The True Message of Phantasy Star II
The conventional wisdom among most phanatics seems to be that the ultimate message behind Phantasy Star II is a warning regarding technology. "Don't let technology go too far!" is pretty close to what they would describe as the game's ultimate moral. It's true enough that the game's primary villain, Mother Brain, is technological in origin, but I don't believe this means the game is a warning regarding the evils of technology anymore than I would believe that, because Phantasy Star I's main villain is an old man, that game is a warning regarding the evils of senior citizens.
In reality, Phantasy Star II is a warning of communism's evil.
Released in 1989 in Japan and 1990 in America, when the Soviet Union was in its death throes, Phantasy Star II's Algo presents us with the world as it would have become had the Soviets succeeded in their famous threat to "bury" the United States. The parallels between the changes Mother Brain brought to Algo and the changes communist governments brought to countries like Russia and China are startling.
Consider that one of the first moves a new communist regime always makes is the elimination of heroes and leaders of the previous government. This is perhaps summed up no better in real life than in the story of Pu Yi, the last emperor of China. He took the Chinese throne in 1908 when he was still but an infant. He abdicated the throne in 1912, fled the Forbidden City in 1924, became the emperor of the Japanese puppet state Manchuria in 1934, and in 1945 he was captured by the Russians and held as their prisoner. They handed him over to the Chinese communists in 1950 and it was after this that he spent nine years in the communist "reeducation" camp Shenyang, where a party official brainwashed him from last emperor of China to simple gardener.
Likewise, we see in Phantasy Star II that Alis Landale, the young girl who freed Algo from tyranny 1000 years prior, is now looked upon with contempt. At the end of Phantasy Star I, Alis and her companions are so beloved that it is said, "Even though the memories of evil fade away, their names will be kept in the hearts of the people of Algol forever." However, in Phantasy Star II, Lutz says, "People started to fight for what Mother Brain created. They no longer thought that kindly about Alis."
Another staple of communism is its abolishment of religion. Shortly after the October Revolution in Russia, after Lenin and the Bolsheviks came to power, they abolished the church. Throughout the Soviet's reign, anyone except old men and women who attended church were watched by the KGB, or worse. Even to this day, China continues to imprison members of the Falun Gong religion in their country, sending them off to reeducation camps and denouncing them as dangerous enemies of the state. And likewise, we see this paralleled in Phantasy Star II. In Phantasy Star I, almost every town on Palma, Motavia, and Dezoris had a church. In Phantasy Star II, not a single church is found anywhere, and the only character who speaks of God is Lutz, the Esper wizard who hides in seclusion while plotting the overthrow of Mother Brain.
No one is allowed to leave a communist nation (just ask any of the people who risk and oftentimes lose their lives trying to escape Cuba and reach the United States aboard poorly made rafts every year) for if citizens of the communist state were allowed to leave, there would be no people left in the country. This tenet of communism is also found in Phantasy Star II, as evidenced by the fact that Mother Brain banned ocean travel fifty years prior to the game ("It was 50 years ago when Mother Brain prohibited people from going to the ocean") and banned space travel a decade prior ("After the accident of 10 years ago, the use of any spaceship has been prohibited").
Basic human freedoms such as the right to criticize one's government are also revoked in the communist state, and again, in this respect Mother Brain's Algo is no different. The residents of Phantasy Star II-era Mota demonstrate a complete brainwashing towards the benevolence of Mother Brain, as evidenced by the Commander's line, "I had believed that Mother Brain never makes mistakes." Further, when Rolf attempts to fix Mother Brain by correcting the problem of monsters roaming the land, he is charged with "damaging" Mother Brain and when captured, he and his friends are sentenced to death.
Finally, of course, the ultimate trademark of communism is an economic system in which everyone works for the state and the state in turn divides all income equally amongst the people. The basic human urge each person has to better himself is stifled in the name of working for the state. Indeed Phantasy Star II presents us with a Mota that is trapped in just such a system. There is apparently no need for anyone to work in Phantasy Star II-era Motavia ("Why should I work for a living?" and "My dad is just goofing off everyday. He says he can live without working") and those who do have jobs seem to either work for the state (agent, biologist, Commander) or else they work in some kind of rogue, non-sanctioned profession (hunter, thief, guardian).
The parallels between the communist regimes of modern Earth history and the Algo ruled by Mother Brain in Phantasy Star II are undeniable. "The dangers of technology" is not the central message of the game because technology is used as much by the heroes of the game for good as it is used by the villains for evil. No, a better candidate for the central message of Phantasy Star II is a message that while the communist society may appear to be utopian, it in fact is dependant upon the repeal of basic human freedoms and desires, and thus is thoroughly evil.
Lutz elegantly summarizes the type of society Algo has become under Mother Brain's communism. "We got confused because Mother Brain created so many things, we didn't really know what we needed," he says. "People even thought that they could not live without Mother Brain. I think that a devil's trap is behind Mother Brain. This caused the people's mind to weaken. The trap also leads Algo to destruction." Correctly diagnosing that the will of the people was being sapped by Mother Brain and that the super-computer had convinced the people that they were dependant not on themselves but on the state for their very survival, Lutz's words make clear that Algo willingly handed itself (and its freedoms) over to a regime that hid its evil and its cruelty until it was in power. Again the parallels to communism are evident, for this is what happens again and again in communist countries.
The game also warns that forgetting our traditions is dangerous. I once heard it said that all civilizations throughout history have followed the same cycle: bondage, faith, courage, liberty, abundance, complacency, apathy, and dependance. When Phantasy Star I begins, Algo is in bondage, held hostage by a tyrannical king. Alis and her friends embody the faith and courage necessary to bring about liberty, and as Algo prospers with Lassic defeated, and later under the technological wonders of Mother Brain, it experiences a wonderful abundance. But just as Lutz explains to us and we see evidenced in the townspeople, this abundance leads to complacency and apathy until Mother Brain has almost everyone in Algo completely dependent on her and thus, once again, the system is back in bondage.
The reason Algo falls victim to this cycle is because, as Lutz says, the people forgot about Alis and the courage she displayed (with no small amount of help in this matter being provided by the communist Mother Brain). I also believe without a doubt that the loss of Algoian religion between Phantasy Star I and II also played a critical role in this slide back into bondage. In Phantasy Star I, you are sent away from churches with a blessing: "May the gods watch over you." In Phantasy Star II's communist world, however, the state -- Mother Brain -- is looked upon as the one watching over and protecting the people.
When Algo forgets her traditions in exchange for an easy, work-free life, that is the exact moment that Mother Brain has taken control of the system. Mother Brain -- like communist nations in our world -- sets about reeducating the people, brainwashing them into believing, as Lutz says, "they could not live without Mother Brain," thus protecting the immoral system from the people's natural human abhorrence to it.
Rolf is a perfect example of Phantasy Star II's message regarding the importance of free will. At the start of the game, Rolf is but an investigator. He does not become a true crusader until he regains his free will. The exact moment this happens is when Nei dies. When Rolf learns that the monsters running all over Mota were a deliberate creation by Neifirst, who worked out of the Mother Brain-created institution of Climatrol, he is confronted head-on by the reality of her evil.
True enough, it seems apparent that Rolf still believes the system can be repaired right up until he reaches Esper Mansion and hears Lutz accurately describe Algo's current state of government as a "devil's trap," but the decision to carry on after Climatrol is key because it is the first time Rolf stops conforming to the will of Mother Brain. Further, it is Nei herself, in her dying words, who hints that the only way true freedom can be restored is to break the people's dependency on the communist state: "I hope everyone on Algo can find happiness in their new life." Nei suggests that she knows the radical change in lifestyle will be hard for the people, but she also knows it is necessary if freedom is to be restored.
In the game's finale, a ray of hope is shown. Life without Mother Brain will be difficult because her communist rule has become the crutch that almost all Algoians now need to hold themselves up. Before her destruction, the tyrant even taunts the heroes as if to say, "How do you know life will be so much better without me?" The heroes answer, shown by their willingness to fight, is clear and heroic: "Because it has to be."
All of the Phantasy Star games feature wonderful messages for the youth audience they target. But while Phantasy Star I is about the strength of courage, faith, and hope, Phantasy Star III is about the way our decisions affect not just our lives but the lives of our children and our grandchildren, and Phantasy Star IV is about stepping forward to do what is right when your call comes in, Phantasy Star II carries a much more specific message. It is by far the most political entry in the series, and it attempts to drive home the important truths that a state that engages in communism and thus denies its people their natural human freedoms is no utopia at all, no matter how prosperous it may seem. Human beings are born free and any government that would take our natural freedoms from us, no matter how sweet the candy it offers in return, must be overthrown.
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