In our exclusive interview with Tales series producer Hideo Baba, we asked the venerable producer on his thoughts on remaking past Tales games, selecting titles to localize, and expanding the series into smartphone territory.
Tales of Symphonia Chronicles is coming out this year in Japan, and next year in the US and Europe. It’s been almost ten years since the original Tales of Symphonia was released on the PlayStation 2 and the GameCube. Looking back on the game now, was there any part of the game you’d have liked to do differently?
Hideo Baba, Producer: With regards to Tales of Symphonia Chronicles, basically the concept here is that, we would like to provide users with the opportunity to replay Tales of Symphonia, which was released ten years ago, on a current console. So, looking back, not really, there wasn’t anything I would change. In fact we didn’t want to make any big changes to the original game [even when making Tales of Symphonia Chronicles].
Of course, during the development process for any title, there will always be a few ideas that could not have been implemented. But even so, we thought we shouldn’t implement these unused ideas in Chronicles, as the game’s development work was already wrapped up. Each Tales of game’s individuality is determined by the ideas that made it in during the development process, so even with remakes we fundamentally do not revisit ideas that we thought about back then and make changes to what’s been decided in the past.
But with that said, we wanted to provide something special for the users who’ve been longtime fans of the Tales series. So, for fans who’ve enjoyed Tales of Xillia or another Tales title on the PS3, we’ve thrown in a little bonus something for them.
With the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles coming out soon, moving forward which hardware platforms do you think the team will be focusing on when it comes to making new Tales titles?
Honestly speaking, it’s a little difficult for me to know for sure, since I can’t predict what the hardware environment for future platforms is going to be like. But basically I would like to release Tales titles on the console(s) that the most number of Tales fans would like to play on.
Right. But that’s if we’re talking about brand new Tales titles here. What if I change the question slightly, and we’re talking in terms of which Tales games you’d like to get localized from Japanese to English? There are still quite a few titles in the past such as Tales of Hearts R and Tales of Innocence R that have not made it to the West yet, and I was wondering if at this point the PS Vita Tales titles are still something you’d look into bringing to the West.
So when considering which titles can be localized to be released in the Western market, our first priority are the flagship titles, such as Tales of Xillia. After that, our second priority are remake titles or all-star titles.
Because the number of development members we have on staff is very limited, it’s not possible to localize every single Tales title. So we have to pick and choose when deciding which parts of the Tales series we would like to bring out to the rest of the world outside Japan.
I see. Within Japan there’s also development of the Tales series on the smartphone front, such as Tales of Card Evolve, Tales of Kizna, and most recently, Tales of Link for the Android and iOS platforms. Unlike Card Evolve and Kizna, which are collectible card games, Tales of Link seems to be a little more like a traditional Tales RPG. Can you talk more about the reasons behind making Tales of Link an entry for smartphones?
There are mainly two reasons. The first is that we need to follow current trends in the market. Smartphone gaming is a sign of the times, and it’s a big market now, so it’s a good idea to release Tales titles not just on consoles but also on the smartphones, so that more and more people will become aware of the Tales series.
The second reason is that on the smartphone we can provide a new gameplay experience to existing users in a way that’s very different from the console Tales games.
A new gampelay experience very different from the console Tales games… so I’m guessing that probably means Tales of Link will not be utilizing the Linear Motion Battle System that’s found in most Tales titles?
The Linear Motion Battle System requires the use of a d-pad and face buttons to control the characters on-screen. But on the smartphone, there aren’t any physical buttons or a d-pad. So for Tales of Link we’re implementing a new and different battle system where the user can control the character and do battle through finger gestures on the touchscreen.
Is Tales of Link something you’d consider bringing over to the West? I found it interesting that the iOS version of [email protected] Shiny Festa was released in the West – a first for the series – even though the PSP versions were not, and I was wondering if this might mean that the barriers to releasing an iOS or Android game in overseas market are lower than console titles.
There is some possibility that future Tales social or SNS (social network services) titles on the iOS and Android platforms may be released overseas. But I think, if we want to do that, we would want to release the game at the same time [all over the world] – not only in Japan but also simultaneously overseas.
The current existing [smartphone] titles are developed in conjunction with companies like GREE and Mobage, so it is very difficult for Namco Bandai to decide to release these kinds of existing social titles in Western markets.