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Tales Of Interview: Producer Hideo Baba Discusses Xillia, Bringing More Entries Over

by Kimberley Wallace on May 24, 2013 at 08:00 AM

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...

Xillia has a more mature art style. Do you see this trend continuing for future games?

I can surely say that the art style of Tales of Xillia will be a basis for future titles. We introduced the life-size characters to better portray the atmosphere and scale of the adventure, and so players can feel as though they are exploring the world. Though the characters are expressed in life size, the texture is not photo realistic, but is based on the anime and water-color style, which is one of the traditional characteristics of the series.

Traditionally, Tales has been featured on individual platforms, but this was changed with Tales of Vesperia on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in Japan.  Will future releases continue the multi-platform trend?

As of now, I do not have a plan to release [Tales of Xillia] on multi platforms. At this time, I would like to mainly select the platform on which the most users can enjoy the Tales of series.

In the past, North American fans have been frustrated over entries that didn't make it over here. How do you see the future of the series in North America?

I think the ideal situation is if we can bring all the titles to the overseas fans, I would like to do so. However, we cannot consider the overseas releases separately from the business perspective, and we need to discuss which title to release overseas considering the localization. If the series can be enjoyed by as many fans in the western countries as in Japan, there are possibilities to solve the problem. In order to do so, I have been aggressively attending overseas events and done grassroot activities for the past two years to make the series more recognizable and have more people interested in it. I believe if these activities succeed, it can be instrumental in making it possible to bring more titles overseas.

Tales games are known for the characters. Can you walk us through what goes into the character creation process?

First, we consider the detail of characters such as height, weight, age, physical type, gestures, facial expressions, and weapons. Each character has a unique way of speaking since that is one of the clearest ways to express and describe the personalities of characters. Next we consider what the characters' motivations, burdens, and principles through their journey are. These detailed settings are created so that players can empathize with characters.

Up next: More Xillia talk and the future of the franchise...

The action battle system has always been a stand out of the series. Why do you think it works so well and what refinements in Xillia do you think fans will attach to from it?

I believe that the battle system is acclaimed because players can easily control characters at will in the action-packed battles, feeling the exhilaration. What we always keep in mind while developing the system is to never have the player bored no matter how many times they engage in enemy fights. In other words, the battle system should encourage players to fight in many battles that tend to be thought of as annoying in other games.

Can you talk about Tales of Xillia's story and what themes players can expect to encounter?

Tales of Xillia can be played from two different perspectives, Jude and Milla, so I would like you to play the game from both perspectives to understand the world of Xillia more. Some story events are only experienced in Jude's route and others are only seen through Milla's playthrough, which I do not want fans to miss. The major theme of the storyline is "conviction." The storyline addresses the determination to adhere to your convictions and beliefs, and to bear the repercussions that these convictions cause.

What do you most hope fans take away from Tales games? What about Tales of Xillia, in particular?

I would like players to experience the fantasy adventure of swords and magic, which we developed based on our unique Japanese culture. For Tales of Xillia specifically, I would like players to pay attention to how we characterize the cast and the messages relating to the themes throughout the adventure. Please enjoy playing through the game and experience what "conviction" means at the end.

Where would you like to see the series go next?

Since the storyline is one of the most important elements in RPGs, we have been considering different ways of portraying the narrative so that players can fully immerse themselves into the story. I would like to develop a new Tales of game where players can enjoy the adventure seamlessly.