TGS: Tales of Reinvigorated Localization

Namco finally seems ready to let the "Tales of" series take center stage in the West.

Preview by Jeremy Parish, .

Namco's "Tales of" series has suffered quite a rocky existence in the U.S. For more than a decade, half the games didn't even make their way into English, and the ones that did were often handled carelessly.

But even as more and more Japanese games have failed to reach our shores since the American portable market imploded a few years back, Namco has begun taking the localization of the Tales games far more seriously. They almost seem to be making up for lost time, in fact, announcing not just one but two Tales releases for 2014: Tales of Symphonia Chronicles and Tales of Xillia 2.

The first one makes plenty of sense, as Symphonia Chronicles converts two previously localized Tales games to PlayStation. The original Tales of Symphonia, in fact, remains the best-selling Tales to date in the West, in large part due to reaching a hungry audience of Nintendo fans starving for quality RPG content on GameCube. Its sequel, Dawn of the New World, wasn't nearly as well-received, but it's here as well.

It has more pixels, but Tales of Symphonia Chronicles is still pretty much a GameCube game -- Wind Waker HD this ain't.

Chronicles looks to be more or less a straight conversion of the two games to HD. Texture quality has a decidedly previous-generation look to it, with lots of blurriness and low contrast, and 3D models seem decent but not amazing. Namco hasn't made any effort to reconcile the super-deformed models of the first game with the (slightly) more realistically proportioned characters of its sequel, so there's a definite gap in visual quality between the two. (Yes, occasionally Wii games actually did look better than their GameCube predecessors -- most developers just didn't make the effort.)

Interestingly, you can see that same trend of visual evolution at work in the other 2014 Tales title, Tales of Xillia 2. Character designer Kouichi Kimura showed off the fundamental tinkering his team has undertaken with Xillia 2's graphics. For one, character models have been reworked to look slightly more adult (with somewhat smaller heads and longer bodies). More significantly, though, the harsh toon-shaded style introduced to the franchise with Tales of Vesperia has been supplanted by a much softer look that better resembles the franchise's trademark artwork. The pastel, painterly appearance of Tales' promotion illustrations has finally made its way into the games proper. As someone with a scholarly background in art, I'm always keen to see game graphics better reflect the hand-crafted images that inspire them, so this transformation makes for a welcome sight. Now if only we can get a Final Fantasy game whose characters look like Yoshitaka Amano's illustrations....

Tales of Xillia 2 moves away from the old-fashioned cel shading approach for maximum anime.

Fundamentally, of course, you shouldn't expect major surprises from any of these titles. Symphonia Chronicles is a known quantity, and Xillia 2 seems guaranteed to build on the franchise's foundation of active combat and all those genki anime tropes that Pete dug so much in the first Xillia.

For me, though, the most interesting part of Namco's Tales announcements wasn't the new games but rather some of the development artwork that Kimura showed off. In order to convince the Tales studio that his new direction for the character art was a winner, he modeled several classic characters from the older Tales titles (including Tales of Destiny's Stahn and Rutee) in the new style. This in turn made me come away from the demo wondering when Namco's going to bother reissuing Destiny on PlayStation Network. But until then, I suppose these upcoming titles will suffice.

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Comments 11

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  • Avatar for The-Fool #1 The-Fool 5 years ago
    I can't wait for both Tales of Symphonia Chronicles and Tales of Xiliia 2!

    I do have Symphonia on GCN, and I have played a bit of Dawn of the New World... but I will double dip. As I will with The Wind Waker.

    Oh, exciting days to come!
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  • Avatar for Stealth20k #2 Stealth20k 5 years ago
    eh, I cant say they are until they do a portable title
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  • Avatar for Daedalus207 #3 Daedalus207 5 years ago
    @Stealth20k This is my thought as well. As an adult with a job, hobbies, sports, etc, I typically don't have the time to sit in front of my TV long enough to finish a JRPG, but for some reason I've really enjoyed playing through Tales of the Abyss, EO4, and SMT4 on my 3DS. I'm planning on picking up a Vita over Black Friday this year for Persona 4, etc.
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  • Avatar for Stealth20k #4 Stealth20k 5 years ago
    @Daedalus207 They missed 2 vita tales, 3 ds ones, 4 on the psp.

    So How can we say its reinvigorated localizations?

    Its on the way, but its not there yet.
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  • Avatar for limbeckd #5 limbeckd 5 years ago
    @Daedalus207 Interesting how it works out. I'm an adult with a job, hobbies, etc., but I don't have any occasion where I'd rather play a portable than something on my TV.
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  • Avatar for Daedalus207 #6 Daedalus207 5 years ago
    @limbeckd I wonder if it's an introvert / extrovert thing. On the TV, I feel like I'm sharing the experience with anyone who might happen to be in the living room, while the portable feels like a more personal experience, which I prefer as an introvert.
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  • Avatar for limbeckd #7 limbeckd 5 years ago
    @Daedalus207 Well, I'm definitely an introvert, but the only person in my living room would be my wife, who doesn't really count for that sort of thing. She also likes having something (anything) on the TV in the background while she's reading/knitting/whatever, so it works out pretty well. I was going to guess you had some sort of commute on public transportation.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #8 jeremy.parish 5 years ago
    @Stealth20k I know you refuse to listen to reason about this, but the US market for portable consoles has been wretched for a while and doesn't make sense for anyone but Nintendo, indies, and lean third parties with low overhead (like Atlus).
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  • Avatar for Stealth20k #9 Stealth20k 5 years ago
    @jeremy.parish I listen to you and I respect you. I hate you keep responding to me when I am feeling negative about something and not seeing my positive stuff :)

    And to a certian extent your correct. But Namco localizes portable titles all the time. Its just curious tales is left out.

    Hell they are even localizing One piece for the NA. That is about as niche as tales is. Wouldnt you agree?
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #10 jeremy.parish 5 years ago
    One Piece has a manga and anime connection and given its sales over the previous decade it's far from niche in the US. Most portable games Namco brings over are light on text -- Ridge Racer, Ace Combat, etc. Tales requires a lot more effort. I don't like when good games are stranded overseas, but I understand why it happens. And it's why I like little guys like Xseed and Atlus; they run small scale operations and can stay profitable with modest sales.
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  • Avatar for Daedalus207 #11 Daedalus207 5 years ago
    @limbeckd Maybe your couch is just more comfortable than mine :).
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