Interview: Hideo Baba on Cats, Tales of Hearts R, and PS Vitaon October 27, 2014 by Oscar TK
MCM was pretty intense. We had great fun meeting everyone that popped by our stall and giving them excellent bargains on our favourite Japanese titles, but boy, was it tiring. On the Sunday I had been offered a great chance to interview Mr. Hideo Baba, and I’d been looking forward to it for a while. I’d spoken to some people in the industry about it, and they all raved about how nice Mr. Baba is.
Even with that, though, I was a little nervous as I was led up to the interview room to meet the man himself. We were introduced and I sat down. Looking at my t-shirt for the first time Mr. Baba’s face lit up, overjoyed about the Rice Digital exclusive t-shirt I was wearing, a cute number depicting our tanooki mascot nibbling away at a bundle of rice balls. As he excitedly spoke about it with his translator I breathed out. I knew then that everything was going to be okay. I told him how pleased I was to meet him and that I was going to mainly ask him about Tales of Hearts R and he smiled and nodded, sitting to attention next to his ever present cat plushie. I fumbled with my dictaphone and began…
Tales of Hearts R is the PS Vita remake of Tales of Hearts which we didn’t get in the west before. I just wanted to ask you how you’re feeling about finally releasing it in the west after so long.
Actually, overall, we have localised very few Tales Of titles for the handheld. This is because our priority is to bring the brand new flagship console titles to the west as soon as possible. But thanks to the hard work of the development team members I’m really glad to bring Tales of Hearts out in the west, which will be the first Tales Of title for the PS Vita in Europe. I think you may have questions about the other PS Vita titles, for example Tales of Innocence, but unfortunately I don’t have any plans to localise out to the West at the moment. But for now I’m really glad to bring Tales of Hearts out to the western fans!
Why weren’t some Tales Of games, such as Tales of Hearts R, localised originally?
At first we didn’t have any plans to localise Tales of Hearts R in the West, but we received a lot of requests about the PS Vita titles from the US and Europe! To make it happen we had to overcome various problems related to things like human resources and time budgets. We are developing games for the business so we need to succeed in terms of that business. In the end, based on the strategy of Bandai Namco games and the requests from western fans it became possible to bring out Tales of Hearts R in the west.
Speaking of business and requests from the western audience do you think the western market has changed since Tales of Hearts was first released? Do you think people in the west are interested JRPGs and other Japanese games more than they used to be?
Honestly speaking I don’t feel the demand for the JRPG from the western audience has been massively increased. With that said, I do think anime and manga has been gaining more and more market in the west and, following that trend to the extreme, I think the Tales Of series is really close to anime and manga. I think that as an extension of anime and manga’s western appeal more and more people have an interest in the Tales Of series.
It seems that of all the consoles we have available in the west the PS Vita is the one that has the most Japanese content that appeals to enthusiasts. Do you think there’s anything about the Vita in particular that makes it perfect for JRPGs and other Japanese games over other consoles?
One of the reasons why a lot of Japanese content is now being released for the PS Vita is that many Japanese games are based on anime or anime styled graphics. These require less power from the console compared to more photorealistic Western games. But when considering the number of PS Vita users in the west I think it’s not so big compared to the home consoles. I cannot say that the PS Vita is the best equipment for those who want to enjoy Japanese content, but I do think the PS Vita is still the handheld best suited for the core gamers.
I was speaking to a fan of the Tales Of games on the show floor yesterday and she said she loved the cat in Tales of Xillia 2. She was wondering if you had any plans to include more cats in games. What can I tell her?
(laughs) Ah yes, the cat, his name is Rollo, in Tales of Xillia 2! Rollo is really full of character on his own! (He laughs and fondly pats his plushie.) So, considering that, I cannot make any promises to include more cats, but I do want to try to include really unique mascot characters in future titles, including Tales of Zestria!
So there you have it, some interesting tidbits about the behind the scenes process of localising the Tales Of games for western release. It’s a shame he can’t tell us about any plans to localise more in the future, but I think we all hope they will one day, even Mr. Baba himself. And, of course, unique mascot characters are great.