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"Tales of Phantasia: The Animation": Video Games Can Be Watched Too

by on February 3, 2009

Myths are timeless. Created long ago to explain the origin and the inner workings of the world, they’re told and retold to teach and entertain. Mythic stories can take many different forms, from oral tradition to epic poetry to an animated movie based on a video game. That’s where Tales of Phantasia: The Animation comes in. Based on the video series of the same name created by NAMCO about a decade ago, Tales of Phantasia:The Animation is an OVA that takes the plot of the video game and turns it into a movie.

While the movie is divided up into four episodes, each accompanied by an awesome introduction and ending sequence, it’s basically one long narrative. I don’t think it was necessary to split up the movie this way, but it makes the story a little easier to follow. The “Heroes of Eternity”, as they come to be known, fight battles in the past, present, and future, so it’s helpful to have a narrator looking back on the events and giving the audience a recap from a historical standpoint. Each chapter also identifies the year, making it less of a headache to follow chronologically.

Although prior knowledge of Norse mythology isn’t required to understand the story, it’s a fun treat if you do recognize the names. “Midgard”, “Ymir”, “Heimdall”, and others that aren’t closely related to the myths they draw their names from. The only real Norse myth of significance is that of Yggdrasil, the World Tree that links the Heavens and the Earth. In Tales of Phantasia, Yggdrasil is a tree that serves as a source of power. Its very existence hangs in the balance as opposing forces war and draw on its magic.

Many fantasy elements come together to create a unique landscape in Tales of Phantasia. Humans, elves, and demons co-exist in a world where magic is used, spirit summoning can be learned, and even time travel is possible. All this not only makes for great visual effects, but also creates good tension among the different races that have to share the planet. While the elves are more in tune with nature, humans are linked with battle and destruction. The human characters call their own existence into question as they wonder if they are the source of the evil that exists in the world.

The character designs are, for the most part, pretty generic, but the characters themselves are a lot of fun. Thanks to the movie’s video game history, the main characters have different skills or powers and bring a unique fighting style to battle. Each character has his or her own backstory and purpose, and they play well off each other. Arche in particular is a lot of fun because of her blunt comments and the way the others respond to her. Dhaos, The Demon King, is a solid villain. He’s powerful, imposing, and has a strong motivation. Plus there’s a twist in his story that makes a lot of sense and ties well into the theme of the movie.

I’ve never played Tales of Phantasia, but I know my role playing games fairly well. They attract the type of gamer who not only likes strategy and skill building but also appreciates a well thought out world and entertaining storyline. Oftentimes, gamers are rewarded for their hours of gameplay with an extended ending that is just as entertaining as playing the game itself. I’m sure there are lots of RPGs that can be turned into an entertaining movie by cutting out all the necessary battling, so it’s easy to see the logic behind turning Tales of Phantasia into a movie. It works well, but I do feel that for a movie with such great characters, their stories aren’t given a satisfying conclusion.

There’s definitely a specific audience for Tales of Phantasia. Being a student of myth isn’t essential to the enjoyment of the movie, but the viewer should already be familiar with the concepts of magic and time travel in fiction. I don’t see anyone who hasn’t already been introduced to fantasy picking this movie up and following it without being confused. On the other hand, it’s good that the movie doesn’t slow down the plot and action by overexplaining everything. Fans of RPGs or fantasy in general will be able to pop the movie in, sit back, and enjoy the adventure.

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