Genre: RPG Developer: Sega Enterprises Publisher: Sega Enterprises Players: 1 Released: 1991
If there was any one great tragedy about Phantasy Star III, it was that it almost worked. Give me a good or simply mediocre game any day, and I’ll probably play it without undue complaint, as I am not a usually discriminating person. Even give me a bad game if you must, for it would surely be better than what Phantasy Star III has done to me: The entire game is good, but is in turn balanced out by something bad. Normally, that would lead straight to a mediocre game, but I have to admit that most of the bad things to be said — while legitimate — are often petty. Moreover, the good things are the same way, if looked at from a different point of view.
The plot, to start with, has its ups and downs. Before getting into the famous controversy, I will give to those who have not played the game a brief taste of the plot that succeeded so well in sparking such a heated debate. You are Prince Rhys, and it is the day of your marriage to a mysterious woman, Maia, about whom you know nothing. As the ceremony begins a dragon, apparently from the clan of Laya (your greatest enemies), appears and kidnaps Maia. It’s all pretty straightforward so far, but it quickly becomes harder to discern. Rhys, understandably, is extremely upset at the snatching of his bride-to-be and somewhat rashly announces his intention to take the army to search for her. His father (not so understandably) has him locked up in a cell. This cell happens to have some money and basic equipment in it. You are then rescued by a young woman for no apparent reason and set out to search for Maia. Before you ask, no, I do not know where she got the key.
The plot retains some of this random feeling throughout, but still manages to capture your interest and get you going, if you can manage to swallow some of the more ludicrous things that come your way. At the end of this part of the adventure, Rhys can choose between two women, thus the subtitle: Generations of Doom. Now the generational system is a nice little device, and it’s quite interesting as you have as many as six choices open to you if you follow each one. The main problem with the generations is that for a Phantasy Star game it just doesn’t work very well. As seen throughout the series, each new game is about a different generation, and as explained in PSIV, there’s a reason for that. The main plot to the game is, unfortunately, in the nature of a side story more than anything as it involves what happened to the Parmian’s who escaped the destruction of the planet Parma in an earlier title.
Like the storyline, the visuals are a mixed bag. The overworld graphics are done in an interesting style, and quite good actually, but they don’t feel like Phantasy Star graphics. Phantasy Star always had a hint of anime about it, — yes, in PSIV it was blatant — but that simply wasn’t present here. The atmosphere was completely medieval, whereas in the other games it was always a certain blend between advanced science and fantasy.
The presentation just taken by itself is good though, until you reach battle. The battle graphics depict an in-distinct body movement by enemies and allies alike, like an ear twitch or finger wiggle…and that’s how you fight. Really great job, now isn’t it? Techniques (the equivalent of magic) are now reduced to a brief flash of light most of the time. I can really tell that every expense was spared for this game.
The audio is one of the few things that I can’t complain about. The sounds in battle are slightly sub-par, but not really that bad. The effects can’t really be commented on as they tried to be non-existent. The soundtrack though, with a few exceptions, is simply godly. Now that is some music I could listen to for hours. However, it still pales in comparison to the rest of the series’ overall excellence.
Gameplay is what all successful titles rely on at the end of the day, and thankfully Phantasy Star III didn’t have many changes to it. If you can forgive the abominable battle graphics, you can forgive that part of the gameplay. The battles are fairly well-spaced out, so you won’t be wrapped up in any sort of intense fight-step-fight-step-fight this time. The difficulty is perhaps the best ever seen in the series — harder than PSIV, which was a little too easy, but nowhere near the maddening difficulty of PSII, which drove me to whimpers for a whole day once.
All in all PSIII is not a bad game. It’s just not really Phantasy Star. The same names for money, techniques, and even the appearance of Dark Force are almost enough to make it work. But the Algo Solar System is inexplicably absent, and none of the things that were good in this game stand up to such a loss. Sadly enough, it would’ve been a great game if it hadn’t been released under the title Phantasy Star.
SCORE: 7 out of 10