Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom is a classic entry in the world of RPGs that often sparks both praise and criticism among players and critics alike. Released during a time when the RPG genre was still finding its footing, the game attempted to break new ground with innovative features and a unique narrative structure. In this review, we'll delve into various aspects of the game, including its battle system, story, locations, sidequests, art, music, characters, customization system, and overall quality of life. By the end of this evaluation, we aim to provide an insightful look at this title, acknowledging its strengths and shortcomings and exploring the enduring impact it has had on the world of classic role-playing games. Now, without further ado, RPG Ranked presents... a Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom Review: Mediocrity manifested.
Battle System - 7
There are a couple things I really like about the battle system in this game. I love that when you execute a turn, you can choose to do just one turn or can do multiple turns at a time. I also like that this defaults everyone to attack, making this one of the fastest battle systems of an old RPG. I thought the techniques present here were decent, and I enjoyed the difficulty of the battles! But I will say that being poisoned in this game is awful, though, and it didn't make the game challenging in a good way—it just made me stop wanting to play it. In the end, this battle system was not too exciting or innovative, and the lack of any explanation for any of the techniques was incredibly jarring, even for an older RPG. This game also had a severe lack of meaningful boss fights, so that's terribly frustrating. The animations were also pretty lacking, especially compared to other games in the series. However, in the end, with its innovations (and a five-character party), this game's battle system wasn't awful, but it wasn't outstanding.
Story - 6
The dialogue and plot in this game simply aren't great. I almost wanted to give this category an even lower score, but I couldn't lower it for one reason: the Generations system. This was one of the first RPGs, if not the first, to have a story the player could manipulate to their whim! This allowed the player to play the game multiple times to see different perspectives! Granted, the story differences weren't outstanding, but for an older game that revolutionized player choice in RPGs, its efforts were very respectable. I'd adore seeing an RPG these days that does something modern with the foundations set up in this game and Dragon Quest V and take it to a whole new, well-executed height. To be fair, this is probably one I haven't played, but I'd love to see an ambitious series like Ni No Kuni or, daresay Golden Sun do something cool like this! But I digress. The story here isn't great, but the way it is told is definitely intriguing. It also made the game's progression system refreshing with all the characters cycling in and out... so that was great! Anyway, let's move on.
Locations - 2
The game's locations are awful. The towns and dungeons became increasingly more uninspired than the last and were bogged down by questionably frustrating design. Every dungeon felt long and drawn out, and every town was copied and pasted, with only the locations of the shops switching around. The only distinct locations I remember were the Layan Temples and the Weather Control Tower from Generation 1. This didn't ruin the entire game for me like it did for many others, but it came pretty dang close.
Sidequests - 1
I can't remember a single side quest being in this game. If there were any, send me an e-mail, but seriously, this game had very little to offer in its side quests. Grinding for overpowered equipment and consumables could be considered a sidequest, but that's a stretch. Ultimately, sidequests are a big part of the JRPG experience, and the lack of them here was a huge detriment to the overall experience.
Art & Graphics - 7
Honestly? The graphics were one of my favorite parts of this game. The little, semi-realistic sprites for the characters are pretty, and the character portraits in the menu were fantastic! Literally loved these sprites so much! I would love to see a more modern take on this graphical style. I do have one major problem with the graphics that hold it back: the environments and towns and dungeons are the most copy-pasted, uninspired areas in any RPG I've played. I usually would only dock points in the dungeon category for this, but, ultimately, it was a significant detractor of the game for me. It's a travesty for a game with potential in its awesome character sprites, portraits, and UI.
Music - 7
Like with the story and the art, this game stands out in trying to do something unique yet falling incredibly flat. This game's soundtrack changes depending on different criteria, such as acquiring new party members or battles becoming more intense—I loved this idea! Yet the execution of this idea was somewhat subpar, and the actual music itself was usually jarring at best. Like most aspects of this game, I admire what it was going for, but like the rest of the game, the music here was much better on paper than in practice.
Characters - 5
I really enjoyed the character designs here, and the differences between Layans, Orakians, and cyborgs were respectable. I remember liking Wren especially, who had incredible tech powers, and Maia, who had an excellent plot twist as part of the story; if it weren't for me having a weird liking for the character art in this game, this score would likely be even lower, but I am just being honest here. The little dialogue we do get from the characters here isn't awful, but there's almost no character development or dialogue in this game. In fact, characters spontaneously exist and decide to join in on your adventure for no valid reason. It's almost embarrassing, judging that other games at the time, like Final Fantasy IV, were taking the world by storm with fantastically realized characters! I have better things to do with my life than think about how awfully written the characters are in this name, so let's move on.
Customization System - 7
I really love all the characters and their different techniques in this game—at the least, the ways they are distributed amongst the multitude of characters! Each character feels way different to use, but unfortunately, the characters here were pretty mediocre. All this would amount to about a 5 or such, but there was one idea I adored here: the skill point allocation system. The idea of a growing grid where you altered the power of some moves at the cost of others was fascinating (albeit completely underbaked). I haven't seen many games do anything akin to this, with the only prominent example of recent memory being the Tactics Tweaker in Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom! Yet again, this game attempted to do something cool and ahead of its time, but, yet again, it was just mediocre.
Quality of Life - 5
With a complete lack of explanation for the game's abilities, weapons, and mechanics, only saving at inns, very annoying status ailments, and the fact that status-curing spells work occasionally? This game can be so frustrating. However, many of these things were typical at the time of release and to be expected, so I can only dock it a few points. This game is still playable, something I can't say about games like the first two NES Final Fantasies and Final Fantasy X-2. However, while it's playable, this game feels like a product of its time. While many games are made more charming by their classic RPG-isms, this is not one of those games. It's just not that playable for people who haven't grown up on old RPGs!
Fun Factor: 7
Overall Score: 54%
Letter Rating: C
Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom was a huge step back in many ways but also a game that was often ahead of its time. It is a game with so many phenomenal ideas and the potential to be an all-time, cult-classic RPG like the fourth installment in this series. This game has aged rather poorly, and while it sounded like an excellent RPG on paper, it could have been better in practice. This is one of the weakest RPGs I've ever played, yet its efforts to make something great are highly commendable. I would only recommend this game to Phantasy Star fans or classic RPG fans... if even that.
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Primary Version: Phantasy Star III (PC)