Namco's Tales Studios may be reaching into its back catalogue to create packaged anniversary editions of classic Tales games, but the company's priority moving forward will be new titles, franchise producer Hideo Baba told Polygon.
Baba said the older Tales of titles are beloved by many, and as time goes by releasing remastered versions for newer consoles is always a possibility. However, as part of the studio's quest to "make attractive JRPGs," the current plan is to keep the studio's 80-member development team focused on new content.
"We're trying hard to bring one new title a year," Baba told Polygon, explaining that there is always one game in the planning stages while the upcoming title is in full development. "We start developing the next-next Tales title while working on the current one."
For the 10th anniversary of Tales of Symphonia, the company will launch a special compendium. Tales of Symphonia Chronicles — which bundles together a remastered version of 2003 PlayStation 2 game Tales of Symphonia and it's sequel Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World — buyers will have the option to purchase a special Collector's Edition when it launches in 2014. The special edition features a special book with a new story set in the game's universe, four mini figurines, a box decorated with artwork and a copy of the soundtracks for Symphonia and Dawn of the New World.
"We haven't gotten many chances to do anniversary versions of the Tales of games," Baba said. "But this year marks the 10th anniversary of Symphonia's release in Japan and we wanted to do something special."
Baba explained that Symphonia is getting the star treatment because the game served as a "big turning point" in the Tales of series by moving its presentation from 2D into 3D. Symphonia also had a strong North American fanbase, which is why the region is also getting a collector's edition.
Some Japanese developers believe that the audience for JRPGs is currently in a state of flux — the audience still exists, but it's becoming smaller due to the rise of casual games and shorter action-oriented titles. Baba said that he hasn't seen this trend with Tales of; on the contrary, the franchise's fanbase has been growing steadily.
"We've kept the core fanbase," he said. "What I keep in mind is that we need to regularly release new series titles into the future to keep our fanbase excited."
The company's latest release in North America, Tales of Xillia, featured a new mechanic in which players could participate in the game as one of two main protagonists. Some major story events would be exclusive to one or the other character's storyline, and Baba explained that in order to see all the game's content, players would have to play through twice — once as Milla, and once as Jude. Some fans liked this mechanic, while others weren't quite fond of it. Baba said that while Tales Studio strove to allow players to get the full story in one play-through, some cutscenes were only viewable if you were with a certain character.
"We went the route of having double protagonists because Xillia marked the 15th anniversary of the series," Baba explained. "We don't have any plans to implement the same system in future titles."
Baba said that he pushed forward with work on new Tales games because he is continuously inspired to create them. The game maker draws from everyday life, taking ordinary situations and happenings and dreaming up ways to twist them into that classic fantastical JRPG formula. All Tales games have a theme or a message that can be linked back to our life.
"To keep the series going for a long time into the future, I always pay attention to daily life to find big storylines for the next title," he said. "I'm inspired by what's happening in the world."