Phantasy Star is a role playing game developed and published by Sega for the Master System in 1988. Design work was done by Rieko Kodama (aka Pheonix Rie). Yuji Naka (aka Muuu Yuji) was the lead programmer. Music was composed by Tokuhiko Uwabo. The game was an early console-based role playing game, which mixed standard console RPG elements with first person dungeons.
Phantasy Star took advantage of the FM sound capabilities provided by the Yamaha YM2413 chip available in an add-on module for Sega Mark III in Japan, but this feature was not available in the North American or PAL versions of the game.
The game was released on a 4-megabit cartridge, which was significantly bigger than most Master System games. This led to a high price for the game, ranging between $69.99 and $79.99 depending on the retailer. It was the most expensive console game sold at the time.
The game was also notable for being one of the first plot-driven console games in the West, and one of the first video games to feature a female lead protagonist. A big part of the story was that it involved well defined characters with their own backstories and personalities, which was uncommon for RPGs at that time.
The game takes place in the Algol solar system, which is ruled by King Lassic and consists of the Palma, Motavia, and Dezoris planets. In Phantasy Star, King Lassic has adopted a new religion and becomes a dictator using a robot army to police the three planets. When Nero, a leader of one of many rebel groups, is killed, his sister Alis takes up his cause and sets out for revenge. She is joined by Myau, a talking cat, Odin, a member of Nero's rebel group, and the Esper magician Noah (aka Lutz in later sequels).
The game used many RPG features which have become traditional since Phantasy Star’s release. These include a top down overworld map with accessible towns and dungeons.
Within towns, Alis could speak to townsfolk for advice, purchase new weapons, equipment and items, and rest to restore health. The player could also save their game to one of five save slots.
Enemy encounters were random while walking around the overworld or exploring dungeons. The game showed the enemies on screen and allowed the player to choose strategies for each character including attack, magic, and items. This was the only game in the series where the player could also choose to talk to enemies, which was helpful in rare situations. Defeated monster rewarded the party with experience and gold. The party increased in level as more experience was gained.
The game was also praised for its graphics at the time, which included 3D dungeons and detailed enemy animations.
The game was well reviewed at the time, and is considered one of the pioneers of the genre, and one of the best RPGs of that era.
Phantasy Star has been released for many systems in Japan, including a remake for the PS2 under the Sega Ages label titled Phantasy Star Generation 1. In North America, the game has been re-released on the Phantasy Star Collection for Gameboy Advance, and as an unlockable in Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for PS3 and Xbox. It is also available on Wii Virtual Console.
Phantasy Star is followed up by 3 direct sequels on the Genesis, including Phantasy 2, 3, and 4, as well as the online series Phantasy Star Online.