I’ve now acquired a character and gone through my first dungeon in Phantasy Star III. The experience has certainly been interesting, and unexpected.
It’s clear that Sega learned quite a bit from Phantasy Star II. While the encounter rate is as high as ever (My cousin noted that PSIII’s encounter rate makes PSII encounters seem like occasional distractions), the combat isn’t as brutally difficult as PSII’s early game (Although this may be because of my choice of a Short Sword as my initial weapon, plus my doing a bit of grinding to get a second Claw for Mieu), and it flows a lot faster too–the animations move much more quickly, perhaps as a result of not having your characters themselves graphically in the battle.
Plot-wise, I now realize that the connections to the rest of the series begin much earlier than I expected. Suffice to say that I already know who I’ll be fighting in the third generation. Additionally, the character of Mieu reminds me of the rest of the series too. Name-wise, the first thing I actually thought of was Myau, the cat-like character from the original Phantasy Star. Design-wise, though, she’s clearly meant to evoke memories of Nei from Phantasy Star II, from the claws, to the cat-like appearance. Here, though, instead of being half-human, half-Biomonster, Mieu is a cyborg.
The game has also managed to subvert my expectations at points. I knew I needed a Sapphire to enter a cave. I also knew that a man had stolen the Sapphire and was hiding in a cave somewhere. In terms of the dungeon itself, it was actually a simple, one-floor affair, a far cry from the first dungeon in PSII. Not only that, but the scoundrel who stole the Sapphire simply handed it over to me, and even expressed a wish to join my party (But ultimately didn’t, at least not yet). So it was refreshing to have all the signs that pointed to “Boss battle!” not actually lead there. The downside to this is that the lack of real conflict has done little to quicken up the slow pace of the game to this point.
Still, I’m intrigued, and will keep playing.