For some reason, the world of Phantasy Star III loves its fountains to lead to dungeons that connect to castles. I don’t get it either.
It’s probably a testament to how unpopular the game is (Or how unpopular I am) that I wasn’t called out on not knowing who Lena was. It turns out that she’s the lady who helps you escape the dungeon at the start of the game. Whoops! Still, why you’d shout “It’s her!” upon seeing her (And not “Hey, it’s the lady who helped me out earlier!”, given that you’re already looking for another “her”) confused me.
The fountain dungeon in the town of Cille was the most difficult dungeon yet. It wasn’t necessarily the most complicated–there were eight possible entrances, but you could tell fairly quickly that most of them wouldn’t really get you anywhere–but the passages were long, and the enemies the most difficult yet. It took me probably four or five trips into the dungeon part to make it all the way through. And this was before the castle portion of the dungeon. This marked the first time I wanted to just get to what I saw as the endpoint of the maze–the enemies were hitting hard, and I was beginning to run out of healing items. I did come across one person who noted that the Layans were insulted that I would try to marry their princess–a fact I had gathered by the fact that I was still being attacked by monsters in the castle. More on this particular plot point a bit later.
After navigating my way through the castle, it was time for a boss fight, against King Cille. It was difficult, with his ability to Zan my entire party for respectable damage, but after I quickly eliminated his Dryad guards, he went down before my party did. Then I had a decision to make. It was time to marry someone, and finish off generation one!
I had both in-character and out-of-character concerns here. I’ll tackle the out-of-character ones first. The game actually breaks off at two points–you can marry one of two people at the end of the first generation, and you make a similar choice at the end of the second generation, for a total of four possible third generations. And I’ve been told that while all four third generations are pretty similar (To the point that it’s really only worth playing through the game once, despite the fact that Sega advertised four endings depending on the path you ended up in on the game’s release), that is decidedly not true of the two possible second generations. If I picked well, or picked poorly, it could completely change my gaming experience for the next several hours.
In-character, I had my choice of two ladies, neither of whom were all that compelling. Maia, my supposed lady-love, has had her entire role to this point be to say “I hope someday we’ll find out who I am and where I came from!” (Answer: She’s a Layan princess. To the game’s credit, unlike today’s games, where there would be a giant cutscene where the main characters [and her] would act all shocked about this, it’s brought up a bit more subtlely. Yes, they mention it, but without a lot of fanfare. Indeed, the game doesn’t even remind you that Maia didn’t know this fact about her lineage at all at this point.), and to be kidnapped. Essentially, she was a living MacGuffin, a trophy for me to chase down. My other option, Lena, did help me escape the dungeon at the beginning of the game, which was nice and all. But as a party member, she was a much, much weaker version of Rhys, with no magic capabilities, and not a lot of fighting ability either (Admittedly, my setting her up with a dual-wielding-knife setup, which was actually a solid choice in Phantasy Star II, may have had something to do with this). Her best role in battle amounted to being a fifth target, and she wasn’t even particularly good at that. Further, there was nothing in the English script of the game to suggest that she was so much as a platonic friend of Rhys, let alone someone he would want to marry for any other reason than “He’ll get more kingdoms.”
Eventually, I made my decision as to who to marry. Who did I pick?
…You’ll have to wait for Part Nine to find out.