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Developer:
Namco
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: GBA
Release Date: March 6, 2006

by Josh Ferguson




Tales of Phantasia, which is actually the first of the Tales games, is the latest addition to Namco's popular RPG series to hit the US. While the game was previously released in 1995, it never managed to make it to the states. Now fast forward more than a decade, and Tales of Phantasia is finally being released in the US for Nintendo's GameBoy! So is it worth the wait? Read on and find out.


Tales of Phantasia follows Cress Albane, a young swordsman who lives in a small and peaceful village known as Toltus. One day as Cress and his best friend Chester are out hunting in the forest, they are alarmed when they hear the sound of the village bell. When the two rush back to Toltus they are terrified to see that the village had been destroyed and the ground lay covered with the bodies of the dead villagers. The two friends then set out on a quest to find out why their homes were destroyed and to have their revenge on those responsible!


Like most RPGs, much of Tales of Phantasia will be done going in and out of combat. Similar to many RPGs, Tales of Phantasia features a random battle system. Battles feature 2D graphics and are done in a real-time fighting system. For the most part I really enjoyed the combat, but I might be a little biased because I really enjoy real-time action. On the downside, the combat isn't as responsive or as fast-paced as many other games, which might disappoint some gamers.


While in battle, it's possible to have up to four characters on your team fighting against the enemies, but only one of them can be controlled by the player. As you control one of the characters, the others will automatically attack or use their abilities. The player can determine what the other characters will do in combat by changing their equipped strategy, but won't have direct control. It is also possible to play as a different character other than Cress. Being able to play as the other characters is a nice change, because most of them are quite different from the main character.


As far as the combat skills are concerned, each character has a list of abilities that are learned by gaining levels. While the AI will normally use the abilities that you have set, your character is able to equip four different combat abilities. These abilities can be done by pressing the B button alone and by pressing it along with one of the direction arrows. The normal combat attacks are done by using the A button and a combination of other buttons. While combat is pretty simple and basic, like I said earlier, it isn't as deep as some gamers might be hoping. Still, this also makes it easy for anyone to pick up and learn Tales of Phantasia.


Throughout the game, as characters advance in levels, successfully finish side quests, and so on, they will occasionally gain new character titles. When the game begins, Cress is a mere Apprentice Swordsman, but once he learns a certain ability he becomes a regular Swordsman. These character titles not only make your characters seem cooler, they also have some affect on the actual game. Depending on the title, your character's level and rate of stat increases may change.


Tales of Phantasia also features a cooking system, where your characters... well, cook. Throughout the game, whether it be by defeating enemies or by purchasing them from shops, you will come across different food ingredients. By collecting certain ingredients, your characters can combine different ones to create some type of food. These foods have different effects on your characters and can replenish your health and technical points or cure different status abnormalities. There are also certain characters that are better at creating different foods over other party members, and it is also possible that one will completely fail at cooking. While it isn't exactly necessary to beat the game, the cooking does add some more gameplay and will more than likely keep those that actually do it occupied for quite some time.


As far as the graphics and sound go, Tales of Phantasia manages to do well in both categories. The characters look very nice in combat, and the enemies don't look too shabby either! The towns and other areas of the game are quite detailed and pretty. The sound is even better than the graphics, but only as good as you can expect from a GBA game. The game's soundtrack is done well, and also features some pretty good voice acting that appears mostly during battles. On the downside, the voice acting can be occasionally difficult to understand.


While Tales of Phantasia features both good graphics and sound, and a relatively fun combat system, it might not be a game for everyone. Even though I personally really enjoyed my experience with it, Tales might be a little more difficult for newer RPG fans to get into, considering it's based on an older game. However, if you are looking for an old-school-type RPG to add to your collection, then I would definitely recommend giving Tales of Phantasia a try!


Final Grade: 79%




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