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The last time I sat down in front of my PC or game machine and played a RPG (role playing game), I was playing Ultima IV on my Atari 800XL. That was almost ten years ago. Needless to say, I'm somewhat a novice when it comes to game like Phantasy Star IV from Sega, billed as the grande finale of the Phantasy Star series.

Thousands of years ago, a civilization that emerged from a brutal war in the Algo star system prospered and flourished, until the day that Mother Brain (the central computer system on the planet Palma) exploded. Palma was destroyed, and the planets that Mother Brain was built to protect began their slow destruction. Ancient maintenance Bio-systems began to break down, releasing terrible monsters on to the planets of the Algo system. From that time, a band of warriors known as Hunters emerged. These mercenaries specialized in the extermination of the Bio-monsters plaguing the villages and cities of Algo.

So begins our story on the planet Motavia... you play a young Hunter named Chaz, who is about to embark on his first assignment. His mission is to rid the star system of the forces of evil forever.

What stuck me first about Phantasy Star IV was the familiar look and feel that I've come to expect from a role playing game, despite the fact that I haven't played for ten years. Some may think of that as a criticism, but I kind of liked that. The game is, after all, designed for the Sega Genesis, not a PC with 50 megs of free hard dive space.

Like in the Ultima game long ago, our hero Chaz is quickly joined by fellow mercenaries hoping to defeat the Dark Force. The party grows to a maximum of five members at any one time. While travelling around the map of Motavia, and other worlds later in the game, we view the party from above. Should the party be attacked, the view shifts to an "over the shoulder" battle view to watch Chaz and his crew rip apart the enemy with a wide array of magic spells or brute force clubbing.

Each of the teams members is particularly gifted in either magic and/or fighting skills. Chaz, for example, is a first rate swordsman but has been known to cast a wicked spell or two. The characters improve their skills throughout the game by blasting monsters into oblivion, thereby picking up experience points.

One of the more interesting features of the battle scene is the party's ability to match-up each other's powers into one massive magic spell. The game's manual says their are 15 such "combination" attacks, but I couldn't quite find them all. One of the easier combo attacks to find is called "Fire Storm". Basically, what happens is two of your characters cast simultaneous spells. The resulting attack is a whirlwind of fire that surrounds, and most likely kills, all the enemy characters on the screen. However, as you might expect, each spell or fighting skill is not always appropriate for all enemies. I recall one particular occasion where I became cocky and sent only one character in to attack with her patented "DEATH" skill, which the manual assured me would kill the enemy with an unimpaired blade cut to the vital organs. Unfortunately, the attack had no effect whatsoever and I soon found my characters dead. I could almost hear Daffy Duck saying "Ooops, I got the darn thing in reverse!!"

Luckily, my game had recently been saved and I was able to reload while only losing the last few minutes of my adventure. The game offers the player an option to save three separate games, which is good for families playing together or for the gamer who just wants to relive certain key moments or battles.

Music was pretty much standard fare for a Sega game. I was neither overly impressed by the score nor did I reach for the volume button on my remote each time I played.


So, all around I liked the game. It's a good investment for someone who's willing to spend hours in front of their Sega system. If you're looking for a quickly arcade game, forget it. This game takes quite a while to play. I've been playing most every night for the last three weeks and I'm still not done. My characters are at level 37 now.... so, if you'll excuse me I've got to get back now.


Overall: ***1/2

Review written by Mike McGrath


In North America:

Sega of America Inc.,
255 Shoreline Drive,
2nd floor,
Redwood City, CA 94065

In Europe:

In UK:

Sega Europe Ltd.,
247 Cromwell Road,
London SW5 9GA

In Netherlands:

Sega Video Games Netherlands B.V.,
47, Huizermaatweg,
1273 Na Huizen.

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