Conclusion: All right, thanks to both of you for all the clarification. I’m still curious about what you mean when you mention maps. Are they an item you can buy in game, or are you suggesting I actually use my hands for recording hallways on graph paper like the good old days?
Conclusion: You could write them out by hand, but I didn’t have the patience and found the following site useful: http://www.phantasy-star.net/psii/psii.html The original game came with a guidebook including some maps, so I didn’t feel too badly about using the ones there.
Conclusion: Any idea if the Japanese release had the guide? Either way, I played a good portion of the game without it (at at least up to Climacontrol, where it becomes impossible without it) so that may be part of why I think it’s harder than you (Chris). I can’t define it clearly, but just dying isn’t my whole criteria for difficulty. Hell, I died in Shining Force and that game isn’t hard.
Conclusion: Generally I’d say it’s about half-and-half. If you prepare for dungeons properly (fill inventory with healing stuff, get most of the new weapons and armor) the first 2/3 of the game won’t give you any problem. Some of the later areas give off the “this game hates you” vibe for sure – if there’s an ambush by certain enemies and they focus fire on your characters, you’re dead (that said, like a hama/mudo on the main character in Nocturne, it didn’t happen to me).
Conclusion: To defend PS2, it is 14 years older than Nocturne. Also, I disagree with Chris’ assessment of the game’s difficulty. I found it to be harder and noticed that leveling your characters does very little to make the game easier. Then there’s the maps – if you play PS2 without help you’ll quickly realize it hates you.
Conclusion: I’ll expand a bit on my feelings about difficulty here. When playing PS2, you have a low chance of losing time. If you have the right items (an escapipe and telepipe) you can immediately escape+warp to the nearest town no matter where you are or who’s left in your party. A complete party wipe (which is a game over) occurs only rarely in the last couple of dungeons (whereas in SMT:N and even the friendlier Persona 3 you lose if your main character gets hit with the wrong...
Conclusion: Hmmm. You talked about how difficult battles and dungeons could be, Chris, but is it in a potentially avoidable way (enough strategic versatility to let people who know what they are doing get the upper hand) or in a cruel “this game is cheep and hates you” kind of way? The dangerous, empty world atmosphere you and Jay are describing combined with brutal dungeon crawling makes PS2 sound a bit like Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, a game I really enjoyed.
Conclusion: 2 just has to be respected for such a ballsy story. Beyond that, not sure if 1 necessarily had more unique enemies. PS2 has a lot of palette swaps, but so did 1 if I recall correctly. Also, I’ve always felt that PS2 followed in the mold of its predecessor more than it did Dragon Quest. Aside from the dungeon perspective they both had the same feeling of being lost and lonely both on the overworld and in the dungeons.
Conclusion: I think it’s a very good game but is a let down after the original. The first game came out in a time when gamers were willing to put up with huge amounts of difficulty and frustration so it seems like crap now, but had it been a bigger hit (and the following games followed in its footsteps) we could have been swimming in more open ended JRPGs today. Instead, DQ set down the mold and FF and PS2 onward followed it.