I’m still too early in to judge the plot of Tales of Phantasia (and we’re putting it on hiatus for a while, though we do intend to continue eventually), but I’ve formed a pretty solid opinion on everything else: namely, that everything other than the plot is great. Even the high encounter rate is compensated for by the quickness of battle– often finished by a companion’s spell before you have time to locate your enemies, though in longer battles you are actively engaged with the system– and the fast loading time, for which my standards have been lowered in this day and age of wanting to show off graphics. The game is quite lovely, atmospheric, and fun to wander around in; the battle system is interesting; the dungeons are home to little cave-dwelling creatures as special effects rather than enemies; your heroes actually eat to regain their strength; even the economy makes a little more sense than in most RPGs.
As for the plot, it’s really hard to overlook its dullness; it revolves around a lad with an overdeveloped sense of vengeance and his cliche-ridden quest to deal with his vendetta, while incidentally saving the world if that happens to occur on the way. My inner storyteller squirms. But the rest of the game is worth appreciating.