To this day, the characters of Phantasy Star I remain not only my personal favorite of the series, but in my opinion, the best characters in the series, and some of the greatest role models. Their character, and their story, is something that to this day I look upon as an inspiration.
It was Alis Landale who first convinced me that anyone, no matter how young or old, short or tall -- no matter what race, color, creed, or gender -- can make a difference in the world. As my friend Neilast used to always say, Alis was a 15-year-old girl who should have been concerned only with brushing her hair, but instead, she set out to restore freedom to the entire world.
I very much disagree with those who dismiss Phantasy Star I in general, and Alis's story, specifically, as a simple revenge tale. If it were nothing but a revenge tale, Alis would have gone home after killing Lassic. Instead, she went on to defeat Darkfalz and restore freedom to all of Algol.
Another message of Phantasy Star I that I absolutely love is the characters know what is right and they know what is wrong, and they're willing to fight and die for what is right. We live in a society that is governed by moral relativism far too often. "It doesn't matter what the President does in his private life." "How dare he impose his morality on me?" "How do we know the Profound Darkness was truly evil?" (That's another Phantasy Star argument I vehemently disagree with.)
Alis and the other Phantasy Star I characters are not moral relativists in the least. They know what is good, they know what is evil, and more than that, they fight for the good. I like Chaz, but it bothers me greatly that Chaz whines and questions why he should fight for a being that isn't even in Algo anymore. (In fact, that Chaz does not follow the archetype of the Phantasy Star main hero is my chief criticism of Phantasy Star IV, but I'll leave that for another essay.) Chaz misses the point entirely; they are not fighting for only for The Great Light, though if they were, it should matter not a bit that he left Algo long ago; his cause remains just.
Alis, on the other hand, though initially prompted by personal tragedy, goes out and does what is right, no matter how heavy the odds against her, no matter how unlikely it is that she will succeed.
Take Odin as another example -- by all accounts, he didn't even know Nero, but when he hears of his unjust death, he agrees to join Alis to take on Lassic (I don't believe that was the only reason; I think Odin was against Lassic already, but I digress). Odin knows Lassic is evil, and that evil must be confronted and defeated. There is no question. There is no, "Well, wait, who are we to judge this new religion of Lassic's?" They know what Lassic has done is wrong, and they take him to task for it. (This trait is even more prevalent and hard-hitting in Phantasy Star II, for in Phantasy Star I, Alis's quest is not only the right, moral, and just thing to do, it is also the politically correct thing to do, at least from the view of the oppressed populace. Rolf's quest on the other hand is right, moral, and just, but it is also politically incorrect, but again, this shall be saved for a future essay.)
Finally, one last theme of Phantasy Star I that I'll touch on is this: it teaches us that when you know your cause is just, when you know what you are doing is right, you must never, ever give up. No matter what Alis and her friends went through -- no matter how many levels of dungeon traps they fell through -- no matter how much backtracking and wandering they had to do -- they never gave up. In fact, if I had to choose just one reason why Alis Landale is one of my personal heroes, it would be that: her determination.
There is a common thread that goes through all of these themes, and that is optimism. Phantasy Star II, while excellent, is somewhat burdened by the pessimistic warnings of what our technological society could become, though it does end with the optimistic note that even this can be overcome. Optimism comes back in Phantasy Star III with the message that though evils may always be with us, we will always overcome them, and Phantasy Star IV's finale message is a hugely optimistic one: though evil may, quite literally, lie at the very core of the system itself, our promising future does not have to be tainted by the evils of the past.
But it was all started by the wholly optimistic message of Phantasy Star I. Evil can be conquered, and it does not take physical might to do it. The primary weapon required is simple determination; the willingness to fight for what is right. Look at the message that displays whenever you die in Phantasy Star I: "Alis's hope could not overcome the power of Lassic." That sums up the message of Phantasy Star I right there: hope, optimism, is our most powerful weapon against evil.
This theme, as described above, is continued throughout the series; is, in fact, the very essence of the entire series. A super-computer and her mad alien creators may hold our planet in their evil grasp, but there is hope. A demon from beyond space and time, which certainly played a large role in the destruction of our planet, may pursue us even now, but there is hope. Our entire system may have been built on evil's doorstep, but there is hope.
But it was Phantasy Star I that laid the first building block of this message, and with the most unlikely of heroes -- a teenage girl not trained to fight in any way. That is why Phantasy Star I's characters and story remain the best of the series.
Please save my brother!
|Please send all comments and feedback to mike at ripplinger dot us|