While my brother and I take a break from our pursuit of completing the entire Dragon Quest series, we continue to press forward playing old RPGs and sharing those experiences with you! Today your favorite Utahn Polygameist (that’s me!) dishes out another chapter of witty chattery! And, this time, we fight the good fight with Tales of Phantasia! Originally released on the SNES in Japan, and later on the GBA over here, this game features a completely different battle system completely different than our beloved turn based franchise, Dragon Quest. But, does a faster battle system with more action necessarily make a better RPG? Read on and judge for yourself as we take you every step of the way on RPGTrek!
For the record, I’m playing the SNES version with a fan translated patch. These guys did a great job and deserve a round of applause.
We are first treated to a fantastic opening as the game boots up. And, for the first time ever from a SNES game, I heard vocalized music! Perhaps my memory fails me, but I could swear I never heard vocalized music in any SNES game. Wondrous!
So we open up to a scene where some good guy heroes attack a really big bad guy. It appears that they lock him away or something. Not sure. What’s in the past is in the past, I say! Then, the scene changes to me, the hero, Cless. My friend, Chester and I go hunting in the forest where I get my first taste of the battle system. A refreshing change from the turn based combat of Dragon Quest, battles in Tales of Phantasia resemble side scrolling beat ’em ups. I move left and right on a 2D plane, move up to an enemy and press a button to whack ’em with my sword. Later, I gain more abilities and spells, as well as usable items, making it feel much more like an RPG.
As we hunt in the woods, the town bell goes off. Oh noes! Our village is under attack!! Of course, we’re too late (what a shame! I was looking forward to fighting all those level 100 demons, myself). My parents died in the attack. Chester is heart broken and stays behind to bury the dead while I leave to go to the next town and get help from my uncle.
Once I get there, I break the news to him. Strangely enough, he does not seem very heart broken that I just explained that his brother and sister-in-law have had a life extinguishing experience. Instead, he insists that I should rest after a long journey. Suspiciously, I accept his offer. Sure enough, he wakes me up surrounded by guards! He claims that they threatened to kill all villagers if he did not turn me over. Personally, I think he just did not want the responsibility of raising his brother’s orphan teenager. Evil. I’m thrown into prison. Oh, and they took my pendant. How rude! Mom..or was it dad…gave that to me!
I sit in there for a while, singing, “Nobody Knows The Trouble I See.” Eventually, I hear a voice which slides me an earring allowing me to break through the wall. I find out that the voice belongs to a long, dead prisoner. Somehow, the ghost makes me promise to help her daughter. Several cells over, I find Mint, a cleric. She says we should rush to save her mom. Awkward! Eventually, we escape since, after all, jails in fantasy games have completely inadequate (or no) guards at the ready.
Eventually, we run to her house and rest. An old man there explains to us that a dude, Malice, stole our pendant to awaken Dhaos, an evil king who waged war a long time ago. Honestly, I stopped at the word, “Malice”. After all, with a name like THAT, I pretty much jumped to the conclusion he did not have our best intentions at heart. The old man went off to confront that great evil, making us promise to stay, but hey, we’re youngin’s and we do opposite of what we’re told. He head off the ancient temple cave doohicky. Eventually, we run into the old man trying to stop Malice. We’re too late (of course) and a great evil bursts forth. First, it does something to Malice that wasn’t in the best interest of HIS health. Then, it turns to zap us! But, Chester the Cat…errr…archer, jumps in front and sacrifices himself. That affords us a brief moment where the old man casts a spell on Mint and I, teleporting us to a land far away.
After we awaken, we head to the first town we can to find out that we are out of time. No, I do not mean the clock has run out. Rather, that the old man’s spell sent us back 150 years. Youza. Apparently, Dhaos…. Errr… wait…wait a minute… ! The sneaky bastards! They almost pulled the wool over my eyes! I see what they did! I was so focused on Malice (clearly, a bad guy if there ever was one), that I almost missed the greater evil here! Dhaos is chaos…just with one letter changed. OMG. And, hey, all heroes know just how hideous and destructive chaos can be! How much more terror could misspelled “chaos” unleash if left unchecked?? Ok…this guy has to die.
Where was I? Oh, right, the elder of the town says that we need magic to beat Dhaos (I’m just going to call him what his really is from now on… Choas BBEG). He tells us to head north to find a young expert who might assist us. We eventually meet “Klarth,” who seemed very reluctant to join us unless we forked over a king’s treasury in gold. Thankfully, Klarth’s wife jumped in and told him to get off his high horse and assist us. Men, take note. The only men who have an ego are those who are not married.
Following his lead, we head over to a mountain where Slyphs reside, in hopes of obtaining their help. You see, Klarth cannot actually use magic without some contract with them. We then had to go through the longest dungeon yet (granted, its only the second one, but it felt like forever!) when we learn of not one, but two ways the developers tried their hardest to earn my spite.
First, they gave me a magic using party member who could not use magic. For an hour, I had to watch Klarth pull up the rear of our line, picking his nose while Mint and I did our darndest not to get our rears handed to us. Second, they put in a very tough enemy (as part of the random encounter system), capable of killing my entire party with two spells. Oh, by the way, he’s immune to physical attacks. Yeah. I learned how to run, very quickly. Needless to say, other developers should NOT flatter Tales of Phantasia by mimicking those two particular design decisions!
Eventually, we stopped some evil gas from driving the slyph crazy, and they agreed to help Klarth do magic. They also inform us that magic, itself, may run out in the world. We head south to address the issue. After all, we’re heroes. That’s what we do.