*When people discuss the great RPGs of the 16-bit era, the resultant threads involve a lot of wistful sighs and superlatives bandied about, generally including phrases like ?best RPG ever?. Of course, these discussions almost always center on the Super Nintendo and dwell on Square?s undeniable, classic gems, Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI. But as wonderful as these games are, they?re hardly alone atop the mountain of great RPGs of that era, and neither of them handle storytelling as well as Phantasy Star IV, the unsung third member at the top of the 16-bit RPG heap. *
*Narrative in 8- and 16-bit RPGs was always a difficult venture, because of text restrictions and technological limitations and the inability of the sprite-based characters to provide much in the way of emotion outside of grossly exaggerated icons. Final Fantasy?s solution was to use elaborate setpieces to help the player envision the scene in their mind and extrapolate emotions and reactions. Phantasy Star decided to borrow from the visual novel adventure game instead, using elaborate manga-style images to tell the story; the varied timing and pacing of the panels set the mood of each scene. *
*It helped that the story Phantasy Star IV was trying to tell really was good, too. From the surface, it?s simply another generic RPG – a young man gets caught up in huge events that threaten the universe, and so forth. What sets this tale apart is its character depth. Each major character that our hero Chaz interacts with has a backstory integral to the plot and shares a web of connections to every other character, all presented through beautiful artwork. And when a major character dies about a third of the way into the story, it?s a genuinely emotional moment. The game spends a lot of time building up her relation as a mentor to the main character, and a striking force in her own right. No delicate Aerispansy here.
I’m interested in what SRK has to say about the game as so FEW people played it. I sure as hell didn’t but I’ve been thinking about it.