Great role-playing games can withstand the test of time perhaps better than any other type of game, which makes it all the more disappointing that Sega has dumped Phantasy Star II onto iPhone and iPod touch with such little care.
While its memorable gameplay remains intact, there's a stunning lack of consideration for the needs of the modern portable gamer. An inconvenient save system, inadequate options, and a slapdash sense of design make this port of Phantasy Star II a missed opportunity.
The game remains untouched from its original release, which ensures authenticity even if it comes with serious shortcomings.
As a young hero from the planet Mota, you're joined by a human-animal hybrid named Nei in a quest to fix the planet's climate control system. What starts as a simple mission turns into a deadly confrontation involving a massive planetary computer matrix called the Mother Brain.
It's an intriguing story that still entertains two decades after the game's initial release. Even the turn-based battles and top-down exploration retains a simple charm that can nicely fill a few minutes.
The trouble with Phantasy Star II on iPhone and iPod touch isn't the gameplay, but the shoddy work in adapting the game to the devices. To be clear, the game is great: the port isn't.
Saving, for instance, relies on the same inconvenient system employed in the original version. Visits to a doctor's office in a town are the only means of saving your progress (unless you steal the Visiphone with Shir mid-way through the game).
There ought to be some quick-save feature in order to accommodate unexpected interruptions. Other iPhone role-playing games wisely support this and Sega shows laziness by not offering something similar in this port. [Correction: A save-state feature allows you to quit the game and resume, although there is no quick save option from within the game.]
Similarly, there is a surprising lack of options. Run through the publisher's generic Genesis emulator and you're afforded no option to customise the interface, controls, or anything else in the game.
The lack of instructions for the three virtual buttons - one of which is practically unnecessary - makes it hard to figure things out if you've never played the game before. [Correction: information regarding the virtual buttons can be found in the pause menu.]
Minimal effort has been invested in bringing this classic to iPhone and iPod touch, and it shows. Points earned for authenticity in leaving the gameplay untouched are swiftly subtracted thanks to the thoughtlessness of the adaptation.
Rather than tailoring Phantasy Star II to the devices with standard options (presentable menus would be nice too given the emulator's ugly visage), Sega has undermined it with this lazy port.