Phantasy Star and the Cassiopaeans

Psalehesost

The Living Force
This is mostly in relation to the Cassiopaean story of the solar system (and information found in various sessions). There are striking parallels with the story of Phantasy Star II (a game from 1990), which includes the following:
- Conquerors arrived on a space ark and decided to take over the solar system.
- They took over by being the brains behind a new, high-technological civilization.
- Life is lived under the central control of a supercomputer ("Mother Brain"), the population not knowing its true origins.
- Genetic experimentation, and the use of cloning and mind-uploading to revive people.
- One of the planets of the (fictional) solar system blows up and is reduced to an asteroid belt.
- There's a partial evacuation on a fleet of space arks just prior to the explosion.

The rest of the series of four games also have interesting content, but the parallels with the Cassiopaean material are the most concentrated in the second.

The setting for the story includes the fictional Algol solar system, located somewhere in the Andromeda Galaxy. It (originally) has three inhabited planets: Motavia, a desert planet; Palma, a temperate planet; and Dezolis, cold and snowy. The center of human civilization is Palma, though it moves to a terraformed Motavia with the destruction of Palma.

The main historical cycle, marking both the end of civilizations and an intense struggle with an otherwordly demonic force seeking death and destruction, is standardized to 1000 years.

Stories one, two, and four take place in the solar system, each succeeding story separated by roughly a millenium. The third story is the odd one, taking place on a space ark on a long journey through space and with an uncertain future.

(Sometime between the first and second stories, a freak gravitational alignment ends up flipping the orbits of Palma and Motavia, though climate does not seem to greatly change. Whatever happened in the short term, there's no further elaboration on this particular "Great Disaster".)

In this post, I'll focus mainly on the second story, while including brief summaries of the other three to provide a quick look at the bigger picture.

Whether I make further posts on the topic of these stories depends on whether there's any interest.

I'll take into account some of the detailing by fans of the games about how the Japanese originals differ from the English translations. The English translations change names inconsistently and sometimes alter other details. I'll remove inconsistencies and fill in some gaps.

Phantasy Star (1987)

The first story takes place at a time when Palman civilization has been exploring and established minor colonies on the other two planets. (The native Motavians, bird-like humanoids, and the green-skinned native Dezolisians, only play a very small part in the story.)

The civilization is headed by King Lassic. Once a benevolent and well-respected ruler, he has gone through a drastic transformation. Engaging in a metaphysical bid for power, he became the loyal servant of a demon. The people do not know this, but they do know that Lassic has turned into a totalitarian tyrant who violently suppresses all dissent with an army of robotcops.

(The English version changed Lassic's role from seeking out the force of evil to the evil seeking him out: Lassic's transformation followed joining a shadowy religion, rumored to come from another galaxy. Promising immortality to its adherents, Lassic became one of the first to join.)

The main protagonist is a young woman named Alis, who encounters her brother mortally wounded and left for dead by Lassic's thugs. She hears his dying words, which include directions for finding a resistance fighter, after the attackers have left with the comment that what they have done will teach him not to "sniff around in Lassic's affairs".

The rest of the story is the story of Alis' journey across the solar system, and a group of four banding together to take down the tyrant, doing so, and then suddenly facing a demon in a struggle they are not prepared for - but making it, barely, nonetheless.

(The details are less thought-provoking. For instance, one of the four is a "musk cat", a type of cat which talks.)

Phantasy Star II (1989, 1990)

Roughly a thousand years have passed since the fall of Lassic. People live in a very different civilization of misty origins, but the development of which has been fairly recent and sudden.

All the institutions of society are centrally directed by the "Mother Brain" computer, and government officials merely have the task of smoothly implementing and maintaining its policies.

People consider the unknown builders of Mother Brain to be the greatest benefactors humanity has ever known. All basic needs are provided for, and most do not need to work. Further human progress is, in part, a project taking place in facilities for genetic experimentation run by Mother Brain.

Central to the story is a terraformed Motavia. Climate, and other aspects of the environment surrounding the cities, are regulated by systems under the control of Mother Brain. (Palmans have largely displaced the native Motavians, who are reduced to dumpster-diving as a means of sustaining themselves.)

Among government agents, premature death can be defied using a cloning and mind-uploading technology, provided that remains sufficient for the cloning process are still available.

The protagonist is a Motavian government agent (of the Palman human type, as are all the significant characters in the story). Rolf, a young man, has been suffering recurring nightmares in which a young woman is in a desperate battle with a demon (a reference to the first story). A day after he has one of those dreams, he is given a very unusual task, the danger of which his superior warns him.

Recently, dangerous mutated life forms have been rampaging the areas outside the cities, due to a malfunction in a bio-engineering facility. In order to get rid of these "biomonsters", Rolf is given the task of finding, and if possible, fixing the problem.

One thing quickly leads to the next, and a small group begins to gather around Rolf, more people joining him as his work proceeds. The first to come along is Nei, an experimentally bio-engineered woman who has stayed with Rolf since the time he saved her from an unruly crowd which denounced her as a monster.

Once they make it to the Biosystems facility, they are able to reach its main computer. Rolf extracts a recording, in which people at his workplace find evidence of unusual energy consumption and the re-routing of energy from the Climatrol system that is meant to keep the planet temperate.

The next step becomes finding out what happened at Climatrol. There, they meet a woman with the same appearance and origins as Nei. Having escaped death at the hands of researchers who labeled her a failed experiment, she became an embittered outcast, sabotaging the Biosystems to exact revenge. The two, Nei and her look-alike, turn out to have a shared past, and to be linked in such a way that the death of one means the death of the other. Nevertheless, opposed to one another to the core, they fight. When Nei dies, the others kill her attacker.

In the meantime, energy accumulates dangerously in the weather control system without sensible direction, and by the time Rolf and his remaining companions notice what's happening, the best they can do is to escape the building.

Returning to work, Rolf hears of the repercussions. The rain supply is being dumped into the lake surrounding Climatrol all at once, and a flooding disaster must now be averted. Malfunctioning controls mean that dams have to be opened manually. Furthermore, Rolf is warned that the Palma-directed security system has taken an unhealthy interest in him. Keeping a low profile is his best option for avoiding the security robots.

Rolf soon hears word spreading that he and his group are going to be hunted down for sabotage. Nevertheless, he sees it as his responsibility to open the dams and save people. They find and take the control cards for the dams, then visit and open them one by one. But just as they leave the final dam after opening it, they are surrounded by robots that zap them unconscious.

It turns out to be costly to act against the will of Mother Brain. Rolf and his team wake up aboard a prison satellite where people are sent upon receiving death sentences. In order to ensure inmates do not escape, they wear devices which inflict electric shocks in response to movement. Rolf and his friends feebly move around when they hear an enormous explosion. Soon, it is clear the satellite has gone off course. Desperately walking on to try to find out what's happening, they realize it's going to crash into Palma, just before losing consciousness.

They wake up on the ship of a space pirate who has rescued them. (The Japanese original adds a detail: They actually did die aboard the satellite. What the rescuer did was to recover their remains and bring them back to life through cloning and mind-uploading.) And shocking news are in store.

The planet Palma has blown up - and just before it did, the prison satellite was crashed into the planet. After telling them the news, the space pirate teleports them back to Rolf's old city, where people at the local branch of the government still hold Rolf in high regard.

Rolf's old commander is relieved that Rolf is safe, and as he is convinced of Rolf's innocence, offers the use of an old space shuttle. With it, they have the means to visit the other remaining planet, Dezolis, in search for answers. (Under the reign of Mother Brain, space travel has become strictly regulated, bringing an end to the earlier interplanetary travel within the solar system.)

They land at a large mining facility, long abandoned after a gas leak killed the Palman settlers who lived and worked there. From there, they venture through a landscape of snow and ice, as well as a few native Dezolisian towns. (The Dezolisians are largely uninterested in Palmans and their doings and technology, though they build in stone and religiously venerate fire.)

Finally, the group reaches a place that has answers: the secluded home of the Espers, Palmans whose genetically endowed telemental abilities set them apart, and who have isolated themselves from the larger Palman civilization. Their leader, Lutz, is very old. Kept in cryogenic hibernation most of the time, he usually spends time awake only once every ten years, unless there is an emergency that requires his attention.

(Lutz is the name of one of the four protagonists in the first story, and presumably the same person. However, the English translators changed his name to Noah in the first game, but not in the rest.)

The fate of the solar system is certainly important, and Lutz emerges from his sleep to discuss matters. It turns out Rolf and Lutz have met once before, when Lutz saved Rolf from a deadly accident in childhood. Lutz is convinced that Rolf is a descendant of Alis.

It turns out that Mother Brain is located on a space ark named "Noah". To take down the system, equipment is needed, and Lutz gives the group the preparatory task of gathering it. Rolf and his team journey extensively, until they have obtained what they need. Finally, Lutz uses his powers to teleport the group to the space ark Noah.

They move through a series of corridors until Rolf encounters a box. When he opens it, he and the others suddenly face the demon of Rolf's nightmares. Perhaps this "hidden treasure" is the invisible brains behind Mother Brain.

Following a difficult battle with a vile and bombastic enemy, they make it further through the space ark and reach the room in which Mother Brain is located. Projecting an image of a great and benevolent mother figure, the computer declares its indispensability, describing the weakness of the people and their complete dependence on it. Without it, there would only be panic and chaos.

They overcome the defenses of the machine and destroy it, but something more remains. Lutz telepathically informs Rolf that there are other people on the ship. The group moves past the room and enters a large hall.

Here, they meet the Earthmen. Facing them is line after line of armed, uniformed people, whose leader soon speaks. The leader of the Earthmen tells them, briefly, about how they came to the Algol solar system on a journey for a new home after destroying their own planet. Finding the people of Algol "living in simple happiness", the Earthmen decided that they wanted it all. Taking credit for the destruction of the planet Palma, the leader asks Rolf and his vastly outnumbered companions if they really think they can stop the Earthmen.

Sensing that Rolf needs help, Lutz has used his powers to gather more of Rolf's friends, and suddenly teleports them into the room to provide a little reinforcement. But the group is still greatly outnumbered.

And then the battle begins. But its end is newer shown.

The final scene shows a hexagonal object flying through the solar system. This is a reference to the sequel, with its backstory of a Palman evacuation on a fleet of newly built hexagonal space arks just before the planetary explosion.

Phantasy Star III (1990, 1991)

The original title translated into "Successors of Time: Phantasy Star III", but the English translators found that too weird and changed it to Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom.

The story follows the inhabitants of a space ark during a crucial part of its multi-millenial journey through space. The space ark consists of seven world domes interconnected in a hexagonal shape, and has two satellites in orbit.

A thousand years have passed since a terrible and devastating war reduced the inhabitants to living in "a world of mutated creatures and warring pockets of men". Following the destruction, knowledge was rapidly lost, and most of the inhabitants are without any understanding of the nature of their world.

The descendants of the two warring factions remain culturally divided, each elevating its ancient leader to the status of a mythical diety and demonizing the counterpart on the other side.

Most people live in monarchical city-states and smaller towns strewn across the world domes, with little travel between the worlds. But a series of events leads a young prince to begin a journey of exploration and rediscovery carried on by his son and grandson. As history unfolds, the journey transforms into a quest to avert ultimate disaster for the space ark.

There are four possible endings, as the story branches out at each change of generation with the choice of whom the old protagonist will marry. The second generation comes in two distinctly different versions, while the variations for the third generation converge, even as the endings diverge.

One version leads to a black hole and the question of whether or not it is avoided. The other may lead either to nearly flying into a star, and finding that its solar system has a suitable home, or to coming into contact with one of the other two remaining ships of the same type.

There's far more in terms of structured details to the story and symbolism than there is elaborate development connected to it. I think the story writer had much more in mind, but ran out of time and budget. (Its planner was a junior staff member for the second game who developed ideas for another one. He got time and resources to make it, but not to truly complete it.)

I could do a fuller write-up for the quirky and neatly structured story of this game, which I have found interesting since I played it in my teens.

A final detail for a short summary is that on the space ark, four worlds are the main homes of ancient knowledge. One houses the secluded home of the pilots, one the secluded home of the engineers, and two others each contain a floating city. One of the sky-cities is the home of a few humble wise men, while the other, the "Holy City of Lashute", turns out to be the home of the ultimate evil. (Naming associations link the "Holy City" to Jerusalem. Symbolically, perhaps the "heavenly" Jerusalem of Revelations.)

Phantasy Star IV (1993, 1995)

A thousand years after the fall of Mother Brain, in simpler times, a great and decisive battle between good and evil approaches.

The story first unfolds towards a confrontation with Zio the Black Magician, a cult leader and all-around scary character who has been issuing threats and turned a leading researcher into stone in order to halt the exploration of the ruins of an ancient and advanced civilization.

A few people from Motavia (which has partly returned to being a desert world) - including an actual Motavian - and two ancient androids, and an old Dezolisian priest, among others, end up on a very strange journey through the solar system.

The solar system turns out to have a fourth planet with a highly eccentric orbit, home to non-physical beings who instruct and prepare the heroes for the great battle which awaits them.

The nature of the ultimate evil is explained, but the English version censors the explanation and replaces it with a dualistic creation story (the good is the creator and the evil is the antithesis of the creator). The creator banished its nihilistic dark counterpart to a realm outside the Universe.

The Japanese version instead tells a story of an ancient interplanetary war in a divided civilization of non-physical beings. The victorious side seals the defeated side away. The souls of the defeated side then meld together into a single, malevolent entity, pure in its hatred and destructiveness. Much later, the race of victors die out.

The "Profound Darkness" seeks to break free and re-enter the Universe in order to annihilate. The solar system is described as being part of the sealing structure, by an ancient design, explaining why the source of each millenium's demon has worked hard to blow up planets.

The demon-battling heroes across the millenia all turn out to be connected at the soul level. These "Protectors" are what remains to stand against the ultimate evil threatening the solar system.

There's some interesting ideas in the story, but I have the sense that the weight had shifted towards wrapping it all up in an entertaining package by the time this game was made. For a fuller write-up, perhaps skipping the less essential parts and instead focusing on themes would be more interesting.
 

Shirannah

The Force is Strong With This One
Omg, thats why i probably liked it so much, i remember playing it when i was a young child, Phantasy star 2 and Phantasy star 3 generations of doom, is the one i liked the most. They where pretty much hard games to play. I even named my cats, after some characters from phantasy star 3. Laya Lena and Miue
 

monotonic

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
It's always interesting to see parallels like this, but over the years I have never really seen anything come of it except the vague impression that someone was on a similar wavelength. I think in many cases the story of reality is a great story, and writers who are in the business of making great stories tend to channel that without knowing it. But in the end it doesn't become anything more than a story and they go on with their lives.

So what do we do? Show up at the writer's house and ask them questions about life, the universe and everything?

Now compare this to something like Momo, which generated plenty of interesting discussion on the forum here. To me that is on a whole different level. But Phantasy Star has an army of artists working on it who's goal is to make it as pretty and appealing as possible, and hope that the writer does a good job as well. They will go with whatever the writer gives them as long as it is something they can work with. The writer probably feels quite lucky to have things work out well for them.

In the end I think our pattern recognition makes us really excited to "find something" in the mainstream that mirrors to us our own beliefs about the world which give us a sense of meaning. Artists and writers in the media capitalize on that, but they really can only craft and present a story while hoping they will be compensated for that service. Stories that evoke a sense of wonder and higher realities play into that but usually without delivering the goods. As Collingwood has written about, a passion explained ceases to be a passion. The artform is dependent on that fact. If it were to deliver the goods it would cease to be art. At best it would become philosophy or something else, but something less profitable.
 

lilies

Dagobah Resident
After finishing our current product [in development], I plan to do a somewhat similar sci-fi video-game, which will be a camouflaged wiki for the entirety of atrocities the Lizard gang has committed. Let the young generation be as accurately informed as possible! With help of a product that piques their interest. Sort of digital theater in our modern age versus how children got hooked to theatrical performances in the ancient past.
 

Bluegazer

Jedi Master
After finishing our current product [in development], I plan to do a somewhat similar sci-fi video-game, which will be a camouflaged wiki for the entirety of atrocities the Lizard gang has committed. Let the young generation be as accurately informed as possible! With help of a product that piques their interest. Sort of digital theater in our modern age versus how children got hooked to theatrical performances in the ancient past.
OMG!
I am on the same path! I am also creating a whole sci-fi universe where readers can find these topics.

 

Bluegazer

Jedi Master
This is mostly in relation to the Cassiopaean story of the solar system (and information found in various sessions). There are striking parallels with the story of Phantasy Star II

It is interesting to see that many productions (usually Japanese) of manga, anime and video games have abundant esoteric elements. Some are simply nonsense with symbols and magic, but others, as in the case of Phantasy Star, have a very well-ordered and consistent content.

Of those that have caught my attention the most - besides my taste for the mecha genere - are Macross, and Gundam.

In Macross you can find: Giants genetically created for war by an extraterrestrial civilization. Manipulation of emotional energy and used as food (Macross 7, a sequel to Macross)

In Gundam: Life in space colonies because of overpopulation and consequent war because of the typical cruelty of man towards man. The appearance of a type of human being who because of adapting to outer space develops his sixth sense at psychic levels, and they are known as "newtype". In the following sequels the technology advances to the point of existing machines capable of externalizing the thoughts and feelings of the newtype to such a degree that they can manage to manipulate the physical reality, and that the theoretical possibility of the existence of a higher plane of existence is mentioned Where time does not exist.

From gundam I recommend seeing: Gundam Unicorn. And Gundam Narrative.

Macross: Macross (TV Series) Macross 7 (TV series) And Macross Zero (5 original video animation).
 
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