GameSpite Journal 12: Phantasy Star III

The weakest entry in the Phantasy Star series. The black sheep. We’ve heard it all. While the other 8- and 16-bit episodes are praised as hallmark RPGs, Phantasy Star III often gets the shaft. Still, I’ll always harbor a soft spot for this weird, unusual spin on the series’ formula. Phantasy Star III isn’t considered weak because the developers were lazy or wanted to play it safe. The exact opposite is the case. Phantasy Star III floundered because it was too ambitious for its time. The subtitle Generations of Doom gives a major plot element away: While you start your adventure in the role of Rhys, the prince of Landen, you will face your final adversary in the role of one of Rhys grandsons. But while Enix’s Dragon Quest V tells an emotional, generation-spanning tale of growing up, overcoming hardships, becoming a father, and facing more harships, you will always feel a little detached from Phantasy Star III’s story.

Two times, after important plot events, you will be asked to choose one of two possible marriage prospects, often from your own party. After a shot cutscene, the plot will simply move forward a number of years, the former hero and his wife become side-characters, and his offspring takes center stage. The presence of two androids, redheaded claw-wielder Mieu and transformable powerhouse Wren, gives the three generations a certain sense of continuity, but Phantasy Star III clearly lacks the emotional punch of Yuji Horii’s masterpiece.

Phantasy Star III’s other problem is the (at least at the outset) very loose connection to its two predecessors. The game begins like the usual fantasy fare. You’re the prince, your bride is abducted, you set out to get her back. In the end, Phantasy Star III will take its rightful place in the series’ canon, but it’s a long, often arduous walk until then. While the enemy-encounter-rate is typically high, the dungeons were scaled town quite a bit in comparison to the extensive labyrinths you traversed in Phantasy Star I and II. Back in the day, this was heavily criticized; today, it allows for a brisker pace and also a bit less grinding.

One of the game’s definite high points is its great soundtrack. Instead of a simple battle theme, there are many smaller compositions that change depending on the battle-situation. The elegance of Lucasarts’ iMuse system is of course nowhere to be found here, but it’s still a nice touch. The overworld theme is another high point: While beginning quite simply, every additional party member also adds another voice, leading to a heroic piece of music in the later stages of a generation. And there’s of course the beautiful, sweeping title track—just look it up on YouTube, will you?

Phantasy Star III was my entry into the whole RPG genre. A friend brought it from a video rental store, mixing it up with Thunder Force III and thinking he had rented the furious shooter. While he was dearly disappointed, I was hooked from the first time, I saw and heard the game’s introduction. So don’t believe all the negative hype about Phantasy Star III. Behind its flaws and niggles is an interesting RPG simply waiting to be discovered.

Article by Thomas Nickel

GameSpite Journal 12Phantasy Star III

4 thoughts on “GameSpite Journal 12: Phantasy Star III

  1. Best town music in a 90’s RPG ever. Also, the game is truly awesome. It has my favorite graphics in all original Phantasy Star games. And you do feel a sense of continuity from generation to generation thanks to the “cinema cut scenes” and the dialogue, dude ¿Are you sure you played it right? This game is the best early 90’s RPG, no discussion. Better than anything on SNES in my very humble opinion. It’s a game that makes me feel weird. It feels like walking through a beautiful french forest. Cadash also makes me feel that way. NES might have been better than SMS, but the Genesis was really something very special that will never be repeated. Thank God I was there to feel it.

  2. Having struggled through the huge and often confusing dungeons of the previous two games, I was very happy to find the dungeons in Phantasy Star III to be much less frustrating. Finally, I could get through a Phantasy Star without constantly consulting maps on the internet!

    And yeah, that title music is great.

  3. Phantasy Star III was actually the first Genesis RPG I was exposed to. A friend of mine happened to have it from one of his cousins. He said it sucked, but then again, he thought that most RPGs sucked.

    Really, I love the atmosphere of the game. It’s one of those games that you really want to like, and it does some really interesting things, but it’s just not as good as its prequel, and certainly not as mind-blowingly awesome as its sequel.

    Seeing these Phantasy Star entries only solidifies one thing in my head, though. I wish we could get another traditional game in the series. I was heartbroken when they went to the MMO format, even if it was fun. And I have the same problems with Dragon Quest and what they’re doing to it now, so I suppose I should be thankful that it’s taken this long for the series to drift into the realm of online play.

    • I actually am ok with Sega dropping the mike on this one. PSIV is a conclusive masterpiece by all accounts. Why drag it out? I respect creators who can say, “This is what we wanted to do. Lets not cheapen it.”

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