Phantasy Star IV: End of the Millennium
Phantasy Star II and III are probably the only 16-bit era JRPGs that I actually completed when I was a youngster. Even then I had very little patience for the stupid plots and inane mechanics (especially when compared to the Ultima games that I played on my Apple ][+) of most JRPGs. However, for some odd reason, these Phantasy Star games were able to hold my attention.
End of the Millennium is very much the same as its predecessors. You march a little formation of characters around towns, dungeons and a massive over-world and face random, turn-based battles every thirty seconds or so. Normally, these random encounters annoy the crap out of me, but I don’t mind it so much in this case. Combat is straightforward and you can set up macros to speed up the grinding and I always felt like I was getting stronger with each battle.
The thing that sets Phantasy Star IV apart from the other games in the series (and most late 80s JRPGs) is the comic book style cut scenes that make the plot somewhat understandable to my anime-adverse sensibilities. The pixelated 16-bit Genesis graphics are great and were especially crisp on the Wii Virtual Console version which I played here. The music is also really good, albeit repetitive to the point where every family member was able to whistle along with the upbeat “merchant music” from across the house.