Tales of Phantasia Review


I haven’t played a lot of Tales of titles yet but I’m working on it. Over the last year or two I played the two Symphonias and Legendia. Now with Phantasia I’m one step closer to getting the full Tales experience. This one’s definitely a lot of fun and feels old in all the right ways. The turn based combat is simple yet effective. Now, I would still have to put it under both Symphonia titles but I dare say this one actually does beat Legendia.

The game follows a guy named Cress who has to go through a rather sad origin story as all Tales of characters do. Cress’ village is attacked by an evil mastermind who murders his family as well as his best friend Chester’s family. The whole village is burned to the ground and the main characters want vengeance. This won’t be quite so easy though. For starters, this is a battle that has been going on for generations. The villain is reviving an evil threat from 1000 years ago, Dhaos. Dhaos has mastery over time and space. The heroes will need to find a way to traverse time as well or they will ultimately be left behind to continue holding those Ls. Let me tell you, the Ls weigh a whole lot after a while.

For the gameplay, it’s not strictly speaking turn based combat. You do take turns when using spells but otherwise you can all move at the same time. The game is in 2D which is an interesting twist since you have to cram all of the characters together as you attack the villains. Since it’s not as close to 3D as the others, it can get a little tricky at times with your A.I. partners getting in the way. The game seems to intentionally get these guys to sabotage you as they’ll use the worst possible spells against the bosses.

No worries though you can keep pausing the game to give them manual commands. It’s a little extra work but it is worth it most of the time. You can see the areas where the series was still finding its footing with the gameplay mechanics. The game has to freeze whenever someone uses a spell which is pretty much every few seconds so that extends the length of each battle. That’s something future games stopped doing which is for the best.

So those are the weak points of the gameplay but the positives definitely outweigh those. For starters it’s always fun to learn new spells and try them out. The EXP system is very straightforward and the level ups make a difference. The most crucial part of the game is making sure you have the right equipment though. You want the pendent that cuts the spell time in half. It’s the most valuable item in the game by far and it would have been difficult to beat some of the bosses without it. You can effectively spam magical spells at your opponent which is incredibly handy.

As for the graphics, it looks pretty good. Some of the sprites may not be as descriptive as in other games like the Mana titles but you can still tell what is going on. The character illustrations may look a little different than the sprites but that’s hard to get around. The game does like to show off its graphics at times though like with the cutscene where we blow up a lot of monsters. That was definitely impressive.

As for the soundtrack, it’s a little less memorable than some of the others but the final boss theme is definitely fun. I liked the castle in general and the game does have a lot of energy. This one uses a style where the music will completely cut out a lot of the time. That’s something that I think the game should have changed. The situation getting dramatically quiet can be effective but not when you use it constantly. Then it doesn’t quite work.

If you like time travel then you will definitely enjoy the story quite a lot. As with most RPGs the story is very satisfying and a lot happens. Jumping from the past to the future is always fun and there are a lot of moments where it seems like the game is ending and then you jump back into it. Additionally The campaign took me close to 30 hours and after that there is still a lot of replay value to be had. You can try to complete side quests, get more level ups, and things like that. I don’t know of any significant post game though so it’s not quite as much of a post game as many RPGs. Still, with the base game being so long you shouldn’t have any issues there.

As a main character Cress is pretty reasonable. He’s a nice guy who does what he can to save the world. He may have a little less character than some of the other big RPG heroes but I wouldn’t say he has any real faults. Chester makes for a good friend but he misses out on a considerable portion of the game. By the time he rejoins the party you may not feel like putting him back in the rotation since your team is already set.

Mint also tends to miss a lot of the game. Unlike Chester she is around the whole time but doesn’t get to talk a lot. She’s a nice enough mage though. Claus gets more and more broken as the game goes on since he is able to summon all of the elemental spirits in the game. A large chunk of the adventure is supplying him with these creatures so he can fight off anyone who gets in his way. Then you have Arche who is a spell expert and can deal out a ton of damage. In most battles you just need her and Claus to take out the enemies since the other characters can barely even contribute in comparison. Arche has a lot of fun trolling the cast which is always good for the dynamic.

Finally you have the villain Dhaos. At times it’s hard to say if the game was really trying to make him sympathetic or not. Either way I wouldn’t say it succeeded as we needed to see more about his goal. No matter how he may have acted at the very end, it’s hard to get the feeling that this guy was ever in it for anything but himself. He makes for a great villain, no doubt about that. I just wouldn’t consider him anything but a full fledged villain.

Overall, Tales of Phantasia is another great RPG to add to the pile. It’s easy to see how this would help kickstart the Tales of series into becoming the huge title that it is today. I’m not sure when I’ll be checking out my next Tales of title but there are certainly a lot of other options to choose from. If you want to check out a very retro version of the franchise this is the one to pick up.

Overall 8/10

Sword of Mana Review


The Sword of Mana is a game I’ve owned for many years at this point. It just kept getting passed by other games but no longer. I finally went in and completed it. The game certainly played really well and lives up to the Mana brand. The real time action is a nice touch and the story got rather intense with a lot of twists and turns along the way. It’s a good reminder as always on why I like the RPG genre so much. There’s always so much to do in these games.

The two main characters don’t have formal names so I just called them Terry and Daisy. Well, the game starts out with the two characters on the run as their parents are hunted by the Dark Lord. Unfortunately Terry ends up tripping so the two get split up. We fast forward a bunch of years to where Terry is now forced to fight as a gladiator for the villain’s amusement. One day he manages to escape and meets up with a girl who looks just like Daisy. Together, the two of them will find the legendary Granz and take the Dark Lord down!

Of course for an RPG like this you already know there is a lot more to the story than just that. The Dark Lord is not so easily defeated after all. The heroes meet up with a man named Bogard who was a friend of Terry’s parents and a lot of other characters. Along the path to saving the world the heroes will see other kingdoms, meet a demon, and other villains are also along the way.

This RPG isn’t quite as long as some others as it’s a little under 20 hours but you still get to do a lot. I would say you’ll end up pretty satisfied here to be sure. Not every game needs to be crazy long after all, although I will admit that for RPGs I like to see them 20+ hours long. For normal games I strive for at least 10 but of course each genre tends to have their specialties in that respect.

Sword of Mana also has a lot of replay value with the side quests going on. I assume some are probably skippable so you’ll want to do them as you play through the game rather than just waiting until the end. There does not seem to be a post game though as the game just freezes after beating it so you have to turn it off at that point. Perhaps that triggers something to change within the game itself so you do unlock the post game but I’m not sure of that myself. Either way there’s enough to keep you busy.

As expected the graphics are quite sharp here. The sprites are well animated and also have a lot of depth to them such as the characters whisking out their swords and even sitting down for dinner. The developers added a lot of extra animations to really make this as realistic as possible which was cool. This was clearly not the kind of game that was thrown together at the last second but had a lot of effort.

The soundtrack is also pretty solid. Now, I wouldn’t say it quite matches up to a lot of the all time greats when it comes to RPGs but there are enough quality tunes for this one to still hold its own at the end of the day. The main boss theme for example is a pretty solid one.

As for the gameplay, it’s a real time combat title as I mentioned earlier. You obtain many different weapons during the course of the game but you’ll get the most mileage out of the Sword, Bow/Arrow, and your long baton of sorts that extends. You will use this to cross large chasms. Perhaps you will grow a liking to another weapon along the way but I just can’t go wrong with swords. They’re always just so much fun to use.

I will say that the game’s way of letting you power up your sword can be a little complicated. You need a lot of materials and have to find a blacksmith. So due to that I just used the basic level 1 sword for the whole game until the final boss where I finally got a really cool one. I can tell you that I felt the immense difference as soon as I picked that one up. Now that was true power right there.

Whenever you level up you are given one point which you can put to any attribute. This will determine what your stat boost will be so choose carefully. You also unlock classes depending on what your focus is. If you don’t have a focus then it could get a little tricky for you. I went for one of the warrior classes which means putting the points away into strength, random, and a little into magic I think. It’s worth it because you get a crazy power boost which really served me well.

The game knows that you’ll be focusing on the sword though so there are quite a few bosses where you can’t even attack the bosses that way. A lot of them fly away so you have to use a projectile weapon. This could be a little cheesy but they probably knew that otherwise you would really be steam rolling through these guys. That’s how insanely powerful the sword is. There’s no enemy or boss who can last for very long against it.

My final note would be if you’re ever in doubt, grab some level ups. The EXP system here is pretty well balanced so leveling up doesn’t take too long. As soon as you get $10,000 make sure you buy the EXP brace to double your EXP. Trust me that is worth the purchase because it makes a huge difference immediately. There are a few puzzles that can be tough near the end of the game so brace yourself for them. In particular Dime Tower doesn’t hold back. If you see that a light isn’t showing up to signify that you completed a puzzle on the floor, go back down. For some reason puzzles can be on the wrong floor to trip you up so don’t fall for it!

Overall, Sword of Mana was definitely a lot of fun. It’s a very well balanced RPG and one that had a really wide cast. The story certainly shifts a lot by the end with all the new villains and plot twists. The Dark Lord was a really fun character throughout it all and he got quite a few battles with Terry. The game wasn’t afraid to have the hero lose a few fights that’s for sure since he took quite a few Ls as the game went on. If you’re looking for an old RPG that has aged incredibly well, look no further than this title. The Sword of Mana is just what you’re looking for.

Overall 8/10

Dragon Ball GT: Transformation Review


A long time ago I got to play the classic Legacy of Goku games but I wasn’t quite able to get the GT title. Well, I’ve finally gotten to play it and it’s certainly a very different take on the series. It’s a retro styled game that I haven’t played in quite a while but my main issue here would have to be the length. Clocking in at around 2 hours or even a bit less, you’ll have this game completed in the blink of an eye.

The game adapts the first arc of Dragon Ball GT. Goku and Uub were training when Emperor Pilaf shows up and uses the dragon balls to turn Goku into a kid again. The hero really isn’t all that concerned about this but the main issue is that the heroes have to find the dragon balls quickly or the Earth will blow up. They’ve been sent across the galaxy so the team will have to find them within a year. The team consists of Goku, Trunks, and Pan. Hopefully they are up to the task!

As for the gameplay, if you’ve played the old TMNT arcade games or Reign of Apocalypse for the GBA then you’ll recognize this one. It’s an auto scrolling 2D beat em up game where you use your hand to hand moves, ki blasts, and throws to take opponents down. You also have your super attack which comes at the expense of all your energy so it’s a risky move but one that is pretty useful. In a rather unique twist compared to the others though this game lets you have all 3 fighters in each level.

This adds a little strategy since you can quickly switch out to one of the other members if you’re low on health. While the fighter is on the bench they will start to regain their health although they won’t regain their energy meter. Still, if you play your cards right you should never lose a member since swapping in and out is pretty seamless. I like this addition for sure.

There are around 13 levels or so. I forget the exact amount but it’s nothing too large. I completed all the levels including a few that were off the main path so if those weren’t required you could probably shave a little more time off of the game. The bosses are fun and we do get little text cutscenes to further the plot. At the same time, with the short run time you can see how there isn’t a whole lot of time for a plot. The final level in particular blasts through a lot of story elements really quickly.

I suppose the hook of the game should be its replay value. After beating the game you unlock single player mode which allows you to play through the levels at will while using more characters. Using your Zennys which you earn from completing levels you can buy more characters. I bought Super Saiyan Goku for example and I see there are around 5-6 more characters after that. There are a lot of other hidden unlockables in the secrets screen like other modes and such so the game did throw in a decent amount of content here.

It’s not exactly the most tempting bonus content but it’s something I suppose. My issue is that the money seems hard to earn. Completing the game only got me enough money to buy 1 character so you’re going to have to beat the same levels over and over again to get everyone. That’s a little too tedious for me but I guess it’s worth noting that this will extend the replay value without a doubt.

As for the soundtrack, the game only has maybe 2-3 different tunes. The main rock one is very catchy though so it’s always fun to see. The graphics are fairly solid. The sprites are on point and all of the characters are easily recognizable. You can tell that it’s a bit lazy with how each character only has a single character portrait though. Everyone’s always glaring even if it’s a fairly happy scene. I don’t imagine it’s too hard to come up with the portraits so giving everyone at least 2 would have been nice.

At its core I’d say the main issue with the game is just that it feels a little lazy. Sort of low budget next to the other games which had proper hub worlds and felt like RPGs that could match other titles. This one transitioned to an action title which is by no means a bad thing but when it seems like this was done exclusively so they could cut corners then there was no way this could match the others.

Overall, I wouldn’t call this a bad game though. The gameplay will give you some fun as you power through the game. The story holds up and the rock theme is nice. I’m mainly deducting a point for how short the game is. The replay value is almost nonexistent to me because even if you unlock more characters, you’re just having them around to fight the same levels and bosses again. It would have been nice if the game could have been just a little bit longer. At the end there’s a stinger that leaves room for a sequel but clearly that never happened. Maybe if the Kakarot series gets far enough they will adapt GT one day. With all the planet hopping and everything it would certainly make for a fun exploration title.

Overall 6/10

Frogger’s Journey: The Forgotten Relic Review


Frogger returns with another installment here. This one isn’t quite as solid as the last one but I’ll give it some credit for trying to have more of a complete story. You’ve got a whole ninja clan here to wreck havok on the world and a villainous mastermind. At the very least this feels a little grander than the usual Frogger experience although it’s a little less epic than it may sound.

The game starts with Frogger enjoying a good time at home when he is roped into another adventure. His grandfather has gone missing after working on another excavation. Unfortunately nobody knows where he is but it all seems to tie into the mysterious relics being found around the island. Maybe if Frogger finds all of these then he will find the answers? Along the way Frogger will encounter truths about this island and its inhabitants that he may not be ready for.

While there is a story here it doesn’t feel like the game is especially interested in it either. It all goes by pretty quickly with twists thrown at you but then you go right back to the levels. In terms of design I thought more time could have been spent in making the game a little more seamless. You have to constantly walk between two houses on the opposite sides of town to talk to someone. Often it will be a very small cutscene were you feel like you could have saved time if it was put into the other one. Alternately just have the game auto jump you to each house as if it’s all a long scripted cutscene. Surely that’s the better option right?

The gameplay is good though. It brings us the classic Frogger experience where you have to really think about where you’re going and how you will handle the next obstacle. For the most part the levels are fairly easy though and I would say the Gamecube levels were a lot more difficult. At the same time though those levels were sometimes hard not for the best of reasons though. At least this one is focused completely on Frogger. In fact, the worst level in the game is the underwater one where it goes away from the classic gameplay which is quite telling. The gameplay’s not bad there or anything, it’s just a lot more sluggish and doesn’t feel as natural as the others.

I’ll give the game credit for the various bosses though. They’re fairly unique and do have you try a lot of different things. One that was good in particular was the final boss. You have to move really fast if you don’t want to be caught unprepared. A single change in trajectory and suddenly you’re on the back foot. You have to jump across lava while dodging the attacks which really takes a lot of concentration. It took me several tries before I was able to take this guy down for good.

The graphics are fairly decent. Nothing to write home about but the levels look good and the character models are on point. For the GBA era this was definitely as good as you would hope. The soundtrack isn’t particularly memorable though. It all felt like rather generic tunes so you’ll forget them all almost instantly.

I suppose the main gimmick for this game is how you can use the various relics at your disposal. They give you new abilities in the game although most of them aren’t all that helpful. Instead of being able to use your tongue to grab items from afar like in previous games Frogger relies on the backpack to do that now. The best relic though is the one that temporarily stops time. Now that is handy even if the charge runs out very quickly. It doesn’t take too long to charge if you’re patient enough.

The downside of this mechanic is that you can only equip two items at once. Jumping counts as an item by the way so for the most part you’ll probably just be holding one other item. I would have preferred each item get a button so you could equip them all. Although, I suppose in that case one item may have gone to the L button which I am unable to use on my old DS so perhaps that is for the best. It’s not the most intuitive feature but at least it adds some sci-fi to Frogger.

In terms of replay value you can go back through the levels to get a bunch of coins and buy all the collectibles at the shop. They’re quite expensive though so you may end up spending even more time in the post game than on the story. Hopefully you at least get a bonus cutscene or something. Admittedly I haven’t looked it up although the game is so obscure it’s possible that nobody has posed the results of that online anyway. So in case there is no reward, proceed at your own peril. If you like the game a lot though I suppose it may be worth it.

Overall, Frogger’s Journey is a fun game. I always tend to enjoy this kind of gameplay style since it really makes you think and strategize. It’s not quite as good as the last GBA adventure but it’ll hold your attention all the way through. This is not a particularly long game so you can probably beat it in a weekend. It took me around 4 hours to complete and I did die quite a bit on the final boss. Also, make sure you don’t spend any coins on the collectibles until you beat the game since you will need a lot of them to unlock the relics. As long as you have money you will not need to replay any of the old levels.

Overall 7/10

Frogger’s Adventures 2: The Lost Wand Review


Frogger has returned and it’s time to head back to the GBA era on this one. The core gameplay of Frogger is something that should always be fun. You have to use a lot of tactical awareness to hop from square to square while memorizing enemy patterns. That’s something this game understood a whole lot more than the previous ones. We actually got to focus on this gameplay without throwing in a bunch of unrelated styles and it all worked out rather well.

The game starts with Frogger being called into action once more as someone has broken a legendary wand into 8 pieces. Frogger must now find these pieces before they end up destroying the entire planet. It won’t be easy to stop them but he has the help of a local wizard. Together they will have to go to various planets where the pieces have been absorbed into various life forms and take them down. This will certainly not be easy but it must be done either way.

I’ve already talked about the gameplay but I’ll reiterate that it’s just a lot of fun. The controls are as basic as can be. You can move in any direction by one space or jump which crosses 2 spaces. You have to try and reach the end of the level without being touched. Any contact with an enemy will result in an immediate death but fortunately there are a lot of checkpoints throughout the level so you can use those to regroup. Often times patience is rewarded here so take a minute to memorize the attack patterns without overthinking things.

Meanwhile the boss battles try a lot of different ideas. For example, one of them is a Simon Says kind of game where you have to copy whatever the boss does to injure him. Another is a duck duck goose kind of game where you have to run around the boss in a circle to trap him in a light prison. The final boss may have been my favorite one as you play a memory game where you lift up a bunch of cards as you try to find various matches. Continue doing this until you have flipped the cards over.

This keeps the levels fresh without actually messing up the gameplay. Now on the negative side, this game is incredibly short. You’ll probably have it knocked out in around 3 hours or so. Maybe even shorter as I see someone online beat it in an hour and a half. The game isn’t particularly hard but I do suspect some areas should take you more than one try. I definitely died on a fair share of attempts although the game is quite generous with throwing extra lives throughout the game so you will rarely see a game over.

Even the final boss has an infinite amount of one ups next to him so make sure you keep grabbing them to keep your life points up. There are no true collectibles here outside of little cards that are only used in the levels so there is no real replay value here. When you beat the game it will really be over. With that in mind, you don’t want to spend too much on these games. I managed to score each one for a very cheap price since they came in a bundle. When you buy it like that, you won’t mind the length quite as much.

This one’s the definition of a fun game that is over in a flash. It probably would have been a good Blockbuster rental back in the day. As for the graphics, I liked the art style here. It’s got that nice hand drawn feel with some decent illustrations. There’s even a line with voice acting at the beginning and the level designs are good. The soundtrack is a little more on the forgettable side though. The themes are good and all but are about as standard as you can get.

A little replay value could have gone a long way but maybe next time I guess. The character roster in this one’s pretty small. The magician is okay at best but also not too memorable. Frogger is fairly selfish and nervous for a hero but at this point that really is his true personality so I suppose it won’t be leaving anytime soon. He tends to grumble about things a lot but deep down you know he’s in it for the team. Frogger just doesn’t know how to show this. He didn’t deserve that ending though, lets just say that some characters are really not that grateful at all which is a shame considering everything Frogger did here.

Overall, The Lost Wand is a good way to continue the Frogger mythos. It doesn’t get to try anything new and you may not remember it so well by the end of your adventure but it did capture the true essence of Frogger. Finally, you could play the game and just have fun hopping around without having to learn a new set of controls. It may be short, but as of now I would call it the definitive Frogger game. I have another one that I’ll be starting later today though so we’ll see how long this title can keep that crown. If you still have a GBA or DS then I would definitely recommend giving it a go.

Overall 7/10