Tales of the tales - History of the Tales of - #1 Tales of Phantasia
In search of interesting, but not too famous games, I came across such games from popular Tales series. There were enough of them, and I decided not just to tell about them, but to make some kind of quest. Why not write the history of the Tales series from the first to the last, there are only 31 games and 16 of them are numbered series. Almost like The Final, only without the promise of making it a series history every half year. For those who somehow aren't familiar with Tales, it's a legendary jrpg series that started with the SNES console and has survived to this day. Each part of it is usually a standalone story in a new world and is in no way related to the previous one. In fact, it's Namco's main and main rival to Final Fantasy, which unlike Square Enix's brainchild, doesn't even think about rolling over.
Openning on PSX. Fun fact, the song is called "The Dream Will Not End" and Final Fantasy X has a song called "Someday the dream will end".
So, our story begins with Nihon Telenet, a game developer and publisher that has been releasing all sorts of mediocrity on home computers since 1983. There isn't much to tell about them, except that they covered themselves with various brands whose names probably won't tell anyone anything, but the merit of the company in the first place is that they decided to create a new development team, which was called Wolf Team. These guys immediately started the fire and in a few months released the game Valis, a platformer about a schoolgirl with superpowers, who fights with evil. Ah, it's the time of schoolgirls, sailors and evil. The game was warmly received and spawned three more sequels from the studio and one more hentai from Eants. Such a success cheered up the team and they demanded more independence from Telenet, which did not object and soon new games for SEGA consoles were released, the most famous among them are Zan and Arcus series. And all would have gone well, but Telenet decided to merge Wolf Team and another of their subsidiaries LaserSoft, which resulted in restructuring and dissatisfaction, and as a result the head of Wolf Team Masahiro Akishino left, taking a few people with him. Their fate is vague and uninteresting, but in Wolf Team our attention may be drawn to a young programmer Yoshiharu Gotanda, in his spare time he wrote the novel Tale Phantasia about events that are told from three points of view, from three different characters about the villain Daos. He once shared his passion with his colleagues, and they enthusiastically suggested that he transfer his creativity to the SNES game rails, to which the programmer agreed.
Yoshiharu Gotanda, father of three legendary jrpg series.
Wolf Team began looking for an outside major publisher, which was Namco, and everything seemed fine and you can start the jrpg dream, but all good things have their costs. Namco began to interfere in the production of the game, to impose their vision, a lot of content was cut out, including the three branches of the narrative, leaving only the one for Cress. The developers became discontent, and Yoshiharu Gotanda left the company and established Tri-Ace, which attracted many dissatisfied with Namco's policy. On the contrary, tri-Ace began to release hits like Star Ocean, Valkyrie Profile, and even appeared in the creation of Final Fantasy XIII-2, but that's a story for another blog. We are interested in what happened to Wolf Team and their project. And there they had hurriedly hired new employees and finished the game development. It was the end of 1995, and Tales of Phantasia was released, and it became one of the revolutionary games of that time and the beginning of famous game series.
The original cover of Tales of Phantasia. Funnily enough, the horse on the cover has eight legs, though the game and the PSX promos have four.
When Tales of Phantasia came out on the SNES, it was a real boom, Cruzis of the time. It was the first to use the 48 megabit cartridge, and it was chock-full of innovations. First of all, the graphics are very good for a jrpg at the time, the game features reflections in the water, and not static, but honestly (or almost honestly) interacting with the environment. The character can run through a puddle and it will be seen in it quite clearly and dynamically, there are fun puzzles associated with the reflections, and the storyline game more than once shine through it. The shadows here are not just gray spots, they carefully repeat the outlines of the object and cover the heroes' models, when they run under some tree. It all looks pretty good, especially when you've played other jrpg on the SNES and know what to expect from the console. Secondly, the game has partial voice acting, cast any fireball, the hero shouts its name with pathos, and in addition to the standard background music, which took a hand of composers Motoi Sakuraba and Shinji Tamura, you can even hear the vocals. The song was performed by Yukari Yoshida and is called "The Dream Will Never Die," which I'll post below for review. No other Final Fantasy on the SNES could boast such happiness and it was definitely a success. It was solidified by the story, characters, and gameplay, which we'll mention in more detail in a moment.
The crisp reflections in the water seemed like something cool and contrived at the time.
I could write that the whole story is based on Scandinavian mythology, as they usually say about the game, but that would be a strong exaggeration. The thing is, we learn about the gods proper somewhere in the second half of the game. Not only there are only three of them, but they also don't affect the atmosphere, so we get their names, the mini version of Yggdrasil and the Valkyrie with a sad horse that appears in a couple of scenes. Fantasia begins with a cheerful melee, where a certain foursome of heroes defeats their opponent and he is transported through time and space, falling right into a trap set up by the other four heroes, who seal him in a tomb. Unfortunately, they won't let us play here, so we humbly look and understand nothing, the sense of this action will come to us only in the middle of the game. Meantime we are introduced to the main quest, his family, friend Chester and the boar that we have to hunt. During the hunt the alarm bell from the village rings and our brave hunters rush back, but alas, it's too late. Enemies have burned the home hut, killed Cress's parents and Chester's little sister. The plot is a cliché in the times of SNES, but still the music and the well staged movie can bring tears to your eyes. In the course of the story to get revenge on the villain who did it, we have to travel in space and time, it's certainly not Chrono Triger, the past and the future can only be accessed by story, but it has no opportunity to visit old places and see how its inhabitants are doing in fifty years. The story is not bad, you can't call it a masterpiece, straight 10 out of 10, but you don't feel any annoyance. The main villain is an ambiguous guy and realizing the reasons for his behaviour you start to feel sympathy for him. Truly, they tell us about it only at the end and until that we will have to suspect.
Halfway through the game you don't even suspect we have Scandinavian mythology here until you meet a Valkyrie, or rather until she tells you she's a Valkyrie.
But still the cherry on the cake - the main characters, there are only five of them in SNES version: swordsman Kress Elbein, hitman Mint Adenade and archer Chester Birkeland - the heroes of the present, magician Archie Klein and summoner Clart F. Lester - the heroes of the past, on PSX added Fujibayachi Suzu Kunoichi, and in PSP-version - swordswoman Rondoline E. Effenberg. The main characters Kress and Mint are such standard knight with a sword and a healer not only by profession, but also by character, with the game itself not forgetting to bitch about it. In PSX version, for example, when the heroes saw the girl in trouble they started teasing Kress: "come on knight in shining armour, your way out", "show your hero stuff" - and when the fight started they gave him a chance to single-handedly save the girl. Well how did they give it, they just ditched him and stood by while he dealt with the problem. Klart is the oldest of the group (he's 29), loves to get high, is narcissistic, and teases Kress by asking who he likes better, Mint or Archie, which brings the 17-year-old into the paint. But the biggest lulzogenerator here is Archie, the developers were clearly inspired by Nabokov's Lolita when creating her and seem to have gone further than they should have. She likes to use diminutive words, pestering grown men with ambiguous sentences, gets into funny situations, and the scene in the ship's cabin surprised me to put it mildly. While the ship goes from one town to another, the heroes decide to relax in a bar, like exemplary young teenagers Kress and Mint sit at a table and just watch Klars together with the newly met girl boozing like hell and with anxiety on Archie, who was doing the same thing but alone (and she is 17 too). In the end they go to bed, Archie is in the salad, if there was one, and Klars continues to have fun until Archie moans through his sleep with the phrases "don't touch me there Kress", "what a naughty boy you are Kress", than leads to the extreme degree of bafflement of those around him. There are a lot of such situations in the game, and the developers do not shy away from breaking not only the well-established rules, but also the fourth wall. In one of the castles sit two NPCs, one of them says that the background music in the castle should be changed, and the other claims that it is quite all right. Another cool situation, when you activate one of the traps a dart hits the hero from behind and he falls like dying, but instead of the expected end of the game, Kress gets up and rubs himself just below the back and gives out "Game over my ass". The PSX version has the ability to talk on the world map and discuss where to move and even there the fun moments and altercations erupt.
Our main characters, whose cameos will be seen more than once in the next parts of the series.
You won't get bored here, because of the gameplay. The monsters in Tales of Phantasia are not visible, and attack according to the laws of the genre, after a certain number of steps, but here the combat is completely different from the last ones. It's called Linear Motion Battle System or shortly LMBS. Battles take place on a flat surface in real time and are only paused during spell/item/order selection or during spellcasting. The main character runs up to the enemy, damages them or spends a series of blows and runs back to his original location. At the same time you can move freely on the field as your characters and the enemy, you can pinch the enemy in the corner of the battle arena and kick him, you can stand aside and shoot spells. Directly control only Kress and you will have to use the cauldron before attacking, depending on the type of damage (it can be stabbing or slashing and each weapon has different parameters) attacks can cause different damage, and special techniques not only obey the same law but also depend on how far the enemy is. At any moment you can stop the clock and choose tactics for your partners, order them to launch fireball or use the item. Careful with tactics, because this is the basis of the fundamentals, the way you define the behavior of your goons, they will act, so do not be surprised that at the crucial moment hidler did not othilit simply because he has a task saporty spells to throw. In addition to the action game stands out from its competitors with all sorts of puzzles and puzzles, at least for those who like them. It is literally stuffed with them and to pass the whole game without using the guides is a real challenge. And not so much because they are difficult, but because of some puzzles' solutions. But they can hardly be called impossible, sooner or later you will figure it out. In addition, the game constantly puts a player in a non-standard situation, for example, there will be a time, when all the monsters on the map will be visible and you have to temporarily maneuvering between them to get to the boss, or fight in the air on a Pegasus, where completely different rules.
PSP Tales of Phantasia X
In fact, it's slaypnir, a horse Odin in Norse mythology, but in the translation of it for some reason called Pegasus, with horses the developer has quite a problem, it looks in the game it seems to have four legs, and the cover with eight, no wonder that in the game horse all so sad and miserable.
Although Tales of Phantasia was released on the old SNES, today you can check out its remakes on PSX, GBA and PSP. The developers completely reworked the combat system, fixing a lot of defects, blind zones and unnecessary spells, without forgetting to add their cracks. However, the game is still better and more comfortable than on SNES, besides we are given an additional character and a sea of all sorts of filler and fanservice with hot springs, ninjas and other Japanese standard. I would not be surprised if in Japan there is a special GOST with a mandatory list of fanservice, violation of which leads to the worst torture. Well, and of course the game made prettier, added animations, the encyclopedia of monsters (Collect them all!) And useless titles. Fixed cooking, if before it was not as such, you can just load a food in a backpack and it automatically replenished the characters' xp when they moved, now there is a full-fledged recipes with special properties, which give chefs around the world. For fans to measure up there is a combo counter, the more consecutive hits get to do the higher his score and the more bonus experience for him at the end of the battle will be given. I managed to score 31, here's the first bar to strive for.
The guys discuss about girls and Klars tries to get Kress's opinion, but in his heart he has already found the one, though he tries to deny it.
The PSP version completely voiced the characters, added even more content and goodies and it would probably be the best opportunity to familiarize yourself with this product for those who like more modern ones. But there is another remake, also on the PSP, that went with Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon X, which in turn was a remake of Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon on the GBA, which was a spin-off of the original Tales of Phantasia, and it's called Tales of Phantasia X. Oh yeah baby, we'll soon dive into that whirlpool of spin-offs and remakes. It already uses an improved version of the Cross Arts Aerial Linear Motion Battle System, and the battles are twice as active, and it looks prettier than the previous games. There is also a version for the ubiquitous iOS, but due to the lack of gratitude of the entire mobile market and Namco's greed, the reviews for it are somewhere between "burn everything down in flames in the name of the Emperor" to "hate, hate, hate!" and it deserves a separate blog about all the human sins. Also I didn't touch the GBA version, but only because it's the weakest remake and there's nothing special to write about it, except for the awkward controls.
Original art from the developers.
Well, here we come to the disadvantages, and they are here too. First and foremost, I'd like to point out the time stoppage when the spell animation from Archie or Klars is going on. You are in anticipation of hitting the cool kombucha, but at the most crucial moment, everything freezes and you have to wait when the magic happens, you just can not have time to press the button after and that's it. There are also blind spots, useless Chester arrows that just dab at enemies, many useless spells. Plot holes where the characters reason that without magic and mages Daos can't be defeated, yet the main character is a swordsman and a man who by lore can't use magic (like all humans), yet feints with it right and left with his techniques. The scourge of all jrpg's of those days, progression through the story requires the player to some non-obvious action without any hints, such as finding the right creature, but how and where to find it you are not told, so in front of you opens up an amazing world of plugging everything you can plug in the hope that it will help. I must honestly admit that I always try to get through the game without a guide, but this time I was defeated by the Unicorn, I suddenly felt so sorry for my time that I had to peek and...I did not make a mistake judging by the way you have to look for him. All of these shortcomings apply to the original SNES game and in the remakes these inconveniences are solved one way or another, so if you play on PSX or PSP, most of the problems you won't even notice.
Upon its release, the game was warmly received by players and critics, and although sales were quite modest (212,000 copies), subsequent remakes made up for it and sold a total of about a million and a half. It's now a masthead classic for the old jrpg lover in its heyday on the SNES and stands alongside such titans as Final Fantasy, Star Ocean, Chrono Triger, Dragon Quest. Such a brisk start gave the green light to the big world of PlayStation, which was already gaining momentum and giving ample opportunity to developers. Will Wolf Team be able to maintain the quality bar in their next game, how their relationship with Namco will shape up and how many remakes of the next game will be released we will know in the next Tales of the Tales, but for now I bid farewell and hope that this article was useful for you.
Regarding Japanese translations, all remakes are English friendly, thanks to the comrades at Dejap and Absolute Zero.
And finally a Tales of Puppet positivator, special thanks to CamelieMimika and the VK community for whom this video was translated, as well as to the cool KORS guy who introduced me to this masterpiece.
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