Part 1: There Goes the Bride
Update 1: There Goes the Bride
You wanna know why people hate this game? Look at this title screen. Look at it and ask yourself what kind of person would think "Okay, this is the first thing we want our players to see when they turn on the game".
You can't see this from the screenshot, but the melody of the music on the intro screen is drowned out by a very loud and intensely irritating bell sound that plays about twice a second.
See this? This is Phantasy Star I's title screen. It is from a game that was made three years before Phantasy Star III, for the previous generation of consoles. It still manages to look more professional than PSIII.
And this is Phantasy Star II's title screen. This was the first notable RPG released for the Genesis, less than five months after the console came out. They still managed to make it pretty damn good.
Now look back at PSIII's title screen. It doesn't even bother to use the same stylish font as the first two games for the game's title: the designers just threw some ugly white text up there and said "that'll do".
Maybe you think I'm making too much of this. You think this because you haven't seen the rest of the game yet. Everything about it is half-assed and the people involved in making it should be ashamed of themselves.
I'm talking to you, S2. Don't think you can hide behind that pseudonym! Apparently you were also a junior designer for Phantasy Star II, and in fact the only PSIII staff member who had previously worked on a Phantasy Star game. This is a big part of the reason why PSIII didn't work; you were the one guy who could have stood up and said "Hey, maybe we should do a better job of making this game feel like it's part of the Phantasy Star series". And you didn't. Shame on you.
Hey there, Yang Watt. PSIII's writing isn't much worse than the first two in itself, and S2 is probably more to blame than you for the complete lack of continuity with the first two games. So you can get away with just feeling vaguely embarrassed to have worked on this game, I guess.
You're not getting off so lightly, L-R-Valley! Why'd you go and fill this game with generic fantasy JRPG art instead of the colourful sci-fi/fantasy blend of the first two games? Shame on you.
Ah, Toyo Ozaki. You're okay, I guess. The character art for this game is actually pretty good. Also you used to have a cool website full of concept art from the game, which I'll probably be stealing stuff from for this LP. So you don't really have a whole lot to be ashamed of except for the fact that some characters kinda look too similar to each other.
I don't even know what the hell a chief scroll designer does, but whatever it is, it didn't fix what's wrong with this game. Shame on you, Roger Arm. Unless you're the one who made those big splash screens that show up from time to time. Those are pretty cool, I guess.
Eh, you're okay, Ippo. You made a bunch of other cool games and you even worked on Phantasy Star IV. This game has some good music and some bad music and overall it isn't up to the standard of the rest of the series, but I can't really hate you.
Hey, you. Yeah, you. Sweeper. Your job is to not release a game that's full of show-stopping bugs. You failed. Shame on you.
I'm not sure quite what part of the game falls under the category of "special effects", but this game's animations are nothing special and neither are the sound effects. But then again, the first two games didn't really have great sound effects either, so I guess I shouldn't shame you too much.
Hey, Tsukapon? Everything I said to Sweeper goes for you too. And as a producer, you're supposed to make sure your product doesn't suck. Shame on you.
And there's nothing I can say about this, since everyone already knows that Sega has no shame.
Okay, that's enough blame for now. Let's take a look at the intro.
... world-sweeping wars fought 1,000 years ago. Brave Orakio sought to foil the evil schemes of the dark witch Laya and her hordes of monsters.
... though Orakio and Laya's bodies were never found. The passageways between the Layan worlds and the Orakian worlds were sealed. In time, people forgot there were other worlds besides Landen. Two months ago, a young woman washed up on the shores of Landen. The woman remembered nothing of her life prior to waking up on the beach. This seemingly minor event sets an epic adventure in motion...
What, you thought we were done with the intro already? No such luck. Text starts to scroll up the screen. Oh, and those bells from the title screen start up again over what would otherwise be perfectly good music.
The legends of the past shape our lives and those of our children. One such legend is of a struggle that almost destroyed our world. The names of Orakio and Laya echo down through the years, still inspiring love and hatred even now, 1,000 years after their tragic deaths. Their conflict wiped out civilization and left the survivors in a world of mutated creatures and warring pockets of men. Into this shattered world you are thrust, to live or die by your sword and your wits...
That's right: the game decides we need to hear a bunch of backstory and then plops us into Generic JRPG Hometown without telling us who we are or what we're meant to be doing. At least the music here is nice, peaceful, and mercifully free of bells.
If we try to leave town, our path is blocked, but at least we finally get to find out who we are (Prince Rhys) and where we're going (the castle). We could also find this out by reading the manual, but who does that? Anyway, Maia's the amnesiac woman from the intro, and Rhys is headed to the castle to marry her, because apparently when a prince finds a random girl lying on a beach and decides he's in love after talking to her for a couple of months without even knowing who she is, the royal family is A-OK with that.
"Look at me. I'm so dapper I can barely stand it."
"Now, for no particular reason, I'm going to go to this shop and sell the boots I'm wearing."
"But I paid 600 meseta for these! The shoemaker swore I'd never get a better deal anywhere else!"
"I think I'll use the money to buy an Escapipe, for teleporting out of caves and dungeons. You can never be too careful about these things, after all!"
Monomates are basic healing items, Dimates heal a little more, and Antidotes cure poison. You'll see why we bought that Escapipe soon enough.
Most of the townspeople just have dialogue congratulating Rhys on his wedding, but a couple say something along the lines of this. Even 1000 years after the war between the followers of Orakio and Laya, the world is still divided between Orakians and Layans. Of course, Landen is a safe Orakian kingdom, so Layans have apparently become a folk devil that all kinds of bad things are blamed on.
And then there's this one person who just doesn't give a shit about any of it. Good for her.
Heading north from Landen, Rhys arrives at the castle.
There are conveniently-placed walls of guards keeping us on the path and funneling us directly to the bedroom. And what do we find there?
Bells, that's what! Hear the fucking wedding bells! What a shitty game experience their jangling foretells. Anyway, with the sound of bells invading the player's ears yet again, Rhys runs up to Maia.
"Perhaps someday we will find out where I'm from and who I am!"
Credit where credit's due: a wedding is a pretty original way to start out an RPG. Presumably the rest of the game is going to be about Rhys's wacky adventures as he adapts to married life...
... or maybe not, since a dragon just appeared out of nowhere and flew off with Maia.
"I'll find Maia if I have to search forever! I'll take the army to destroy Laya's clan!"
"Don't be a fool! No one has seen a Layan for over 1,000 years! Starting a war is not a rational thing to do. Cool off in the dungeon for a while!"
"You can't stop me from going after her, father! I'll find her again, and I'll bring her back!"
Rhys just keeps on ranting and raving, even as the guards are dragging him off.
I have to side with the king on this one. I mean, throwing his own son in the hoosegow was a bit over the top, but nobody even knows who the hell Maia is. For all we know, she's a Layan citizen and the Layans have every right to come looking for her. It's not as if they have any way of knowing that Rhys didn't kidnap her or something.
Anyway, Rhys is locked up and that just won't do. What's to be done about it?
"Good thing I picked up that Escapipe!"
Well, that was easy. Man, we woulda been pretty stuck if we hadn't thought to buy that, huh?
That's funny, they forgot to give these guards any dialogue. Never mind: let's go rub our escape in the king's face!
"...but now I'm afraid the game can't be continued. Please press the Reset Button and try again."
Okay, so we exploited an oversight in the game design to escape. (Why couldn't they have just closed the shops until after the prologue was over?) Unfortunately, failing to properly trigger the event that gets us out of the dungeon means we can't leave the first town, so we're stuck. Time to load a save state and do things the right way!
We've been locked in here with a surprising amount of treasure. Here's our first weapon, and in the other two chests are 300 meseta and a Monitor, which displays the world map when used outdoors.
Hey, while we were looting those chests, some woman came up to the cell door!
According to my sources, Lena is supposed to be a childhood friend of Rhys who was previously engaged to be married to him before he dumped her for Miss Amnesia, but it isn't explained at all in the English game or manual, and she introduces herself like it's the first time they've met. I dunno.
Anyway, she leads us out of the dungeon...
... and back into Landen.
Interestingly, it's possible to exploit another glitch in the game at this point.
If you press and hold Up as soon as you initiate dialogue with Lena, Rhys gets stuck on the gate as it opens and can't follow her outside. You can then use an Escapipe to return to the entrance of the dungeon and wander around in it before leaving and getting on with the game (which you can do now, since meeting Lena is the trigger to unblock the town exit). There's a few healing items in chests scattered around the dungeon, which are more than worth what you spent on the Escapipe to get them.
Anyway, back to the game.
The gates to the castle are closed now, so we can't return there yet. Most of the townspeople are supportive of Rhys's self-imposed quest to rescue Maia, because apparently one civilization-ending war with the Layans a thousand years ago just wasn't enough for them.
We're playing an RPG here, so it's no great surprise to hear that the outside world is full of monsters, apparently created by the Layans. Why would they do that, you ask?
Well, before Orakio and Laya met up for their final battle, Orakio asked his people to live by what's now known as Orakio's Law: never kill a human being, not even a Layan. As we learn from the manual, Laya gave her people the same law, except her people called it Laya's Law. So of course, the Layans immediately made an army of monsters and let them loose to attack the Orakians, since that way they technically weren't killing anybody.
The Orakians, for their part, didn't do any better: they made a big ol' army of robots to attack the Layans.
We also learn that there's a port city called Yaata to the south, that we need a sapphire to enter the cave to the east, and that a monster carrying a sapphire flew towards an island to the south. Also, "some say the monster was a man", which doesn't make very much sense because you'd think people would be able to tell the difference between a man and a monster, and also men don't fly. Anyway, I guess we know where we're going next!
First, though, let's take a look at some of the shops in town.
The building we came out of when we escaped from the dungeon is a Technique Distribution shop. Techniques are like magic, except that Orakians can't use them so Rhys has no use for this shop right now. In fact, it's not too clear how the shop manages to stay in business in an Orakian town, unless it makes all its money off androids who are passing through.
Holy crap, it's Rolf, the main character from Phantasy Star II!
Seriously, the resemblance is striking. Why you gotta keep reminding me of better games that I could be playing instead of this, Phantasy Star III?
Anyway, he runs an armour shop, and right now we can afford a helmet and armour, so we go ahead and buy 'em for Rhys. (We could also afford a shield, but shields suck in this game.)
There's a priest who resurrects characters who have
... and upstairs from him, a nurse who cures poison. Poison is very nasty in this game: it prevents afflicted characters from recovering health by any means, so getting poisoned in the middle of a dungeon is bad news if you don't have a way to cure it.
There's also a weapon shop in town, so Rhys invests in a second knife; it's possible to dual-wield one-handed weapons in this game.
There's a fortune teller, who gives out cryptic hints on what to do next!
"Sure, I've got money to burn. Let's hear it, old man."
"When the prince leaves his castle, the moons will drift closer again. Worlds shall burn if the prince's will falters. The prince's offspring will wander afar, until the end of the worlds or the rejection of evil."
"Huh. So that means I'm definitely going to find Maia, right? I mean, if I end up having kids I've gotta have them with somebody."
Finally, there's an inn, which restores health and also acts as a save point. That's right, you can't actually save in this game without spending money. It's not much money, but it's the principle of the thing.
And that's all there is to see in Landen. Next time, we'll head south to see what's going on in Yaata!