Originally released for the SNES in Japan, in 1995, Tales of Phantasia steadily gained a cult following both in its home country and abroad for its creative gameplay system and storyline. So much so that fan-translations of the game became widely famous due to the lack of an official English release. It wasn't until 2006 that Namco Bandai finally released an English voice and text port for the Game Boy Advanced. Eight years after that, we finally see a mobile release on iOS; but the direction they chose to take it in is sorely disappointing.

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From a design standpoint, the game is an impressive update. Featuring a virtual joystick plus tap control for movement and a swipe-based battle system, Namco did a great job bringing the old classic up to par. The graphic, sounds, and interface all handle nicely with an iPhone or iPad. But whatever brownie points the development team has garnered with fans, they were easily tossed out the window with the money-making strategy Namco chose to adopt.

Swipe based battle
Swipe mechanic in battle. (Credit: Screenshot by Tuong Nguyen/CNET)

Tales of Phantasia is free to play with an emphasis on in-app purchases -- a big emphasis with a capital $. Most core elements were revamped to entice players to spend money. Gone are the difficulty options; now it's an auto-hard mode. That means monsters are tougher, bosses harder, and save points are fewer with a reduced item drop rate. The game won't let you play without an Internet connection (because saving requires you to be online) and can't be minimized to the background.

No connectivity, no gaming (Credit: Screenshot by Tuong Nguyen/CNET)

All of this just shows that Namco is more willing to squeeze its fan base a little harder rather than making games to attract new followers. At least the app is free, so it has that going for it. It'll take a dedicated cheapskate or a deep-pocket fan to make it through this remake.

Raised in the Bay Area but educated on the sandy beaches of San Diego, Tuong writes for Download.com specializing in Windows Security and Mobile Apps.