In December last year, British Nintendo owners were presented with the Legend Of Zelda, a vast RPG whose cartridge bore a lithium battery so that game positions and player attributes could be saved after the machine was switched off. Phantasy Star is Sega's attempt at a similar type of game, and features the same battery-backed storage system, allowing you to save up to five games on the cartridge at the same time.
In the game you play Alis, a woman out to avenge the death of her brother who was murdered by the soldiers of the evil King Lassic. Her quest in life has become the liberation of the three planets which Lassic holds under his thumb, but she cannot triumph alone. On her journey through the three worlds Alis has to recruit three other characters, all of whom have different strengths, such as magical ability and fighting prowess.
You start the game in the town, where you can buy provisions, weapons or trade at a kind of pawn shop. Any people you meet willingly give out clues as to the location of characters and objects. As you venture outside the cities, your party is prone to random attacks from the denizens of forests, plains and seas.
Interaction with other creatures and characters in such situations is via a menu system, which, as menu systems go, is very easy to use, allowing fast and accurate selections during battle situations, and providing all the commands you need.
Graphics throughout the game are very good - particularly those which depict the monsters. There are also some very nice set pieces, such as the scrolling 3D mazes which run under some cities.
The save game facility comes in very handy during play, especially at the start of the game when Alis' feeble weapons are poor protection against some of the nastier beasts. On the whole, Phantasy Star offers pretty much everything a role-playing enthusiast could ask from a Sega. It has puzzles, battles, lots of interaction and a fair bit of depth.
My only reservation about recommending it is its monumental price tag - forty quid seems a lot to pay, even if you do get a big game and a battery-backed memory system. Real RPG fans should definitely check Phantasy Star out, but anyone with just a passing interest in this type of game might not feel they're getting their money's worth.