Tales of Producer Talks About JRPG Changes Over 15 Years Of Tales

By Matt Hawkins . April 15, 2013 . 6:00pm


On-hand to talk about Tales of Xillia at Namco’s Gamers Day and also provide a demo was Hideo Baba, the producer of the Tales of series since day one. He was a very charming individual, and quite proud of the 15-year anniversary, of what he dubbed the “cornerstone of the JRPG market”. That topic what kicked off my questions.


With the 15th anniversary of the Tales of franchise, what do you think has been the biggest change in JRPGs in general in Japan? And how has the Tales of series changed during that time?


Hideo Baba, Producer: I’m afraid to say that it’s how the sheer numbers alone have gone down. Fifteen years ago, you saw a great variety of games coming out for the PSOne. But nowadays, you can count the number of games on one hand.


In regards to our franchise, not much has changed. Because it has been built upon the foundation of anime and manga culture, which all Japanese game players have grown up with. That’s always something we’ve tried hard to tap into and celebrate. To a certain extent, the Tales of games is a celebration of our identity.


Why do you believe is the reason for the decline?


There are several reason, but a major one is how the game industry in Japan has gotten much smaller over the years. That and JRPGs themselves take so long to complete. Which has always been the case, but with the rise of casual games, mobile games… gaming as a whole has become so dispersed.




Well, on that note, what do you think of the rise in popularity of JRPGs in America? Has that changed the way Tales of games have been produced?


We will always cater towards the Japanese market first, without even realizing it. Since that’s where we’re based, it can’t be helped! And while we are aware of the increase of interest in the eastern market, and it’s something we do consider when making certain decisions, we will first and foremost be catering towards Japanese players.


Otherwise we might deviate from our roots and loose the foundation that Tales of has been built upon. So I want to assure everyone that we’re not going to make something like Skyrim! [laughs]


Though here’s a hypothetical situation: the president of Namco Bandai one day asks: “Look, I love what you’re doing with the Tales of games, but I want you to make something like Skryim.” How would you react?


First and foremost, I would love to do something like that! I actually am a big fan of that game. I’m good friends with [Hiroyuki] Kobayashi at Capcom, and when I heard he was making Dragon’s Dogma, I was very jealous! But I really rooted him on, because he was creating a western style RPG in Japan.


So, if given the opportunity, I would end up going with a completely different development team. The main reason: the people who work on the Tales franchise have such a huge love for the series. And when you make something completely different, you have to go from ground zero and rest your mind, which is easier to do with another team.


I guess that’s why Tales will never end up feeling like Skyrim?


Being a producer, I need to stay true to the Tales of franchise and do my part to help mature the Japanese RPG market.


I know it’s probably difficult to answer, but what is your personal favorite Tales of game and why?


imageTales of Phantasia, simply because it was the foundation of the series.


Over the years, has it gotten any easier to make Tales of games?


Fundamentally, it has never gotten easier. [laughs]


And the biggest challenge that has persisted during all these years?


It’s always difficult moving from one system to the next, dealing with changing specs and trying to find new ways to maintain the core essence of the games.


Also, it’s very easy to develop tunnel vision. The fear of re-using the same characters, the same scenarios. We try very hard to make sure that tap into familiar tropes, but at the same time, bring some originality into the proceedings.




Speaking of hardware, any thoughts on the PS4?


I can’t really comment on that, though I will say that we haven’t started any development on any next generation systems. We’re still focused on the PS3.


When it comes to platforms, it all comes down to what our fans have. We’ve done lots of research and have determined that most Tales fans have PlayStation 3s, which is why most of the main Tales of games come out for that platform.


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  • fireemblembeast

    Nice interview! Glad that he’s still focused on PS3, because iirc he once said he was going to focus on the PSV. (Don’t quote me on that.) I would get a Vita, but damn, are they expensive! And my wallet is dedicated to new JRPGs this year.
    As always, Baba-san’s dedication brings a smile to fans’ faces.

  • Spirit Macardi

    I think it’s good that they’re sticking with the anime style for the series, since the series mostly deconstructs tropes common to Japanese media. If they went with another style, it would be incredibly jarring.

    What I’d really like to know however is if they’d ever be willing to make another non-Tales game like Keroro RPG, since I thought it was a neat concept. Plus there’s another Kumiko Watanabe voiced character who I’d like to see them make an RPG around; a character who they’ve admitted to being quite fond of given his number of cameos in the Tales games x3

  • Hideo Baba-sama is such a heartwarming fellow. It’s really difficult, if not nearly impossible to simply shrug off his enthusiasm. So thank you very much for the article, it was a pleasure to read through the interview.

    It’s kind of relieving that he (as well as his team) wants to stay true to his roots of “Tales”. I couldn’t imagine the games any other way and as much as I value different oppinions, this is something for me that I have to admit.
    Deep down I would be very disappointed if it were any other way with the “Talesof team”.

    Also it’s kind of nice that he might be hinting on a new Tales on PS3. Hopefully Xillia will sell well enough, so that we’ll be able to see lots and lots of this series in the future.

  • Surprised he acknowledged that not much has changed in the series. I played three Tales of games and none were better than the first and all were extremely similar. The lack of change and the staleness of JRPGs are why they struggle. They’re the same games they were 20 years ago but with a nicer coat of paint. Though the paint is inferior to a lot of other current generation games. Aside from a few games most can all be developed on a SNES/PS1 and that’s not a good thing. I’m not much of a fan of RPGs much but Xenoblade is the best I’ve ever played because it was nothing like the rest.

    • MrSirFeatherFang

      I hear Tales of Rebirth is drastically different from the other Tales games. Though I think the similarities is what defines this series (Linear Motion battle system or whatever). Kind of like Pokemon (6 member parties, turn based battles, 4 moves) or 2D Mario games (power ups, go right to finish the level, jumping). Though I don’t know if the in-depth battle systems for each Tales game is really complex or not. Since it’s an action RPG I think it can still work well on the series staple which is the battle system.

    • KingRuff

      Hate to break it to you, but you are absolutely wrong if you think that any Tales game after the PS1 era could be made on PS1/SNES. You completely lost all credibility with that comment. Even the ones that remained 2D had too much content for the PS1. Then you had the nerve to go and say “I’m not much of a fan of RPGs”. So you don’t play the games but you believe that you know enough to criticize them? This isn’t even a legitimate statement about the Tales series, you are just trying to sugarcoat your words while saying Tales sucks and Xenoblade is better. Nice try but you aren’t fooling anyone.

      • I’ve actually played a ton of RPGS and that’s where my comments are coming from. They were all very similar and later ones felt like SNES/PS1 games when it came to the core of the game play they just looked a bit better.

    • Tien Ron

      i don’t know where you got your source from, but none of the tales games are the same and considering you haven’t played them makes it even worst that you actually have the audacity to comment on it. xenogears and tales are very different in story but i can tell you that xenogears battle system is defo not better than tales.

      • Source? It’s my own experience. I played three different Tales of games. I wasn’t comparing Xenogears. I didn’t bring that game up. I mentioned Xenoblade and it’s not a comparison but a comment on how it’s completely different from every other RPG I’ve ever played and that’s what made it fun and better than all the rest.

    • Ladius

      He never meant to say the series hasn’t changed, he simply said that it still adheres to the same identity and core design principles which gave it life back in the Super Famicom age.

      Also, I don’t know what Tales games have you played, but the series has a lot of internal diversity: narrative themes, settings, battle systems, growth systems and explorations have changed a lot from entry to entry, and that’s one of the reasons why this fanbase could never decide upon the best Tales game and is constantly debating that matter with each new entry.

      • No fan base can agree upon which entry is the best in a series.

    • Alexander Marquis Starkey

      You played 3 games out of the like 7 or 8 titles that came over here and then say they don’t change…Yeah I have to agree with them, it seems like you haven’t played enough.

  • Visa Vang

    “We’ve done lots of research and have determined that most Tales fans have PlayStation 3s, which is why most of the main Tales of games come out for that platform.”


    • animaster

      Well, as he said in the 3rd questions:

      “We will always cater towards the Japanese market first, without even realizing it. Since that’s where we’re based, it can’t be helped! And while we are aware of the increase of interest in the eastern market, and it’s something we do consider when making certain decisions, we will first and foremost be catering towards Japanese players.

      Otherwise we might deviate from our roots and loose the foundation that Tales of has been built upon.”

      • Tien Ron

        that’s the development he’s talking about not which console or platform it goes out on.

  • I love how he said that he wants to stay true to the Tales series. I have played and loved the Tales series for quite a while, and to change the series into something it shouldn’t be would just be terrible. Very nice interview.

  • DesmaX

    “There are several reason, but a major one is how the game industry in
    Japan has gotten much smaller over the years. That and JRPGs themselves
    take so long to complete.”

    But, even if they had the budget, would people but it?
    It’s already hard for me to convince JRPG fans to but Tales of Graces f…

  • puchinri

    It’s usually pretty fun to see what Baba has to say, and this time was as fun as ever too. It’s good that he has an understanding of the series basis and knows as well as wants to stick to it (for the games and the team).

    I am curious though about how he feels about the older titles in general and his thoughts on them (especially in comparison to the modern ones).

    Hopefully he’ll be with the games for a long time still~.

  • Auvers

    ask baba next time why he hates me and doesn’t want me to play vasperia ps3

    • Give it up. its not coming over, period. Plus I heard there a translation patch of it in the works.

      • Auvers


  • Cerzel

    I find it hilarious that his favourite Tales game is the one that was made by (future) tri-Ace staff.

  • Seems like he dodged the overseas question abit

  • Barrylocke89

    I’m glad that they acknowledge the potential for tunnel vision and are trying to find a way to combat it. I love tales games to death, but considering how often Namco-Bandai releases a new one, there have been occasions where characters and scenarios (moreso the latter than the former) felt a little too similar for my tastes.

    It doesn’t happen often though, besides the combat system, Tales really shines the most with its cast of characters, and even characters that may seem to be just a copypasta of older ones usually have things that make them different as you learn more about them.

    • Tien Ron

      i have never met any copy and paste characters in tales.

      • Barrylocke89

        I really haven’t either, and I guess that’s what I was getting at with the last part of my post. There’s no character that’s just the exact same as another, but sometimes there’s characters who on the surface seem similar, either in their personality or their background.

        A popular example is “Lol another loli pirate?” referring to Patty of Tales of Vesperia because Tales of Eternia has a young pirate girl of its own, Chat. And I’ve seen a couple of people say that Luca from Tales of Innocence is just another wimp like Emil from Tales of Symphonia 2.

        Both of these sets of characters have things that make them seem more similar (Both Chat and Patty are young girls that are pirates, and both Luca and Emil are well known for being pretty meek and wimpy) but there’s more to the characters than just that phrase long description, and that becomes apparent as you spend more time with the characters and learn about who they are.

        The reference to scenarios in my post is more about the story elements that happen in the games and again, it’s true that multiple tales games sometimes have the same story elements or scenarios to them. Racism and how the denizens of the world handle it is a common theme that’s shown up in both Tales of Rebirth and Tales of Symphonia, for instance. Even here though, the terms and ways that things get handled are often a little different.

  • harmonyworld

    well a game like tales of and skyrim are so different with immersion into it.
    With skyrim, I feel like I am the hero and this my journey to become stronger and save the world.
    With tales of, it’s like I’m watching a movie. I’m watching these characters and watching them get stronger and make bonds and have hardship and I get immersed into the story.
    With skyrim, I’m immersed into the adventure.
    I dunno, both are entirely different games but that’s good. I love tales of as it is and I wouldn’t change it.

    • isfuturebright

      Wow! That’s nice! Never knew anyone that liked both games and could make that difference so nicelly :)

      • This difference can be applied to the general RPG-scheme applied in West and East (with their exceptions).

  • harmonyworld

    Also ask him why he doesn’t want me to have the other two tales of the world games in the series.
    I quite liked the first one and would love to play the other two!

  • Andrew Knights

    Bring Some Tales Games Over to the WII-U HIDEO BABA :D PLEASE AND THANK YOU

  • wererat42

    Biggest change?
    Milla never would have been the main character in a Tales game 15 years ago.

    • I don’t know, the females in all of the Tales of games are strong and a lot of them could of easily of been the main character. Point is moot though since that is the past and we will never know. Back in the earlier days of console gaming having female leads wasn’t such a big deal, as Lara Croft proved. Just as gaming became more mainstream did it become a problem, and only because the company’s couldn’t sell 6 million copies of a game with a female lead. So games with female leads are successful, depending on whether or not your expectations of successful are within reason.

  • CirnoLakes

    While it is okay to experiment. I feel like it is great that I can trust Tales to stay true to itself as a franchise.

    wRPGs are becoming very popular, and I’d hate to see the amount of real jRPGs shrink further and further down. And while experimentation can be good for innovation, it can be easy to fall off track. Look at Final Fantasy, Square Enix like to experiment a lot, and then it took a major toll on Final Fantasy XIII.

    Some people talk about how jRPGs need to innovate, and that this is a bad idea. But like he said, the amount of Japanese RPGs being made is shrinking. The last thing I want to see is for that genre to shrink even further.

    And Tales is one of the franchises most precious to me. Never do I want to lose that Tales feel. Tales is able to deliver an emotion to me. It is able to hit a spot that I realize is the reason I started playing Japanese RPGs.

    When somebody asks me why I play Japanese RPGs and what example of them is why, I can no longer point to franchises like Final Fantasy or Grandia. But I can point to Tales. Tales is something I can count on. Something I can count on to continue to deliver the emotion and reason and feelings for wanting to play a Japanese RPG to begin with.

    I am happy that Hideo Baba cares about that vision.

    • Curan_Altea

      I agree with this fully. While there are plenty of JRPG series that have changed a lot and I still enjoy them, the Tales series has always as you said hit the spot. I do enjoy change and innovation but there’s still a special place in my heart for certain series, and I would rather it be what the series -is- rather then what the series -was- when I think fondly of it.

    • Göran Isacson

      “I can no longer point to Grandia”
      Oh isn’t that ever the truth, and the truth makes me very sad ;_;
      I think it’s kinda odd how despite the fact that I love JRPGs, I have yet to play a single Tales of game to it’s conclusion… or ANY Tales of games barring the first one for a SNES emulator. It just keeps getting pushed back on my priority list for some reason.

      • CirnoLakes

        I seriously recommend Tales of Symphonia.

        If you enjoyed Grandia, I think you’ll get a very serious kick out of Tales of Symphonia.

  • Hideo Baba is a man of principle. Your love for the Tales series is most definitely appreciated by your fans!

  • animaster

    ” … otherwise we might deviate from our roots and loose the foundation that Tales of has been built upon.”
    Final Fantasy series come to mind.

    • Tony F.

      Except that FF never strove to preserve the same tropes like Tales series do. Just ask 100 people what is the “true essence of FF” and you’ll have 100 different answers; tt’s not a fair comparison, really.

  • Tien Ron

    i’m glad that he’s honest and said that he caters to japan first although i was sad he said that in a way , i really respect his honestly and glad he struck to it tales is a beautiful series and i love it so much!
    i find it funny that to cater to the japanese it has such a western influence in it, like all the names being english and weapons and magic alike.

  • MrJechgo

    To those who complain about Vesperia PS3 and even Symphonia PS2: Microsoft and Nintendo, respectively, stroke an exclusivity deal with them for the English version. THAT’s why they can’t release the upgraded versions in English here.

    Why didn’t they just release the post-Symphonia games on the Gamecube as well as the PS2 is beyond me though… because Nintendo’s platforms are good fertile grounds for JRPGs. Rebirth, Destiny 2, Destiny R, Legendia and Abyss could ALL have been released on the Gamecube as well.

    That’s what I’m complaining most of the time about Tales: they keep bouncing the series on every possible platform. Sheesh… either become exclusive or just make it truely multiplatform.

    Anyway, glad to see that Baba keeps the series grounded :)

  • XxStoicmonkeyxX

    Stay true to the core series yet take out world maps. lovin it.

  • Didn’t Baba say he while back that his favourite game was actually Tales of Hearts?

    • Alexander Marquis Starkey

      He actually didn’t give a favorite at the time, but said he wanted fans to play Hearts

  • Im glad there sticking to there routes however i wish he said that us EU/NA players wont miss out anymore.

  • Brian Senne

    In all the tales talk I read, its refreshing to see people genuinly excited about a new tqles entry. Sometimes I feel so alone when trying to talk to gamestop employees or friends about the series, no one knows what Im talking about. I also feel alone in defending dub actors and point out how much progress has been acheived through credible voice actors. I actually believe Tales could acheive signifigant success in the Us and europe if they would dub their anime and run a commercial promoting a game correlating with that show. Even games already relrased.It worked for pokeman. Im also nervous about not seeing xillia 2 due to the amount of time it takes to localize on top of the upcoming PS4. It would have been nice if they had hired the voice actors for both games and started working on 2 the day they finished xillia.Again, they could put some anime out there, promote xillia, and wrap up the final season promoting the sequal. But honestly, Im happy with any tales I can get, thank you for another adventure.

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