Tales of Phantasia

I’m a huge fan of Namco’s Tales-series. It’s one of the best RPG-series out there and it’s been around for a long time. It started off with Tales of Phantasia to the SNES in 1996, but sadly the game was never released outside of Japan. Of course I’ve always been curious of how it all got started and so when news came that the game was to be re-released for the GBA, I was probably the first to book a copy of the game.

Plattform: GBA
Utvecklare: Namco
Utgivare: Nintendo
Släppdatum: 31 mars 2006 (EU)
Köp här: eBay

However, I’ve always had problems gaming on handhelds. Don’t ask me why, but I tend to forget that I own them. I actually bought a GBA in the first place, just to be able to play Golden Sun and I have yet to finish the first game and the second – well, it’s still in its plastic wrapping. So it was quite a daring decision I took when I decided to review this game. Although it’s a handheld game, I’m sort of uncomfortable with bringing it with me. I’m afraid I’ll forget it somewhere, drop it or have it stolen from me. Well, none of those things happened and still, I had to force myself to play at several occasions. It’s just not the same thing as when you sit in front of a big TV-screen and play a game for 9 hours straight.

But perhaps it also had to do with the game’s set up. It’s not the most original game the world has ever seen. You have the basic friendship between two males – who’ve known each other since they were kids – that get separated when one of them (our hero Cress) goes back in time with a female healer who conveniently joined the two friends. Then there’s the spunky mage and a know-it-all summoner. Great. We also have a quest for revenge embedded in the story, since the protagonist and his friend’s families were both killed. And there’s the usual bickering within the group, a hint of young love and the normal angst young heroes face when they set out to save the world. And we can’t forget the running back and forth between tasks before you actually get to go forward storywise. So yeah, basically things can get a bit boring from time to time.

This is the game where it all started, the famed 2D-battles, hack’n’slash style, that I’m so very fond of. Now I know things were a bit different in the original version, but since I’ve only played the GBA version, I’m sorry to say, it’s not all that good. The fights lag quite a bit and although you can perform fierce attacks, they seem so very – repetitive. And not in a good way. In some games, you enjoy leveling up, but not here. You only control Cress during battles and the rest of the crew you can control through AI-settings. Not the best AI out there, but it works fairly well.

Graphically, I guess it’s what you could expect from a GBA game. Some things really give you that good old Mode7 feel from the glorious SNES days, but even here the repetitiveness can start to sting your eyes. Not only because you have to stare at a tiny screen (and some details are real easy to look past because of this, and we all know RPGs are full of details that you can’t afford to miss), but because dungeons and forests look pretty much the same after a while.

I don’t think I have anything good to say about the music. I can’t remember a single song, and the sound is really not in the music’s favor anyways. Poor Motoi Sakuraba – to have his compositions slaughtered like that.

Despite this being a Tales-game, I can’t help but yawn. Had it been converted to the PS years ago (which it was in 1998, but never released in the west) then I’d probably have more positive things to say. But no, I simply don’t deal with handheld games all too well. And that’s a bad thing I guess. Tales of Phantasia is a SNES classic and is probably one kick-ass game in its original form. So, I’m leaving this version of ToP behind, and start day-dreaming of what Tales of the Abyss will be like instead.

Skriven: 2006-06-03

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