Though it happened a long time ago, the last month of 1987 has gone down in history as one of the most influential times in gaming. This week three long running, ground-breaking franchises were first released in Japan. Mega Man and Final Fantasy had already had their day earlier in the week. Now we turn to Phantasy Star.

Released on 20 December 1987 in Japan for the Sega Mark III and Master System, Phantasy Star gave Non-Nintendo gamers a chance to join in the then-emerging RPG market. SEGA and Nintendo had gone head to head in Japan since 1983. Both the Family Computer and SG-1000 were released on the same day. Nintendo quickly took the majority of the market and SEGA kept releasing upgraded hardware to fight back. By 1987 this took form as the Master System. The Japanese variant was nearly identical to the Master System released elsewhere, but with an FM sound card upgrade. With the new hardware in place, a role-playing game was designed to show off the Master System, as well as to outshine Dragon Quest in every way.

While in Japan the market share for SEGA was small, the game sold well and was praised for its 3-D maze dungeons and amazing soundtrack. The game came to the West - two years BEFORE Final Fantasy - and went on to be remembered by nearly everyone as the best Sega Master System game ever made.

Three sequels followed on the Mega Drive / Genesis and continued the Sci-Fi story that was set in the first game. At the height of the Console Wars, the Phantasy Star series was the perfect comeback for those who touted Final Fantasy II and III as the best of the genre.

However, unlike Final Fantasy, the number series ended after four games and - for a while - the series went dark. Phantasy Star would be revived in an online form for the Dreamcast, of which later versions would appear on the PC, Xbox and GameCube. The most recent English release of the series was Phantasy Star Zero, nearly 10 years ago. Though, the original series can still be found on Virtual Console and a myriad of “Best of” compilations.

To see more about how Phantasy Star has grown over the years, check out the video below. For SEGA and RPG fans it’s a can't-miss filled with history, obscure trivia and a super rare US Phantasy Star commercial.

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