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Phantasy Star [Model G-1341]

Sega Mark III cart. published 34 years ago by SEGA Enterprises

Phantasy Star [Model G-1341] screenshot

Listed and emulated in MAME.

ファンタシースター © 1987 Sega Enterprises, Limited.
(Phantasy Star)

Role-playing video game (RPG). First installment of the series. Phantasy Star tells the story of Alis on her journey to defeat the evil ruler of her star system, King Lassic, after her brother dies at his hands. She traverses between planets, gathering a party of fighters and collecting the items she needs to avenge her brother's death and return peace to the star system. The gameplay features traditional Japanese RPG elements including random encounters and experience points. All the characters have predefined personalities and abilities, a unique element compared to the customizable characters of other RPGs of the era.

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TECHNICAL

GAME ID: G-1341

TRIVIA

Phantasy Star for Sega Master System was released on December 20, 1987 in Japan, two days after Final Fantasy arrived for the competing Famicom.

Sega launched the development of Phantasy Star so their Master System could compete with the burgeoning popularity of console RPGs, particularly Dragon Quest (1986) on the Famicom. Designer Kotaro Hayashida and programmer Yuji Naka formed a team, staffed by a large number of women for the time, including graphic designer Rieko Kodama. The team wanted Phantasy Star to be a unique RPG experience, so they added elements like 3D dungeon crawling, a female protagonist, and ample animation. The team shared the same room, so they could see each other's work. They were given the freedom to build the game how they wanted without restrictions, which Hayashida believes led to them enjoying themselves more and producing a higher quality game in the end.

The game's setting was a fusion between medieval fantasy and science fiction, an idea inspired by Star Wars. The team had to use several techniques to fit all their content on a four megabit cartridge, a large game size for the time.

The name Phantasy Star was formed after Yuji Naka, the lead programmer, took the word Fantasy from a song he enjoyed titled Nagisa no Fantasy by Noriko Sakai.

Because the Master System could not draw large sprites, some parts of large characters were drawn to the background and only the animated portions were drawn as sprites.

Another unique addition to Phantasy Star was the 3-D dungeons. They became a central concept in the game's early planning stages, in part because the Famicom was incapable of handling them. The team drew inspiration from Western dungeon crawling RPGs like Wizardry and wanted to add animated navigation to help the player know their location and orientation more easily. Naka had experimented with creating dungeons inspired by these RPGs. Typically these scenes were rendered in small boxes, so Naka was motivated to engineer a full-screen dungeon that could be used for an action game or an RPG. Originally the artists were drawing full 2-D backgrounds using a 3-D perspective, but the number of frames necessary to achieve the animated effect used too much space on the cartridge. Naka solved this by programming true wireframe 3D dungeons. The artists then used a program by Naka to superimpose their art on top of the wireframes. They also saved three-quarters of the memory they would normally need by making each quadrant of the screen identical. The new dungeons scrolled faster than expected and needed to be slowed down.

The female heroine, Alis, was a sharp contrast compared with the typical male protagonists of other RPGs. Kodama had designed female characters before but never one in a strong and prominent role. This was an uncommon portrayal when games at the time usually had a damsel in distress. Kodama went through about a dozen designs until she achieved a strong but feminine character, one with whom female gamers could empathize. Noah was also designed by Kodama, as a mysterious and intelligent character. In the original draft, Noah was an androgynous character and would become male or female depending on how the player progressed. Eventually, it was decided the character would be male. Ohshima designed Odin because Kodama did not enjoy drawing muscular men. Kodama envisioned the visual contrast between Noah and Odin as comparable to that between Raistlin Majere and Caramon Majere in the Dragonlance book series. Ohshima was also responsible for a third of the monster designs, at most. The lead monster designer enjoyed classic fantasy monsters such as golems and Medusa, so these types of characters appeared in the final game. Myau was designed by Takako Kawaguchi.

At four megabits, the game's data was large for the time. Phantasy Star was only the second game for the Master System to use a chip this large. It was one of four games where it would be used. In spite of the chip's capacity, the team made many compromises to save space. The original story featured four planets, but this was reduced to three. The artists had to make compromises with the backgrounds and battle animations. Background scenes were mirrored vertically to save space. This created inconsistencies with shadowing. There were plans for a password system to save progress, but this was cut due to memory limitations; batteries were used instead The team wanted to have a password feature as a failsafe in case saving the data corrupted it as was often the case in playtests. Instead, Naka programmed a backup of the save data that could be used to restore a corrupted save file.

Composer Uwabo noted that the game was developed during the Japanese economic bubble, which fueled his enthusiasm which he believes is reflected in the music. The game was compatible with the Master System FM synthesis expansion unit which housed a Yamaha YM2413 chip that added nine more mono channels to the console's programmable sound generator (PSG), the SN76489. The expansion gave the soundtrack a wider range and heavier bass.

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CONSOLES:
[JP] Sega Saturn (apr.2, 1998) "Phantasy Star Collection [Sega Ages] [Model GS-9186]"
[JP] Sony PS2 (mar.27, 2008) "Phantasy Star Complete Collection [Sega Ages 2500 Vol.32] [Model SLPM-62775]"
Nintendo Wii [Virtual Console] [JP] (apr.21, 2009)

SOURCES

Game's ROM.