E3 is a very hectic event, and it can be quite difficult to get some quiet time with the game developers and producers. Thankfully, we managed to get some time to have a quick chat with the Global Brand Manager at Namco, Denis Lee, on the past, present and future of the Tales of series outside of Japan. The games are notorious for often not making it out of Japan and when the games do, they’re often years late, as opposed to months, the chat was rather reaffirming for the fans of the series, and told us that we may eventually have simultaneous releases for the titles…
We initially discussed the importance of the role, with regards to a series of games that had a hard time breaking out of Japan. Denis talked about there being two key landmarks for the growth of the series popularity outside of Japan, with Tales of Symphonia being the first. He also mentioned that it is the highest selling Tales game outside of the Japan, and is accredited with opening up the series to a whole new set of players. Following this, a number of games were being released in Japan and only a few were being released outside. Not even Denis had an answer for why this happened. However, the second title that helped jump start the popularity of the series was Tales of Vesperia.
In the meanwhile the fan base continued to be interested and vocal, particularly as the PlayStation 2 titles were released on in the US, but not in PAL regions. So the gap between titles for us was even longer! But before we got to the process of localisation, the key title from the series at E3 – Tales of Xillia 2 – was discussed. Apparently, the development team behind the Tales games are usually happy to finish the story of one game, and then move onto a new one. However, given the overwhelming response for the characters from the first game, the team was compelled to produce a direct sequel.
For those in the know, the sequel will start a year following the events of the first game. Marta and Ludger from the original will be the central protagonists. However, the majority of the party members will make a reappearance, and a key part of a game will be telling each of their stories from the intervening year – to help give them closure. This is in contrast to Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, which placed you with a new cast and the old cast were mainly consigned to cameos.
A common theme throughout Tales games is the separation of two worlds, and Tales of Xillia had, Rieze Maxia – a region where people could harness energy from the land – and Elympios – a region where people used technology to harness this energy. Whereas the original spent most of its time in Rieze Maxia, the sequel starts off in the contrasting Elympios. As the settings would imply, while Rieze Maxia had a lot more colour, natural beauty and medieval trappings, Elympios looks to take a dimmer, tech-ladden view of the game world. Since both have conflicting ideologies, a key point in the game is how these two worlds coexist.
Stepping back to localisation, Denis said there were two elements to this. Firstly, while there is a strong desire to bring more of the Tales games over from Japan, the sheer volume of the games being released recently meant that localisers have been playing catch up for a long time. And secondly, it was mentioned that there are processes coming into place that will allow for smaller gaps between Japanese releases and localisation. However, this is unlikely to happen until the release schedules have caught up with one another. Furthermore, the issue of appropriate translation came up – it was mentioned that a lot of the dialogue and humour in the game would not make sense if directly translated, and given the sheer volume of text (with the skits and all), this was a very time consuming element.
Moving on the conversation to another title from the series on show at E3, Tales of Hearts R for the PS Vita, I was surprised to find that it is actually considered a ‘flagship’ title, as opposed to a ‘Tales of the World’ title. Namely because a lot of the previous handheld titles had not been flagship. The game is its own separate title, though this is an enhanced version of the previous 3DS title, with new content, characters and a revamped battle system. From a brief play time, it was found that the game has random battles, which hasn’t always been the case for the series. Having been released in Japan already, players can look forward to both titles being released in latter part of 2014, with Tales of Zestria having been confirmed as a definite release outside of Japan.
Thank you to Namco-Bandai for helping organise the interview.