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Working Designs almost published Phantasy Star IV, Sega of America wanted it to fail

uncledonnie

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Mar 25, 2009
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WTF?

That was the reason the game cost $100 back then? That price made my eye bulge as a kid even in the more expensive cart days. The game was 24megs which is a nice big size at the time but games were like around $60-80 at those sizes back then.

SoA was indeed a clusterfuck then but I have a really hard time believing they would go through all of that to translate, publish, and distribute the game just to prove a point.
 
Aug 27, 2007
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Interesting, although I remember other RPGs also being sold for $99.99 at the time, like Final Fantasy III and Chrono Trigger.

Secret of Mana was also pretty pricey over in Canada land when it came out. I was lucky my uncle REALLY wanted it or I would not have gotten to play it until much later in life.
 
May 18, 2012
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Eh, you can say what you want about Working Design's localizations, but let's get real: would anyone have noticed Lunar out of the dozens of similar-looking rpgs coming out on Mega CD and PC-CD if not for WD bringing it to the west?

Were there any other Mega CD or PC-CD RPGs with the same level of quality & quantity as Lunar: Eternal Blue's cutscenes?
 

Laevateinn

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Aug 7, 2013
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SoA was indeed a clusterfuck then but I have a really hard time believing they would go through all of that to translate, publish, and distribute the game just to prove a point.

Why not? The only reason Warren Buffett acquired Berkshire Hathaway is because he was offended that the offer to buy his shares he received in writing was lower than the verbal offer he had been given. The only benefit of becoming rich is that you can throw your weight around to prove a point.
 

lazygecko

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Apr 8, 2014
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Interesting, although I remember other RPGs also being sold for $99.99 at the time, like Final Fantasy III and Chrono Trigger.

I think the prices varied a lot between retailers. My experience was that I would very often see overpriced games in stores that didn't specialize in video games, like toy stores and some electronics shops. I remember seeing SNES games like DKC3 being sold at Toys R Us for what amounted to over $100. The last ridiculously priced game I remember seeing was a PS1 Tony Hawk game for something like $90 at a small electronics shop in 2001.

I'm pretty sure these stores set such prices as a sleazy way to scam clueless parents looking to buy games for their children and who didn't know any better.
 

jluedtke

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Mar 11, 2005
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My brother and I rented PSIV for two weeks and beat it because there was no way we could talk our parents into forking out $100 for it.

Now I know why.
 

LiveFromKyoto

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Jul 19, 2006
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25 years later, Sega still leaving Phantasy Star games overseas.

Sony's "no 2D" era was one of the darkest in gaming history. It was egged on by many in the press, who were handing out 9s to anything with a polygon that ran reasonably well, but criticizing 2D games for being old & outdated. There was a time when a lot of people genuinely thought Suikoden II/PStar IV/FF VI (depending on where you stood) was going to be the last great 2D rpg. The indie future was impossible to see back then.

In hindsight, it's weird and a shame that Vic & Gamefan ended up as enemies. They were on the same side in this fight.

And yeah, it's impossible to understate how much damage Stolar did to the Sega brand. Even though the Dreamcast was amazing, nobody outside the hardcore had any confidence in it. After the 32x & Saturn, the rest of the world was waiting for PS2.

I didn't discover the Saturn until I got one + like 40 kusoge for $80 in a Japanese used game store years later. It was such an awesome system that seems that much better years later - it struggled with polys but these days every 3D game from that era looks awful anyway.
 

Reallink

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Makes you wonder what's really going on at NoA behind the scenes with some of the shit they pull. Can't wait to find out in 20 years.
 

Shouta

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Eh, you can say what you want about Working Design's localizations, but let's get real: would anyone have noticed Lunar out of the dozens of similar-looking rpgs coming out on Mega CD and PC-CD if not for WD bringing it to the west? Would it have been as revered today? It would have been just another forgotten title that would maybe merit a fan translation at some point but mostly go unnoticed even by jrpg enthusiasts.

There weren't dozens of Sega CD RPGs though? The only other notable ones I can think of for the Sega CD that didn't make it to the US were Arslan Senki and Record of Lodoss War.

I mean, if it wasn't for WD, Lunar probably wouldn't have been noticed period but it definitely didn't have very much competition on the hardware, lol.
 

cireza

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Jun 1, 2014
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Eh, you can say what you want about Working Design's localizations, but let's get real: would anyone have noticed Lunar out of the dozens of similar-looking rpgs coming out on Mega CD and PC-CD if not for WD bringing it to the west? Would it have been as revered today? It would have been just another forgotten title that would maybe merit a fan translation at some point but mostly go unnoticed even by jrpg enthusiasts.
Eternal Blue is a masterpiece and is one the most impressive games of its time. It had a pretty big budget, much bigger than other RPGs.

It is not some random J-RPG from back then.

Phantasy Star IV is one of the greatest RPGs of all time, I am glad to see that WD would have done job if Sega hadn't.
 
May 18, 2012
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Eternal Blue is a masterpiece and is one the most impressive games of its time. It had a pretty big budget, much bigger than other RPGs.

Here's an example of one of the cutscenes from the game:
https://youtu.be/lXNHPhGjpRI?t=6m19s

This is from a game that came out at the same time as Chrono Trigger. To say it's advanced for the time is putting it mildly.

What makes the cutscenes especially interesting is that they're not prerecorded movie files - the game is actually rendering them in real-time via code. That's the reason why the cutscenes are so much cleaner than your typical Sega CD cutscene.
 

thepenguin55

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Surprise! Yet another story about how Sega tried to sabotage itself. As a huge PSO fan I always wanted to dig into the classic Phantasy Star games as I love their settings, style and what I've heard about their stories but grindy turn based JRPGs are always a rough sell for me. I know 2-4 are on Steam and have Workshop mods... are there any good casual mode mods for those games?
 

Laevateinn

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Aug 7, 2013
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Here's an example of one of the cutscenes from the game:
https://youtu.be/lXNHPhGjpRI?t=6m19s

This is from a game that came out at the same time as Chrono Trigger. To say it's advanced for the time is putting it mildly.

What makes the cutscenes especially interesting is that they're not prerecorded movie files - the game is actually rendering them in real-time via code. That's the reason why the cutscenes are so much cleaner than your typical Sega CD cutscene.

I finished this a few weeks ago for the first time and was constantly impressed at how they were able to pack so much into one CD. It sounds like a lot of the voices might be recorded at a lower sample rate but cutscenes like this shouldn't be possible on the Sega CD. Did they draw key frames and use the 68K to manipulate the image between them? It's pretty mind-blowing.

I would take Lunar over Chrono Trigger any day.
 
May 18, 2012
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Surprise! Yet another story about how Sega tried to sabotage itself. As a huge PSO fan I always wanted to dig into the classic Phantasy Star games as I love their settings, style and what I've heard about their stories but grindy turn based JRPGs are always a rough sell for me. I know 2-4 are on Steam and have Workshop mods... are there any good casual mode mods for those games?

There are a bunch of mods for the Sega Genesis games on Steam, but I don't know if there are any easy mode mods. However, you should know that Phantasy Star IV isn't a particularly grindy game - it's actually one of the faster paced RPGs of the era (and well worth a playthrough today). And though there are references between games, each game also works just fine as a standalone game.
 

Ganondorfo

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May 29, 2006
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Was PS IV the last epic single player entry in this franchise? Because I havent been following this franchise since the Online series on the Dreamcast. I dont know if Sega made a new single player entry since then.
 

Stumpokapow

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May 21, 2006
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A lot of this reads like those forum posts where people say Nintendo would be winning again if only they released another F-Zero or whatever.
 

Hesh

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May 21, 2013
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Huh, so that's why PSIV was so expensive. I still remember pitching in with my older brother and a friend of ours so we could buy a single copy and share.
 

Laevateinn

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Aug 7, 2013
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Surprise! Yet another story about how Sega tried to sabotage itself. As a huge PSO fan I always wanted to dig into the classic Phantasy Star games as I love their settings, style and what I've heard about their stories but grindy turn based JRPGs are always a rough sell for me. I know 2-4 are on Steam and have Workshop mods... are there any good casual mode mods for those games?

While Phantasy Star 2 has some of the most complicated dungeons in gaming and requires either a lot of skill and luck or grinding to complete, Phantasy Star 4's dungeons are easy to navigate without a map and can be completed with almost no extra grinding. It's perfectly paced and properly challenging. It's the perfect RPG.

A lot of this reads like those forum posts where people say Nintendo would be winning again if only they released another F-Zero or whatever.

Well, wouldn't they?
 

Starwolf_UK

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I forgot to mention last post. Europe (or at least the UK) received the game after the Saturn was out and Mega magazine included the phone number to SEGA UK with their import review in early 1995 (they reckoned the import cost them £80). The magazines speculated the 24 meg cart cost was the reason why there was scheduled to be no release then a small release as mega drive was waning in a saturn/playstation era. So in a way the European branch didn't much care either :(

Yeah DKC was 32 Mbit and released several months earlier. Actually even on Genesis SSF2 was 40 Mbit, released half a year earlier and was a 3rd party game. SOA was scalping with that price.
The thing about Street Fighter 2 is it had competition called Mortal Kombat. Those two high capacity carts essentially kept each other in line.

But the cart issue became a thing because of the strengthening yen in the 90s (the carts were produced in Japan at least for European market and paid for in yen). At least in the UK Sonic 3 was supposed to be £50 but you could find it for £35 day 1. NBA Jam on the other hand stuck to it's higher price though.
 

CertifiedFP

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Stories like this are why I'm glad Steam (and its competitors) exists and the indie boom happened, in addition to more competition in the industry in general. It really kicks the teeth in on first-parties that want to play at being the Industry Dictator like Nintendo did with the NES/SNES and Sony with the PS1/2. Wouldn't mind if the Xbone did a little bit better to keep Sony a tad bit more on their toes though.

As for Sega? Honestly I don't think Sega of America has changed one bit since Stolar.
 

Pharaun

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Apr 5, 2013
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Was PS IV the last epic single player entry in this franchise? Because I havent been following this franchise since the Online series on the Dreamcast. I dont know if Sega made a new single player entry since then.

Some of the Online/Universe games have single player story modes, but they're bad. Like really really reaaaaaalllllly bad, I wouldn't recommend playing them at all.
 

thepenguin55

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Apr 27, 2014
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There are a bunch of mods for the Sega Genesis games on Steam, but I don't know if there are any easy mode mods. However, you should know that Phantasy Star IV isn't a particularly grindy game - it's actually one of the faster paced RPGs of the era (and well worth a playthrough today). And though there are references between games, each game also works just fine as a standalone game.

I asked because some of the other Genesis games on Steam have casual mode mods, so I wasn't sure if these games did. I may have to check out the 4th game though. I'd really like to play the 3rd game though as the story for that game sounds crazy ambitious.
 

Cybernetic Empire

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Mar 27, 2008
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I was introduced to the Phantasy Star series when I bought a used Genesis and about 20 games for $200 in the classifieds. Phantasy Star II was one of those games and I spent many hours with it and the guidebook trying to decipher the dungeons. Then, around 95/96, I found Phantasy IV in the bargain bin at KB Toys in the mall for about $40. The $100 sticker was still on it and I just couldn't fathom why it had been so much. I also had no idea there even was a PS III, let alone a PS IV. That was one of the greatest moments of my life. Unfortunately, I was able to track down PS III at a pawn shop about a year after playing IV (multiple times). :(

I love that there are still unknown tidbits coming out about this game to this day. Phantasy Star V is my white whale that will haunt me till the day I die. ;-;
 
May 18, 2012
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I asked because some of the other Genesis games on Steam have casual mode mods, so I wasn't sure if these games did. I may have to check out the 4th game though. I'd really like to play the 3rd game though as the story for that game sounds crazy ambitious.

3rd has a lot of interesting ideas, but it's generally considered the worst game in the series. It has its fans though. A quick series primer:

Phantasy Star 1 - The only one that was on the Sega Master System. It's also the only one that has first-person perspective dungeons. Also noteworthy as one of the first major video games to star a female lead. A lot of people feel this has aged better than 2 & 3.
Phantasy Star 2 - The first one on the Genesis. Has a larger playable cast & a much more interesting plot, including some major plot twists at a time when games were still telling straightforward stories. Brutally confusing dungeons & lots of grinding required.
Phantasy Star 3 - The black sheep of the series. The generations system is interesting and gives it better replay value than most games of the era. Magic system is weird. Generally unpolished compared to the rest of the series.
Phantasy Star 4 - The final main installment of the series before Sega decided to transform it into the very different Phantasy Star Online. By far the most modern-feeling of the games and can stand head to head against even the best SNES RPGs.

My general recommendation is that if you haven't played any of these games, play the 4th game first. Only play the other games if you're really into old-school RPGs.
 

cireza

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Jun 1, 2014
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What makes the cutscenes especially interesting is that they're not prerecorded movie files - the game is actually rendering them in real-time via code. That's the reason why the cutscenes are so much cleaner than your typical Sega CD cutscene.
Those cut-scenes stand the test of time extremely well because they look like some good quality anime, which back then must have been very impressive on Sega-CD.

Animation was done by Gonzo for information.
 

Laevateinn

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Aug 7, 2013
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3rd has a lot of interesting ideas, but it's generally considered the worst game in the series. It has its fans though. A quick series primer:

Phantasy Star 1 - The only one that was on the Sega Megadrive. It's also the only one that has first-person perspective dungeons. Also noteworthy as one of the first major video games to star a female lead. A lot of people feel this has aged better than 2 & 3.
Phantasy Star 2 - The first one on the Genesis. Has a larger playable cast & a much more interesting plot, including some major plot twists at a time when games were still telling straightforward stories. Brutally confusing dungeons & lots of grinding required.
Phantasy Star 3 - The black sheep of the series. The generations system is interesting and gives it better replay value than most games of the era. Magic system is weird. Generally unpolished compared to the rest of the series.
Phantasy Star 4 - The final main installment of the series before Sega decided to transform it into the very different Phantasy Star Online. By far the most modern-feeling of the games and can stand head to head against even the best SNES RPGs.

My general recommendation is that if you haven't played any of these games, play the 4th game first. Only play the other games if you're really into old-school RPGs.

Play the fourth game first then, when you fall in love with it, play them all in order and enjoy all the connections and overarching storyline.
 

LiveFromKyoto

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Jul 19, 2006
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I don't know if Sega ever threatened to kidnap anyone but there was this incident that doesn't just happen to a normal person not tied to the yakuza.

That's not necessarily a connection to 90s Sega. In 2004 Sega merged with Sammy, a pachinko company. Guess who runs the pachinko parlours in Japan? "Legitimate businessmen." There's no way to be involved in that industry without crossing palms, either the Korean mob or the Yakuza.
 

LiveFromKyoto

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A lot of this reads like those forum posts where people say Nintendo would be winning again if only they released another F-Zero or whatever.

There's an alternate reality where that makes sense. Sega knew the business well and had thrived in it. Under better management they could have sustained, while Sony could have easily ended up as another atop the list of Japanese megacorps like Panasonic & Matsushita who tried to buy their way into the gaming industry only to promptly stumble out.
 

Futurematic

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Jan 28, 2014
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There's a more fun alternate reality where Gulf+Western retains the controlling share of stocks but still let Rosen do his thing and thus SoJ & SoA remain branches underneath what will become Paramount.

Anyway yeah, lol, this is unsurprising albeit hilarious news. Both branches were usually terrible and petty.
 
May 18, 2012
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I really don't think they "wanted" Phantasy Star IV to fail. A much more likely explanation is that they were uninterested in the game at first, changed their mind when they saw Working Design bidding for it, and then priced the game on the high end since they felt it was a niche product. Given that high end SNES RPGs frequently sold in the $69-$79 range (I remember FFVI, CT, SMRPG, and Lufia 2 all being in there), $99 was really expensive, but not that much higher than the competition.

I remember buying it for about $10-$15 a year or two later when everyone was clearing out their Genesis & Sega CD stock (the advantage of buying a Genesis & Sega CD after they were considered dead).
 

Linkura

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Aug 16, 2016
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I asked because some of the other Genesis games on Steam have casual mode mods, so I wasn't sure if these games did. I may have to check out the 4th game though. I'd really like to play the 3rd game though as the story for that game sounds crazy ambitious.

Do not, under any circumstances, play 3. Do, under any circumstances, play 1, 2, and 4. Use maps found online for 1 and 2.

I've played PSIII 3-4 times now and I am never, ever going to play it again. Seriously one of the worst games ever made. The only good/funny thing about it is PCs can literally resurrect themselves.
 

Crankshaft

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Feb 5, 2013
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As much as I hate shelling out 60 bucks for a new game, it blows my mind how much old games were back in the day.

15 years ago I bought Phantasy Star 4 off of eBay and when it arrived it still had the original Target price tag of 90 dollars. I couldn't believe it! I was a kid back during the Genesis days so I don't remember the prices being that high. Makes me want to call my mom up and apologize for wanting so many games back then lol
 

Cymbal Head

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Nov 4, 2005
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I can't believe that decades later I am still angry when reading about what Sega did to itself.

yyyup

That recent Fighters Megamix retrospective thread hasn't helped matters, either. I miss that era of SEGA so much.
 

LiveFromKyoto

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Do not, under any circumstances, play 3. Do, under any circumstances, play 1, 2, and 4. Use maps found online for 1 and 2.

I read so much hate for 3 over the years that I was expecting the worst when I finally played it on the GBA collection. To my surprise, I liked it a lot, I found the battle system pretty good at the time. 2 is the one that I really struggle with, I've been trying to finish it for years across various platforms but I just find it a slog.
 

DangerMouse

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May 27, 2013
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SoA was such a mess in those days.

I'm also glad Bernie Stolar left Sony, because PS1 became a utopia of RPGs.

Yeah, lead me to love Playstation ever since, since RPGs were my favorite games.

I totally believe Vic on that Phantasy Star 4 info. Glad they would have picked it up if SoA didn't get forced to change their mind.
 
May 18, 2012
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Honestly, my biggest problem with Phantasy Star 3 is I really hate the battle theme and given that the game's an RPG, you hear it all the time. Wonder if there's a mod for that.
 

Laevateinn

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Aug 7, 2013
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Honestly, my biggest problem with Phantasy Star 3 is I really hate the battle theme and given that the game's an RPG, you hear it all the time. Wonder if there's a mod for that.

I like what they were going for because the shifting theme gives you a good idea how the battle is going but it's incredibly grating.
 

dead souls

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Jan 7, 2007
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I read so much hate for 3 over the years that I was expecting the worst when I finally played it on the GBA collection. To my surprise, I liked it a lot, I found the battle system pretty good at the time. 2 is the one that I really struggle with, I've been trying to finish it for years across various platforms but I just find it a slog.

3 is worth it for the overworld music alone. One of my favorites from any JRPG and I've played hundreds. I love how it changes depending on the size of your party.
 

Linkura

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Aug 16, 2016
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I like what they were going for because the shifting theme gives you a good idea how the battle is going but it's incredibly grating.

The shifting theme is a great idea... but not when the music itself doesn't even really qualify as music.

3 had a lot of great ideas, but they just fucked it up so bad it doesn't even matter.
 

SporeCrawler

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Apr 26, 2013
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My god this thread depresses me.

Phantasy Star 4 is my favorite game of all time.

Shining Force 3 (points to avatar) is something I've been fighting for an English release/remaster for as long as I've been on the freaking internet (as apart of Shining Force Central's forums/community) and to see how badly it was all managed is just crushing.

Shining Force 3 is amazing, its what Fire Emblem Fates tried to do but they did it right. The story is freaking amazing and its a political story done well (unlike FF12's BS story) and it came out so many years before either of those two games hell you still wouldn't be able to play SF3 in English if not for the fans translating so it could be enjoyed by western audiences because Sega still doesn't give a flying fuck.

Shining Force should be one of Fire Emblem's chief competitors but now all we get is these generic as all hell JRPG's that they don't even bother bringing to the west anymore. It just really makes me sad how a series that I think in many ways is vastly superior to Fire Emblem has fallen to the wayside because of shitty of a company Sega was and unfortunately still is.
well at least we got golden sun

How is Shining Blade and Shining Arc by the way?
 

Morrigan Stark

Arrogant Smirk
Jul 23, 2010
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I more or less knew about Bernie Stolar's evilness already but every time I read about it it's still infuriating. What could have been...
Sega of Japan is also evil. Read up on how they treated second party developers. There's a reason Camelot stopped working with them.
That is such a goddamn tragedy. Camelot deserves better. The Shining Force III trilogy was a masterpiece and totally ahead of its time with the save-transfer thing.

Yep. I mean, that's what I was getting at with my post I guess. I just don't want that kind of translation. I think finding a balance is okay. Ted Woolsey did a good job with balancing it.
Ted Woolsey didn't translate Phantasy Star IV....
 
May 18, 2012
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How is Shining Blade and Shining Arc by the way?

I'm a big fan of Shining the Holy Ark. The level design has a lot of interesting gimmicks (like a dungeon where you have to walk on the ceiling or a dungeon where a giant snake blocks your path) & it's a nice change of pace to have a dungeon crawler with premade characters.

Fun fact, according to defunctgames.com, the average review scores at the time (based on the major magazines back then) for the Genesis Phantasy Star games were as follows:

PS2 - 81%
PS3 - 82%
PS4 - 79%

Yep, that's right, the black sheep of the series got the highest average review scores & the game that everyone considers by far the best in the series these days got the lowest.

Here's the Game Informer quote for Phantasy Star 4 (6/10 stars):

"I sat and played this game for about six hours, continually hoping that it would get better. The sorry part is that it never did. Unlike its preceding games, this game goes way too fast. To tell the truth, I will probably play Phantasy Star III, quite possibly, Shining Force II more than PS IV." -Ross, The Rebel Gamer
 

Linkura

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Aug 16, 2016
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I'm a big fan of Shining the Holy Ark. The level design has a lot of interesting gimmicks (like a dungeon where you have to walk on the ceiling or a dungeon where a giant snake blocks your path) & it's a nice change of pace to have a dungeon crawler with premade characters.

Fun fact, according to defunctgames.com, the average review scores at the time (based on the major magazines back then) for the Genesis Phantasy Star games were as follows:

PS2 - 81%
PS3 - 82%
PS4 - 79%

Yep, that's right, the black sheep of the series got the highest average review scores & the game that everyone considers by far the best in the series these days got the lowest.

Here's the Game Informer quote for Phantasy Star 4 (6/10 stars):

"I sat and played this game for about six hours, continually hoping that it would get better. The sorry part is that it never did. Unlike its preceding games, this game goes way too fast. To tell the truth, I will probably play Phantasy Star III, quite possibly, Shining Force II more than PS IV." -Ross, The Rebel Gamer

What the fuck?

The brisk pacing of PSIV is one of the best parts of the game. There is absolutely NO bullshit in the main part of the game, yet it has several quests and dungeons to do that are completely optional, but reward you with great stuff.