When I jump to a review after only one journal entry from gameplay, you know that I did not have a ton of fun.
From the beginning, Tales of Phantasia tries very hard to impress, giving one of the best first impressions I have ever witnessed on the SNES. From the opening soundtrack (with singing…on an SNES cart!) to the impressive graphics, to the unorthodox and exciting combat system, Tales of Phantasia will quickly pull you in. However, it does not take long for cracks to appear. For me, the game wore out its welcome rather quickly.
First, the story does little to impress. You play a hero, who witnesses the death of his parents by the forces of evil. Eventually, you pick up some friends and set forth to right some wrongs. Some time travel issues get introduced, but the story falls well short of making the emotional connections found in its contemporaries, Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI. The characters in this game just feel forgettable… except for one young lady given a rather saucy tongue by the team who did the translation.
Most veterans know games of this series for their fast past combat, rather than deep stories and plots. Fight takes place in real time on a 2D plane. Players directly control the main hero, while AI settings generally control the other three party members. This works well enough, and when it does not, the player may pause the action to give direct commands to the others, as necessary.
However, an action based combat system must control well, and I struggled constantly with this. For example, when fighting flying enemies, my sword wielding hero must do a leaping attack to reach them. While executed easily enough with a double tap of the button, my hero would only execute the move less than half of the time. Also, occasionally my heroes would be surrounded by enemies in a surprise attack. Once one or two of those enemies got inside of the parameter of my group, characters died quickly. Interrupted by the monster attacks, casters’ spells fizzled, and the squishies would die quickly… especially if the foes flew out of reach of my swordsman.
I put about a dozen hours into the game, but these issues quickly wore on me. I can totally see that, through the lenses of time, this game brought new, exciting elements to the table which undoubtedly caught the imaginations of younger players. However, since then, many other games have improved on this formula. Without an original and exciting story/cast, and dated, clunky gameplay, Tales of Phantasia simply did not hold up for me.
Next Game on our RPGTrek: Tales of Symphonia