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We can only imagine the conversations at Mastertronic when Phantasy Star came in. Here was a company that had made its fortune from selling games on tape for as little as £1.99, and through its distribution contract with Sega, it suddenly had to try to sell a game for £39.99.
The good news was that Phantasy Star was mindblowing by late Eighties standards. Japanese RPGs were only just beginning to take shape as a genre, and Phantasy Star was at the head of the pack. The game had gorgeous visuals thanks to its 4 megabit cartridge, with awesome animation, full-screen 3D dungeons and excellent use of color. The plot was an intriguing sci-fi/fantasy mixture, with space travel across three planets flung into the usual swords and sorcery setting. It even had a battery back up to allow for saving on cartridge, which was an absolute luxury at that point in time.
Of course, some aspects of the game haven’t aged so well. It’s sometimes impossible to take two steps without bumping into an enemy, dialogue is fairly sparse and if you’re not careful, saving in a dungeon can ruin your entire game. You’ll need to grind for quite a while just to make it out of the first town.
However, you can see why the game was so popular back in the late Eighties, and how that high price tag could have been justified. There was practically nothing else like it, especially in the West, and it was a world away from the short-lived thrills of the platformers and shoot-’em-ups that dominated consoles.