Phantasie For Apple & 64
James V. Trunzo
Requirements: Apple 11-series computer with at least 48K RAM and a disk drive; or a Commodore 64 with a disk drive. The Apple version was reviewed.
I have a strong predilection toward fantasy role-playing games, and when one comes along that seduces me into hour after hour of play, it's hard to keep from sounding overenthusiastic. But such a game has come along. Phantasie, from Strategic Simulations, may be the best fantasy role-playing game to come down the silicon pike since Sir-Tech conjured up Wizardry. As a matter of fact—at the risk of sounding blasphemous—in some ways Phantasie surpasses Wizardry.
Phantasie contains all the typical ingredients that go into a top-notch role-playing game: multiple characters derived from various races, standard professions (such as wizards, warriors, thieves, and so on), magic, monsters, and mayhem. However, the ways in which Phantasie combines these elements sets it apart from typical adventure games.
First, Phantasie employs a vertical split screen, the left side showing the area in which the party of adventurers is traveling and the right showing the party itself. During combat (a frequent occurrence in Phantasie), the enemy appears in front of the adventurers on the left, and the fight evolves into a semianimated affair. Spells hurl up and down the screen, striking each opponent. Swords, stingers, fangs, and claws are thrust in the direction of the enemy, with appropriate sound effects accompanying hits and misses. Of course, combat isn't always a must: You can greet an enemy, flee, accept a surrender, or attempt a bribe. Strategy is vital, especially early in the game when the adventurers are weak.
Phantasie keeps you in the dark, never showing you what's ahead until you explore the area. However, once you've explored the territory or dungeon (there are ten, all large and dangerous), the program "remembers" and displays the area when you reenter it later. There are 16 screens of territory in Phantasie's land of Gelnor, so this eliminates the drudgery of painstakingly mapping a large area on paper, while retaining the game's mystery. In addition to saving lots of time, this feature emphasizes one of Phantasie's major strengths: It is exceedingly playable, yet exceptionally challenging.
An Unfolding Story
Phantasie is aided tremendously by a strong story line that actually develops as you play. With help from 20 scrolls scattered throughout Gelnor, the party of adventurers is guided in its quest to defeat the Black Knights and their sorcerer master, Nikademus. These scrolls, hard-earned for the most part, contain hints that are necessary to emerge victorious. And don't be surprised if you notice a resemblance to J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
The program allows a tremendous amount of interaction between characters and, even more importantly, between the player(s) and the game itself. It asks you to make choices often enough to involve you in the action without slowing up play, and the choices directly affect the course of the game. Too often in games of this sort, the choices are gratuitous, negating their value.
It's easy to go on about Phantasie because there are a tremendous number of facets to this program. Eighty different monsters, more than 50 spells, 100 pieces of equipment, plus potions, scrolls, rings, and other details make the game fascinating to play. Whether you're visiting a town or a dungeon, fighting a troll or a swarm of killer bees, or hiking through the mountains or the deserts, your persona will be challenged both physically and mentally throughout a game of Phantasie.
Strategic Simulations, Inc.
883 Stierlin Road, Building A-200
Mountain View, CA 94043