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Written: 3.16.13
Acquired: 12.12.12
Status: Cart only
Price: $60

Pub: Namco12.15.95
Dev: Tri-Ace48 MEGS

Since my SNES rebirth back in early 2006, I've heard the rumblings and raves of a game that never left Japan and often cited as one of the best SNES games ever. One thing's for sure, weighing in at a colossal 48 megs (16 of which was devoted solely to the sound), Tales of Phantasia is the biggest game on the SNES (tied with Star Ocean). Late last year, I finally bit the bullet. It was time to find out what all the hype was about and see where this ranks among SNES' best
One of the best things about this hobby: quelling a ToP curiosity!
[O, I C WAT U DID DERE... -Ed.]

                                                                         TALES OF REDEMPTION

For years I never thought I would ever own this game. I remember some reviewers several years back talking about how they got a reproduction cart of ToP but that it ran them HUNDREDS of dollars. As much as part of me wanted to play it, I just wasn't going to plop down a couple hundred. Then the SNES repro scene became a lot more common and user friendly, with sellers offering them for $65 or so. Even then, ToP was not a "top" priority [Har har -Ed.] for me, as I focused on first picking up titles such as Clock Tower and Terranigma. Later, late last year I decided it was time to finally pick up one
of the Super Nintendo's most vaunted games. The following is a stroll down memory lane of my experience with Tales of Phantasia. Please note, as in most of my reviews, I may and do reveal shots from later in the game. There could be mini-spoilers. I always try to avoid giving away the really big stuff like endings and major plot twists but some pictures may reveal more than some folks may prefer, IF they have never played ToP before. As always, proceed at your own caution

Have you ever wanted to go back into the past to right a wrong?  I'm sure at some point you have. The main storyline involves our young hero wanting to prevent the death of his parents at the hands of a mega evil entity. The only way he can is by going back in time. Talk about
a heavy-handed reason. What would you do if you could go back in time?

Some people just have more serious reasons than others...

Personally, I don't believe in going back in time to right a wrong. Sure I would like to travel back for 24 hours to maybe relive or revisit a memorable day from earlier in my life, but to go back to purposefully change events?  Nah, I'm from the school of thought that everything happens in life for a reason, and it all helps to make up who you are today... good and bad

                                          [Man, I wish I would have followed THAT one, though... -Ed.]

The game fires up with this spoken in Japanese. Haunting...

                                      This scene reminds me of Wolfgang Krauser from Fatal Fury fame

Years later, Dhaos is re-awakened. And he's after the pendant that your dad gave to you. Great... just great. Thanks a lot, pops!

His final form is a true biotch but that's about 25 to 40 hours later

Yes, you do look like a GIANT on the overworld map. The nice thing about ToP is that your character moves around briskly. Perhaps moreso than any other RPG I've played. Be prepared for thousands of stops, though, as the bad guys come fast and often

                                                 I like the map a lot. It's clean, crisp and well detailed

Y'all spot a spooked boar, and begin giving chase. Gotta love the sweatdrop!

The Treant Forest is easily the most evil part of ToP, bar none

It takes some getting used to, but your character has a habit of running away after a strike, unless you attack up close without first getting a running start. It can feel annoying at first, but then you grow into it and find your way

                                       Look at that lush forest background. Backdrops ooze with detail

I particularly like the elegant simplicity of the beach ones

In addition to your normal strikes and stabs, there are also special skills to learn and use in battle. These moves can be programmed as your shoulder buttons on the SNES controller, and done with the single push of a button. How sweet is that!

                                           Battle system has its flaws, sure, but it's unique and different

Later on in the game, you can take to the skies to avoid those nasty frequent ground battles. The view is especially nice from here, and the SNES flexes its graphical muscles plenty

Mode 7 never looked better

Along the way, you also can find different spells to use in battle. These spells are critical because they deal out a ton of damage

                                                    What spells might you discover along the way?

Different enemies have different weaknesses. With each spell comes a voice sample. It becomes readily apparent where a decent chunk of the 48 megs went; 16, in fact

Ifrit = supernatural creatures in Islamic and Arabic folklore

                                                                 LET THE JOURNEY COMMENCE!


The game starts out with
a pleasant stroll through your hometown of Totus. Your pops runs a rigorous training center... be careful you don't get in the way of their training, or else you'll get whacked in the head!  A fun sight gag, for sure. Speak with the locals. It's all cheery and nice... but you know it won't stay that way for long; it never does

Man, if only Penny knew what happened that one night last year...

The visuals in Tales of Phantasia are amazing. Reflections abound and little details add up to a simply stunning package. This depressing scene is indicative of Totus' fate, and the denizens that dwelled there. It's as if Heaven itself is weeping...

                                          Playing this in the dead still of the night... is JUST PERFECT!

I love the handful of symbols that this game incorporates. So much is communicated with just one simple tiny picture. Lots of cute and amusing moments are sprinkled throughout thanks to 'em

It's so Japanese anime, this. You can't help but love it

       Look at the lovely
       swirling mist effect

                                              One minute our hero is soaking in the rays of the sun...

... and then the next he's shrouded in the mist -- NICE!

OK maybe the dungeons aren't the best place to show off the game's ace visuals, but still, look at those bloody reflections! They really look nice in real time. They even ripple as you walk across them

                                       It's always the little details and touches that I remember the most

Yes it's true. And ToP is no different than the rest...

No relation to Mint from Robotrek (a quirky and solid SNES RPG)

                                       [UGH. Damn Steve. You got no game, playa. No game at all -Ed.]

This was a classic scene. Mint urges our hero to encourage the heartbroken girl. He does so, but with some, ahem, questionable "tact." Mint then comes screaming to the rescue

"Why don't you take a seat over there... Steve, is it?"

ToP has some Christian themes. Early on there is a church scene with some Scripture and also edifying words. It's the only Super NES game I know with the Lord's Prayer in it. I guess it's a little bit ironic, as the rest of the game is rather crude and raunchy

                                                  It's nice being able to play a game UNCENSORED!

That nosy Steve... he
just wants to be up in everybody's business!

[I say that every mornin' with my coffee right as you walk in -Ed.]

    Oooh, a purty bridge
    mountain type scene

                                       It's to RPGs what light tunnels are to racing games: Atmospheric!

Some of the dialogue in ToP may shock you at first. It's got words in there that one just isn't used to seeing in a SNES game. It can be a little bit crude at times, but I enjoyed it as
it made it stand out a bit more with its PG-13 (and even, R) rated language. But the key is, the words were used with a purpose, not just for shock value

OK who are we kidding?  Maybe there was a LITTLE shock value

It's only fitting that a game weighin' in at a monstrous 48 megs would have more details than most other Super Nintendo offerings

                                       As a diehard gamer, it's the little things that make a game for me

ToP uses a time traveling storyline. It's pretty cool and it definitely has that epic type plot feel to it. Sure it could have been fleshed out a bit more, but the game always held my interest and then some

Love Back to the Future and 16-bit RPGs?  Then you'll eat this up

Ah, it's My Little Pony!  Well, not quite, but this magical unicorn, as you can imagine, holds the key to your success, and the salvation of the world. Whoa. This is like a bad acid trip... not that I've ever had one of those, you see

                                            You'll ride the skies with your new friend in an epic battle!

The journey takes you through some pretty wild and crazy locales. Each town has its own unique feel and atmosphere. Not to mention the MUSIC. Here our travelers embark upon the Abyss of Thor. The music here is simply haunting. The Abyss of Thor is a city completely submerged under water, and is said to contain a time traveling device. Is the legend true, though? Our heroes only have one way to find out the truth...

The soundtrack is excellent; each town has its own stylings

Arche Klaine (or Klein in some circles) is no doubt one of the most interesting female RPG characters in SNES history. Comments like this really endear the character to your heart. Check out some of her other feisty comments a bit later below. She is a firecracker and a half!

                                               Arche Klaine... one tough HBIC (Head Bitch In Charge)

The dark snowy town of Freezekill is enchanting and melancholy. It feels like a scene out of a weird dream. You almost expect talking woodland animals to start milling about. ToP does an excellent job pulling you into its mystifying world

Any second now Mr. Tumnus will pop out behind that lamp-post

You know what I really love about RPGs? Those night time scenes where you get to see a little character development. The hero can't fall asleep so he wanders outside, and we get a cutscene of sorts. I'm simply a sucker for these night scenes...

                                       There's nuthin' like a haunting conversation at the witching hour


Here are just some of the game's dirtier moments...

Did I mention that Arche is one hell of a character or what? The first time I read this I just couldn't believe my eyes. I guess some girls will do anything...

                                                       Where's Chris Hansen when you need him??

OK I wasn't serious about it being fairly accurate, of course. Call it "creative" liberties by the fine folks at DeJap. Some purists might scoff at this, but I say it all adds to the fun

If you thought the above was racy... wait 'til you see what's below

*GASP* I kid you not, when I first saw this, I literally cracked up and must have stared at this text for a minute straight.
I had never imagined, in
a thousand years, that I would ever read the F word in a SNES game. Not just that but also the nature in which it is used... it blew my mind. This is one of those few moments where I actually laughed out loud during a game and shook my head in amazement

                                       Best of all, Klarth is a married man. What an unforgettable scene

Another classic moment that will have you shaking your head in bewilderment

Arche is, simply put, a freak [Ain't nuthin' wrong with that!  -Ed.]

Apparently, she has a thing for our hero Steve. And why not? Hey, not a single word or retort, ne?

                                                              "I'LL HAVE WHAT SHE'S HAVING"

Most houses you can enter, but a few are closed off. This one has a rather "adult" message behind it. What other SNES (A)RPG do you know where there's lewd acts being conducted behind closed doors, hm?

Um, yeah. I feel like I'm watching an episode of CHEATERS!

Oh my... this is just wrong. There's a term for this... it's gan -- oh. My bad. This is actually NOT a sexually explicit scene. But by this point in the game, they have got you thinking that it is [Nah, just you, pervert -Ed.]

                                       OHHHH, Arche's gonna try to fly them over one at a time. Ahhh...

Speaking of perverts...

                                            Mint gets rather jealous. Hey, Steve can handle two ladies!

And just to show that there's no bigotry, there's even a bit of this going on. I don't so mind Richard saying that; I just hope he ain't saying it to me, haha

One of my best buds in college was gay. Funniest guy I ever met

There have been a lot of memorable and standout female characters in RPG history, but Arche has got to be in the top five, as far as I'm concerned

                                            [It's amazing what a little flattery can do to a person... -Ed.]

Uh oh, another classic scene with Arche coming right up. There's never a dull moment with Arche

Arche is bubbly, outspoken, bold and adventurous. What a babe

Oh, that crazy Arche! She never fails to crack me up. Just when I think I've seen it all, she says something else to throw me for a loop

                                                  Mint: UM... I'm almost afraid to ask but... what is it?

Meanwhile, Chester tries to capitalize and seize the moment. Carpe diem, ya?

Steve: Did we hear WHAT??

[Sorry, Steve can be a little bit, ahem, dense from time to time -Ed.]

                                           Klarth: Oh how I would love to join in, but alas... the wifey...

Before our conservative hero can sneak in a word edgewise... Chester is already off to the races

Chester: Y'all must be tired coz y'all been running in my mind!

What happens to Chester the horny lad?  Ah, you'll have to play the game to find out. It's a scene I doubt I will ever forget. ToP has a few of those, and is an experience that sticks with you long after you've finished the game

                                                    Klarth with some words of wisdom right there...


One common complaint
of ToP is that the battles occur just a little bit too frequently. In fact, if you recall Lufia & the Fortress of Doom, imagine that random encounter rate multiplied by two. Yes folks, there are a TON of fights. Sometimes you hardly take 3 steps before another battle. There are thankfully Holy Rune bottles in the game that drastically reduce the encounter rate... for a limited time, of course

The battle rate didn't ingratiate itself to some but it didn't stop me

                                                                  WHAT THE CRITICS SAID

                                       I've scoured the net and here are some various opinions of ToP...

  • A game like this only comes once every decade.
    Tales of Phantasia is the wonder of the '90s -Sarysa

  • There's no such thing as a perfect game, but if there was one, Tales of Phantasia
    would definetely be on top of the list. It showed a lot of the true power of the SNES
    and its capabilities, that no other game has shown before -WizardRyo

  • I must admit, when I was advised by a close friend that this game was the best RPG
    for the Super Nintendo, I gawked a bit. Tales of Phantasia?  I had never heard of it before, and I knew nothing of the series. Still, if for no other reason than to entertain her, I found a copy of the game and started playing it. No sooner then had the introduction popped up, showcasing some of the prettiest graphics ever to grace my SNES, I saw the sprites, read the story, and saw some gameplay footage. My jaw dropped; I was hooked!  -Bearsman6

  • It's really a shame the battle system turned out like this. Tales of Phantasia has all the necessary tools to be a great game. It looks great, sounds great, has a great story and tons of things to do in a wide variety of locales. But, I simply got sick of it all partway through. I got tired of wading through countless (and lengthy) encounters in one vast dungeon after another. Initially, I looked forward to playing this game and didn't want to put it down — by the time I neared the end, I was playing it solely out of a grim determination to finish it. The joy had faded and I was only left with a sense of resignation as I steeled myself for another hour or two of tedium. You could say most RPGs are exercises in repetition, but ToP is one of the few where I truly can agree with that -Overdrive

  • When Namco released Tales of Phantasia for the Super Famicom in December 1995, the video game industry was going through some changes. However, the Super Famicom was still going strong at the time, and wasn't going to give up to the next generation systems without a fight. Tales of Phantasia was quite a milestone for the 16-Bit system, because not only was it one of the biggest carts ever at the time (48 MEGS), it also contained actual voiced dialogue, and even a full Japanese pop theme song. With its revolutionary sound and beautiful 2D graphics, ToP was quite the experience for RPG fans. Unfortunately, Namco never saw it fit to release this game in the US, most likely due to the fact that at the time, RPGs were still considered a niche market, and it'd be almost two years before Final Fantasy VII would make them more mainstream. ToP's indeed a great game, but far from the epic RPG masterpiece people thought it would be -YusakuG

  • What else can I say about about this video game except for ''truly breathtaking?!''  Every aspect of this wondrous work of art, whether it be the visuals, the soundtrack, or the simple yet engrossing plot, deserves an honorable mention -Alain Garamonde

  • A game that mixed the best of both Eastern and Western RPG conventions... Tales of Phantasia is an unsung classic. ToP is a great game that was released too late onto a console on the way out. Had it been released at the same time as Final Fantasy III, we might have seen a different page in RPG history -Enker

As you can see, opinions range all over the board... from "absolute classic" to "the endless battles killed it." Personally, I have a big threshold for random battle encounters, and wasn't
too bothered by the battle rate. Don't take my word for it -- the only way you'll know how you
feel about this game is if you go play it for yourself. I hope you enjoy it half as much as I did!


Tales of Phantasia opens up with a Japanese voice reading the quote, "Truly, if there is evil in this world, then it lies within the heart of mankind."  It's followed by a masterfully crafted tune that pulls you right in, bewitching you from head to toe. It sets the mood of the game perfectly, and there's no finer way for a game to boot up than this. Right away I knew I was in for a special treat. About 4 weeks and 43 hours later, the game reached its final hour. It was bittersweet. I was excited to see the conclusion, but I was sad that the epic journey was at last, over. Even though there are a few games I consider better than this,
I have to say as far as experiences go, this is right up there at the top. Its sprawling universe, memorable characters, unique battle system, top visuals, and stellar sound makes it one for the ages
Tales of Phantasia is a bucket list worthy RPG kind of experience

RPGs are about creating an imaginary world, full of colorful characters, unique towns and villages, deadly spells, intriguing dialogue and nasty bad guys. ToP does a stellar job at all of that. There are also some fun side quests along the way, plus interesting plot developments to keep the story humming along. ToP is not without a few warts, however. Namely, yes, the encounter rate is set way too high. Battles can drag from time to time (pardon the pun), and since there are so many, TALES isn't exactly geared toward the impatient gamer. You can only control the main hero and the CPU AI of your three allies isn't always so hot. Thankfully though, you can adjust their strategy, ranging from all out attack to focus on healing, and so forth. That helps out a good bit, and at times you will find yourself strategically selecting specific ones. It also must be noted that the final boss is among the most frustrating end bosses around. Despite the flaws, ToP is to be experienced. If you consider yourself an avid Super Nintendo gamer and you have yet to play this one, then you owe it to yourself to right that wrong. Thankfully, you won't need to board a time machine to do it

Graphics: 10
Sound: 9.5
Gameplay: 9
Longevity: 8.5

Overall: 9.5

Double Gold Award

Tales of Phantasia
has PLENTY of action, drama and humor to keep things moving. It is an adventure no diehard Super Nintendo fanatic should miss out on

                                       Everyone else: Naw we good back here. Yeah we good right here

There was only one thing left to do next... start up STAR OCEAN!
Star Ocean, of course, was Tri-Ace's SNES follow-up to ToP, and
next on my personal Super Nintendo bucket list of games to beat

                                       And that's all folks. Put this baby on your Super NES bucket list!