One of my favorite games of all time, Phantasy Star IV was even better than I remembered it, especially with the way it became a love letter to all the JRPGs of my childhood. I wrote about it at Tor.com. Thank you to my awesome editor Chris Lough!
Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium is an ambitious JRPG that is the perfect end to the series, taking the best elements of each of the previous games and weaving together a “phantastic” journey. It easily goes toe to toe with its more famous Square contemporaries like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI. Coming after the radical departure from the series Phantasy Star III was with its medieval setting and art style, PSIV (1993 JP, 1995 US) was a welcome return by Director Rieko Kodama and her Sega team to its science fiction roots. It also exemplifies how to do a sequel, as PSIV doesn’t shy away from its ties to the previous games the way III did, but instead, embraces them.
At one pivotal point late in the game, Chaz discovers the sacred sword, Elsydeon. That’s when he’s stricken by a vision of all the heroes from the past Phantasy Star games. I choked up seeing Nei as well as the heroes of II whose fate post-game we were never actually told. What moved me though was that it wasn’t just a nod back to the PS games, rather, a nostalgic reminiscence on all the hours I’d spent exploring the rich worlds within JRPGs. I thought of the way they’d shaped many of the important narratives of my childhood and Chaz’s flashback felt like a re-tread through my gaming past.
This is why I play sequels, not just to discover new worlds, but to revisit old ones and find out how things have changed. IV strikes that perfect balance of old and new.