Archives for posts with tag: Hideo Baba

Tales of Xillia Milla and JudeThe Tales of series evolves slowly. If you’ve played one, even one of the earlier 2D titles like Tales of Eternia, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from the latest in the series.

While many will see this as a negative, for fans of the series it’s often quite the opposite; they already know they love the franchise, so they can be confident they’ll enjoy the next one. These games are jRPG comfort food, continuing to give fans a healthy dose of what they crave even when the genre began to shrink in size and importance. Over the last few years, Bandai-Namco have obviously seen a gap in the market to exploit, too: as the fortunes of the Final Fantasy series have dwindled somewhat, the Tales of series seems to have stepped into the breach to take advantage of the situation. It seems the publisher has renewed confidence in the series’ chances of success outside of Japan. Yes, now is a good time to be a Tales of fan.

Leading up to last week’s release of the latest in the series, Tales of Xillia 2, I decided to dive back into 2013’s Tales of Xillia for a second playthrough. Playing it for the first time last August, I absolutely loved the game, greedily devouring every side-quest and sub-event on my way to the final showdown in the Temporal Crossroads. Having almost exhausted the game’s content then, my plan for a replay was to quickly run through the main storyline before Xillia 2 released, but I was surprised to find myself drawn in all over again, gravitating towards much of that optional content against my best laid plans.

Tales of Xillia begins in a world called Rieze Maxia, a place where humans and spirits live in harmony. The humans of Rieze Maxia possess an organ called a ‘mana lobe’ that allows them to wield magic by offering a spirit some of the energy produced by this organ. In turn, the spirit is nourished by this intake of mana, and so the world keeps turning. Despite this, Maxwell, the Lord of Spirits has been sensing the death of many spirits. Fearing that humans have re-discovered spyrix technology, something that had apparently led to disaster in the past, Maxwell takes the form of a young woman named Milla and makes her way to the city of Fennmont. There, she meets Jude Mathis, a young medical student looking for his missing teacher at a secretive research facility. Discovering a conspiracy that could lead to the world’s end, Milla and Jude team up to tackle this threat, recruiting friends and allies along the way.

Tales of Xillia Alvin Xian Du

Xillia is notable for having two central protagonists, each with their own ‘campaign’. You can play through the game as either hand-to-hand brawler Jude or the magic-wielding Milla, and though the game plays out much the same across both, there are points where the characters split up. It’s best to play through as Jude first, as you will miss out on some fairly important plot points that simply go unexplained in Milla’s story, but if you have the time for two playthroughs it’s definitely worth seeing Milla’s side of the tale through. There is one very big point where the party splits, and it’s interesting to see what happens to Milla during her absence.

On the surface, the characters are a grab-bag of anime clichés. There’s the stoic protector, the uncertain but principled teen, the hyperactive sidekick who’s secretly in love with the protagonist, the distinguished older gent with a hidden past, the magical girl and the untrustworthy rogue. They’re all well-drawn though, and fleshed out through fairly extensive character-specific sidequests that shed some light on their pasts and their current motivations, while the game is also rammed full of the series’ trademark skits that further give the party identity. These skits are often a great source of humour, and it’s nice to play a game about a group of people staring down the end of the world that is handled with such an upbeat tone. Shoe-gazing is kept to a minimum, and the interplay between the characters is often played for laughs. It makes the party feel more human.

Tales of Xillia can be seen as both an evolution and a step back from Tales of Vesperia; its battle system is a neat evolution of that game’s Linear Motion Battle system which ups the tempo a fair bit, taking the best elements and streamlining them somewhat (it’s easier to determine an enemy’s resistances and weaknesses, for one) while also adding the excellent Link Arte mechanic. Link Artes allow two party members to group together to perform a stronger special attack by triggering specific artes at certain points and hitting the L2 button when a prompt appears. They also play into the series’ now-familiar Overlimit system: this time, the Overlimit gauge is segmented, and in order to fill it up, you’ll need to perform Link Artes at each threshold. Failure to do so means the gauge’s growth will stall, limiting your battle tactics. If you want to pull out those super-powerful Mystic Artes later in the game, you’re going to have to get used to arte linking.

I mentioned that Xillia can sometimes be perceived as a step back from Vesperia, and it’s generally felt in the environments. Gone is Vesperia‘s lavish world map, to be replaced with small zones populated with enemies to defeat and materials to scavenge. And whilst these areas do make the world itself feel smaller and more confined than Vesperia‘s (seriously, why is every field in Rieze Maxia hemmed in by canyons, anyway?), it is actually a step forward from its needlessly reductive predecessor, Tales of Graces. That game’s ‘fields’ were essentially long corridors with nothing to do but fight enemies on the way to the next cutscene (and everyone hated Final Fantasy XIII for that, right?), and its dungeons were even worse, often consisting of even narrower corridors with 90 degree turns that conspire to make the game-world feel as if it’s made from copy and pasted square tiles. Xillia has a handful of dungeons that feel like this (hello, Helioborg Fortress), but thankfully most of the game’s environments feel much more expansive and hand-crafted than those in Graces.

Tales of Xillia doesn’t quite reach the heights of Vesperia‘s beautiful visuals, either. That’s not to say it’s not a pretty game though; all titles in the Tales of series are very anime-styled but Vesperia, with its flat, almost-cel shaded aesthetic, often looked like an anime itself rather than an anime-inspired video game – it’s just a bit more stylised. Xillia is also a more muted game in terms of its use of colour, giving the world a more subdued feel, with areas like Fennmont, which is supposed to be under a blanket of perpetual night, bathed in deep ochres and dark greens. It still does a decent approximation of video game anime styling, but it’s just not as bold as we’ve been previously treated to. It’s also a bit of a mixed bag in it’s environments, with some areas being drenched in fine detail while others, most notably the field areas, can often look rather bland and drab.

Items and gear have also been streamlined somewhat. Typically in the genre, better items and equipment will become available when you reach a new shop in a new region, but in Xillia, shop inventory is mirrored across the entire world. The caveat here is that you have to level up the shops – through donating either money or the materials you harvest on your travels – and higher levels yield both new equipment and discounts on older gear, providing a system that is much more elegant than Graces‘ painful eleth mixer. It’s a great way to keep you tied into the world through both exploration (by searching out materials) and its development, and your reward for doing so is more powerful weapons, armour, accessories and food items.

Tales of Xillia battle Milla Condemnation

Ah yes, food. Long a component of the Tales of series, the cooking system has also seen a degree of simplification. In fact, it’s been simplified to the point that you don’t even have to cook anymore; you buy ready-made food at one of the aforementioned shops, and then use them to confer buffs upon your party for a set number of battles. So if you’re unprepared for a fight, you can gobble down some potato salad to increase your attack and defense stats, or if you’re really prepared you can eat a spicy chicken roll to earn double the experience from that battle. Again, it’s an elegant simplification that’s far easier to grasp than in previous entries and empowers the player to actually get to grips with the full range of tools at their disposal.

Players will often look down their noses as developers simplify or streamline systems in their games. Often, it’s taken to mean that a product has been ‘dumbed down’ to gain a wider audience. I don’t feel that that’s the case here; jRPGs are well-known for having dozens of arcane systems in place – often to do relatively simple things – and these can sometimes be so bewildering that even genre veterans ignore them. The changes that have been made in Xillia mean that everything the game offers is accessible to the player, enabling them to use all the systems to their advantage while also getting on with the fun stuff – the battling, following the twists and turns of the story, and of course becoming engrossed in the lives of a likeable bunch of characters. I think Tales of Xillia might just be the first jRPG I’ve played where I’ve fully understood how everything works, and I’ve been playing them since Final Fantasy VII and Panzer Dragoon Saga.

As much as I love Tales of Xillia (and I do utterly adore it), it’s not my favourite in the series. I feel like Vesperia was Bandai-Namco giving the series a damn good push before settling into a more focused (read: scaled back) design approach. Graces was a huge step back in many ways, and while Xillia clawed back some of the openness, it still feels like it’s on a smaller scale to 2009’s sprawling, 80-hour epic. But with the series seeing greater fortunes outside of its homeland, it looks like Hideo Baba’s team is willing to push at the boundaries again with the upcoming Tales of Zestiria, and this time they’re really pushing hard. Zestiria will launch next year, and it seems like the developer is looking to the Wii’s Xenoblade Chronicles for inspiration, with the game taking place in a huge, truly open world. It promises to be something a bit special, and likely the biggest shake-up the series has seen since it moved to 3D with Tales of Symphonia.

But going back to Xillia for a moment, and if there’s one criticism I can level at the game, it’s that an area called Elympios that opens up towards the end of the adventure is incredibly underused. It’s a massive plot point, but we see so little of this new environment that it’s difficult to get a sense of what it’s like and to begin to truly care about the place and its fate. Tales of Xillia 2 promises to fully address this criticism, showing us more of Elympios and its way of life, while also allowing us to spend more time with a great group of characters. Now that it’s here, I can’t wait to get started.

xillia2bannerIt’s a good time to be a Tales of fan.

I seem to be saying that a lot recently, but this week it really is a good time to be a fan of Bandai-Namco’s long-running jRPG series. We’ve had plenty of new info on the upcoming 20th anniversary game Tales of Zestiria, finally got a release date (and a collectors edition!) for this year’s Tales of Xillia 2 and, best of all, we actually got confirmation of a Western release of Tales of Hearts R, one of two Vita titles that I honestly thought would never see the light of day outside of Japan.

It was not always thus. Releases in the series have generally been a bit spotty; 1995′s Tales of Phantasia, the first game in the series, only saw release outside of Japan in 2003, whereas 2005′s Tales of the Abyss was made available in 2006 in the US, but remained unavailable in Europe until its 3DS port hit shelves in late 2011. Meanwhile, titles that did make it to our shores, such as Tales of Symphonia (2003) and Tales of Vesperia (2009) only did so in very small quantities – quantities which quickly disappeared, meaning those games were effectively unavailable to anyone that hadn’t thought to pre-order a copy.

Happily, things have really turned around recently, with reissues for both Abyss and Vesperia suddenly popping up on store shelves just months before we got a lovely Day One edition of Tales of Graces f. More recently, fans have been able to show their support by grabbing excellent special editions for both last year’s Tales of Xillia and this year’s Tales of Symphonia Chronicles. In turn, Producer Hideo Baba showed his appreciation by spending much of last year travelling around the world, attending European and American conventions, interacting with fans and giving presentations on his team’s work.

This greater focus on a worldwide audience was brought to a head when Tales of Zestiria was announced last December, with Baba-san immediately confirming it would be released in North America and Europe shortly after its initial Japanese launch. The game is set for release in 2015, 20 years after Phantasia debuted, and details have been sneaking out here and there about the characters and world. We can expect to hear more about the game from June onwards, but for now here’s the latest trailer, which aired just a few days ago at the NicoNico SuperConference. In it, we get a glimpse at the battle system in action and another look at what appear to be rather expansive environments. Check it out below. Needless to say, I’m excited.

Also this week, we finally got a release date for Tales of Xillia 2. I had been expecting it around August going by previous releases (Graces f in August 2012, Xillia in August 2013), and August it is – the 19th in North America and the 22nd in Europe. We’ll also be seeing a ‘Ludger Kresnik Collectors Edition’ that looks very similar to that of the first game, with a figure of protagonist Ludger, a replica of Elle’s pocketwatch, an art book and some other goodies. You can see an image below, and this is certainly the edition I’ll be going for, being something of a fan of Tales of figures.

xillia2colledeu

There’ll also be a Day One edition, with steelbook case and soundtrack selection CD for those that have no interest in figurines and such, and I’m guessing this will be the same deal as the publisher’s other Day One editions, where you’ll get the extras for no additional cost so long as you pre-order or buy on day one.

I’ve heard mixed reactions to Xillia 2 from those that have played the Japanese version. Some say it’s better than the first (which I adored) while others say it’s not as good, and I’ve also seen concerns about Ludger being a silent protagonist. I’m really excited to get my hands on it though; as I said, I loved Xillia, but I did feel that Elympios wasn’t quite as fleshed out and explored as much as it could have been. The sequel seems to address that, not only letting us get more of a feel for Elympios and the people that live there, but also giving us a glimpse into the lives of the original cast while introducing new characters to get to know. I plan to play through Milla’s side of the story in Xillia before the sequel arrives, and I’m sure I’ll be more than ready to jump in come August.

Finally, the biggest piece of Tales of news of the last week is undoubtedly the announcement that Tales of Hearts R is actually coming west. I honestly never thought this would happen. I guess Sony’s Shahid Ahmad’s #JRPGVita Twitter campaign really paid off – indeed, when Hearts R was announced last week Ahmad took to Twitter to specifically call out the initiative, pointing out that Hearts R was the most-requested game in his informal poll. So just remember that the next time someone in the industry asks you what you want!

For those not in the know, Tales of Hearts R is one of two remakes of DS games for the Vita (the other being Tales of Innocence R) that were released in 2012/2013 in Japan that Bandai-Namco had been fairly adamant would not see release outside of their home territory given poor sales of Sony’s handheld. Nothing has been said about Innocence, but considering a week ago we were getting neither of them and now we can look forward to Tales of Hearts R, I’m not complaining.

The game stars Kor (called Shing in the Japanese original) who has a bit of an accident while trying to remove a curse on a mysterious young woman called Kohaku. When things go a bit wrong, Kor must set out on a journey to make things right. We don’t have a date yet for Tales of Hearts R but we can expect it in winter; that means there’s a chance that we’ll be playing Hearts R on our Vitas early next year – after all, they probably don’t want it to be in competition with the release of Tales of Xillia 2 towards the end of this year. Check out the below video to see Baba-san himself announcing the localisation, and go here to see the announcement trailer.

Again, it’s a great time to be a Tales of fan. But it’s also a great time to get into the series if you aren’t yet a fan; there are a number of strong games in the series to try out and at least a few more on the horizon. If you’ve ever had an interest in the Tales of franchise but haven’t yet jumped in, now’s the time to join us.

Just over a week ago, Namco-Bandai revealed Tales of Zestiria, a PS3 exclusive that serves as the 20th anniversary celebration for the long-running Tales of jRPG series. Our only look at Zestiria came from an off-screen video of the trailer that announced the game.

Now, Namco-Bandai have published that same trailer to their Youtube channel, giving us a clearer look at what we can expect from the new title.

Tales of Zestiria stars Slay and Alicia and focuses more on fantasy elements than recent titles in the series – an attempt by the development team to get back to the series’ roots. It’s due out in Japan in 2015 and has already been confirmed for a worldwide release.

tozlogo

Namco-Bandai have today announced Tales of Zestiria, a new PS3-exclusive title in their long-running jRPG series that serves as a 20th anniversary celebration for the franchise.

The game will be released in 2015, 20 years after the first entry in the series, 1995’s Tales of Phantasia. The logo, as you can see above, contains a dragon which also makes an appearance in the trailer that you can watch below. Whether the dragon will be friend or foe has not been announced (as it would likely be a spoiler) but it’s obviously an important force in the story.

Two characters have so far been introduced. The male lead, Slay, has been designed by Kosuke Fujishima while the female lead Alicia was designed by Daigo Okumura. As more details surface, we’ll also be seeing characters designed by other Tales of series character designers Mutsumi Inomata and Minoru Iwamoto. The battle system is a further-evolved spin on the familiar Linear Motion Battle System, and the development team stated that they want to focus the game around a more fantasy-based setting (hence: dragons) in an effort to return to the series’ roots after a number of games with more technological elements. A few story details have been mentioned so far, with the game taking place on a continent contested over by two great nations, while religion seems to be a core element of the story, with there being a mysterious connection between the faiths of these two countries.

It all sounds quite a bit like Tales of the Abyss to me, which is great as far as I’m concerned as I loved that game. Slay also looks like he could have come straight from Auldrant, with his coat/cloak/thing looking like Luke fon Fabre’s garment and the piece on his chest bearing a strong resemblance to an Order of Lorelei uniform. Anyway, let’s take a look at that trailer.

Did you see that big open field at the 1:35 mark? I really hope that’s what world-traversal will be like in Zestiria – big open areas with (hopefully) plenty to explore. That small clip looks a little Xenoblade-y, so if we’re going to be without a world map again, I’m hoping for less of the field zone areas that we saw in Graces and Xillia and more of a large, relatively open world for us to explore. This is the 20th anniversary title, so I’m hoping the development team go all out to make the absolute best game they can.

The best news is that Namco-Bandai have already announced that Zestiria will be released worldwide, which certainly takes the sting out of waiting to find out if we’d ever get to play it outside of Japan. Hideo Baba, producer of the series, took to the EU PlayStation Blog to deliver the good news himself. “I am very proud to announce that Tales of Zestiria, the newest instalment and 20th Japanese anniversary commemorative title for the Tales Of franchise, will be released throughout North America, South America, and Europe for the PlayStation 3 system! This is a huge moment for Namco Bandai Games and the Tales Of team in particular as it is the first time we have simultaneously announced the game for both Japan and Western countries.” He added that the team has been trying to strengthen their relationship with their fans outside of Japan and have seen success with the most recent release, Tales of Xillia, selling over a million copies worldwide.

Of course, I’m sure there’ll still be a delay between the Japanese and Western releases, but that can’t really be helped when localising such text- and voice-heavy games. That we know it’s coming is enough, especially when we have Tales of Symphonia Chronicles and Tales of Xillia 2 both coming in 2014. My guess for a European release of Tales of Zestiria would be early 2016, so don’t relegate your PS3 to the loft just yet!

Visit the official Tales of Zestiria site here.

symphA few weeks ago, I wrote about a rumour concerning an HD re-release of cult GameCube jRPG Tales of Symphonia, which originated with a Spanish site interviewing Tales of series producer Hideo Baba. I said at the time that it was difficult to know how excited to get about the rumour, as the wording was a little unclear, but speculated that if true we’d likely hear more about it at the annual Tales of Festival.

That prediction has, happily, come true! At the ToF today, Baba-san has indeed announced the Tales of Symphonia Chronicles (which is currently a working title) for the PS3, and it’s even coming to Europe, Australasia and the Americas in early 2014! The release will contain both Tales of Symphonia and its GameCube sequel Dawn of the New World, remastered in HD. Here’s confirmation from the man himself:

Having never played either game, I’m now massively looking forward to this. A nice bonus would be a local release of the anime adaptation, but that might be pushing our luck a little bit!

It’s great to see Namco-Bandai’s commitment to this series outside of Japan – in the last couple of years, we’ve seen Tales of the Abyss get its first release in Europe, we got a lovely Day One Edition for Tales of Graces f, Tales of Vesperia apparently got a reprint and was actually available to buy again, and in just a couple of months we’ll all have Tales of Xillia (Day One or Limited Collectors Edition) in our hands! It certainly seems like Bamco are going all-out with their flagship series at the moment, and one has to wonder whether they see a gap in the market now that Final Fantasy is floundering in the minds of some.

You can also watch the Japanese announcement video below:

Who else is excited for this!?

sympA rumour has hit the net today concerning an HD re-release of celebrated GameCube jRPG Tales of Symphonia. Dubbed the Tales of Symphonia: Perfect Edition, the pack will apparently contain both the original cult game and its less-well-received Wii sequel Dawn of the New World (called Knight of Ratatosk in Japan). The pair are said to feature HD graphics and the collection will see release on PlayStation 3.

The rumour comes from Spanish site Koi-Nya, which I have linked at the bottom. It purports to be a summary of an interview with Tales of series producer Hideo Baba that took place recently but has yet to be published. I can’t seem to get the page to load no matter how many times I try, but a friend managed to get through and copy-pasted me the body of the text, which I have reproduced below.

During the celebration of Expomanga 2013, we had the pleasure of chatting at length with Mr. Hideo Baba, producer of the series Tales of, and although it was not until within a couple of days when post the full interview, we bring you of the juiciest and shocking news that Mr. Baba dropped relative Tales of Symphonia: Perfect Edition, a remake in HD for PlayStation 3 would include both sets of Symphonia, the Tales of Symphonia Original (GameCube, PS2) and Tales of Symphonia: Knight of Ratatosk -Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World in the West (Wii).

And, following the rumor of the existence of this title whose information we gained from internal sources-nya koi, we decided to ask about its reliability to the producer of the series. Although Baba was not in a position to officially confirm its existence, has been able to drop that thing would be “a representation of the dreams and hopes of the fans, who have long been wanting it” and that may soon know something about it.

In case of confirmation of the existence of this game, which we expect to hear so soon, this game would be released at least in the United States, locating the source from which we obtained the leaked information, and which also spoke that Tales of Xillia 2 would have secured its location in the West .

In addition to this news, Hideo Baba has told us many other interesting news and curiosities about Tales that soon you can read the full interview granted us.

EDIT – I’ve just got the site to load, after about ten attempts – perhaps their servers were overloaded by thousands of Symphonia fans descending upon them!

It’s a little difficult to parse what’s being said here, as it’s been machine-translated from Spanish. To me, it seems that Koi-Nya had heard of an HD remake from some other source, and then asked Baba-san about it, who replied that such a project would be “a representation of the dreams and hopes of the fans, who have long been wanting it”, while also pointing out that he was ‘not in a position to officially confirm its existence’. The problem here is that, thanks to the translation I can’t tell if, having been questioned about the rumour, Baba has basically said “wouldn’t that be great! It’d make a lot of people happy, right?”

I’m a little sceptical – perhaps too much so. I’d like to believe that this website wouldn’t have posted their story if my above interpretation were the truth of the matter, but I’ve never heard of this site before (not surprising, as I’m not Spanish, nor do I speak the language), so I have no context for this; as such, I can’t just take this story as gospel. They do, however, seem to suggest that Baba said we’ll hear about it soon, so maybe I’m just being a massive cynic. As an aside, they also seem to be claiming that Tales of Xillia 2 will see a Western release – I’ve not seen anyone pick up on this little tid-bit.

I want this rumour to be true, I really do – I missed out on Symphonia when it released on GameCube, always telling myself I’d grab a copy later. Then it was too late and it became increasingly hard to find. I watched the Symphonia anime recently and fell in love with the world, characters and storyline, and it just made me even more desperate to play the game. So I really want this to be true. But I’m not going to be getting my hopes up too high until Hideo Baba officially announces it. Namco-Bandai’s annual Tales of Festival will take place in just under three weeks (June 1-2) in Yokohama, Japan, so perhaps we’ll hear more then? Fingers crossed.

Source: Koi-Nya
http://www.koi-nya.net/2013/05/12/hideo-baba-deja-caer-una-posible-remasterizacion-para-ps3-de-ambos-tales-of-symphonia-tales-of-symphonia-perfect-edition/