Very nice roleplaying adventure, but not without flaws.
Welcome to my review for Tales of Phantasia, which is a well-known action RPG for the Super NES (and re-released later on the Play Station and the Game Boy Advance). Note that as the game is from Japan, only the Game Boy Advance version is officially existing in western countries, but decent fan translated versions of the game can be found on the internet to play the Super NES version in another language.
The game is overall very well presented and take place in an interesting fantasy world, that shares elements of the real world but where magic, monsters, etc exists.
The main difference between Tales of Phantasia and another random RPG is the battle system. It's very innovative, as battles are random, but they take place in a side-view screen, and you directly control Cless (the main protagonist), while the other characters (when there is any) are controlled by the computer, you only give them instructions. While this battle system is not the best I've encountered, it's very innovative.
The controls are responsive and easy to learn, and the menus are very easy to use and cleaned out. In battle, you just use A to attack and B to jump or use special abilities and X to open a menu which allow you to give command to your friends or use an item. Very attractive gameplay overall.
Additionally to dungeons and battles, there is some other stuff to have fun with, such as puzzles or accessories giving special abilities to your characters. You also have to eat food in order to have your HP and TP gradually restored outside battle, making the game much easier. It's better to buy food, but you can also grab it from monster or transform food into better food with rune bottles. Such bottles also allows you to transform lot of items into other items, and many of the best items of the game are "secretly" available through this. The game has a lot of secrets, too. I know this is highly subjective, but I really loved the "respect mother nature" and the "team up with elements spirits" things present along the game.
Another element that make Tales of Phantasia worth noting is its very attractive fantasy world, due to the high attention the developers put in every detail of background and characters. The graphics in Tales of Phantasia are, for the most part, incredible, and way superior to many Super NES games. Reflects in water and in mirrors, random animals moving around pretty much everywhere and transparency effects in object's shadows are the most notable efforts put in the graphics. The tile sets are varied through the game and just feel "natural".
The soundtrack of the game is nice and varied, each song fits where it's heard, and the instrument used are varied enough. The battle music is full of energy and never get annoying. The sound effects are less varied, but good enough and does their jobs. Additionally, this is the first console game ever that has voice acting during battles, and even better the first console game that ever have a intro song WITH LYRICS ! The quality of the voice is questionable, but anyway it's here, and on the Super NES, as an unique proof this was technically possible, and emulators seems to support it without problems.
The story through the game is not the best I've ever seen in a RPG, but this is compensated by well developed characters and frequent fun cutscenes, which in fact made the game more fun and interesting than a very complex storyline. The story even involve time travel several times, trust me, you won't get bored with Tales of Phantasia. Also, I shouldn't give credit to the game for this because this is not official, but the fan translation is good and fluid, and you won't have much trouble to follow what is going on.
In fact Tales of Phantasia is not flawless. The worst flaw comes from the battle system itself, the way the monster moves too fast for Cless to smash them, and the fact they will too often smash him just when he's about to attack (taking advantage of his instant off-guard) and stunning him for a while, which is annoying. Monsters keep attacking very quickly leaving you few chance to strike back. The only good instant to attack is when a monster is just about to attack, so it's his turn to be stunned, but once you see the monster is about to attack, but when you see it it's already too late, because if you're starting an attack right now you'll be attacked first and be stunned.
The game can get frustrating at times, as you can encounter a stronger enemy anywhere and be whipped out in a matter of second if you just attack the wrong time. The AI of your friends is sometimes annoying, as they keep calling spells when a simple sword hit from Cless would kill the monster. The worst was when they are calling a spell that the monster absorb, or an instant death spell that never works (fortunately you can disable them in the menu, but not in battle). The very worst was when Cless is equipped with an elemental weapon that the monsters absorbs, as every smash from hit will cure him, and you can do nothing about that !
Another thing that bothered me was the reused places that are spawned pretty much everywhere, and rooms that are abnormal and loop themselves in a weird way. This would have been fun here and there, but they really overused that kind of stuff along the game and that was annoying. There were glitches here and there in the game, especially in the menu, most of them are probably due to the translators corrupting some data somewhere accidentally.
The Bottom Line
Tales of Phantasia is a good action RPGs, that take place in a charming world, and anyone who likes fantasy and exploration should like this game. RPG gamers hating Square Soft
for some reason (popularity ?) will claim this is the best game for the SNES just because this game is not by Square but by Wolf Team
. Honestly I think the game is great but not *that* great. It should still not be missed, as is has interesting content, especially near the beginning of the adventure. At the end it can become much more repetitive, but it doesn't get too annoying. The game can get really hard at times, but levelup fixes the problem in no time, and the battle system while flawed does not get too boring, so levelup isn't boring either. Anyone should give this great game a try I think. It took me 48 hours to beat hit with about the half of subquests/secrets done, which is long for a Super NES game. So yeah, I'd recommend download the game and give it a try. I don't recommend buying the GBA version by the way, because I tried a friend's copy and pretty much everything, including the graphics, the music and especially the battle system was worsened. Just play the SNES version instead.