Before I talk about the actual game, I feel I have to give some sort of explanation for my history of playing RPGs. You see, I’m a bit of a Johnny-Come-Lately when it comes to role playing games, at least in terms of my age. This is partly because of my early inclinations as a gamer and partly due to my systems of choice. You see, I didn’t own an 8-bit system. My next door neighbors actually owned an Atari 2600 and a NES, and my sister was friends with the girl that lived there, so sometimes I would tag along and get my fix that way. My aunt and uncle also owned a NES and I would marvel at seeing The Legend of Zelda box art. I thought it was so classy!
The first system I actually OWNED was a SEGA Genesis that my dad one day brought home with him, apropos of nothing, as far as I can tell. Wasn’t anyone’s birthday or anything! He got it when it was packaged with Altered Beast and also got us Revenge of Shinobi, Golden Axe and Forgotten Worlds to go along with it. At first the games made me really anxious because I was afraid I’d die in them and I’d only watch my sister play. But sometime around the advent of Sonic the Hedgehog, I started to really get into games, and you know the rest of the story~
As you might be aware, there was somewhat of a dearth of RPGs for the SEGA Genesis. There was the Shining series, and the Phantasy Star series, but I never really heard about them until I was much older. I guess the kids my age didn’t really talk about them. I didn’t even know what a RPG WAS. The next system I got after the Genesis was a N64, and that was even WORSE in regards to RPGs. Finally, in I think 1997 or 1998, I got a Playstation and my tastes in games were irrevocably altered.
Final Fantasy VII wasn’t the first RPG I’d ever played, but it was the first one I actually enjoyed. From there on I was Square’s bitch for most of the PS1 era. But what about those other RPGs I’d played? My awareness of role playing games was driven almost solely by the now-defunct Electronic Gaming Monthly. Not only did they have big shiny ads for the BIGGEST. GAME. EVER. Final Fantasy VII, but their seminal Top 100 Games of All Time list in their 100th issue mentioned several Genesis titles, like Shining in the Darkness and… yes, Phantasy Star II. I rented them both and was immediately turned off by their inaccessibility and lack of visual pizzazz. By that time they were already dated and I hadn’t the foggiest idea how a RPG played. So I guess it’s no surprise FFVII was able to hook me instead of those two.
But the Phantasy Star series still intrigued me, although I’d relegated it to the background; a curiosity I would never be able to appreciate. And the online aspect of the later Phantasy Star Online installments only made it even more out of reach for me. But the recent release of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (lovingly referred to by a friend as Spinhog’s Software Pile), with its inclusion of just about every notable first-party Genesis title, including the Shining and Phantasy Star series, was my second chance to try to see what drew people to the franchises in the first place, with the eyes (and patience) of an adult.