Tales of Phantasia
SNES - 1995
Description of Tales of Phantasia SNES
Tales of Phantasia is a pretty good game that you'll wish you could say was a great game. One of the later JRPGs released for the SNES system, Tales shows a number of minor mechanical and gameplay improvements over the earlier titles which reached US shores.
Phantasia has a strong and promising opening, but a weakening middle and (despite not having disks) has Final Disk Drag. Characters start out dynamic and endearing (and I will never get tired of hearing Mika Kanai say “Thundaa Blaaddo!”), but they never grow much beyond the first few hours, and that's disappointing. The ships are weak and feel forced at the end of the game.
Like many JRPGs, most notably Final Fantasy VI, the latter portion of the game consists of scouring the world without the benefit of event triggers to guide you to collect helpful items, spells, summons, and level up to the point where you can face the final dungeon. And if you did do all of that scouring, the final boss and the dungeon leading up to him will be a cakewalk.
The brightest spot for Tales of Phantasia is its action combat system. While rough around the edges, it offers red meat for gamers who prefer more skill to their encounters than “fight” / “magic” / “item”. In battles, players will control the main character, who has a few different basic attack and can learn a variety of special techniques. Other characters (principally spellcasters) remain controlled by the AI based on very limited presets and toggling spells/summons. This combat system would be polished in later Tales games, as well as in the Star Ocean franchise launched by Tales devs who'd left Namco after the game was released.
One of the downsides to Tales is that the high frequency of encounters makes the game feel much longer than it actually is. Expect to sink about 35-45 hours into this one.
Tales of Phantasia is worth checking out, but it's hard to go from being blown away by a game to accepting that it's more realistically at the upper end of so-so.
Review By P. Alexander
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