31 - Phantasy Star (Sega Master System)

You may think that the inclusion of a game like Phantasy Star is pure nostalgia, and while it is the first console RPG I ever played the fact is that I have replayed it many times over the years, and the thing that keeps it fun and fresh is precisely its simplicity.

My Master System was languishing under a steady diet of Hang On and Astro Warrior, basically because I couldn't afford any more games for it, when a friend came to the rescue and lent me Phantasy Star. My abiding memory of it is playing literally all day, from the early morning to 4:30 pm, when I very reluctantly had to turn it off to go and do my paper round.

Of course it was very different to anything I'd played until then. There really wasn't any kind of comparable experience on the home computers, certainly nothing as pick-up-and-play as this. The sense of an epic story playing out on a planetary scale was incredibly new and exciting to me. I remember being stunned when I boarded the space rocket and ended up on a whole new planet.

The visuals have a very attractive, colourful and unique style which have aged far better than their contemporaries, and the Master System did a fine job of providing a memorable soundtrack. The 3D dungeons in particular were gobsmacking at the time, and still impress considering the hardware. There are random battles aplenty but they never bothered me then and actually still don't because the intro / outro to them is so minimal. A far cry from some modern games where every single encounter is accompanied by a lavish bunch of animations and victory screens.

At this point I'd probably be expected to say that Phantasy Star ignited a passion for Japanese RPGs, but in fact apart from the direct sequel on the Megadrive I didn't touch another 'traditional' console RPG until Final Fantasy VII, nearly 20 years later. I always loved Phantasy Star for the game it is rather than the genre it represents, and I think that's why I'll always have it as a favourite.

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