PhantasyStar is a long long running RPG series from Sega. Specifically from the TeamSonic bit of Sega which actually seem to produce the good games.
PhantasyStar one ran on the eight bit consoles. It had a whole host of features new to the genre - namely readable plot and a first person 3d maze dungeon interface.
The plot starts out with Alys, your FemaleMainCharacter? attempting to bring down the CrimeLord? responsible for your boyfriends (an investigator) death. You explore the three planets (the world is SciFi), fighting progressively more powerful random monsters, meeting up wiht the usual cast of supporting characters (a sarcastic talking cat...) and eventually discover the dark secret behind everything, beat it up, and watch the end credits.
Next in the series - PhantasyStar Two continues the SciFi theme. The world is recognisable, but is now even more utopian for the average citizen. The MotherBrain? controls the ClimaControl? weather sattelite, and the BioLabs? and so on. Your main character Rolf is a hunter, a government trouble shooter. You start out fixing a few little glitches in the system, find out the history of Nei (your sidekick) and eventually, yes, find out the dark secret behind the solar system and kick its butt - though not before some fairly large amounts of trouble have been caused.
PhantasyStar three - subtitled "Generations of Doom" - changes tack a little. The game takes place over several generations, with interlinked stories. Unfortunately, it takes a technological step backwards from two - bringing in an isometric ultima-style viewpoint. It also leaves it somewhat unclear as to whether the events are taking place before phantasy one, or after two. I'd think after two and the Alys heroine is another reincarnation rather than the original. Anyway, I can't bring myself to play this one all the way through, but basically you get all the hints as to what is going on from the triple story threads and then put them all together, have the grandchildren of the original heroes team up and, you guessed it, kick evils butt.
PhantasyStar four (the end of the millenium) is the last of the games for the 16bit genesis (MegaDrive) system. It goes back to the system used in two, though it soups it up rather. Again, set in the Dezo / Parma solar system - now a planet short after the events of two. The remaining planets are pretty badly banged up, what with the loss of ClimaControl? and the debris from the exploding planet. And monsters are appearing all over the world. And magic exists again. And your main party includes Alys. Get to it, reincarnation of the great hero - re-re-re-discover the secrets behind your world, and kick the butt of DarkForce?!
The REAL staying power of this series is that everything happens the way you expect it to - while still managing a few surprises.
You don't NEED to have played the previous games in the series to enjoy a game, but if you have then you will recognise all kinds of familiar elements and people. The game are, to their shame, 100% linear. But it's still very nice to find out what is going on THIS time.
Seriously - if ever a series overused the 'once every 1000 years a dark force awoke - but was resealed by the reincarnation of an ancient hero' schtick - this would be that series. Which, to my mind, proves that the schtick cannot be worn out.
Moving on, then: PhantasyStar did the obvious thing for a long running series in this day and age - it turned itself into PhantasyStarOnline. The MagiTech having reached a level capable of teleporting SpaceArks? around, you have to find out what happenned to the first expedition, and make the place safe for your new colony.
The graphics are pretty, the technique and item names are the same... the game, sadly, is diablo in 3d.
PSO, by the way, appears to be an offshoot from mid PS-3. The tech is about right, we already HAVE the legend of a colony being founded far away in PS4 (though nothing is made of it in that game) The plot is fairly minimal, even through multiple episodes. This is mostly due to the format (there are only, really, five levels in episode one) and the problems with running a plot in what was supposed to be an MMORPG. (But it isn't - it's a lobby service and then a four player game) You discover that the scientists were breeding monsters, and were, probably, influenced by DarkForce?. Did you bring it with you? Does every solar system have a DarkForce?? Who cares - fight the dragons and watch the pretty pretty cut scenes. (PSO is available for the DreamCast, PS2, GameCube, XBox AND PC.) You can also speculate that PSO takes place before PS1, between one and two, or even after four.
PhantasyStarUniverse? is kinda like PSO, but has a much better single player component. One that presents itself like a cartoon series, complete with episode intro and 'next chapter...' previews. Basic plot: The planets are at 'PS1' level, currently peaceful, when an attack of seeds from space blows everything up and the guardians have to sort it out. (And it turns out to be DarkForce? behind it all, as always.) It's not the Algol system, though - so this might be set 'a thousand years after' PSO. Or it might not be.
Now, back to one of the big fun things about the series. The game was originally for the 8bit MasterSystem?. This means, among other things, overly short names for everything. And this tradition has been maintained throughout the series - giving it its own flavour. Where FinalFantasy has its potions, mega potions and elixirs, PhantasyStar has Monomate, Dimate, Trimate and MoonDew. Jumping back in after several years of not playing, I could still remember what EscaPipe was for, and that the technique Tsu was electrical.
The manual likes to be short on details, you have to figure these things out - so it does feel quite rewarding when you remember them from a previous game.