Action-filled battles, bonding characters, and fantastical backdrops have been Tales' calling cards. Recently, the franchise hit its benchmark 15th anniversary. With Tales of Xillia on the horizon, we dive deeper into the upcoming release and take a look at the series' evolution. We had the pleasure of interviewing producer Hideo Baba, who discusses the push to bring more titles to the U.S., the new direction of Tales of Xillia, and how Namco Bandai sustains the Tales legacy. 

We're seeing many RPG franchises fade. Why do you think the Tales series has lasted 15 years?

The unique evolution in the game design, the new gameplay provided for each title, the theme described in the storyline, the way of portraying the world, and the creation of attractive characters that play an important role in the fantasy world - I consider these essential elements of the Tales of series.  They have been working together with the new features suited to the times to last for more than 15 years. 

What are some of the challenges of keeping a series fresh after being around for so long?

What I always keep in mind is, "the reassurance in the freshness." This means I always consider the best balance between innovation and the basic strong points of the series, which allows [players] to enjoy the basic features as well as the new gameplay with ease. For example, the storyline and the world were created from scratch to enhance the brand new fantasy world and theme for each title, though some titles such as Tales of Xillia and Tales of Xillia 2 are set in the same world as an exception. On the other hand, we develop a battle system for every title where anyone can enjoy it with the simple and real-time control and feel exhilaration.

What are some of the biggest changes to the series from the start until now? How has it evolved through the years?

I think the biggest change is [the shift from] 2D to 3D in the game design, responding to the changing times. Tales of Symphonia, which is the most successful title overseas, was the first installment developed in 3D. The 3D graphics allowed us to change the way we express characters' emotions. With each new title, the character designs inch closer to lifelike proportions, so we include additional graphical effects to keep the cute anime and water color-style textures of past games.

Are there any special touches to Tales of Xillia to celebrate the series' 15th anniversary?

The most special touch is the first collaboration in the 15 years between two character designers who worked on lots of Tales of titles before: Mustumi Inomata (Graces, Rebirth, Destiny) and Kosuke Fujishima (Abyss, Vesperia, Symphonia). This first collaboration led us to develop two different main characters in the series for the first time.

In the 15 years, what has been your favorite installment so far and why?

I have been asked this question many times, and I always like to say my favorite title is the first installment of the series: Tales of Phantasia. Tales of Phantasia is the root of the 15-year history, and where the series' basic features were solidified.

Up next: The character creation process, entries that didn't make it over, and the mature art style in Xilla...