Tales of Phantasia: Cross Edition
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There are some games that receive enough popularity to warrant multiple rereleases and/or remakes, an example being Final Fantasy IV. Another example is Bandai-Namco’s Tales of Phantasia, whose original incarnation saw its release on the Super Famicom, although it would receive a remake on the PlayStation with updated battle mechanics, a port to the GameBoy Advance fusing elements from the Super Famicom and PlayStation versions, a PlayStation Portable port with full voice acting, and most recently, as a companion title to Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon X (pronounced “cross”), the latest version entitled Tales of Phantasia: Cross Edition. So just what’s new about this version?

The bulk of changes in Phantasia X come in the battle system, where, in addition to upgraded character sprites, the general mechanics have received an update, as well. Fights are still two-dimensional, with players controlling protagonist Cless as the player moves him left or right (with his speed of movement always being fast) and has him attack enemies with his current weapon, with different attack values for thrust attacks and slash attacks, and up to three chainable slashes or thrusts. Up to four Tech Point-consuming special skills players can assign for Cless, with the player in some instances needing to use them a hundred times to master them and thus unlock combination skills players can sometimes purchase from wandering soldiers or gain from story events.

By default, players manually control Cless while the A.I. controls up to three allies, with an extra playable character that plays some part in Narikiri Dungeon X being present at some points. Different A.I. options are available for each character, although some players may need a translation tool to figure out what they do exactly, the same going for most items aside from HP and TP-restoring Gummies. Allies sometimes use spells that heal enemies, although luckily, players can enable and disable spells in the middle of battle, not to mention change Cless’s skill lineup. In cases where Cless’s weapon heals enemies, however, there is no way to change his equipment in the middle of battle, with escape being possible by moving him to the edge of the battlefield for a few seconds, which can take some time depending upon the levels of the enemy.

Winning battles nets all characters, even those not in the active party, experience, with money and occasional items being rewards as well. Although the game’s primary healer, Mint, acquires new spells through leveling, other characters such as the magicians Klarth and Arche must earn new spells through story events (mostly for Klarth), or purchasing them from NPCs (mostly for Arche). One notable change is that battles are significantly quicker than in the previous remakes, what with the absence of any kind of pause during spell animations, alongside the ability of each character to use items without a burdensome recovery time. There are some tricky fights, but otherwise, the battle system is solid as it has been in most other Tales games.

Control is mostly decent, and players familiar with the general interface of most Tales games that have received English versions should have no problems navigating the menus, but things aren’t generally difficult to find even for non-Japanese speakers, and shopping is hardly problematic, players being able to tell if new equipment will increase or decrease stats before buying it. There is some issue, however, with the general weak direction on how to advance the main storyline, which can leave most players looking to a guide regardless of whether or not they’re fluent in Japanese, and there are no in-game maps for dungeons, some of which are of convoluted design. All in all, interaction is passable at best.

Phantasia X largely tells the same time-traveling story as its previous incarnations aside from some new story scenes involving the new playable character, and the cast is generally likeable if players can understand the dialogue. Time-traveling plots, however, were nothing new at the time of the very first version’s release, and while the plot isn’t perfect, it still holds up decently today.

Motoi Sakuraba’s soundtrack is mostly the same, as well, not that this is a bad thing, as it still holds up as one of his best works, with some notable tracks including Arche’s theme and the summon spell battle music. The Japanese voice acting is largely decent, as well, in spite of the typical butchering of English terminology, and overall, the aurals do their job well.

The visuals do their job, as well, with Phantasia X keeping the field graphics, with chibi character sprites and plenty of nice-looking scenery, although this incarnation updates the character’s battle sprites to better proportions (except during the battle in the introduction, which still retains previous version’s chibi sprites. The overworld is probably the low point of the visuals but by no means looks terrible, and ultimately, this port is a visual treat.

Finally, a straightforward playthrough of the game takes somewhere from twenty to thirty hours, although things such as sidequests and a New Game+ where players can purchase things from a Grade store can naturally boost playing time. In conclusion, Tales of Phantasia: Cross Edition is undoubtedly the definitive version of the game, what with just about all its aspects being solid, such as the Tales battle system, music, and graphics. There are some issues with regards to its controls, especially for non-Japanese-speaking players, not to mention the run-of-the-mill nature of the story, but this latest incarnation is otherwise a good companion to Narikiri Dungeon X.

The Good:
+Solid, faster Tales gameplay with adjustable encounter rate.
+Great music and Japanese voicework.
+Updated battle visuals look nice.

The Bad:
-The language barrier.
-Sometimes hard to figure out where to go next.
-Story is sometimes run-of-the-mill.

The Bottom Line:
Superb remake Americans unfortunately missed out on.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation Portable
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 8/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Moderate
Language Barrier: Moderate
Playing Time: 20-30 Hours

Overall: 8.5/10

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