March 14, 2012
Originally released for the Sega Master System in 1988, Phantasy Star was Sega’s attempt to duplicate the role-playing game format standardized by Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Unlike those games, Phantasy Star is set in the future and in space, although the execution of this setting is poor (treasure chests and fantasy outfits). Still, for those interested in a challenging quest that requires heavy player involvement with little narrative reward, Phantasy Star shouldn’t be overlooked in favor of the previously mentioned titans of the genre.
As Alis watches her brother die, she listens to his final request: kill the evil king Lassic and set things right in the Algol Solar System. Alis’ quest for revenge begins on the forest rich Palma, continues on the arid Motavia, and leads her to the icy Dezoris before finally heading back to Palma and defeating Lassic. Along the way she builds a party of like-minded individuals including the feline Myau, Odin, a warrior turned to stone by Medusa, and the wizard Noah. Getting these adventurers to join Alis’ party was no easy task however.
Gathering leads on these individuals required Alis to chat up everyone she met, and required me to keep a record of what they said. Heck, without the NPCs doling out such vital information, I’d have little reference for towns and dungeons, items, and even where I should be heading. Phantasy Star wasn’t a game I could passively enjoy; if I didn’t keep a record of acquired knowledge or chart out maps on paper, I’d never have beaten Phantasy Star without resorting to a FAQ, which I still did.
Like every other console RPG from the era, I viewed towns and the overworld from a top-down perspective, granting me a large view of the game at a time. But, when Alis entered dungeons the perspective changed and I saw them from her eyes. Without a large view of dungeons, I had a hard time navigating them without getting lost. Some were small enough that I could get through them without much trouble, yet others were so large and filled with traps that it’d take hours if I persisted with trial and error.
An RPG like Phantasy Star wouldn’t be complete without battles and character progression and it has both! Like its contemporaries, Phantasy Star has a simplistic battle system. Battles occurred randomly as I explored the overworld and caves, and these were also viewed from the first-person perspective. I had few options and the two that really mattered were fight and magic. I had multiple types of magic; what I found most effective was the healing kind although there were helpful spells that exited my party from caves or returned them to towns; on top of powerful damage dealing magic. The order of events seemed fairly random, sometimes I’d attack an enemy first, while other times I’d fight the exact same enemy type and they’d attack first; characters had no speed stat.
I didn’t find the early portion of the game very enjoyable. When I started out, my party consisted solely of Alis and in her early state she could only fight a couple of battles before having to be healed. As I accumulated better equipment and experience enemies began fearing me. Especially once I increased my party size. Grinding for experience and mesetas (money) took up most of my time with the game, and that’s just how these older games are. It’s not a bad thing; in fact once my party could withstand a lot of punishment and equally deal it out I enjoyed returning to caves and building up a small fortune. But doing that over the course of twenty or so hours doesn’t appeal to everyone and in fact I ran out of steam at the end of the game.
I liked exploring the caves from the first-person perspective. It seems like a remarkable technical feat considering when Phantasy Star came out. But, keeping track of where I was, was very difficult, especially when caves began growing in size and they had trap floors dropping me a level. I also enjoyed having to personally piece together what my next step was through NPCs, although the lack of character or plot development wasn’t what enticed me to continue playing, it was strengthening my characters. I battled and battled and battled some more and empowered my party to great strengths and this was pleasurable. Battles were very simple, but I was able to speed through the menus and overpower enemies once my party members were of high levels and equipped with good gear. I did run out of steam in the end however. I tend to do that, probably because I’ve proven my strength in the game and the payoff I’ll get for completing an “ancient” RPG like Phantasy Star won’t be revelatory. Still, Phantasy Star was enjoyable, as long as I had the gumption to get involved.
March 11, 2012
Well I picked up Mass Effect 3 last week, but unfortunately I haven’t had a lot of time to play it yet. I originally preordered it from GameStop, but did so too late and wasn’t able to reserve a copy of the collector’s edition. I was interested in what it came with and it wasn’t extraordinarily expensive so I went on a quest after missing out at GameStop. I went to Walmart next, same story, had to preorder it, but Target was my savior and had copies.
So for this week, I’m looking forward to getting to play it. Beyond that, I’m looking forward to posting articles this week. I should post my thoughts on Phantasy Star and my last post of Alfhedil’s Journal for a long time to come, but not the last! I might even finish an article over the new group/album WZRD. I’m brimming with new articles too!
Enjoy your week!
March 6, 2012
On our way to the College of Winterhold, Lydia and I came across a deceased horse near the entrance of a lighthouse. This piqued my interest and I decided we should check it out. Inside we found a murdered family and a lengthy tunnel filled with falmer and charrus. The tunnel was immense and it appeared that these creatures burrowed into the lighthouse and took over. Each family member left journals and it was devastating to read these and put the events in order, figuring out how and when each of them died.
Continuing our northeasterly trip we finally made it to the town of Winterhold. I’d wager that it’s the most northern settlement in Skyrim. It rests on the sea and its freezing; snow is always falling and there’s very low visibility. Outside of town lies the College of Winterhold, my destination to learn more about the Elder Scroll I’m looking for.
Soon after arriving, I was directed to an orc who runs The Arcanaeum, the college’s library. Urag gro-Shub was a smart fellow, and he let me sift through a couple of books devoted to understanding the Elder Scrolls. What I read was fascinating, implying that the power withheld in the scrolls was that of the Divines. Unfortunately they didn’t clue me into the location of the scroll I was seeking. Luckily, Urag knew someone who might. He told me to search the northern sea where a Septimus Signus was studying.
The trip to reach Septimus Signus will go down as one the worst things I’ve had to do. This fool is studying in what seems to be a glacier and to reach him I had to navigate slabs of ice floating on the sea. Not to mention the constant snowfall obscuring my vision and the occasional aggressive horker! Regardless, Lydia and I made it and Septimus had a lead, although he wanted us to help him too. He was studying an ancient Dwemer artifact that was buried in this glacier, and whatever lied inside the artifact Septimus believed to be more important than the Elder Srolls. And that’s saying something.
Septimus believed the Elder Scroll I needed was in a Dwemer ruin located near the lighthouse Lydia and I explored earlier. Alftand was full of ancient concoctions like creatures made of metal and gears. They came to life before our eyes, yet I couldn’t ascertain how they functioned. Like the lighthouse, we found journals of a crew of explorer’s that documented their downfall in this harsh metal ruin.
Connected to Alftand was a gigantic underground world where luminescent mushrooms grew as tall as buildings and all sorts of interesting creatures ran about. When I returned to Septimus he called this place Blackreach. This place was very large, connecting three ancient Dwemer ruins. It was also very dark, save for the glowing mushrooms and plants. Unfortunately falmer have overrun it. I found my way to an ancient Dwemer puzzle and after many minutes studying it, I figured it out, and received the Elder Scroll!
When I returned to Septimus he wanted me to extract the blood from each type of elf (creatures with names ending in mer) as he thought that would be a way to unlock the puzzle he was studying. Did I mention Septimus is off his rocker? When I left him a black cloud blocked my path and began communicating with me. It revealed itself as Hermaeus Mora, the Daedric Prince of knowledge and memory. He elaborated that it was really he who wanted to unlock the Dwemer contraption that Septimus was studying and that Hermaeus was controlling him. Believing he would soon have no use for Septimus he asked if I would become his mortal puppet. I declined.
With the Elder Scroll in my possession I need to return to the Throat of the World and read it. This is the spot where Alduin was originally defeated, or sent forward in time, and hopefully the Elder Scroll will give me a vision of this event.
March 4, 2012
I thought I’d change the format of these weekly posts up. Instead of rambling on mentioning what games I played in the previous week, I think I’m going to discuss my highlights from the previous week in regards to anything and what I’m looking forward to in the next week.
So my highlight from the previous week was the advent of springtime weather and the ability to begin playing tennis, disc golf, and more outside activities regularly. My girlfriend and I don’t get to spend a ton of time together but we’re always together on Thursdays. Conveniently enough, in Oklahoma last Thursday the temperature nearly reached eighty degrees Fahrenheit and I took the opportunity to coax her into an hour of tennis.
One more brief highlight from last week before moving on. I’m a huge fan of Picross DS and Picross 3D and last week I finally took the plunge and downloaded the GameBoy game Mario’s Picross for my 3DS. I’ve been playing that when I have the chance.
Let’s see what am I looking forward to this week? I know, the release of Mass Effect 3! I’m excited to play Commander Shepherd’s finale and am really looking forward to seeing how it wraps up.
March 2, 2012
While Esbern didn’t know much about how to rid Skyrim of the dragons, he knew a place where we could get some ideas. He told Delphine, Lydia, and I of Alduin’s Wall – an ancient relief that accounts the reign of the ancient dragon Alduin, the rise of the first dragonborn Tiber Septim, and the battle between these two legendary figures. Esbern believed Alduin’s Wall resided in an ancient Dwemer ruin called Karthspire located to the east of Whiterun, near Markarth, a city I have yet to visit.
The journey wasn’t too bad from Riverwood and it marked my first time battling the Forsworn, a clan of Bretons who dressed in animalistic attire and were relentless in attacking us. I’ll have to research them later. Another group I didn’t know a lot about (but learned about thanks to Esbern) was the Dwemer. Esbern told me they’re a lost race of elves that were quite advanced for their time. I wondered why Alduin’s Wall was inside a Dwemer ruin, but as it turned out, Karthspire was a Blade refuge way back in the day; much of their equipment was still around.
Alduin’s Wall was impressive. It was very large and the detail in the relief was unbelievable. As we all examined it, Esbern told us of the story of Alduin. He was a powerful dragon that terrorized the Nords. They were helpless until Tiber Septim appeared as the first dragonborn and was able to battle Alduin. Esbern believed the relief depicted Tiber Septim defeating Alduin with a shout. He knew nothing of this and Delphine advised me to ask the Greybeards as they might know. I didn’t realize it before but Delphine has hostility for the Greybeards, and apparently the Blades and the Greybeards might not get along.
Lydia and I returned to High Hrothgar and spoke with the Greybeards. Arngeir was reluctant to tell us anything about this shout and he did show resentment towards the Blades. He believed that Alduin’s return represented the end of the world and if it was time, so be it. However a thundering voice came from the heavens and Arngeir had a change of heart. He was worried that I would become a merciless dragon killer and wander from the way of the voice, but I’ll do what I must to protect the world.
Arngeir and the Greybeards had basically taught me all they could and sent me off to climb to the Throat of the World and speak with the leader of the Greybeards, the source of the thunderous voice. I was amazed at what I saw when I made the trek – a dragon! This dragon wasn’t hostile towards Lydia and I however. He began speaking with me and revealed himself to be Paarthurnax, the leader of the Greybeards. He was a well of information and I learned so much from him; dragons are eternal and his time on Nirn has made him the wisest living creature in the world. What was most interesting to me is what he had to say about Alduin.
When Tiber Septim and the Nords rose up to Alduin and defeated him, they didn’t kill him; Paarthurnax believes they instead sent him forward in time! He believes they did this with an Elder Scroll, although he didn’t know the location of one (I later spoke with Arngeir and he told me to visit the College of Winterhold for more information on that). Paarthurnax also told me of the shout I was searching for. Dragon Rend as it’s called has the ability to decimate a dragon by forcing them to comprehend mortality (dragons are immortal) and tear them to shreds. This shout and the Elder Scroll are linked, and while Paarthurnax had a wealth of information and shed a light on so many things that would take hours to write down, I now need to head for the College of Winterhold to learn more on how to defeat Alduin.