This one isn’t a surviving original journal. It’s more of an apology. While I was playing the original Phantasy Star games, I discovered that there were some additional Phantasy Star games that I had never heard of before. Since I had been around portable RPGs longer than console (as we’ll see later in the Marathon), I felt these Game Gear games would be a nice little addition to my run without opening the pandora’s box that was Phantasy Star Online. There are three classic Phantasy Star spin-offs, all exclusive to Japan. The most interesting game was a Game Gear game called Phantasy Star Gaiden, a full portable RPG, but I never finished it. There were a series of eight text adventures related to PSII released for SEGA CD, which I never even started. The game I did finish was a Game Gear game called Phantasy Star Adventure.
I chose to start with PSA, because it showed all signs of being a quick experience that wouldn’t infringe much on my spare time. The funny thing was that I was right… but I didn’t know the half of it! At the time, I hadn’t played any games that were quite like this. Visual novels yes. Adventure Games that are mostly just visual novels, yes. “Barely one and a half hour portable adventure games cum Visual Novels…” …that’s different. I’ve played better, longer versions of this genre since, typically old DOS games, but at the time, PSA was a surprise.
I didn’t keep a full journal on PSA back in the day, though I’m not entirely sure why. Best guess… and I risk laying this on thick, but it’s the most likely reason: I probably didn’t write a journal because it was such a very short game, which means this is going to be a very short discussion. If the only thing I get across is the length, I’ve done my job.
You play an agent from Piseo investigating a bio-plant on Dezo, although not in an official capacity (which means making you an agent was just a lazy tie-in to PS2). Secretly, you’re trying to find a kidnapped friend. You bash around, solving rudimentary puzzles and engaging in combat. Yes this adventure game / visual novel has combat, which involves on-screen dice! This idea is cute, but only serves to slow the game down. It’s all so shallow and terrible. It doesn’t have the decency to just be shallow, or just be terrible. It felt the need to be both, and made it clear every chance it got. I can’t help but wonder if the game wasted time rolling on-screen dice just to add ten minutes to the experience and so significantly extend the playtime.
Japan had more than a few of these Adventure/VN/RPG combat triple-hybrids in the 80s and 90s, mostly on PC. The gameplay in PSA doesn’t stray from that limited template (you mash three genres together and you’re either going to get something expansive or something limited, that’s just how it works). Unfortunately, PSA is one of the worst examples I’ve seen from this niche, hybrid genre. There are dating sims with the same formula and more content and polish. I’ve seen dating sims with better combat systems, and they don’t have a reason to even have combat systems! The failure of combat in PSA, an RPG franchise’s spinoff, is a pratfall.
I wish I could say more but I’m all dried up. You break into a lab and stop some evil bio-engineering. I feel it’s not like me to skim the substance off of a retrospective in favour of blanket condemnation, but it’s been five or six years since I played PSA and all I remember about the game was the way it went splat in a big ‘ole belly-flop. The only worthwhile moment in the entire experience is when you picking up a bazooka to fight a giant, which doesn’t typically happen in an Adventure game, and then you still have to roll dice to do damage with it. Slooooow dice. So even though you used a rocket launcher to destroy a monster, all you remember is the dice!
I’ve said in the past (though for the first time on this blog) that I’m more willing to forgive faults in a video game than lack in a video game. PSA is only somewhat faulty, but it’s absolutely lacking. For me, it wasn’t worth it. It ain’t worth it. Stay away.