Revisiting Phantasy Star II Part 1: Overview and My Favorite Way to Play

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Phantasy Star II’s initial English release. The game was released in March 1989 in Japan, March 1990 in North America (two months before the first Final Fantasy hit the NES), and November 1990 in Europe.

I wanted to replay the game to celebrate, especially after finishing the original PS again earlier this year. I also wanted to talk about it, in some capacity. But at this point, what is there to say about Phantasy Star II? While still niche compared to other RPGs of the 16-bit era, the game has achieved some notoriety thanks to its difficulty and the character Nei.

In lieu of a single write-up of the game, I’m going to create a series of short posts about aspects of PSII that interest and/or resonate with me. Some topics I plan to explore include, but are not limited to, the world (universe) building, comparisons with the original game, Nei’s arc, Darum’s story, and the ending.

I’m going to start simple, with my favorite way to play the game.

While Phantasy Star II has been ported to pretty much every game console released in the past two decades, those ports have generally been a straight conversion of the Mega Drive / Genesis original. This makes the game uninviting for two reasons: walk speed (slow) and difficulty (hard).

Enter the Sega Ages Phantasy Star Collection. Released on the PlayStation 2 in Japan in 2008, this collection holds a special place in my heart. I was living in Japan when it launched, and bought it on release day. I have vivid memories of playing the collection in my tiny apartment, sustained by konbini snacks and Ukon no Chikara energy drinks.

For me, this PS2 collection was the most accessible way to play the games ever. I had played them on the original hardware and various compilations, but the quality of life improvements were (literally) game changing. Options to increase movement speed and increased xp/meseta per battle changed PS I-III from from slow and punishing to brisk and welcoming (PS IV is significantly more “modern” and didn’t need the fixes as much). The collection included both the Mega Drive and Genesis versions, so you could play the games with the improvements, in English (the English localizations were not improved for this release, unfortunately).

This was the first time I completed Phantasy Star II. Yes, the later dungeons were still a pain (I used a walkthrough), but the game at least felt possible. Playing in this way may have seemed like a shortcut to some, but when I finished the game, I felt nothing but immense satisfaction.

While the collection sells for a fairly high price on eBay these days, it should still be accessible for a reasonable price from the Japanese PlayStation Store on PS3. In 2013 I wrote a short review of the collection and a guide for purchasing it on my old Sega blog. This is how I will be revisiting the game. I’m excited to get started (again!)

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