Gameblog : Since the 2019 announcement of Tales of ARISE, you have focused on the conflict between the Dahna and Rena planets, between masters and slaves. Could you explain why going with such a difference between the two ? Is it a message about ignorance towards the unknown ?
Yosuke Tomizawa : In this series, there have been several "Tales" that drew the picture of opposing races or countries in their stories. Our idea to use this idea of two different planets, of two different populations, as the base for our storyline was motivated by two different aspects: One is, that one of our aims was to attract also new players who have not experienced any previous "Tale". We wanted to give them the chance to enjoy this kind of story that you could even call "Tales"-typical and that consists of two opposing groups of people. The other aspect is that this subject is very fundamental to our present time and to many people all over the world and in our opinion, it has an even greater relevance now.
This concept makes me reminisce about Final Fantasy XIII storyline, is it a reference on your end ?
As mentioned above, we were inspired by this subject as a very fundamental theme from previous "Tales", but did not have any other games in mind.
Tales of games usually allow players to follow the story of a group of adventurers that grows larger as they progress. Why focusing this time on a duo ? Should we expect some surprises from the scenario ?
As you mention correctly, we have chosen to publish information on two new characters at one time. This time, we are presenting you Rinwell and Law. Our intention behind this way of presentation is, that we want to make it easier to imagine the connections between characters and their positions to each other. Of course, it can also be interesting to find out about characters in no certain order and without any information about their relationship to each other, until you can actually play the game. But nowadays, where all information tends to be rushing towards us and is consumed very quickly, there is less and less people who enjoy receiving scattered information that they need to put together themselves. In order to complement this trend, we chose to present characters in pairs, this time.
Of course, it is not the case that we just randomly introduce you to characters, whose connection is very shallow. It is more that each pair of characters stands for one theme, that is also reflected in the storyline of the game and we advise you to use that as a first axis to explore the game. But as in previous "Tales", it is of course also one characteristic of this game, that the depth of the characters and the variety of their relationships to each other go way beyond what we can give away during promotion, so don't worry about that.
You had the opportunity to talk about a « feeling » of open world, could you tell us how it will be in the game ? Were you afraid of transforming the Tales of formula or is a deliberate choice of game design ?
We gave it quite some thought, but we chose not to create an open world but to provide a linear experience of the story and we did this because we had one very strong intention: What we want to deliver to you with this game, is an experience of playing that will let you strongly empathize and really feel with the characters that are woven into the story. Therefore, we paid attention to choosing just the right tempo and balance of play, that will allow you to really follow the story. On the other hand, we also wanted to meet the typical RPG user's desire to explore unknown paths and to do some detours and so we prepared a great variety of locations and a great number of side quests, as well as the well-known skits. All this shall add to our proclaimed aim that we wanted to make the user will connect to the characters more "naturally". We put more effort into creating field interaction that allows less limited and more independent actions, and into skits that deliver the character's voice in any kind of situation. In short, we have elevated the ways of swimming or free jumping in this game, but not in order to explore an unlimited field, but as features that shall help you to really feel the depth and diversity of the characters on the inside and outside.
Tales of Arise celebrates the 25th anniversary of the franchise, and Tales of Abyss is still one of the favorites from the Japanese audience, did it have an influence on creating Tales of Arise ?
"Arise" is not a game that was developed under the precise influence of "Abyss" in any way, but in the way that it tells a story of characters that rise from difficult circumstances of life, and above that it plays in a similar era that allows many users to relate to, I believe we can say that this game will stand out as a luminary of the series.
For "Arise", we also made sure that it feels like it is playing in a similar era as our present. While it is a story that takes place in a fantasy world, we also put effort into creating characters that you can still relate to and that have to face similarly difficult feelings and thoughts, just like we do in our real world.
Since going for 3D, the franchise has stayed true to its roots. Will you use the new generation to change the Tales of formula ? What do you wish to do ?
Just as one of the main themes that we chose for the development of this game "legacy and progress" suggests, we wanted to be aware of the series' roots on the one hand side, but in order to be able to deliver that to our present and future users, we have to actively think about a gradual progress, too. It took us 5 years to get from "Berseria" to "Arise", but we also have to make ourselves aware of the recent technologies and trends. But that said, we see the roots of the series as one example of traditional entertainment and felt reassured that it transports a beauty and values that lie beyond a certain era, so we want to try to develop of these ideas further. This is what I meant by "gradual" progress. If I wanted to throw away all my roots and wanted to change completely, I would probably choose to create a completely new brand. In that sense, there are many things that I want to challenge in "Arise". I feel it is a very exciting task for me to bring the tradition into our present, while also communicating with the fans.
The game has been delayed, in part because of the Covid-19. How have you managed to adapt to this change ? Has work from home change your approach of the game and make you change some elements, or have you just adapted the way you work ?
Of course, Covid-19 did have quite some effect on the development process of this game as well, but luckily, as we had already entered the final phase of development, we were able to avoid cancelling some features or greater changes. We did have some delays as we first had to switch to a development process that could be done remotely and also had to overcome some barriers in order to keep up the quality of our communication, but on the other hand we used this delay effectively and were therefore able to make the game suitable for next generation platforms.
You have produced several episodes of God Eater, how you use this experience during the development of Tales of Arise ? What was your opinion on the Tales of franchise before working on it ?
For me, my experiences as a producer since the start of the GODEATER series, as well as my experience from creating many character games for more than 10 years, are the basis for my positivity towards game creation and user communication.
What I have wanted to do since it was decided that I would be involved in the "Tales" series in 2016, was to make even more RPG fans aware of the attractiveness of this series and to create means of communication with them. In order to reach them, I thought it was important to create a product with an accessible structure. To use the "Tales"-typical subject with two opposing parties or the way of how to present new characters - many of the elements that I talked about today, are related to that thought. Another point that may be influenced by the fact that I have mainly produced action games, is the balance of the "Tales" as RPGs that contain action battle elements. In this game, we have more than ever put effort into the haptics and the feeling of direct responses in action battling. The characters can be handled more freely and therefore I think it feels more direct. Of course, while enjoying the RPG-typical artes and skill structure, I think we can provide an elevated version of the "Tales" typical action battling. Also, I think you will realize the shift from a battling style that keeps you "staring at your meter while fighting" to a battling style that allows you to "fight based on your judgement of your enemy or your comrade's situation in real time". You can definitely look forward to this kind of progress!