Breaking the Nostalgia Filter

When I was about 6 or 7, my aunt, grandmother and I went to the house of another of my aunts. I don’t remember what for–what I do remember is that my cousin was tasked with keeping me entertained (As he would be many times in the following years). It says something about both of us that his method of choice was to show off his shiny new Sega Genesis. The games he had were pretty much all launch titles, but amongst Space Harrier II, Golden Axe, and Altered Beast was one game that particularly stuck with me, arguably the crown jewel of the Genesis launch lineup.

Phantasy Star II.

Yep, seven years before Final Fantasy VII made it cool to like RPGs in the U.S., Phantasy Star II had quite a bit of hype behind it in 1990 or so. It made the cover of an early issue of GamePro, and an early Game Player’s had quite a bit of coverage too. In any event, seeing the game made quite an impression on little Emptyeye, even though at that point all I got to see was my cousin repeatedly trying (And failing) to kill the final boss. Actually getting to play the game later on only increased my “must have this game” desire.

Unfortunately, I was a Nintendo kid growing up, not actually owning a Genesis until it was all but dead in the U.S. I finally got Phantasy Star II in my early teens, and loved it, especially the ending (Which pretty much confirmed everything a 13-year-old me in the peak of his I-Hate-Everything phase needed to know about humanity).

A couple years ago, I played through the game again intending to speedrun it. I never actually a completed a speedrun, other than a pseudo-test where I got through the game at Level 18. While I still love the game on a personal level, looking at it objectively, it really hasn’t aged very well.

In case you don’t know, when the game first game out, it came with its own full strategy guide. This is because you needed it. The dungeons were huge, and especially in the beginning of the game, you had to do quite a bit of level grinding in order to survive them. This wasn’t quite as much of a problem later on, although the dungeons themselves got even more fiendish. Here’s one of the later dungeons; the black squares are pits, and your two goals are the chests marked Neislasher and Neishot. Have fun getting to them even with the map. The pace of also rather slow, and any characters not in your party don’t level with the rest of your characters. This basically means that several of the characters you get will never be used in normal play.

Despite all these flaws, I still like the game a lot, and might play through it again on stream sometime. Maybe once I don’t have to constantly stress out about So You Want to be a Speedrunner.

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