For those fans who might not know, there are a lot of differences between the Japanese versions of the Phantasy Star games and the English versions of the series. And that is an incredible understatement.
The differences between the two versions can best be presented by first examining the dates for the various games. First, according to the Japanese Phantasy Star Compendium Book, the dates for Japanese PSI, PSII, and PSIV are, respectively, AW 342, AW 1284, and AW 2284. As for Japanese PSIII, according to Japanese Phantasy Star fan Kentaro Yoshizawa, that game takes place 2000 years after Japanese PSII.
It is not as easy to find the dates for the English versions of the games. First, we are given in-game dates in only two of the four games, one of those being PSIV, which is dated at AW 2284, the same as Japanese PSIV (don't worry, this trend does not continue). Next, we can arrive at English PSII's date through a small bit of deduction; there is some debate regarding whether or not English PSIV takes place 998 or 1000 years after English PSII, and so taking both possibilities into account, we arrive at a date for English PSII of either AW 1284 or AW 1286, depending on your opinion regarding the length of the gap between PSII and PSIV. (A separate Theories section page, Phantasy Star II's Date, explains my theory on this issue.)
Moving along, dialogue from English PSIII solidly proves that "Generations of Doom" takes place approximately 1000 years after English PSII. ("When the vile Dark Force stirred 1,000 years ago, preparations were made to escape from Palm.") Thus, we can safely date English PSIII on the AW calendar at either AW 2284 or AW 2286, again, depending on PSII's date. Finally, though English PSI is dated in-game at Space Century 342, knowing its date relative to the other Phantasy Star games allows us to translate that date onto the AW calendar, for easier comparison to the game's Japanese date. Because English PSI takes place approximately 1000 years before English PSII, English PSI's date is either AW 284 or AW 286, again, depending on which date one chooses for English PSII.
Putting all this together in a table, the differences between the Japanese and the English games is astounding:
Phantasy Star I
AW 284 or AW 286
Phantasy Star II
AW 1284 or AW 1286
Phantasy Star IV
Phantasy Star III
AW 2284 or AW 2286 (approximately)
In the English versions, 1000 years separate PSI and PSII, but in the Japanese versions, only 942 years separate the two. And in the Japanese versions, the far future (at least relative to the English versions) era of AW 3284 is explored!
Also, the very origin of the Algo system differs between the English and Japanese versions. I won't go into any more detail here about this or any of the other differences between the English and the Japanese Phantasy Star games, but if you're still not convinced, or if you just want to hear more, I invite you to read The Two Phantasy Stars, a report co-authored by myself and Neilast, webmaster of Beyond Algo.
Needless to say, the date and origin comparisons alone conclusively prove, beyond all doubt, that the English Phantasy Star games and the Japanese Phantasy Star games exist in separate continuities.
That being said, some Phantasy Star fans instead prefer, when playing the English versions, to disregard the differences and "play in the Japanese continuity," viewing the English versions as mere translations, not different versions, and ignoring any changes they encounter as they play. Certainly, I have no problem with this view.
However, I must respectfully disagree if this view is extended to include the idea that "there is only one 'true' Phantasy Star universe," or if one continuity is declared "official" or "canonical" while the other is not.
With all due respect to anyone who believes that only one continuity, be it Japanese or English, is "official" -- in which case the other must, by default, be "unofficial" -- I point out that you do not determine what is "official" Phantasy Star and what isn't. The only entity which can do this is the Sega corporation. They are the owners of Phantasy Star. What they say is "official" or "true" is what is "official" and "true," and they do this by releasing video games titled "Phantasy Star."
Numerous facts from within the games prove that the English Phantasy Star games and the Japanese Phantasy Star games tell a story which, while incredibly similar, is also easily different enough to establish separate continuities; the stories within the two series exist in separate "universes." However, each series is equally "real." To suggest that only one universe is "real" and the other is somehow "fake" is incredibly arrogant; it suggests that you determine what is Phantasy Star and what isn't, as opposed to the creator and owner of Phantasy Star, the Sega corporation, making that determination.
This brings us to the point of this introductory essay. At the bottom of this page you will find links to numerous essays on the opinions and theories I hold regarding the Phantasy Star story, and why I believe them. As a caveat, however, all of the theories I will discuss pertain to the English Phantasy Star Continuity only, and as the English Continuity itself is not wholly compatible with the Japanese Continuity, neither will my theories.
Why the English Continuity and not the Japanese? Am I trying to say that the English version is "correct," and anyone who wishes to discuss the Japanese versions are wrong? Not at all. I simply have hardly ever played the Japanese Phantasy Star games. I know very little about them. How can I discuss a video game series I have never played in-depth?
Also, it will be stated on many -- if not all -- of the theory pages that I will be posting that the theory discussed on that page is compatible with Phantasy Star Ultimate, a complete timeline and "universe" of theories designed to unite and explain all inconsistencies within the English Phantasy Star continuity. For more information, I invite you to view the complete Phantasy Star Ultimate Timeline.
Having established that there is an English Phantasy Star continuity and a Japanese Phantasy Star continuity -- and that while they are indeed separate entities, they are both equally canonical -- it bears further mention to make clear that though I personally follow the English continuity, I have no "grudge" against anyone who follows the Japanese. Anyone who prefers the Japanese continuity over the English continuity holds a perfectly valid opinion. Likewise, anyone who believes that the English versions of the games should have been 100% as-accurate-as-possible translations of the Japanese games also holds a perfectly valid opinion -- criticize Sega all you want.
However, there is still a select group of fans who do more than doubt the canonity of the English continuity. Despite the overwhelming evidence, this group of fans do not believe that the English continuity even exists! Their chief argument in support of this idea seems to center around "creators' intent." Because the English games are not 100% as-accurate-as-possible translations of the Japanese games, they feel the games are inconsistent with the vision of the "original Japanese creators," and thus merely represent mistakes and not a new continuity -- despite the fact that the games are official Sega releases. They see the original Japanese creators, not the Sega corporation, as the true owner of Phantasy Star. Because of their position, I have labelled them "Japanese purists" -- for no Phantasy Star can be valid to them unless it is the "vision" of purely the Japanese creators.
It is folly to look at the games in this manner because doing so means applying the properties of a creator-owned work to a company-owned work. A book by Stephen King originally written in English and translated into Japanese, for example, must remain true to King's original vision because he, Stephen King, is the owner of the work. The copyright to the Phantasy Star games, however, belongs not to Rieko Kodama or Yuji Naka but to the Sega corporation; therefore, any game released by Sega with the name "Phantasy Star" must represent true Phantasy Star, for it is Sega, not Rieko Kodama or Yuji Naka, that determines who the "creators" of a Phantasy Star game are.
Further, the Phantasy Star games are team efforts, and so it is a tangled web indeed that one weaves when one starts assigning individual creators with roles more important than others. For example, Rieko Kodama is credited with "general direction" on Phantasy Star IV, while Tohoru Yoshida is credited with "story, planning, character design, graphics, etc." according to the Phantasy Star Official Production Compendium. Let's assume for a moment that Yoshida's original idea for the story was to have Rika die (as an homage to Nei's death in Phantasy Star II) while Alys continues to the end of the game -- but Kodama overruled him in her oversight of the game's general direction. Under the Japanese purists' concept of "creators' intent," the actual Phantasy Star IV game released to stores -- English and Japanese! -- instantly becomes invalid, because the game does not represent the original intent of the creator -- in this case, Yoshida.
No, considering that Phantasy Star is company owned and not creator owned, and especially considering that the Phantasy Star games are team efforts -- and one without the vision of a single creator behind it, no less -- the individual creators behind the games are irrelevant. The sole factor that determines whether a game is valid Phantasy Star or not is the Sega logo.
For a moment, however, let us look at the Japanese purists' idea that the English games do not represent a new continuity (separate, but equal) because they are not consistent with the Japanese games. Again, it's folly to look at the opinions of the individual game creators and not the finished product -- the games themselves -- but for the sake of the defense of the validity of the English continuity, let's address the purists' concerns.
For years the Japanese purists have said that if the original Japanese creators had been behind the English games, rather than hack Sega translators, the games would have come out differently. The cry of the Japanese purists has been loud and clear throughout the years of Phantasy Star internet fandom: when it comes to the English games, the "original Japanese creators" would not approve.
It's important to note that this is not an opinion statement on their part, it's their guess as to what the opinion of the original Japanese creators would be. As such, we can look at available evidence and determine whether or not it supports or disproves their guess. And based on two recently discovered pieces of evidence, it would appear that the Japanese purists were dead wrong on the "original Japanese creators'" reaction to the English games.
First, Phantasy Star Collection for the Gameboy Advance was released on December 17, 2002. It contains Phantasy Star I, Phantasy Star II, and Phantasy Star III, and the game's text remains almost completely unchanged from the original English releases of the games. This is especially notable because the game opens with a splash screen that says "Supervised by Overworks" and Overworks is the development group that is made up of many of the members of the original Phantasy Star teams. (One review of the game indicates that the specific members of Overworks who carried out the supervision were Rieko Kodama, Tohru Yoshida, Yoshiaki Endo.)
This is a crushing blow to the purists who insist the "original Japanese creators" would never approve of the English translations released in the late 80s and early 90s. With Overworks in a supervisory position on the collection, they could have changed anything. Instead, they changed very little. The only difference discovered thus far between the original English releases of the games and Phantasy Star Collection's version of the games was reported by Camineet.net reader Seth Booker, who says the Governor's original line "In the Maharu Cave lives an esper named Noah. I will give you a letter of introduction to present to her" has been changed to "In the Maharu Cave lives an esper named Noah. I will give you a letter of introduction to present to him." This is a defeat to the purists because they insisted the original Japanese creators would change much more -- Noah's name, the Space Century date of the game, the healing items sold in the First Food shops, etc.
Some have sought to explain this near complete lack of changes away by pointing to Phantasy Star Collection's "PSI save bug" as evidence that Overworks must not have been involved -- what, Overworks is perfect and never, ever releases a game with a bug in it, so if the game contains a bug, then someone must have slipped in that "Supervised by Overworks" splash screen without Overworks's consent?
Another explanation -- even more incredible -- is that specifically because so little of the original English text of the games was changed, Overworks must not have had any involvement with the collection -- again, despite the fact that their company logo appears right at the beginning of the game! Apparently the purists have so convinced themselves that the "original Japanese creators" would change so much in the games that when the truth that they have changed very little comes to light, the purists simply pretend the original creators weren't involved at all. In short, the explanation offered is that the "Supervised by Overworks" splash screen really doesn't mean anything. It must just be there for show. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
If this explanation is true, it means that Overworks allows its name to be attached to games they have nothing to do with, that Overworks simply farms out its logo to anyone who wants to slap it on their games -- and isn't that an interesting way to develop a reputation as a distinguished developer?
The second notable recent development that throws cold water on the purists' idea that the "original Japanese creators" would consider the English games incorrect abominations is the English version of the personal website of Phantasy Star III's character designer, Toyo Ozaki. Ozaki makes it clear that her website is "unofficial," which I certainly take to mean unaffiliated with Sega in any way -- which should be a great thing for the Japanese purists. Here, free from incompetent Sega translators, Ozaki can give us her undiluted "original creator's intent" for the Phantasy Star III characters, right?
That being the case, the Japanese purists must be absolutely mortified to see that throughout the English version of her site, Ozaki uses the characters' English game names. If the original Japanese creators would not approve of the work of the hack Sega translators, shouldn't she call Wren "Shiren"? Shouldn't she call Rhys "Kane"? Shouldn't she call Gwyn "Laya"? She should, if the purists are correct. However, she does not.
One last time, the opinions of individual creators as to what is canonical and what is non-canonical Phantasy Star are irrelevant -- for the determination of canon, we can only look at finished products that bear the Sega logo. However, some Japanese purists don't see it this way and instead point solely to "original creators' intent" as their reasoning for why the English continuity does not exist. These purists now find themselves with a very, very tough case to make indeed. If the purists wish to play a Phantasy Star game that contains an extremely accurate-to-the-Japanese translation, I would point them towards fan translations. But if one wants the official English text of the games -- deemed official by the game's owners -- one must go to the original Sega releases or Sega's new Gameboy Advance Phantasy Star Collection.
And those translations, it would seem, carry the blessing of the "original Japanese creators" themselves.
Other Theory Pages
The Two Phantasy Stars |
Separate But Equal
Phantasy Star II's Date |
Noah and Lutz
Character Birthdays |
Phantasy Star II's Ending |
Fate of the Worldships |
Phantasy Star Online Numans |
Phantasy Star Online's Date
Ragol is Not Earth |
Why the Earthmen Truly Are Evil |
The Whole New World
On the Characters and Story of Phantasy Star I |
Phantasy Star and the Raglan Scale
The True Message of Phantasy Star II