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Phantasy Star II: Were Critics into Sega's RPG in 1990?
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on June 02, 2014   |   Episode 50 (Show Archive)  

   

Phantasy Star II (Sega Genesis)
Ever wonder what Electronic Gaming Monthly, GamePro and other popular magazines thought of your favorite 8-, 16- and 32-bit games? Now you can find out, thanks to Review Crew! This is the only show on the internet that is willing to go back in time to find out what old school critics thought of retro games at the time. Did they pan your favorite game? Did they love something terrible? Find out every week as Defunct Games presents Review Crew!

Forget dungeons and dragons, Phantasy Star II takes role-playing gamers out of the high fantasy world and throws them into a distant future. After a successful Master System installment, Sega decided to make Phantasy Star II one of their big 1990 releases. Was this Sega Genesis sequel well received at the time? We turn to Electronic Gaming Monthly, Raze, Sega Pro and MegaTech for the answers!

(NOTE: Although we occasionally cut for length, no other edits are made to the review. Defunct Games does not change any of the wording, grammar or punctuation use. Also keep in mind that our score is the average of all critics at the time, not just the sample that is reprinted on this page. If you still have more questions, I recommend you check out the Review Crew FAQ, where we address the review guidelines, converting scores, magazine covers and more.)

Phantasy Star II
[ Company: Sega | Console: Genesis ]

ELECTRONIC GAMING MONTHLY #9
9 out of 10

"Incredible! The original PS on the SMS was an unbelievable game. Add more memory and throw in the power of the Genesis and you end up with the hardest, longest, and best RPG cart ever made! The price is scary, but considering how many hours it takes to complete, PS2 is definitely Sega's [sic]" -Ed

RAZE #6
90% out of 100%

"The game is structured in a very Japanese fashion. That is, it is highly linear with major monster/boss characters to defeat at the end of each segment. While those games tend to be more simplistic than your typical Ultima RPG, they can be very entertaining. You always have a real sense of purpose and direction. Your focus is maintained and you get a high sense of adventure and expectation."

VIDEO GAMES & COMPUTER ENTERTAINMENT
(March 1990)
9 out of 10

"As a Phantasy Star fanatic, I was delighted to hear that the sequel was destined not for the Sega Master System, but for the Genesis. When I sat down to play Phantasy Star II, I was immediately captivated. It's every bit as great as its predecessor, and it's far longer, tougher and graphically superior to the original. It's also a little less cute and significantly more dramatic." -Joshua Mandel

ELECTRONIC GAMING MONTHLY #9
8 out of 10

"RPGs aren't my thing, but this one has a monstrous quest anyone can get involved with and lost in. Plan to spend many days solving this 6-meg brainbuster! I wish the battle scenes were on landscapes instead of a boring blue grid, but all in all PS2 is presented well." -Martin

SEGAPRO #5
79% out of 100%

"Simple to get to grips with because you always have a sense of direction, and never feel as if your adventure is going nowhere. As a result, this will prove very popular with RPG novices."

MEGATECH #1
78% out of 100%

"There's certainly a big challenge in store in this massive menu-driven adventure, but to be honest, Phantasy Star II is more suited to pure RPG fans who like to use their brains rather than their joysticks. Arcade fans will soon become bored due to the lack of immediate action."

ELECTRONIC GAMING MONTHLY #9
7 out of 10

"Not being a fan of the original, this sequel, while visually stimulating, never really offers that much action or excitement. Some of the tasks to perform are bizarre, but the storyline is interesting for a while. PS2 can stand on its own, but fans of the first will appreciate it the most." -Steve
REVIEW CREW AVERAGE: 81% - In a time when role-playing games were still a rarity, the critics were split on Phantasy Star II for the Sega Genesis. EGM's Ed Semrad liked the game so much, he ran out of space and didn't wasn't allowed to complete his sentence. Raze also loved this sequel, commending its "real sense of purpose and direction." But not everybody agreed. Steve Harris wasn't as won over, noting that Sega's RPG lacked action and excitement. MegaTech worried that action gamers may get bored with the slower pace. And Martin wasn't having any of the "boring blue grid." All in all, the 82% average suggests nobody hated Phantasy Star II.

PHANTASY STAR II VS. FINAL FANTASY II: Admit it; you're curious how Phantasy Star II stacks up against Final Fantasy II. Square fans may be surprised to learn that these two received fairly similar scores, resulting in a two closer-than-expected averages. When we looked at Final Fantasy II back in March, we determined that it averaged a score of 85%. That's not far from Phantasy Star II's 81%. Clearly, Final Fantasy II has the edge, but it's not as decisive as some might have expected.

WHAT ABOUT PHANTASY STAR 1? This week we're taking a look at all three 16-bit Phantasy Star sequels, but not the Sega Master System game that started it all. No, it's not because we have something against this 8-bitter. The truth is that there weren't enough reviews to publish a full episode of Review Crew. Even with an archive of more than 20,000 old reviews, we were only able to find two write-ups about Phantasy Star. That's simply not enough for a consensus.

Mean Machines Sega called the game a "sprawling RPG which offers a great depth of gameplay, decent graphics and a good challenge." However, they noted that "there are slightly better games of this sort," and at a cheaper price point. They gave Phantasy Star a middling 75%. Sega Pro was a lot more positive, calling the 1988 release "the very best role-playing game to date on the Master System." Sega Pro scored Phantasy Star at 96%. Two very different points of view.

ON WEDNESDAY'S EPISODE: We continue our futuristic adventure with another Phantasy Star sequel. Forget simply playing through one lifetime, because Wednesday's episode of Review Crew sees players experience an epic quest through three different generations of adventurers. Any guesses what this game is? Hint: It rhymes with Phantasy Star II. Make sure and check out the Review Crew archive for more old school reviews, and don't forget to tweet me @DefunctGames to let me know what games you want to see next!

UPDATE #1 (JULY 24, 2014): We added a review from Video Games & Computer Entertainment, written by Joshua Mandel. It was originally published in the March 1990 issue.

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