I've been a longtime fan of the Tales series for over a decade now, with games like Tales of Symphonia ranking among my favorite RPGs of all time. That's why I'm happy that Namco Bandai's Tales Studio is not only continuing to produce these high-quality JRPGs, but also that they seem newly committed to the series' future in America. I recently got the chance to sit down with series producer Hideo Baba to discuss the upcoming Tales of Xillia, his thoughts on how the game will be recieved by American gamers, and future plans for the series here in the west.
Vito Gesualdi: In the past, many Tales games were not localized for American audiences, though it now seems that Namco Bandai is starting to push the series here in the West. What are your plans for the Tales series now that you're focusing more on an American market?
Hideo Baba: We want to have more and more Western fans enjoy the Tales games. We plan to show them our commitment by bringing the dates for the Japanese and American releases closer together.
Vito Gesualdi: Now the Tales series has a very obvious anime art style. Do you think that hurts its chances with American gamers, who might not be used to these kinds of graphics?
Hideo Baba: This kind of animation is a very unique part of Japanese culture, it's obviously not an American style. Still, I think there are two types of users. The first is very interested in new culture, new types of graphics, and they will want to give Tales a try. The other type of user is maybe used to a more photorealistic game. Probably for them, it's difficult to accept our graphics.
Vito Gesualdi: Do you think there are RPG fans who may be interested in a game Tales, but aren't sold on the art style?
Hideo Baba: We do expect that there may be some of this sort of resistance, but I think the art style is important to Tales, and I don't see this as a problem.
Vito Gesualdi: The Tales games all take place in different universes, but share some common themes. What do you think are the essential qualities of a Tales game?
Hideo Baba: Even though the universe is different in each title, I think it's most important to have the big storyline and unique world, as well as the unique character lineup.
Vito Gesualdi: Tales of Xillia was very popular in Japan. What has made this game such a success?
Hideo Baba: The Tales series has been going on for fifteen years in Japan, and this is the first Tales title where both main character designers, Kōsuke Fujishima and Mutsumi Inomata, worked together. The story features such a great team, which made the game fun and interesting for players.
Vito Gesualdi: The RPG genre has been on a decline in terms of popularity. Why is your studio committed to traditional RPG development?
Hideo Baba: The RPG genre used to be one of the most popular, and I believe that's because there are some elements of gaming that only RPGs can express. For instance, only the RPG genre not only allows players to enter a game, but also lets them read a novel. So, we are committed to continuing to develop RPGs.
Vito Gesualdi: The Tales series is very well known for its real time battle system. How is this battle system implemented in Tales of Xillia?
Hideo Baba: In Xillia there are two main characters, which is a very unique facet of the game. The new battle system allows players to link two characters to complement each other in battle, which is a very exciting new feature.
Vito Gesualdi: Who is your favorite Tales character, both from Xillia and from the series overall?
Hideo Baba: From Xillia, I want to pick Milla, because she is a very strong mature woman with a certain conviction. I am very motivated by this kind of woman! From the series, I want to pick Leo Magnus, from Tales of Destiny. I am very impressed by his way of life.
Vito Gesualdi: Now that Tales of the Abyss has come to the Nintendo 3DS, do you have any plans to re-release other Tales games? Perhaps titles American gamers haven't yet experienced?
Hideo Baba: It's very challenging to release the old titles, especially to translate ones which weren't already released in the States. Ideally, I want to bring the old titles to the West in some form, so that American users can enjoy them. But, it's very challenging. We'll take it step by step.
Vito Gesualdi: I'm sure American Tales fans are happy to finally be receiving Xillia, and hopefully future Tales games as well. Is there anything you'd want to say to them?
Hideo Baba: Thank you very much for your support! I want to continue to release as many titles as I can in the States from now on, so more and more users can enjoy the series.