Tales of Phantasia is the first game in the fantasy RPG series, debuting on the SNES in 1995. The story revolves around a young warrior named Cress who, along with his friend Chester, left their village on a hunt only to find their home destroyed upon return. There’s a deep evil sleeping in the earth and once awakened, Cress, seeking revenge, is sent back in time in order to find companions and magic powerful enough to destroy said evil. It’s a very standard plot for fantasy games, full of good vs evil tropes along with anime inspired quirks. Not bad, just mediocre.
The battle system is a twist on the traditional RPG with random encounters. Once in battle, the player operates Cress, while his companions act on AI, but can also be commanded via menus. Filled with varying weapons, magic, skills, and a decent enough command system, ToP is tons of fun. While the hordes of relentless monsters do get old, the battles are pretty great. That and the unvarying amount of monster designs makes the game not age as gracefully as it could have.
From SNES to GBA, not a lot has changed. The graphics remain the same, which aren’t necessarily bad, but the chibi battle characters are a bit cliché. The added voice work in battles sound like a cat screaming down a well, but as for the original score, it holds up decently enough. Aside from the main quest, there are a few side quests, but they are far and few between. At the end of the day, Phantasia is fairly linear, bare bones, repetitive RPG.
Tales of Phantasia for the GBA is a great port of the SNES classic that started it all. It may not have been the first RPG to switch from turn-based lineage, but it is one of the more refined examples. At the very least, ToP is an excellent history lesson for both Tales and JRPG fans.
Score: 3/5 Stars
Special Notes: This article was originally published on July 22, 2013 via my Examiner account before the website shut down.