Tales of Phantasia
Game Boy Advance
Reviewed: 06/04/2006


Tales of Phantasia was originally released in Japan for the SNES in 1995. Tales of Phantasia was re-released in 1998 for the Sony PlayStation, also only in Japan. The re-release featured an overhauled graphics engine, 3D world map, as well as several other changes. Until recently, the West had never seen the game without imports or ROMs. The GBA version of Tales of Phantasia is a mixture of the SNES and PlayStation incarnations of the game, with most of the sprites coming from the latter version. The first game in its series, Tales of Phantasia is an RPG with many conventions the kids would call, “old-school.”

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Man how wasted was I last night!?

The story starts in a fantasy world plagued by war, where a group of four warriors challenge the source of evil. It seemed all was lost until one of the heroes defeated the enemy with a powerful spell. Four heroes were able to seal this great evil to be forgotten forever…or so they thought. The next scene in this story takes place years later with the children of those who sealed away the great evil, having done so by combining the power of two pendants. A foolish dark knight was somehow tricked into stealing the pendants, to break the seal that conceals the great evil. He defeated the heroes and kidnapped their children. With the two pendants in hand, he broke the great evil’s seal. A remaining hero sends the children to another time so that, maybe, the world will have another chance. By and large the story is pleasant enough, easy to follow without many surprises. It’s also fairly derivative and clichéd, but one must keep in mind the game’s orignal release, and it can be nice to revisit old habbits.

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The battle system in Tales of Phantasia is a mix of traditional older RPG with an action flair. Tales of Phantasia has the same atypical random battles like most tradition RPGs, but they’re a little different. The battles are real-time, side scrolling action yet with RPG features, ala Seiken Densetsu. Each character has their own set of skills, whether it be the ability to cast a special type of magic, summoning, or sword techniques. Players may only control the main character Cress, a swordsman, while the rest of the party is controlled by AI, of which players can set certain parameters for it to follow–for instance, how often and when to use magic spells or skills, or how close to stay to Cress. Battles are, in general, fast paced. Although players may have a hard time adjusting at first to this style of combat, it is ultimately a rewarding experience. Random battles happen way to often, but the system is fun overall.

Music in Tales of Phantasia is enjoyable when playing, yet highly forgettable. There are a few songs, the opening credit song in specific, that stir up memories of similar tracks from Chrono Trigger. For the most part, the composer does an adequate job of setting the mood for the scenes and few, if any, tracks become cumbersome by the end of the game. On the flip side, there is also not really any standout tracks from Tales of Phantasia. This was pretty much the norm back when it was first made, though.

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Someone ate their wheaties

As mentioned previously, Tales of Phantasia for the GBA mixes graphics from both the original SNES version and the upgraded re-release PlayStation version. Even with the mixed visuals, the game has a very SNES feel. The area in which the graphics shine the most is during the battles, as Phantasia uses the PlayStation sprites for the battle animations and scenes. It would have been nice to see a little more effort put into the world map, though.

In conclusion Tales of Phantasia is a decent game. It’s certainly not going to win any awards, but it’s nice for Western gamers to finally get a chance to see what all the fuss is about. For old-school gaming fans, or people that would like to have an SNES nostalgia trip, it comes recommended. Tales of Phantasia would have been a much better game if the Americas had received a release for it back in the SNES days. As it stands, Tales of Phantasia has not aged particularly well. What once could have passed as a decent, or even revolutionary RPG in the 1990’s now is just cliched, tired, and been done. If players hurting for a hand-held RPG or old-school nostalgic experience, pick up Tales of Phantasia. Otherwise try one of the later games in the series.

-Michael Wayland

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Good
Story Very Good
Graphics Good
Sound/Music Average
Replay Value Below Average
The Verdict: 5