Tales of Phantasia

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
If there is evil in this world, it lurks in the hearts of man.
—Edward D. Morrison quoting Dhaos

Tales of Phantasia was the first game in Namco's Tales (series), debuting on the Super Famicom in 1995.

The story begins when best friends Cress Albane and Chester Burklight return from a hunting trip to find that their entire village has been destroyed, and their families slaughtered. Swearing of revenge is imminent.

It turns out that the culprit needed Cress' heirloom pendant to unlock the seal on Dhaos, the legendary Demon King. Picking up a White Magician Girl (Mint Adnade) and a guide (Trinicus D. Morrison) along the way, Cress and company arrive just in time to see the seal broken and Dhaos freed. Unfortunately, Dhaos is only vulnerable to magic, and the World Tree that powers magic has been dead for a century.

With the last of his powers, Trinicus flings Cress and Mint a century into the past, where they land in the middle of a world war between the human country of Midgards and the evil forces of Dhaos. As Cress and Mint are unable to use magic, they recruit a half-elf witch called Arche and a human summoner called Claus F. Lester. Together, they must figure out a way to Save the World and defeat Dhaos once and for all.

Over the course of the rest of the game, Cress and Chester continue acting vengeful and manly. Arche kicks off the Tales (series)' fine tradition of exploring racism through elves. Claus redefines long-distance relationships with the help of the Spirit of Creation. Dhaos sets the standard for Tales (series) villains as Well Intentioned Extremists. Also, there's a minor time paradox in there.

Phantasia played many RPG tropes straight, but on the technical side, it was nothing short of a marvel. Programmer Hatsuya Hiroshiba found a way to fit full voice acting for all the moves and spells and a full opening song into the plucky Super Nintendo cartridge, with room to spare for brilliant arrangements of Motoi Sakuraba's gorgeous themes. The early version of the Linear Motion Battle System was a bit rough around the edges, but when the game was remade for the PlayStation in 1998, the control scheme was redone to fit Tales of Destiny's revamped "command" style, and all sorts of little extras were dropped in, from an extra character to little graphical coolnesses.

Phantasia also invented many of the series' set pieces. A huge number of the moves that later Tales (series) swordsmen would use come straight from Cress' playbook. Phantasia also introduced the basic spell list, most notably the high-level magic "Indignation" (which comes with its own incantation too).

There was a remake for the GBA, which was the only version to get an official English release. While there are a few incredibly awful spots in the localization, such as the "Kangaroo War" for Ragnarok and the poor quality of the voice casting and acting, most of the fanbase's issues with it are a result of Nintendo not taking... liberties... with the script that the best-known Fan Translation did. (If they had done so, the game almost certainly wouldn't have got by with anything less than an "M" rating.)

There are English patches for the SFC and PSX versions available online. There are also two versions for PSP, one being the "Full Voice Edition" and the other being paired with an Updated Rerelease of the Game Boy Color sequel, Narikiri Dungeon. Namco's recent activity in regards to the Tales series is making a Western release for either look bleak, but time will tell. Recommended in general, but especially for people who liked Symphonia, just to play "spot the continuities."

Due to Executive Meddling (most likely brought on by a desire to make the game better compete with the then newly-released Chrono Trigger,) the original development team schismed and mostly broke away from Namco after the game released, going on to reform into Tri-Ace and create the Star Ocean series.

A PSX translation is available here. An alternative translation will be available here

A four-episode OVA based on the game was created in 2004, and licensed and dubbed by Geneon three years later.

Due to the fact that about a decade passed before a canon English translation was released, there's a bit of conflict about what some of the characters' names are. In order to reduce confusion, please use the official localized English versions of the character names, and not the DeJap versions.

A psuedo-sequel called Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon was released for the Game Boy Color in 2000. It would later get an Updated Rerelease on the PlayStation Portable (along with the original Tales of Phantasia game) as part of the Tales of Phantasia X project celebrating the 15th anniversary of the game's release.

The story is set one hundred and seven years after the conclusion of Phantasia, and focuses on two twins named Dio and Mell. One day, the two twins are met by a mysterious woman who prophesies a "doomed future" for them both unless they complete the Ordeal of Spirits, a trial where they must seek out and test themselves against the twelve Summon Spirits of Aselia. While doing so, the twins explore the aftermath of Tales of Phantasia, traveling through time and space to speak with the alumni of Phantasia and uncover deeper insight into their thoughts and motives. The Updated Rerelease adds another character to their party: Rondoline E. Effenberg, a mysterious time traveler looking for Dhaos, the Big Bad of Phantasia.

The key feature of the game was the ability of Dio and Mell to "dress up" as various character classes (Fighter, Thief, Mage, etc.), gaining new powers depending on which role they were portraying. Their wardrobe included the outfits of various Tales Series heroes and villains, and even cameos from various Namco Bandai games. The concept proved so popular that it formed the basis for two more Narikiri Dungeon games, though they would be released under the Tales of the World banner.

Tropes used in Tales of Phantasia include:
  • Acrophobic Bird: Averted. One puzzle requires leaving Arche behind to stand on a switch so that she can fly out of a hole later, and in a scene after defeating Volt she's asked to go fetch treasure chests that are normally inaccessible.
  • Aerith and Bob: Cress Albane's parents are Miguel and Maria. Clearly, someone decided not to pass down the Hispanic heritage.
  • After the End: A meteor impact thrust society back into the dark ages, from which it is only just emerging.
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: In Narikiri Dungeon, Dio and Mell discover that their past selves are Dios and Meltia, the two people responsible for destroying the World Tree of Derris-Kharlan, turning it into a wasteland and kicking off the events that led to Tales of Phantasia.
  • And Man Grew Proud: The war between Fenrir and Odin is what left mankind vulnerable to a meteor strike in the first place
  • Anime Theme Song: Yume Wa Owaranai/The Dream Will Never Die. Fully voiced on the Super Famicom, too, something almost unheard of at the time.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: If you fail the button pressing minigame with Arche in Dhaos' castle enough time, Claus gets impatient and he and Mint do it for you.
    • Also, Chester will likely rejoin your party at a third of the experience levels of everyone else. From the PSX version onwards, sleeping at Inns will show a couple scenes in which he level grinds himself at night while the others are sleeping. Afterword, he gains massive amounts of Experience, catching him up fairly quickly.
  • Anti-Villain: Although a major jerk, Dhaos, as it turns out, is only trying to save his own homeworld from destruction. A noble and someeverybody would say heroic motivation. It's only too bad he considers it so far above this one that he regularly Beam Spams everyone with no regard for the consequences. Hey, it's not his planet he's screwing up now, is it?
    • No, he has regard for the consequences - that being the extinction of humanity. It's his explicit goal, since he believes that's the only way to protect Yggdrasil and the Mana Seed.
    • To be fair, he did warn the people at Midgards that their research is going to destroy the Mana tree, and attacked them only to make them stop the research. He just generally got pissed at humanity after not only failing to save his homeland, but also being stuck in the stone for a hundred years.
      • At least one translation states that he gave them an ultimatum to stop Magitech research. An ultimatum generally implies threat of force if the demands are not met, and with Dhaos' general MO, he most likely put it simply: "Stop researching Magitech or I'll burn Midgard to the ground." The people of Midgard reacted accordingly.
    • Dhaos orders the total and absolute elimination of any communities he deems has any remote connection whatsoever to Magitech development. This often includes completely clueless children who are murdered for the sole reason of being the unlucky offspring or relatives of Magitech scientists. Aseria's Magitech research was rushed into unstable development to (whoops) combat Dhaos's own preemptive threats against the planet. Furthermore, when the party rushes Dhaos's palace following the Valhalla battle, he puts on his trollface and simply questions them--a group of soldiers clearly representing a society he has already threatened to annihilate--on what their reasons are for coming to kill him. This is a problem on its own, since he already brainwashed Meia to personally assassinate the party earlier in the game. Dhaos consciously decides to exert a form of omnipotent racial discrimination and become the judge, jury, and executioner of Aseria to benefit Derris Kharlan. In all practicality, he is utterly clueless to the ramifications of his actions at every level. The famous "If there is evil in this world..." quote is less thoughtful social commentary and more just illustrating Dhaos's ridiculous mindset that self-defense is a form of evil and mind-raping people to commit atrocities somehow proves natural human malevolence.
    • Even worse, it's revealed in the Gameboy sequel Narikiri Dungeon that the reason he needs the Mana Seed in the first place is because the people of Derris Kharlan did more or less the same thing the humans did, and ended up nearly eradicating themselves with a huge war.
      • However, it should be noted that the same game shows that Dhaos was a benevolent king until he came to Aseria, whereupon he was horrified to realize that he had somehow gained evil thoughts for the first time. And apparently then proceeded to embrace said thoughts with a fierceness typically associated with a guy who just got out of prison embracing his wife.
  • The Archer: Who else but Chester?
  • Arc Words: "If there is evil in this world, it lurks in the hearts of men." Cranked Up to Eleven in the OVA.
  • Art Evolution: A strange version in that it happened between versions; the in-game character sprites of the SNES version were based on an earlier artists work on the game, but the portraits and general artwork all used the newer character art. This resulted in characters on the SNES version looking very different in-game compared to their portraits (Claus in particular is almost completely different). Later versions changed the sprites to be based on the newer artwork.
  • Ascended Extra: Suzu goes from an NPC in the SNES version to an optional hidden party member in all future versions.
  • Badass Normal: Chester; Cress has the legendary Eternal Sword, Arche can cast devastating spells, Klaus can summon elemental spirits to fight, and Suzu is the next successor to the Fujibayashi ninja clan. Chester is just a guy who learned to use a bow to hunt. Even more obvious in the SNES game, where he doesn't learn any skills, and yet has the second highest damage output of the party, just behind Cress.
  • Bald of Awesome: Claus, according to Arche.
    • She was just messing with him.
  • Big Bad Badass: Dhaos of course. The OVA manages to make him even more awesome in certain scenes.
  • Bonus Dungeon: Lower floors of Moria, overlaps with Marathon Level for longevity, and to some degree Drought Level of Doom
  • Call Back: If you cast Indignation on Dhaos during your fight with him midway through the game, he shouts "Sonna... Sonna bakana!", just like he does when it's cast on him in the prelude fight in the intro (of course, due to Time Travel shenanigans, it's technically the same fight with different people involved, so it makes sense for him to say the exact same things.) As a Shout-Out to this, every Bonus Boss version of Dhaos in later games in the series has responded the exact same way when Indignation is cast on him.
  • Calling Your Attacks: As usual for the series, but notable for having it on the SNES.
  • Chaste Hero: Cress. It happens when Arche is explaining why she left Mint alone in the White Forest to meet the Unicorn.

Arche: Because... well... once, there was this guy, and...
Cress: ...and what?
Arche: ...and... you know! So I thought the Unicorn wouldn't see me!

    • And much earlier into the game, Cress seems to struggle with understanding the implications of Mint and he sharing the same bed.
  • City of Canals: Venezia.
  • Competence Zone: Total aversion of the "Too Old" type. Claus is pushing thirty while the rest of the group average age 16, Suzu pushing it down, being age 11, but he's the brains of the operation from the moment he joined and does most of the talking to other people.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The first half of the game is crammed into the first half of episode 1 of The Anime of the Game.
    • Ironically, the OVA actually does a pretty good job of telling the story- many fans believe it makes more sense than the game does.
  • Convection Shmonvection: Played straight in one dungeon and averted in another.
  • Cosmetic Award: The titles your characters can earn in this game are purely for aesthetic purposes, unlike titles in some of the later Tales games.
  • Cute Witch
  • Dead Little Sister - Chester's
  • Deadpan Loli: Suzu.
  • Determinator: Chester level grinds himself while the other sleep so he can catch up to them.
  • Disc One Nuke: Several candidates depending on version. In the SFC release, Maxwell qualified but was toned down in the PSX release. Indignation qualifies in either version. By Sequence Breaking (or using the behind-the-counter trick in Olive Village) and saving up a load of cash you can acquire advanced weapons for Cress long before you'd normally get them (simultaneously offset and built-in in PSX release since Gungnir is a great weapon gained by story progression, but in SFC version Gungnir is underwhelming).
  • Doomed Hometown
  • Dronejam: Lampshaded by a crab blocking a treasure chest, forcing you to patiently wait for it to move enough to let you in...then back out.
  • Dual-Wielding: One of the spirits has four arms, enabling him to quadruple-wield little staff-spear things. That make lightning.
  • Enemy Scan: Magic Lens items. Can be used to fill in entries in the monster encyclopedia. Getting 100% completion of this gives Claus a new title when you start a new game+ on the PSX version.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Arche puts her hair up in a ponytail after Rhea leaves her body. This is actually how she normally has her hair, but Rhea wore it down.
  • Fantastic Racism
  • Fantastic Science: Sorcery is treated this way (even more so in the prequels). Your party visits three separate "magical research labs" over the course of the story, and Claus considers himself a scientist.
  • Fighting a Shadow: The remnant of Dhaos in Narikiri Dungeon, comprised of his anger towards Dios and Meltia.
  • Final Boss Preview: At the end of the Present time period, the party encounters Dhaos, who wastes no time in showing the awesome power of his Dhaos Laser.
  • Five-Man Band
  • Frothy Mugs of Water: A Duel Boss in the second part of the game is forced by all the characters other than Cress having hangovers after a night of party on the sea. The official translation changes this to "ate too much."
    • Mint didn't get drunk. She was just very seasick.
  • Gag Dub: The famous/infamous fan mistranslations of the SNES version has Claus asking Cress which girl he would rather sleep with, and Arche dreaming about having sex with Cress after getting drunk.
    • It is indisputable that Arche was having that sort of dream, even the official translation made it clear. The dialogue just was not as explicit as the SNES fan translation suggested.
    • Not to mention a far more explicit version of the series' traditional hot springs scene.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: One of the major goals in the early part of the game is to find people who have magical powers in order to defeat Dhaos, because humans cannot use magic. Nope. Not even a little bit. Shoot plasma bolts and lightning? Turn into a giant flaming bird? Teleport?! No problem! But they can't use magic.
  • Guide Dang It: Unlike later Tales games, the Sorceror's Ring is an equipable item not central to the plot. Because of how little it's used, leaps of logic like "Shoot it at that jumble of mechanical parts over there" or "Use that tiny little spark to thaw out a switch" are easy to miss.
  • Harder Than Hard: Besides Hard mode (unlocked in SFC release by pressing XYBA at the same time on title screen when starting a game, made a selectable option in PSX release), once you finish the PSX version you may unlock Mania difficulty. All enemies have 3x HP (compare with 2x HP in Hard mode), do 50% more damage (compare to 25% in Hard) and worst of all, you do not regenerate a chunk of TP after every battle. Short of powerleveling through it, Mania is incredibly difficult.
  • Healing Hands
  • Health Damage Asymmetry: Partially averted. Enemies use spells that hit just about as hard as yours. The real difference is that you have heals, and they simply have a lot of health.
  • Hidden Elf Village: There's the standard one in Ymir forest, and then another hidden village of Ninjas behind it, hidden from the Elves that are living in the first Hidden Elf Village.
  • Hot Springs Episode
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: In the game, the blame for the whole shitstorm is distributed among several parties (Though Dhaos hiring a PR department could have prevented a lot of it), making Dhaos well-intentioned but decidedly threatening and genocidal, while humans are understandably defensive, though arrogant and foolish. The anime however, goes to great lengths to shift Dhaos actions so that he tried his best to warn humans of the consequences of their actions, while the latter ignored absolutely everything he said for no particular reason.
    • The clearest example is the Mana Cannon, a highly destructive, very environment-unfriendly weapon. In the game, it was built to have a chance against Dhaos forces, which were attacking precisely because humans were developing that kind of technology. Part of the vicious cycle is that if Dhaos were not attacking, the weapon would not have had a reason to be ever built or used. In the anime, humans built the weapon even before Dhaos showed up for... no bloody reason.
  • Infinity-1 Sword: In the PSX version, Gungnir is a likely example.
  • Infinity+1 Sword: Excalibur, acquired at the end of the Moria Mines Bonus Dungeon.
  • Invocation: I dwell amidst the abounding light of heaven...
  • Just Between You and Me: Averted, and played straight in the same scene. Mars waits until after Dhaos' revival (an unstoppable process) has begun to rant and threaten you. Dhaos himself, however, lets your party escape through time because he'd rather rant and threaten you than just blast you with his lasers.
  • Killed Off for Real: The Dhaos that was defeated by Edward and released by Mars. The party just assumes he escaped through time again when his alternate-timeline self in the Future starts causing havoc, but the player clearly see what they didn't in their haste to escape: he quite clearly remains prone on the ground as the Mausoleum collapses, and his body is crushed under falling debris. Amusingly, the party never does learn this either.
  • Large Ham: Edward D. Morrison and Dhaos in the English GBA opening. See Narm and Good Bad Translation for more information.
  • Lethal Chef: Arche, in the PSX and GBA versions
  • Lethal Lava Land: Twice.
  • Light and Mirrors Puzzle, except with prisms
  • The Lost Woods
  • Love Triangle: Up until Chester joins your party, this happens among Cress, Mint, and Arche.
    • Though its more like "Cress X Mint with Arche having an unrequited crush on Cress" then an actual triangle. Must be way she gave up the hopeless pursuit once Chester became an option.
  • Magical Guide: Norn in Narikiri Dungeon.
  • Magitek
  • Match Maker Quest
  • Mayfly-December Romance: Half-elves live longer than humans
  • Meat Shield: For quite a large number of boss fights (Past Dhaos and Fen Wolf, I'm looking at you), Arche and Claus deal most of the damage while Cress is just a glorified Meat Shield for the rest of the party, as Mint faithfully spams her strongest heals on Cress. Granted that for an overwhelming portion of the game that your party will be the White Mage, the Cute Witch, the Summoner, and Cress the Meat Shield, Cress dying in a battle pretty much means that shit will hit the fan.
    • He's also good for interrupting casters. That's about it, but it's the player's job in most of the series anyway.
  • Medieval Stasis: part usage and part aversion. Not much happens between the "past" era and the "present" era, but the "future" era is beginning to rediscover Magitech lost in the meteor impact
  • Merged Reality
  • Monster Arena
  • Moral Myopia: Dhaos willingly and eagerly pulls off numerous atrocities against humans through the course of the storyline, and then calls humans violent and greedy.
  • Names to Know in Anime:
  • Nature Versus Nurture: A major point in Narikiri Dungeon, as Norn wished to see if Dios and Meltia were inherently evil beings, or good people whose morality had been heavily skewed by circumstance.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero
  • One-Woman Wail: The first time Origin is summoned in the OVA.
  • Only Sane Man: Claus is usually the voice of reason within the group.
    • Considering the way Claus acts sometimes this would be fairly frightening if it weren't for the way NPC's keep pointing out how young the rest of the party is. In a role reversal, Arche plays Only Sane Man for a brief period in Midgard.
  • Opening the Sandbox: Once you get the ability to fly in the future the world becomes an open sandbox with access to areas limited primarily by your ability to handle the challenge.
  • Outside the Box Tactic: It's a running gag that the final boss, Dhaos, is susceptible to the Indignation spell. In cameo appearances in later games, he dies to one use of the spell.
  • Pamphlet Shelf: Numerous bookshelves throughout the world contain snippets of information, sometimes giving veiled, minor game advice, sometimes just giving flavor text and lore.
  • Penultimate Weapon: Eternal Sword, a generally superior weapon and the stuff of legends but Excalibur is a good deal better and in PSX version so is Gungnir (and arguably several others such as Bahamut's Tear and Luck Sword).
  • Pettanko: Arche.
  • Pet the Dog: Rondoline's backstory in Narikiri Dungeon X is essentially a big Pet the Dog for Dhaos: she befriends him despite his quietly sinister exterior, to the point where she is stunned to find out he is considered a "Demon King" in the future.
  • Point of No Return: None for the endgame, you can save anywhere in the final dungeon and still leave, but once you reach the last room of the Underground Crypt, you're sealed off from the Present and the same applies for the Past when you set sail for Thor's nautical location.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Come ON, Dhaos, an FYI would have been kinda useful! In either timeline!
    • They could have avoided all that, if only Dhaos had opened his damn mouth.
    • It wouldn't have hurt for the heroes to spend more than five seconds considering what Origin had to say either.
  • Port Town: Venezia.
  • Prepare to Die: When you meet Demitel Cress says "You killed Rhea's parents. Prepare to Die". Though, he should've at least said Hello and give his name first.
  • Randomly Drops: One of the quests in the game requires you to find five Basilisk's Scales, which drop from, as you would imagine, Basilisks. Unfortunately they're a somewhat uncommon encounter and the drop isn't guaranteed. Later in the game a pair of dungeons requires a special charm which randomly drops from enemies, though they are much more common.
    • You can also get each charm by using a Rune Bottle on the version found in the dungeon that requires it - the Rune Bottle turns each charm into the other, and you need the fire charm to survive the ice dungeon (though not in the GBA version) and the water charm to survive the lava dungeon.
  • Rescue Romance: Very early on in the game, Cress rescues Mint from Mars' mansion. Later on, the storyline hints at romantic feelings between Cress and Mint, particularly during the Snow Means Love moment.
  • Scenery Porn: It would be remiss to discuss Tales of Phantasia without mentioning that it ranks among the most graphically beautiful games released for Super Famicom, and probably the most graphically advanced RPG of the 16-bit era. Effects now taken for granted like reflective water and mirrors, rippling water effects, realistic weather, etc were revolutionary at the time this game was released. Also, contained far more voice acting than most 16-bit console RPGs, and the music is considered among the best of any SFC game. This level of detail required a 48MB cartridge; compare with Chrono Trigger at 32MB, and Final Fantasy VI and EarthBound at 24MB. Star Ocean is the only other game for Super Famicom/SNES to require such a large cart.
    • Incidentally, Star Ocean was made by the Tales of Phantasia team after they left Namco in disgust.
  • Slice-and-Dice Swordsmanship: Subverted through the magic of separate Slash and Thrust attack statistics. Phantasia has four weapon types for Cress - high Thrust spears, high Slash axes, and balanced swords and halberds... and a few exceptions like the super stabby sword Dragon's Fang.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Not so much sliding, but it certainly does have an underground ice cave, and in keeping with tradition of ice levels, it's also a rather difficult level. Bonus points for ending with That One Boss.
  • The Slow Path: In the ending, Arche and Claus return to the past. Arche, however, is a half-elf with the potential to live for centuries, and she anticipates meeting her friends again in the present (her future).
    • Fridge Logic: So... shouldn't the slow-path version of her have been there in the present all along?
  • Smash Mook: Golems found throughout the game. Feature very high hit points, and typically use attacks that, sure enough, smash your party, often resulting in being flung backwards and/or stunned. Frequently found serving as meat shields for mage enemies and have a really nasty habit of surrounding your party, which can be problematic.
  • Snow Means Love
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Cress, Claus, Morrison, etc. etc. The previously accepted English spellings were (and still are) in use in the Japanese versions' cast lists.
  • Stuffed Into the Fridge
  • Stupid Sacrifice: Edward Morrison, a war hero and powerful sorcerer, sacrifices his life to save some random kid an Enemy Of The Week had taken hostage.
  • Sword And Three Sorcerers: It's not until you've gotten through half the game that you're allowed any party combination but this. You start off with Fighter And Healer, after which the Glass Cannons show up.
  • There Is Only One Bed
  • This Cannot Be!: Dhaos's reaction to Indignation. He keeps doing it every time he and that spell show up in other games, too.

Sonna... sonna bakana!/It can't beeee!

  1. Despite this, this very song is the world map music throughout Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World.