Phantasy Star II – 1993 Developer Interview

Phantasy Star II – 1993 Developer Interview

This short interview from 1993 talks about various aspects of the development of Phantasy Star II, including the reason for its terrifically complex dungeons. It was conducted just before the release of Phantasy Star IV, probably as part of the promotion for that game. These interviews were found at the GSLA, a Japanese a website that preserves game developer interviews from print sources.

Miki Morimoto – Game Designer
Toru Yoshida – Graphic Designer
Rieko Kodama – Character Designer
Kotaro Hayashida – Game Designer

Yoshida: In the beginning, the protagonist was actually Lutz. But Yuji Naka thought it would be a bad idea. In the original character design for Lutz from Phantasy Star, his personality was very weak and undefined, so Yuji thought Lutz would be a bland protagonist for Phantasy Star II if we just used him as-is. That’s why we decided to change it from Lutz to Yushisu [[Rolf in English]].

Once we decided to change protagonists, Chieko Aoki also changed the story substantially. In the earlier story, Lutz goes back in time through a warp and helps Alis from the original. I think Chieko changed it because she didn’t like the idea of overwriting and erasing the past events of the first game like that. So she switched all the scenarios around, and I remember certain events on Motavia got removed, too.

Hayashida: Phantasy Star II was originally planned for the Sega Master System, as a direct sequel to Phantasy Star. Later it was decided it would be released on the Megadrive, so we had to rework all our plans. Despite that huge change, we only had a half year to finish the game, a real oppressive schedule. And of course we had to complete the debugging in that timeframe, so when you consider the normal schedule for an RPG, Phantasy Star II was created in an incredibly short period. The only reason we made it was because of Yuji Naka.

Anyway, because of the double pressure of those time restrictions and the challenge of working with new hardware, I think it was nearly impossible to revise the things we wanted to revise.

Concept art describing one of the deleted events Yoshida mentions, involving a scapegoating and genocide of the native Motavians (read more here).

Connections to Phantasy Star

Yoshida: The descendants of Alis, Tyrone, and Myau from the original Phantasy Star all appear in Phantasy Star II. It's not explicitly mentioned in game, but in the backstory the pirate Tyler is Tyrone’s descendant. Rolf is the descendant of Alis. Also, at the Skure space station where you first arrive on Dezo, all those cats are the many descendants of Myau. We were thinking that after the events of Phantasy Star, Myau’s kittens all become the pets of the people who were living there.

In other words, those people all died, and only the cats remain. Our original plan was that one of those cats would join your party, but we couldn’t get the graphics in the battle scene to look right with a cat in your party, so we abandoned the idea. Dezo is a planet shrouded in mystery, so when you first step off your ship and encounter all those cats in Skure, it piques the player’s curiosity.

Missing Items

Yoshida: By the second half of the game, you’ve probably accumulated a lot of meseta, right? We came up with two high-priced items for sale as a way for players to spend it. If I remember, they were the Hapsby and Statue of Tyrone. I’ve forgotten what the statue did, but if you used Hapsby, it would say “Hapsby’s head feels hard.” Unfortunately we had to delete these due to memory limitations.

Morimoto: Wasn’t there also a hidden item called “Master System”? It was probably a vestigial reminder that Phantasy Star II was originally planned for the Master System.

The beautiful JP cover for Phantasy Star II by Hitoshi Yoneda, whose work deserves to be better known.

Challenges of the Development

Kodama: We had three different people working on the graphics for PSII. The mechanical monsters were all done by Yoshida, and we realized that it would be problematic if each person’s character designs were different, so we consulted with each other and harmonized our designs as we went. So it didn’t turn out to be much of a problem after all.

Hayashida: I think other companies will usually separate their graphic artists, so one person is doing character designs and another is doing backgrounds. They train new employees that way too. But with our team, every member could also do graphics. Having such a multi-talented team, for us it was more like we divided the team into main graphics and sub graphics roles.

Another issue was related to the dungeons, which were created by a new employee. Because he was new, he put a ton of effort into the maps and kind of overdid it… the game became more about the complex dungeons than anything else. I think you really see that on the Dezolis dungeons. They were really well done, and when Chieko Aoki saw them she didn’t want all the new employee’s work to be for naught, so we ended up using those maps… albeit with some mixed feelings. They contributed to the latter half of the game being unbalanced.

The Ending of PSII

Yoshida: Regarding the lives of the characters after the ending of Phantasy Star II… I’m not sure I can say we never thought about it, but it's more to the point that we wanted players to be free to imagine it for themselves. But we did have some ideas as developers, so you do see some events in later games that tie back to Phantasy Star II: for instance, the statues of the 8 heroes who fought for Algol in the warrior’s temple of Phantasy Star IV, or the town where people know about the legend of Alis… well, for the details, I’ll leave that for you to enjoy when Phantasy Star IV comes out.

The translator’s personal favorite Phantasy Star tune.

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