Earlier this month, NAMCO BANDAI announced (via Twitter, no less), that they’d follow Tales of Graces f‘s North American release with a Western version of Tales of Xillia. This PS3-exclusive RPG is a celebration of sorts for the Tales series of RPGs, which had been around for 15 years at the time of the game’s release in Japan. But rather than just rehash classic elements, the Tales team took some chances, crafting a new battle system and a more grown-up visual style. The result, according to Famitsu, is the best Tales game yet.
Last week, I had a chance to pose some questions (including some of your Twitter queries) to Tales series producer Hideo Baba. Here are his answers:
Jeff Rubenstein, PlayStation Blog: Tales of Graces f came to PS3, but Vesperia didn’t hit PS3 in the West. Now Tales of Xillia has been announced for North America and Europe. How do you determine which titles in the series get a an English-language conversion?
Hideo Baba, NAMCO BANDAI Studios Inc.: Given the current resources assigned to the Tales of series team, I am always trying to find ways to assign staff members to work on a Western localised title as well as a new game for Japan when possible. However, the team’s main objective is to create new titles for Japan first and unfortunately staff resources are not always available. Moving forward I would really like to assemble teams to release as many of the main Tales of games overseas as possible.
PSB: Tales of Graces f’s battle system was well loved. Talk about Tales of Xillia’s Double Raid Linear Motion Battle System. How does it compare? What is new?
HB: Our fans, as well as ourselves, are always searching for the next evolution in the unique real-time Tales of battle system. With Tales of Graces f we were able to design and adjust that battle system into something that was acclaimed by both gamers and the press alike. However we were not completely satisfied and felt that it could be taken a bit further. With that challenge in front of us we created the Double Raid Linear Motion Battle System for Tales of Xillia. There are two big new features with DR-LMBS. The first one allows players to link two characters’ artes, which utilises the game’s setting of two leading characters; Jude and Milla. The second is the Linked Artes system, which is a cinematic attack performed by two characters in a flashy combo. In addition to the fast paced and exhilarating battles many fans loved in Tales of Graces f, players will now be able to enjoy real-time action battles with two united characters.
PSB: At the beginning you’ll choose between two characters. How does the game change depending on if you go with Milla or Jude?
HB: Depending on which character the player chooses at the beginning of the game they will experience various story sequences play out from the point of view of either of our main characters; Jude or Milla. The main, overall storyline is the does not change between either Jude or Milla, but to experience the full story players will have to play the game as both characters.
PSB: Xillia is the best rated Tales of series ever in Japan; it received a 39/40 in Famitsu. What improvements have been made from Tales of Graces f that you think merited such critical acclaim?
HB: I believe the game was acclaimed because of its maturity as the 15th anniversary title in Japan. As I previously mentioned, we are always challenging ourselves to evolve the series and to develop each title that will surpass fan expectations from the last title. I think that these gameplay evolutions from game to game over the course of the past 15 years have helped the series earn its critical acclaim.
PSB: Artistically, Tales of Xillia is very different from the last few Tales games, featuring more “mature” character models. What audience is the story geared toward? Tales of Graces f felt aimed at a pretty young crowd.
HB: The main audience in Japan remains continues to be the core Tales of series fans. However, we know we need to acquire new fans while also keeping returning fans of the series invested in our new titles. The new character design is a big change for the series, and helps us attract new players without sacrificing the devoted Tales of fans. I think you may recognise Milla as a mature character in terms of her portrayal in the game. Our intentions with Milla, for example, is to create an woman with strong convictions that female players can aspire to be like when they grow up. Of course she is also portrayed to be adored by young men like Jude.
PSB: What was it like developing Tales of Xilia exclusively for PS3? Was it easier focusing on one platform?
HB: As I’ve mentioned before, the main market for the Tales of series is Japan, and the console highest in demand is the PlayStation 3. We’ll pursue the possibility of releasing titles on various hardware systems as the market changes, but for now we’ll develop the titles on PlayStation 3 to reach the most Japanese players as possible.
PSB: Tales of Xillia came out in Japan last year, but won’t drop in the West until next year. With this extra time, will the team provide any additions to the international version?
HB: I understand this concern well, but we consider the Japanese version of the game as a finished product and hope overseas fans can enjoy the game as it is. The same can be said for all the DLC content as well. There is no big change between the original Japanese version and the international version because we want to provide the same gameplay experience as much as possible between all regions.