This week we had the great honor to sit down with Hideo Baba for an interview in Munich. The producer of the Tales of series was cheerful, very friendly and provided us with some great answers. Here is the full interview for your reading pleasure.
JPGAMES.DE: Hello Baba-san, thank you for agreeing to answer the questions we got from our readers prior to this interview. We got a lot of them because a lot of our readers are fans of the series. So let’s get started!
JPGAMES.DE: The first question isn’t about Tales but rather about your person, but I think it’s a very interesting one. The last games you produced that weren’t part of the Tales series were Blue Dragon DS in 2009 and Trusty Bell in 2007. Do you have any hopes or plans to be able to make another game that isn’t Tales in the near future?
Baba: (laughs) Well, I really like RPGs and fantasy… and when it comes down to it, Lord of the Rings is the origin of all that. So I’d really like to make a open field high fantasy RPG like Skyrim or Dragon’s Dogma with such a story. Actually, I’m good friends with Kobayashi-san who produces Resident Evil and Dragon’s Dogma for Capcom and I go out and eat with him sometimes. And when I did and he told me that he would be developing Dragon’s Dogma, an open world fantasy game, I was really jealous of him!
JPGAMES.DE: If you ever decided to do it, we would look forward to playing it! But let’s get to the Tales series after all. As you said before, Tales of Symphonia was the first-ever Tales of game to be released in Europe. That’s why it still has a lot of fans among Europeans. Now, there have been some rumors lately, even on Japanese sites like Hachima, that there might be a HD remake of Symphonia and Ratatosk no Kishi in the works. Is there anything you can tell us about this?
Baba: To be quite frank… I was at Expomanga in Spain last week and everyone was enjoying the event, and then I heard from fans, “I heard rumors about a Tales of Symphonia Perfect Edition. Is that true?” Actually, I was the one surprised by that! (laughs) That fan then said that it’s the 10th anniversary of ToS in Japan this year, and I just said that there might be something coming, as a celebration. But it will be more like a “Tales of Café” or an event at NamcoCon… but we actually have no plans yet, there are only ideas. We can’t really say anything before announcements are made and it’s always a bit surprising when people ask us about rumors like that. It would be best to just wait for new information [about Tales of Symphonia’s 10th anniversary]. Before we announce something, a rumor is just a rumor after all (laughs).
JPGAMES.DE: I see, thank you for answering this, as a lot of people were wondering about it, since it’s their favorite Tales game. But you must have a favorite Tales title as well? We were wondering which one that might be.
Baba: We put a lot of love and work into every title, so they’re all important to me, but my favorite one has never changed since the very first one, which is Tales of Phantasia. It’s still very important to me. I’m really glad to be able to bring European fans Xillia! And I’m hoping that it can create a lot of new fans for the series!
JPGAMES.DE: I don’t think you have to worry about that too much from our side. Judging by our forums, most of the people asking these questions have already preordered the game and are looking forward to it!
Baba: (laughs) Thanks a lot. Please tell all your readers a sincere ‘Thank You’ and that I appreciate every fan we have. Please continue to cheer us on, we’ll continue to do our best for each and every one of our fans!
JPGAMES.DE: So… you probably expected this question. Some people are a little bit disappointed that Xillia doesn’t come with the Japanese voice track and one question was if there was a possibility, or even plans, to release it as paid DLC, similar to what Sony has done with Soul Sacrifice on PS Vita.
Baba: I get this question a lot from European and American fans! I sadly couldn’t make it for Xillia, but we are doing our best to implement this maybe in future titles. Of course I can’t say yet what kinds of titles those are going to be, but I will do my best in the future.
JPGAMES.DE: Thank you. We appreciate your efforts! Now, since we were talking about a PS Vita title, the Tales series also made its jump to the Vita platform lately and some of our readers are wondering if there’s a chance we might see these games over here, since neither Innocence nor Hearts were ever localized before. Some even said that they would buy the console for these two games! (laughs)
Baba: I get many requests about the Vita titles from western fans, but our priority is on the main console titles right now, and bringing these to western markets. There’s a lot of time and staff involved in fully localizing these games, since Japanese RPGs have a lot of text and content. Sadly, the staff that can work on this is limited right now. These are the two biggest problems. I’m not only a game creator, as a producer I also have to think about the business side of things as well. In Japan, we have a big fanbase and a rather big market for the “Tales of” series. But sadly, we don’t have a lot of fans in the West yet. This is one of the reasons I am traveling throughout Europe like this. To show Xillia to as many people as possible, since I am sure that this can help much that the Tales series succeeds here. I want to make the fanbase bigger and bigger such that we can bring more new titles to the West. That’s why I am asking for your help to bring it to people’s attention. As long as my schedule allows it, I want to come back to Germany to attend the AnimagiC for example.
JPGAMES.DE: Thanks a lot for that very satisfying answer. As you probably know, the Tales of Xillia manga will come out this year in German as well (Baba gets out a flyer for it and shows it to me). Yes, exactly that one. Now, there are manga and animes for a lot of Tales games, but not for all of them. So one question was: If you could change any Tales games into a manga or anime, which one would it be?
Baba: If I could make one title into an anime… Symphonia is very popular in Europe, so I would pick a less popular entry to make it into an anime, because it might be good for recognition about the game. But I would probably be wary of choosing a title that hasn’t been released in Europe yet, as people would be excited about the series but couldn’t get the game and play it. So I would need to pick a title from the existing lineup.
JPGAMES.DE: The next question is from people like me who have already finished Xillia 1 and 2 and that are wondering what comes next, and if there’s already a new Tales game in the works. You probably can’t tell us a lot about it, but can we expect something at the Tales of Festival next month? Sadly, we can’t attend it, as it’s just too far away. (laughs)
Baba: (laughs) Well… about that… at the current stage, I really can’t tell you anything about that. About the fact if there will be something great at the Tales of Festival… who knows?
JPGAMES.DE: Next, I have a question about the Tales series in general. Something that a lot of people like about it, is that every game feels the same, but still having a lot of new features. Like, you just feel right at home when you start playing a new Tales of game, whether it was made today or almost 20 years ago. Since you started as a producer in 2006 with Innocence DS, you’ve added a lot of new things to each title, like the EG Gauge in Hearts, the sidestep system in Graces and now the link system in Xillia. How do you come up with these features?
Baba: I think the most important thing is that I’m a very big fan of the Tales series. I believe that the series has a set of very unique and fun features. Of course I need to implement new features in a new title, but I don’t want to make it too different from the previous ones, because if I did, fans would think, “That is not a Tales game”. What I’m always asking the members of the development teams is, “Keep 70% of the game, but make 30% new and flashy and interesting”. Of course these 30% are very important, since people see them and think, “Oh, a new Tales of game. Oh, that is new and looks interesting.” But the fans still have the 70% they love and expect from the series. Something I would like to add here is that… in RPGs, you typically do A LOT of fighting until you get to the end of the story. When I was the director for Tales of Destiny PS2, I tried to make a system that the gamer does not get bored of, no matter how many encounters he fights through. I still have this concept in my mind for every Tales game.
JPGAMES.DE: I played that game and I personally think you succeeded, because to this day, Destiny PS2 remains my favorite game in the series.
Baba: (laughs) Thank you very much!
JPGAMES.DE: How do you feel about the development of Tales in Europe? We didn’t get the games for a long time, and now you’re releasing one after another, even localizing them into this many languages. So it must be going rather well?
Baba: I can’t really tell you much about the matters concerning the company, of course, but I believe that the Tales of series has a lot of potential in the European market. I started coming to European countries to hold events like this before Graces f, because I believe that the series has possibilities everywhere in the world. And I know that JRPGs are a bit unique and very niche in the western market, but I want to show that JRPGs can still be very strong, even here, by releasing Tales of Xillia.
JPGAMES.DE: I see. The next question is about the future of the series. Where do you see the Tales series, both in Japan and the rest of the world, in 5 to 10 years?
Baba: I have no plans to change Tales a lot, even in 5 or 10 years. For example, it would be strange if I made the game photo-realistic all of a sudden. The game will keep its warm, fun anime graphics, because that’s what fans are expecting from it.
JPGAMES.DE: Concerning that, why was there a CG version of Tales of Hearts? Was that just an experiment to try something new?
Baba: As I said earlier, we’re trying to challenge ourselves with each new Tales of game and try something new. With Hearts, we just tried to sell two versions, the anime and CG version, as a challenge. The release proved that Tales of fans want the anime graphics rather than the CG graphics, so we are going to keep that.
JPGAMES.DE: Following is the last question from our readers. If you could do anything for your European fans that is not possible yet, what would that be?
Baba: That’s a difficult question! It’s not possible yet to implement Japanese voiceovers and shorten the time between the Japanese and international release. So that’s what I would love to do in the future.
JPGAMES.DE: Thanks a lot for the interview, Baba-san! It was very interesting and I’m sure all of our readers are looking forward to Tales of Xillia.
Baba: Thank you! Please tell the German fans that I hope they enjoy the game when it comes out in August, and that I hope they will buy it, so we can bring out more Tales games in the future.