Revisiting Phantasy Star II: Part I
There are three moments that, to me, define the story of Phantasy Star II. The first of which is Darum.
When you first begin PSII, residents of the starting town, Paseo, present an idyllic view of the state of the world. Protected by a supercomputer known as Mother Brain (no relation to Metroid), the planet Mota (Motavia) prospers. It is also apparent that there is something darker, more sinister, lurking beneath and in the margins of this society.
If you travel northwest of Paseo you will come to the North Bridge, which is impassable at the start of the game. The obstruction is a man named Darum.
Darum has been robbing, attacking, and killing anyone who attempts to pass. What a dick! In the meantime, your adventure takes you to a dungeon called Shure. Here, on the dead body of a bandit, you find a ransom note intended for Darum. The request is simple: 50,000 Meseta for the return of his daughter.
Your quest continues to Nido Tower, where you find Darum’s kidnapped daughter, Teim. You rescue her, cover her head with a veil so she is not recognized, and return her to her father.
In most games, this would be a happy ending. Father and daughter reunited, Darum would see the error of his ways, cease his violent behavior, and live happily ever after with his family. Phantasy Star II is not most games, and this doesn’t happen.
Teim approaches her father, still veiled. Darum does not recognize her.
He stabs her, not realizing she is his daughter until it is too late.
Darum lights an explosive and joins his daughter in death. Your party reflects.
This moment sets the tone for the world in which the game takes place. In addition, the line “Someone must save us!” resonates thematically. At this point in the story, the protagonists think like the citizens of Motavian society: their savior lies elsewhere.
Darum’s story is not the “biggest” moment in PSII, but it’s incredibly important to the world building. Even outside of that context, it’s a tragic tale on a totally different level than most video game stories in 1989. Phantasy Star II’s writer, Chieko Aoki, raised the bar of storytelling in the medium, and this moment is a key reason why.
The other two moments I mentioned earlier? We’ll get to those.