46 – Tales of Phantasia
Developer: Namco Tales Studio
Initial Release Date: December 15, 1995
Why it’s one of the best RPGs: While the Tales games haven’t reached the heights of Final Fantasy, they are similar in their storylines with vague lore connections and constantly improving systems. Tales of Phantasia innovated battle systems with the Linear Motion Battle System, allowing the player to attack within the active time battle mode across a long, 2D plane over which they could move freely. Other party members could be set to defend, to fight as AI-controlled party members, or to cast specific spells via the pause menu. The LMBS would only evolve and change with each Tales game, gradually becoming something truly unique and interesting with more recent series titles.
Tales of Phantasia’s battle system isn’t the game’s only unique offering. It features a time-traveling storyline rather distinct from other popular RPG stories such as Chrono Trigger and Dragon Quest VII. The first part of the story takes place in the past, where Cress, Mint, and their allies seek a power to defeat the villain laying waste to their present. Upon returning and defeating him in their time, a messenger from the future reveals that the villain still lives, and they must travel there as well to stop him for good. Phantasia’s excellent storyline and gameplay laid the groundwork for all Tales games to come.
Next: 45 - Might and Magic