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M. J. Hall
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Here it is, the first installment of the Tales Series. The Big Kahuna. The Grandaddy of them all. The Origin Point of the Tales franchise. (Also, free llama badge for whoever gets the 'Origin Point' reference first) Still, what can be said about the first game? If anything, for lack of a better term, it's the place where it all began. From it's expansive world, maze like dungeons, themes, battle system and to the common characteristics of the series that will be echoed in future games all started. One of the main hurdles in doing a full Tales Series analysis is due primarily that there were games that weren't released outside of Japan. Meaning fans of the series had to get the game and translate everything on foreign consoles for it to be playable. Tales of Phantasia did get a GameBoy Advance release in North America, but it greatly pales in comparison to the Super Famicom (SNES) and PlayStation 1 versions. I would highly suggest finding fan translations of either the Super Famicom or the PS1 versions of the game . . . though many suggest to go with the PS1 version with its enhanced graphics, extra quests, new playable character and content. The PlayStation version was a re-release with elements of Tales of Destiny, the next game in the series, put in. There have been ports of the game on other platforms such as the Playstation Portable, Apple iOS and cell phones . . . making the Tales of Phantasia title the most ported game in the Tales pantheon. Though, I really cannot say more without diving into the history behind the game. Tales of Phantasia was released in 1995, very late in the Super Famicom's life cycle in Japan. It was developed by members of Wolf Team, whose parent company was Telenet Japan. Due to their poor relations with Telenet Japan, Wolf Team sought out a different publisher for the game. While failing to get published by Enix, they succeeded in getting published by Namco. During the development, the team pushed beyond the normal boundaries of 48-megabit cartridge. Remember when that was considered the norm for games? Me neither. During this development they added in a new chip to do something that the 16-bit gaming era hasn't seen . . . actual voice acting and singing. This was quite a leap in technological design, since no other 16-bit game at the time was able to do that. Full on recordings of voice work and the main theme song were due to the Flexible Voice Drive sound system. Later, when part of Wolf Team left to create tri-Ace, they used the similar Flexible Voice Drive to create the first installment in the Star Ocean series. Even when the life cycle of a game platform is coming to a close, there are games that shine with dedication even when it seems everything is drawing to a close. Now that we've got the tech history out of the way, we can delve into more of the game itself. So . . . what's the story about? The story begins with four warriors battling the sorcerer king Dhaos. To escape them, Dhaos casts a spell to travel forward in time, only to be sealed away by a descendant of one of those warriors and his three companions. The seal on Dhaos' stone coffin can only be broken when the two stones that sealed him away are met. Mission accomplished? Years later, Cress Albane (or Cless Alvein depending upon translation) and his friend Chester Burklight live a normal life in the town of Totus. While out hunting a wild boar (wait there are little boars with her . . . am I killing their mom?), Cress and Chester see an image of a goddess in a withered tree. Once she fades away, they hear explosions from nearby, only to find their hometown razed to the ground and their entire community killed off. Cress' dying father tells him that a black knight called Mars and his cohorts attacked the village before he passes on. Chester's younger sister Ami dies from the attack, leaving him in an emotional wreck. (Oh noes! I just got to know the parents and family . . . oh wait) As a heart-broken Chester stays behind to properly bury the dead, Cress, fuelled by revenge-- sets off to where Mars' army came from. He goes to his uncle's house, only to get betrayed by him and thrown into a prison cell by Mars' followers. In there, he meets Mint Adenade whom he also frees with the help of Mint's dying mother. After being freed, they rendezvous with Chester and meet a man called Trinicus D. Morrison, who was one of the people who sealed Dhaos away with Cress' parents and Mint's mother ten years ago. Morrison deduced that Mars has gone after them to get the stones needed to revive Dhaos for his own selfish needs. The four go after Mars, who succeeded in stealing the stones guarded by Cress and Mint's families, revives Dhaos and is promptly killed by him. (Thank you for reviving me. Please accept this giant Kamehameha to the face!) With Dhaos freed, it's now an epic quest to chase down Dhaos through the past, present and future before he decimates humanity. The plot of the game does have a theme which I won't go into too much detail, but it does echo from certain views of video games that echoed during that time. Anyone who has read the manga Magic Knight Rayearth by CLAMP or played Shadow of the Colossus would have a fair idea of how it'll play out.
The story itself is rather epic in scope with them traversing both land and time. Looking back on it, the story does have a lot of elements that'll be echoed in other Tales games to come: character relationships and their story arcs, towns in exotic lands, changing landscapes, summon spirits who'll be reincarnated several times in the games to come, bathing scenes (yes, even back then they had a bathing scene, actually, two scenes of the party bathing), the names of artes and attacks, items, ancient technologies, main male and female relationships and so on. Though, considering the age of the game there are a few story clichés, but that doesn't mean that it's horrible. The game has touching moments, humour and love stories between the main characters. The characters are not too complex nor too simple. Cress does have a main character persona typical of main characters in JRPGs at the time (brave, defends the weak and leads the party), but he does tend to be a goof when it comes to silly moments. However, whenever Dhaos appears, he's hellbent on exacting revenge and goes to great lengths to stop him. Cress would also go for great lengths for his friends and those he cares about, going out of his way to protect them. Mint, the female lead, does have typical main female character tropes common during the early JRPG era (caring, sensitive, main healer of the party and polite) but she has a strong will underneath her delicate nature. Mint's also the most level-headed and mature of the group, who would rather question other's actions instead of fight first and ask questions later. Cress and Mint do compliment each other in personality, though there's a kind budding relationship between the two. Within the story, there's an arc between the two involving Mint's Mother which results in one of the more touching moments in the game. Chester is brash, blunt and enjoys arguing with others, but it belies his caring nature to those who share his plight. He can be prideful and hot-blooded, but he's Cress staunchest supporter and best friend through thick and thin. Is it just me or does Chester's character design look a lot like Chichiri from Fushigi Yûgi? Well, Fushigi Yûgi was still being published during the period of 1992-1996 . . . so maybe Kōsuke Fujishima drew inspiration from that character? Claus F. Lester (or Klarth F. Lester depending on translation) is the oldest and smartest of the group, but he does tend to be blunt and arrogant, but does have a soft heart underneath for his assistant Milard Rune. Passionate about his summoning work, he's spent his life mastering summoning and augmenting his body to perform such magic, even though he is human. In the world of Aselia, the only magic users are elves and half-elves; a hurdle that Claus has challenged. Speaking of half-elves, Arche Klein is one of them, however she is prejudiced by pureblood elves for her race and isn't allowed into elf settlements. This doesn't deter her cheerful, playful, teasing and mischievous nature, though she's quick to anger when provoked. Also, she likes to fly around on her broom a lot, especially in battle (and you thought witches and wizards could only do that). Unlike Cress and Mint, Chester and Arche share a very volatile relationship, often bickering between each other. However, despite their ramblings, Arche and Chester do call a truce, yet the two do not truly admit to each other of their friendship or slight hints of romance. Unlike other characters, Arche's half-elf blood allows her to live longer than any of her human friends without aging. Even though she is from the past like Claus, she promises to wait to meet up with Cress, Mint and Chester one-hundred years from her time. However, is does pain her that she'll outlast everyone she befriends. Lastly, there's Suzu Fujibayashi, who is an additional character in the PS1 version, but non-recruitable in the Super Famicom version. A young ninja from fifty years into the future from Cress' present time, she does come off as cold, as she follows the regulations of a ninja (though she does question herself about distancing her emotions), but she does have shy core underneath and a powerful sweet tooth. Character designs were done by manga artist Kōsuke Fujishima, who will also serve as one of the main character designers for the Tales Series and future installments. The presentation in the game is quite outstanding with the use of graphics and spoken dialogue. The graphics, even for the Super Famicom version, have a quality on par with Secret of Mana or Final Fantasy VI. The music is catchy at times and knows how to set the mood when it needs to be, though the music has nothing too memorable like the music from FFVI. Motoi Sakuraba and Shinji Tamura composed the score for the game, as such being the main theme composers for the series as a whole. Though, if any music nerds heard the church score called Perverse Religion they'll notice the resemblance of that piece to Bach's Little Fugue in G Minor. The battle system is rather unlike other JRPGs, since it doesn't have a similar title to compare it to. For most JRPGs, the battle system is either a turn-based combat system like the early titles for the Final Fantasy games or a real-time fighting system with an X and Y axis like in Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Phantasia has a Linear-Motion Battle System in which characters fight on an X axis against enemies. Many have pointed out that the LMBS is similar to that of fighting games in the SNES' life-cycle, having more button combinations and speed. However, with more party members on the playing field, characters will have to be micro-managed to fit their fighting styles, strengths and weaknesses. JRPGs, when good, have characters whose strengths and weaknesses also make the character, but also help balance out the party. Though, unlike later games where there isn't that much adjusting to the character's playing style, here there's a bit of fine tuning when it comes to boss fights. The PS1 version is considered to have the best gameplay out of the Super Famicom and Gameboy Advance port. The Super Famicom does have fast and engaging gameplay, but attacks from characters in your party can hit you and others. I guess friendly fire is encouraged? However, the Gameboy Advance version is probably the worst with a poor port of the system and very laggy gameplay. There are a few drawbacks to the game despite it's presentation and gameplay. This isn't a game you can leave for a long time and return to. Unlike later titles, it doesn't have a journal to keep track of where you have to go to advance the plot. It does suffer from conveyance issues, especially in dungeons. The dungeons in the game don't have a mini-map to refer to, so it can be deterring when playing it without a walkthrough. There are some stretches of the game where not much happens, but it doesn't drag or stop the pace of the game. With some of the layouts of the towns, there are stretches of places that go nowhere or don't lead to anything, which is common with dock areas of towns and harbours. Also, there are towns and dungeons that you can completely miss during the first play-through of the game, like the Ninja Village in the Super Famicom version. Tales of Phantasia did get a sequel, Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon and a remake called Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon X. However, Narikiri Dungeon is considered to be one of the Escort titles of the Tales games. The Escort Games are the games that are not considered to be in the true line-up of Mothership games and are referred to as spin-offs. Out of the games in the Tales Series, Phantasia did get an anime adaptation into an four part OVA (Original Video Animation) in 2004 and an English dub by Geneon in 2007. The animation and dubbing is rather good, having VAs like Johnny Young Bosch, Michelle Ruff and Patrick Seitz does help, but the OVA does suffer a bit. For instance, it does jump around a lot and misses a lot of key moments when the characters are introduced. At the very beginning of the anime, it shows Chester setting flowers on his sisters grave and then cuts to Mars reviving Dhaos with Cress and Mint captive. It skips over a lot of parts, which I can understand giving how it's very limited on how many episodes it has as an OVA, which is common with OVAs that are adapting giant material as this. Another flaw of the anime is that it like to exposition dump . . . a lot. It's like it's making up for all of the plot jumping it does by explaining things to the audience. It's like it was made for the fans of the original game, however, that's where you see problems with it. Fans don't need to be told such information when they've already played the game; there's no need for the anime to neglect their audience or respect their intelligence. Even if someone comes across the anime and doesn't know where it's going, it alienates its audience more. This is especially true when it doesn't have time to allow the audience to get acquainted with the characters and help to sympathize with them. Nevertheless, Tales of Phantasia does standout from the 16-bit era JRPGs of the time and even did things that weren't expected of it's technology. Gameplay is interesting and unique among other games and doesn't shy away from doing something different. It's quite interesting to see where it started and what it has offered to its line up of games to come and what connection they have with the first title. Yet, elements of this game may be echoed more in a certain installment yet to come . . . hmm, I wonder what that game could be? With challenging gameplay and quite the presentation, I think I'll have to give this game a Pretty Sweet/10.
Welcome to my deviantART profile of my traditional and digital artwork. My work here consists of character designs, photoshop and illustrator images and all sorts of photography. I tend to surf through deviantART and favourite many different artists and their artwork. It's crazy how in over a year, I have over 35,000 pictures in my favourites files. I adore art in all it's forms~<3 I enjoy people's comments so please leave a comment if you can. Also don't forget to favourite and follow me if you enjoy my artwork. If you want to learn how I make my artwork, please look me up on my blogger site below. I post my WIPs on my artwork and the stages that it goes through. insanity-pillz.deviantart.com/…
Favorite visual artistToo many to list . . . so A LOTFavorite moviesAmadeus, Argo, FMA: Conquerer of Shambala, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Steamboy, End of Evangelion, anything by Studio GhibliFavorite TV showsSeveral anime shows, Top Gear (UK), Antiques Roadshow (UK, US, Can)Favorite bands / musical artistsCold Play, J-Pop, K-Pop Favorite booksVarious manga series (if that counts), Harry Potter series, Inheritance Cycle, The Gemma Doyle Trilogy, Dragon Sword and Wind Child, The Old Kingdom series, Maus, PersepolisFavorite writersLibba Bray, J.K. Rowling, Garth Nix, Scott Westerfeld, Chris Wooding and many moreFavorite gamesAssassin's Creed series, Kingdom Hearts series, Dark Cloud 1 and 2, Legend of Zelda series, Rogue Galaxy, Wild ARMs series, Final Fantasy series, Ni no Kuni, Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimFavorite gaming platformPS3, PS2, Wii (want to get a PS4 when available)Tools of the TradeMacBook Pro Laptop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop etc. Wacom Tablet, Pencil, Pen and PaperOther InterestsMultiple interests, mostly anything that attracts my attention or that I want to learn up on