Being an RPG fan in the 80s and 90s wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sure, we had the chance to experience classics like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest when they were still brand-new, but most RPGs flew off shelves before we even knew they existed. Sometimes they were only on obscure hardware like the Turbo CD, and sometimes they were monstrously expensive, like Phantasy Star IV for the Genesis.
Phantasy Star IV is one of my all-time favorite RPGs, right up there with the likes of Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI. That being said, I wasn’t able to get my hands on a copy of the game until the advent of eBay many years after its initially release.
The reason for this was threefold: One, I didn’t own a Genesis until I was a working adult. Two, at the time this game was released, finding a copy was about as likely as finding the Saint Paul Winter Carnival medallion. Three, even, if you did chance upon a copy on store shelves, you’d have to part with a cool Benjamin if you wanted to take it home. That’s right; a hundred bucks for one cartridge.
To make matters worse, Phantasy Star IV didn’t even come in one of those nice plastic Genesis boxes. By the time it was released, Sega had begun selling their games in cardboard boxes in order to save money. The quality of their labels went down the toilet around the same time, leaving the one on my copy of Phantasy Star IV looking like someone drowned it in a pound of butter.
“How could they charge such an enormous price for a single game, and on a dying system no less?” I hear you shriek as you rake your hands down your faces in horrified disbelief. Well, it’s because this was the era of numbers in gaming, and Phantasy Star IV was the biggest Genesis RPG at the time, coming in at a whopping 24 megs. To put things in context, the largest Genesis game was Super Street Fighter 2 at 40 megs. On top of that, the game had a lengthy development time, and publishers knew that thirsty role-playing gamers were easy to exploit.
Josh and Mandi have noted that many games from back in the day were outrageously expensive, but Phantasy Star IV might just be the most expensive game of the 16-bit generation. It’s a tremendously good game, and I will proudly be buried with my cartridge, but a hundred dollars is still a hefty sum to part with, especially in the mid-nineties.