert planet of Motavia. Gryz is the dedicated fighter with no magic and really crappy techniques. Gryz is an optional fifth party member at the end of the game.
  • Raja
  • - The heavy drinking priest! He really does nothing for the plot progression at all, but he has the best healing spells in the game. Raja is an optional fifth party member at the end of the game.
  • Seth
  • - The bad guy that joins your party! Seth is a strange guy that joins your party for one level and can use all the evil spells that only enemies can normally use. That, in addition to the dark characterization, pretty much give away this guy is really not your friend.
  • Kyra
  • - The Esper! To be honest, I forget what Espers are in the Phantasy Star universe. I never used Kyra that much as she uses weak boomerangs and has no good techniques. She's not important to the story. But she does join your party.

Sandworms

Why do sandworms get their own special section? What warrants this unique attention and love to these desert crawlies? The answer is simple, my friends! Sandworms are the single most important thing in the entire game of Phantasy Star IV. Without sandworms, the game would be impossible to play and several notches less fun. Let me explain.

Sandworms become random encounters on Palma relatively early in the game. However, you're just supposed to run away from them as they are ridiculously powerful.

Lucky for you, it is possible to kill sandworms during these early stages of the game. I swear to all that is holy that killing sandworms is the ONLY way to level up until the final level. They are the only thing in the game that give you an amount of experience proportional to the leveling arc. Because leveling gets you more spells and techniques, it is essentially the backbone of game play progression. This leads to the logical conclusion that the point of Phantasy Star IV's game play is to kill sandworms.

So how do you do it then? The earliest you can kill a sandworm (to my knowledge) is when my party consists of Chaz, Rune, Rika, Wren and Demi. Chaz and Rune need to do any sort of combo that does 500 or more damage. I believe if you use Chaz's "Doublecut" and any of Rune's ice spells, it'll do a blizzard style combo that fulfills the 500 damage requirement. Demi needs to make sure everyone is alive every turn with her powerful "heal everybody" technique. Wren and Rika either attack with their best techniques or heal themselves and others.

If Chaz and Rune use their combo every turn, sandworms can be taken out in about 4 or 5 turns. Playing on an emulator makes sandworms a piece of cake using this strategy (just save the state every turn and restore if it kills too many people). It is still entirely possible to kill sandworms on a real Genesis, but everything relies on the sandworm not killing Demi, Chaz or Rune the entire battle.

As I mentioned earlier, sandworm hunting is practically the only viable way to build up your characters for about 90% of the game. Spend some time killing sandworms so as soon as possible and then again once Raja replaces Demi in your party.

Availability

As of this write up, Phantasy Star IV is just over ten years old. I've always had the impression it was rather rare as I've never see it in any Genesis game selections at local video game stores, but copies of it are available on Ebay for about $10 US or less.

It is entirely emulatable on Gens and Genecyst to my knowledge and probably works on other Genesis emulators as well. The rom is not rare; a Google search will quickly yield results.

The Phantasy Star Series

Perhaps with the exception of the MMORPG installment of Phantasy Star Online, Phantasy Star IV is undoubtedly the most popular, beloved game in the series and rightfully so. Historically, it stood as strong (if not stronger) than any of its great, contemporary early 1990's console RPGs.

It's easily among the best RPGs to grace any Sega console and still lives on today as breathing proof that Square and Enix weren't the only video game developers making fantastic console RPGs.


Phantasy Star - Phantasy Star II - Phantasy Star III - Phatasy Star IV - Phantasy Star Online - Phantasy Star Online Episode II - Phantasy Star Online Episode III


Sources: Playing the game www.GameFAQs.com

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