A Brief History of SEGA RPGs
SEGA’s history is peppered with fantastic RPGs; heart-warming adventures and action-packed fantasy romps that commandeer your free time like Phantasy Star Online did your phone line.
Choosing our favourites would be like choosing our favourite children and while we could talk all day about the great RPGs SEGA has produced, we’re going to stick to one per generation of SEGA console and one modern title to bring you a very brief history of SEGA RPGs.
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Phantasy Star – SEGA Master System – 1987
The sci-fi opera that kickstarted the longest-running RPG series in SEGA’s history, and one that set a benchmark for the series’ reputation for innovation in the genre. Phantasy Star takes you on a sprawling adventure across the Algol star system as Alis and her band of adventurers seek to topple King Lassic and end his reign of intergalactic cruelty.
Phantasy Star went to toe to toe with the original Final Fantasy, which was launched on the NES two days earlier in Japan. However, Phantasy Star was doing things a little bit differently to other games in the RPG genre at the time, which made it stand out from the crowd.
Its depiction of smoothly drawn, animated 3D dungeons was revolutionary, a gameplay element that many gamers in 1987 considered mind-blowing! Players would navigate through these mazes, looting treasure chests and taking on all manner of wonderfully created monsters. It also featured a strong female protagonist in Alis, a freedom fighter who vowed to avenge the death of her brother, very much a departure from the usual ‘damsel in distress’ type female characters that featured in many other games of that time.
Since launching in 1987, the Phantasy Star series has had numerous iterations, sequels and spin-offs, the most notable of which is arguably Phantasy Star Online, one of the first online console RPGs which launched for the Dreamcast in 2000. Phantasy Star lives on today with Phantasy Star Online 2 finally being available to play in the West. So, if you’ve never experienced the series before, you can try PSO2 for free here: https://pso2.com/
Shining Force II – SEGA Mega Drive – 1992
It turns out that saving the world in the original Shining Force wasn’t quite enough, as new protagonist, Bowie and another troupe of intrepid wizards and warriors have to get the job done all over again in Shining Force II. All this because a thief took it upon himself to steal the jewels of Light and Darkness, breaking the seal that held an ancient Devil King called Zeon, inadvertently unleashing his unholy malevolence-ness upon the world. Crime really doesn’t pay…
Shining Force II builds on the mechanics of the first title and features similar SRPG style combat. As you progress through the game, traversing the continent of Parmecia and exploring its numerous locations, you’ll unlock new characters for your mini army. Each one has its own personality, back-story and combat style. You’ll tackle large groups of enemies on square grids and enter beautifully detailed battle animation sequences when you make an action.
While Shining Force II looks similar to its predecessor on the surface, its bold use of colours and intricate character and monster design made it one of the most visually arresting RPGs of its time. Not only that, Shining Force II allowed far more exploration than the original outing, allowing players to explore their surroundings more freely while never quite letting you get lost in its fantastic world.
If you’re an SRPG fan and you’ve never tried Shining Force II before, you’re missing out on one of the godfathers of the genre. You can rectify that for just 79p on Steam! https://store.steampowered.com/app/71160/Shining_Force_II/
Panzer Dragoon Saga – SEGA Saturn – 1998
It would be fair to say that Panzer Dragoon Saga is something of a cult classic. Its release marked the series’ move away from the rail-shooter gameplay style that its predecessors had used and into the realms of RPG-dom. Panzer Dragoon Saga pushed the SEGA Saturn to its limit via its implementation of full voice acting and a 3D graphics engine, these elements helping the game become the Saturn’s most critically acclaimed release.
You take control of Edge, a dragon riding mercenary who’s been sent to guard an excavation site packed full of relics from the Ancient Age. It’s there that he discovers a girl named Azel from a long-lost civilization of highly advanced people… then the site is attacked by the Black Fleet, who shoot Edge, kill his companions and take Azel. And so begins the adventure!
The most unique element of Panzer Dragoon Saga is its battle system. Players fly around the open world before engaging in semi-turn based random battles which manage to seamlessly blend the shooting mechanics of the original game with strategic turn-based RPG elements. Some of the boss fights in Panzer Dragoon Saga are quite simply stunning, particularly those that see you engage in Dragon to Dragon combat with Azel and Atolm.
Sadly, unless you own the original game there isn’t really a way to experience its greatness. However, there is a remake of the original Panzer Dragoon now available on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1178880/Panzer_Dragoon_Remake/
Skies of Arcadia – SEGA Dreamcast – 2000
Isn’t it every kid’s dream to become an air pirate, assemble a crew aboard a flying airship and save the world from being destroyed by an evil empire? We think it is, and so did a team of crack RPG experts from SEGA’s Overworks studio in 2000 when they brought us, Skies of Arcadia on the Dreamcast.
The game is set thousands of years after a cataclysmic war that almost wiped out civilization via the use of gargantuan living weapons knows as Gigas. Silver Gigas, Zelos, the most dangerous of them all, was sealed away to avoid a repeat. Now, the nefarious Valuan Empire, led by the less than scrupulous, Empress Theodora, are looking to break the seal on the Silver Gigas and use its power to take over the world. It’s up to 17-year-old Air Pirate, Vyse, and his rag-tag band of merry men and women to stop them.
Skies of Arcadia was one of the most celebrated games on Dreamcast, enjoying critical acclaim for its open exploration, stunning visuals and fantastic story. Its turn-based battle system featured interesting mechanics which saw players balancing their use of Magic Points and Spirit Points to access powerful Super Moves such as Gilder’s Gunslinger attack, or Vyse’s Pirate’s Wrath.
Skies of Arcadia was later ported over to the Gamecube in 2002, following SEGA’s departure from the console market. Much like with Panzer Dragoon Saga, though, the only way to play this classic nowadays is if you own a copy.