Tales of Phantasia (Game Boy Advance) Preview

By Adam Riley 07.03.2006 7

There are quite a few games for the Game Boy Advance that many believed would easily make it out of Japan, unlike the situation that occurred back in the days of the SNES. However, we have seen the likes of Magical Vacation and the Legend of Stafi remain stuck in their home territories. Thankfully, though, one similar case has had its status reviewed and is now set for a Western release. Step up Tales of Phantasia...

So far the only games in Namco's prolific Tales role-playing series to make it to Europe is Tales of Symphonia on the GameCube, thanks to Nintendo agreeing to publish the game in this territory. And the risk definitely paid off, as the game performed sufficiently enough across Europe, even in the tough UK market. Recently Tales of Legendia on the PS2 hit the North American market, but if and when it comes to Europe it will likely be after Tales of Phantasia, which is due for a 31st March launch here. Therefore, already the European base for the series is ever solidifying. Quite a positive move by Nintendo...

However, the game is actually from way back in 2003. And even then the original version is from the 16-bit Super Nintendo, being release only in Japan in 1995 to great furore. Will it be awkward to sell such an old game to the current market? Well, considering it is not a straight port, just in the same way that the Final Fantasy games that are being brought to the GBA all have extras to make the final packages worthy of their price tags. Those expecting a scaled-down version of Symphonia may be in for something of a shock, but they need not worry too much as this game is more akin to the traditional Tales style. It was Symphonia that played around with the formula slightly for the Nintendo exclusive.

Screenshot for Tales of Phantasia on Game Boy Advance

This was the game that introduced the Linear Motion Battle System that is seen throughout the Tales series and was redeveloped for the Star Ocean RPGs as well (since the first Star Ocean was by the same team that left Namco after completing Tales of Phantasia to form tri-Ace). This is more of a real-time approach than the likes of turn-based games such as Final Fantasy, yet is different from the free-roaming attack style of Zelda and the Mana games. The style may have been slightly updated for Symphonia, but Phantasia's gameplay will be familiar to fans of the GameCube classic. Players are treated to an energetic, up-tempo attacking nature that has Cress and two team-mates stood in a line on one side of the screen, with the enemies or boss lingering on the other side.

Chaos thus ensues as you strive to attack as quickly as possible, cast spells to annihilate your foes and make good use of items that are accessed with ease from a pop-up menu that pauses the fight briefly. This ease of access is vital, especially when faced with enemies on both sides! From here you can even change the attack stance of other characters, meaning that the set-up is entirely at your whim. And although the action may seem slow, with even a slight bit of slowdown apparent when too much action is going on at once, it actually turns out to be a God-send as it breaks up the frantic battles that could sometimes become overbearing button-mashing crazy encounters in Symphonia!

Screenshot for Tales of Phantasia on Game Boy Advance

The game itself is based around the central character of Cress Albane, a young swordsman who one day went out to do his normal exercise of hunting in the nearby woods. Unfortunately, this time, whilst he was busy away from his home village, disaster struck and when he returned the shock was instantaneous. The entire village was obliterated and his parents slain. Not knowing what else to do, he sets off on a journey through time and space (yes, this is a far more fantastical journey than other Tales games) in an attempt to discover the culprits and seek ultimate revenge. And although this may sound quite undemanding for an RPG, the game throws up many twists along the way, as well as characters that charm you as progress is made.

Such is the love for this game that in a recent poll conducted by a Japanese publication, readers voted Tales of Phantasia on the Super Nintendo as their all-time favourite Namco game. Quite an achievement indeed, and well worth the accolade in this writer's opinion as the game really was a true revolution at the time of release and such a classic deserves to be witnessed by gamers around the world. And in its true format, not as a fan-translated project on a PC emulator (which is all gamers have been able to do up until now, since even the PSone updated port never hit the US!).

But it must be clarified that this is neither the SNES nor PSone game, and in fact a mixture of the two, complete with new features to keep things fresh and unique for the GBA. There are never-before-seen game events, dialogue sequences and other features that go hand-in-hand with the wonderful gameplay mechanic and cooking aspect that allows gamers to create their own items depending on certain characters culinary skills! There is even a Monster Dictionary, just like Final Fantasy's recent inclusion of a Bestiary to keep track of the intricate details of various enemies you meet along the perilous journey.

Screenshot for Tales of Phantasia on Game Boy Advance

The time-travelling aspect is reminiscent of the one found in Zelda III: A Link to the Past, where you find yourself in very familiar locations, but meet different characters depending on when you are there. Mix this in with the plentiful supply of spells, armour, weapon upgrades, intriguing characters and epic dungeons full of great challenges and the whole game should make the ears of any RPG fan prick up.

Then, on top of all this, you have some gorgeous graphics that were at the height of the SNES line and certainly do not look too dated at all on the GBA's small screen. Tales of Phantasia also had quite a reputation for having the most extensive soundtrack ever found in a SNES game, as well as actual speech. However, so far it has not been possible to see how well these particular aspects have transferred. But considering the GBA is far more powerful than the SNES, it would be crazy if the quality were to have been reduced. Finally, there is the difficulty side, which will leave new gamers crying for an introductory sequence to get themselves acquainted with the system. However, being a true RPG of the SNES era, you are immediately thrown into the deep end and left with the monumental task of trying to avoid death right from the word 'Go'! A true test of your skill awaits...

Screenshot for Tales of Phantasia on Game Boy Advance

Final Thoughts

Tales of Phantasia launched on the GBA over in North America on 6th March, but thankfully the wait is not that long for us Europeans as it will d

Developer

Namco Tales

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (5 Votes)

European release date 31.03.2006   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Q2 2006   

Comments

Well I loved the SNES game, so this is definitely high up on my most-wanted list. I just hope my review copy is a long time in coming as I want to get some decent play time in to give you guys a fair review of it...

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

Awesome preview, really interested in this game, I just don't know if I can resist playing it the naughty way. :(


Cubed3 Staff [ Retro Editor :: Previews Editor ]

Thanks Karn, the SNES version was a cracking game and I hold high hopes for the GBA version. Hopefully it'll sell well enough to convince Nintendo to bring other older GBA games across the 'pond', such as Magical Vacation...

And why not just sample the game in that way to see what you think. You've got lots of games on your 'must own' list already, so might as well give it a whirl first... Smilie But remember, I never said a thing...

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

I'll most likely be grabbing this on release day, I'm really anticipating it. Nice preview, Adam.

Cheers Mike. I want to get this game as much coverage as possible. That's why I did this in-depth preview. I also have the retro review of the SNES game set to hit the site just before the GBA version is released and will try to get the main GBA review done asap, all depending on when I get the review copy.

People need to be made aware of this and FFIV Advance, which is due in June, or else Nintendo won't take risks with RPGs!!

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses
Guest 10.03.2006#6

This review is yet another excellent by, at least my favourite journalist around C

Thanks a lot Apple - we all aim to maintain a high standard of work here at Cubed

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

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