Many years ago, 8 or so, a friend of me felt i should broaden my RPG knowledge away from mainstream games like Final Fantasy, he suggested I play a RPG that had been released for the SNES a long time ago "Tales of Phantasia". Seeing as how at this point it had never been released to North America he set me up with an emulator and the fan translated game.
I Loved the game, it quickly became a favorite and I played it till i get 100% of everything.... except levels... i think i was only around 95 or 98. Anyways it was the only time i ever played an emulator but it left an impression on me.
Why bring this up? There's a bit of controversy with the character names among fans... see when they eventually did get a version of the game to North America on the GBA the official game had some changes to the names.
Cless became Cress
Klarth became Clause.
the others pretty much all stayed the same.
However to two little tiny changes can cause a huge uproar among fans, What is my stance on the issue? Well considering Japanese is a phonetic language it's really hard to have a translation for words that everyone can agree on.
ex. Natsume Yuujinchou, Natsume Yuujin-cho, Natsume Yujin-cho
shoujo, Shojo / Shounen, Shonen
I think it's Less an issue of which one is right and more an issue of which one you are used to... for that reason in this review I will be referring to the two characters as Cless and Klarth... be it right or wrong, i don't care it's what i'm used to calling them.
Now that's out of the way, onto the next story.
As mentioned above I loved the game, so in 2004 when The first episode of the OVA was released i was extremely happy. Watching it had the memories flooding back to me, it was exactly like the game... by the time all 4 episodes were released (which took two years) I was so happy, yeah they cut out some of my favorite scenes from the game but it's a long game and only 4 episodes... they did manage to keep a lot though...
But.... i started to think.... did i only like the show cause i loved the game?
Fast forward a few years, Geneon releases all 4 episodes on one disk and i scoop it up right away, luckily too since not too long after that Geneon closed their doors....
Fast forward to earlier the year, thanks to this completed series i've really enjoyed re-watching shows, i saw the disk and thought. "hey, why not? it's only 4 episodes long"
So i watched it again and i still loved it.... but now i really wondered if i only liked it cause i played the game.
So i posed an experiment, I have a Friend who when she was younger didn't get to play many games... if any at all.... she had never played ANY of the tales of games and had no prior knowledge of stories/characters/controversies.... SO i lent it to her with the stipulation that she must watch all 4 episodes, no matter what.
So she did and she came back to me "i like it but the last episode confused me"
I was stunned, it was not the result i was expecting, i was POSITIVE it would make no sense... but no after asking her to tell me the plot she got pretty much all of it right till the last episode, she didn't understand the point of the ninja girl and the whole revelation around Dhaos of left her wondering why she should care.
So i got ready to write the review when my other friend sees the dvd and goes "hey, is that related to Tales of Symphonia? i loved that game"
The answer is yes, Phantasia takes place 4000 years after Symphonia so the two are very loosely connected... anyways it got me thinking, would someone who had a little bit of knowledge of the game enjoy it? She doesn't watch as much anime as me or play as many games so it was a perfect middle ground between me and my first test subject.
So i lend it to her but i don't say she has to watch all 4 episodes.
So after a few weeks of no news about it i ask her "have you watched any? what did you think"
"It makes no sense, i even had a friend over and we tried to make sense of it but we couldn't"
See that's the reaction I was expecting... and i got it from an expected place. however with that knowledge in place i think i should FINALLY get to the review.
Tales of Phantasia is about Cless Alvein a Swordsman who has hid hometown destroyed because of a trinket he carries from his father, Mint Anadade a Cleric who gets taken from her family for a trinket she possesses and Chester Barklight a archer who lost his family and little sister because of the destruction of Cless' hometown.
Apparently their necklaces (which are exspheres... tee hee hee) are the Key to releasing Dhaos, the Big bad of this series who had been sealed for almost 1000 years.
So Dhaos is released and the only key to stopping him is magic.... too bad in this time the Tree Yggdrasil is a rotting mess and seeing as it's the source of all magic that means the only people who possess any form of magic are Clerics.... yeah too bad they aren't terribly offensive.
So a Mage who happens to be there when Dhaos is awakened send Cless and Mint to the past, poor little Chester is left behind to serve as a distraction.
Why the past? oh because at this point in time Magic uses still exist, they are tasked to find Arche Klien, the half elf Mage and Klarth. F. Lester a Summoner.
so they do, they help protect a town that has technology that can send them back to their own time. Unfortunately the town also has this Canon that uses up all the mana in the area and it is the reason why there's not enough mana for the future. hence no magic users...
Dhaos doesn't seem too trilled by the canon and does his best to try and stop it from firing, he fails and then the Tree that is the source of all Mana starts to die. Mint who has Martel, the spirit within the tree, calling to her goes to heal the tree... and is helped by an unlikely source... Dhaos also does his best to feed mana into the tree.
Well that's odd... anyways they eventually get back to their time and fight Dhaos, but he gets away.... damn him and his time travel abilities. Well they have no idea where he went so their job is done right? Wrong.
someone from the future come to the past looking for the Time Traveling heroes.... Chester tags along despite being much weaker then the others and they go on an adventure to find a way to keep Dhaos in one time....
Apparently they need the Origin Sword that the Summon spirit Origin can create. it's guarded by the elven village.... which Arche can't enter.
anyways they do get the sword and the contract for Klarth... now off to Dhaos' castle which the sword leads them to.
here is where suzu comes in, in the version i played she was a side character who had her parents controlled and she eventually has to kill them.... in later versions she's a playable character... though in this her role seems to be closer to what i described and it really doesn't add anything to the story.
So they go and fight Dhaos with their magic, they win and oh crap... thanks to you killing him his entire planet is going to die, see this world screwed up the flow of mana when the tree died and that completely screwed Dhaos home world over since the two are connected.
well that sucks.... oh well....
everyone goes back to their own time, Arche manages to see them all again in present day since she's a half elf but Klarth can't cause.... yeah he's probably dead. anyways the work hard to try and help the tree get healthy again since mint helping in the past seems to have done something.
It's a really pretty Anime... it's really well animated and it's fun seeing the characters i love so much with so much life. However as my experiments proved.... without prior knowledge of the series as a whole it's damn near impossible to understand... it jumps all over the place... and even if you get most to a point the ending will leave you baffled.
So with a heavy heart i know it's not a good show.... but i still love it... i kind of wish they had done the unicorn scene from the game but i understand why they didn't fit it in...
I do however recommend the game if you can find the GBA version... it's not the best port in the world and the audio is terrible due to limitations of the hardware but still... great story. i know there's a PSP version as well but i'm not clear on if it was released to North America or not.
Alright, wow didn't mean for this to be so long.... oh well~