Joined: 14 Oct 2004
Location: Occupied Stalingrad
|Posted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 10:17 am Post subject: Adrift on the Shores of Palma
|I donít play that many games these days. I just donít have the stomach for it anymore, or the time. There was one game that Iíve been determined to play through for something like ten years now.
Phantasy Star IV.
I finished it a few weeks ago. What a beautiful work. Itís amazing how much it feels like the SF anime that was floating around in the early 90s Ė even if we consider the limited library that American audiences had at the time Ė Gall Force, Project A-Ko, Venus Wars, Tenchi Muyo. Itís certainly influenced by all that otaku stuff, all the same, it feels like it went much farther, pushed all of it into alien territory. At least, thatís the feeling I get. Something thatís soaked in the creative energy currents of the era, yet not really part of them.
Okay, moving on to less wishy-washy considerations. The music is wonderful, some of the best compositions Iíve ever heard in a JRPG. Iím particularly referring to the music that plays when you first enter that tower to find Rune and whatever magic wand youíre after, and the music when you face Zio for the first time, itís so damn threateningÖ it really gives me the chills, whenever I heard my face would instantly turn serious, really impressive for such a simple composition. When you finally fight Zio, the music is even better, some of the best boss music Iíve ever heard. And letís not even talk about the intro and the intro music, when I saw it as a twelve year old I didnít want to speak for like an hour.
The other thing that really impressed me, both when I first encountered the game and when I played it again, was the manga storytelling. If anything, it was a great way of having a cut-scenes back in the days when they werenít technologically feasible and a great storytelling mechanism in its own right. Somehow, they never felt as jarring as most cut-scenes feel. It also helps that the manga panels were genuinely very good. Thereís one scene in particular that strikes me right now. The first time you meet Rune itís in a burned-out village, scorched on the orders of Zio. Everything shifts to manga mode. Rune turns around and sees Alys. Heís surprised, but not apprehensive. You understand that thereís some history between the two. Thereís some typical JRPG banter and Rune offers to join the party. This is the key moment: Alysí reaction is surprise, a single portrait panel shows her face lit up and baffled, pressing A makes another portrait panel appear right next to it with her looking away, somewhat shyly, somewhat sadly with ďOhÖ OkayĒ in the dialogue box below. After that, thereís no mention at all about what their relationship and Iíll say noting else because of the anti-spoiler act of 2003. Itís a rare example of subtlety in a genre that sees all too little of it. It makes me wonder what kind of sex Rieko Kodama was having at the time. Though letís move on before I get too excited.
Perhaps the greatest thing about the game is the world itself. There are few JRPG worlds that feel so solid. This may be because Algo has a real history, which you can play through by playing the previous games in the series, and because each game in the series is so stylistically different that it kind of gives you the feeling of moving through different eras.
What memories do other folks have of the game?