I loved Phantasy Star II. It’s probably one of the most important works of fiction I experienced growing up and is tightly intertwined with my literary DNA. Big thanks to Tor.com for giving me the chance to re-explore this part of my childhood in three parts, including one of the first permadeaths I’ve ever experienced in a game.
When the topic of the best 16-bit Japanese role-playing games comes up, most people think of the Squaresoft games like Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, and Secret of Mana. But my favorite 16-bit JRPG was a game developed by Sega for the Genesis called Phantasy Star II—one of the first JRPGs to take place entirely in a science fiction setting. The quest spanned two planets, had a cast of eight characters, and featured dramatic twists that made for some dark commentary on human nature. It also set the stage for titles like Xenogears and Star Ocean with its futuristic take on JRPGs, rather than the fantasy background almost all had before then. I’ll delve into what makes Phantasy Star II so special, starting with one of the first utopias in gaming.