Namco Bandai unveils new Tales lineup
New games and a new movie on the way.
Following leaked reports from Weekly Shounen Jump last week, Namco Bandai gave a more official unveiling today to the next products in its Tales series of RPGs. The series will be expanding beyond its RPG roots in the coming year with a new movie and a first-ever action game.
The unveiling took place at a press conference in Tokyo today. In attendance at the conference were newly appointed Namco Bandai Games president Shin Unozawa along with Tales series supervisor Makoto Yoshidumi.
The series theme for fiscal 2009, explained Yoshidumi, is "expansion." Unozawa spoke about the desire to take new challenges with the series, noting that this fits in with Namco Bandai's stated slogan of "Change the Entertainment."
The new action title is the first of the new products due for release. This summer, PSP will see Tales of VS, an action fighter that brings together characters from past titles.
A total of 35 characters from 13 titles spanning the first Tales of Phantasia game through last year's Tales of Hearts will make it into the game. Confirmed characters include Vesperia's Yuri, Hearts' Shing, Symphonia Dawn of the New World's Richter, and Abyss' Luke.
The fighting system is said to be based around the series' Linear Motion Battle System (LMBS), taking place on 2D planes. The game also adds in the concept of walls and height variations, allowing players to use walls as part of combos.
There's a character growth component as well. By winning battles, players earn "Grade Points." These can be used to update character parameters, building up customized characters.
The game also promises an original story as part of its Yggdrasill Battle Mode. The story places characters from the game in four kingdoms and features full voice for main scenario segments.
Other features for the game include a mode of play focusing on mini games and data connectivity with some form of mobile content.
Namco Bandai appears to be giving VS the same level of production values one expects of a Tales game. Production I.G will be producing a new opening animation movie for the game. Additionally, the game has the expected musical tie-up. Girl Next Door is doing the honors with a song that was created especially for the new game. Although the song has been completed, it will not see its debut until June's Tales of Festival fan event.
Closer to what Tales fans are used to is Tales of Graces. The press conference saw first solid details on this new Wii RPG entry in the series, which was first unveiled last year through a trailer video included with Tales of Innocence. A release is planned for Winter.
Produced by Hideo Baba, Graces is a fully 3D title with character designs from Mutsumi Inotama and animation from Tales series animation house Production I.G..
The game is set in the world of Ephenia, where civilization was supported by a material known as Eris that is included in crystal of some form called Clias. The story surrounds three kingdoms, Windal, Strata, and Fendel. Main character Asbel Lhant originates from the region of Lanto in Windal.
Gameplay centers around a new variation on the series' Linear Motion Battle (LMB) system, the Style Shift LMB system (SS-LMB). Through this system, players can switch characters between multiple fighting styles. Asbel, for instance, can be switched between two stances when equipped with a sword. The game also makes use of a 3D side-step move, allowing players to pivot around targeted enemies in full 3D.
At today's press event, Baba made particular note of the game's support for Nintendo's Classic Controller Pro device, an update to the standard Classic Controller that's due for release this Summer. He also noted the game's use of motion capture for almost all event scenes, suggesting that players can look forward to realistic motions.
Baba held back on one particular area for Graces: the theme song. As with the VS theme song, this song has already been completed, but fans will have to wait until the Tales of Festival event for specifics on artist name and title.
PlayStation 3 is also getting its first Tales series game. Tales of Vesperia, released first to Xbox 360 last Summer, will be brought to the PS3 this Fall, with a variety of updates. The game now features a new playable character, a 14-year-old adventurer called Patty Fleur. The new character is designed by Vesperia character designer Fujishima Kousuke and will be voiced by Chiwa Saito.
Other changes for the PS3 version include the switch to full voice for the main scenario, added scenarios and event scenes, and other undisclosed elements that are said to be indicative of the PS3. The PS3 version will keep the same Bonnie Pink theme song as the Xbox 360 version.
A first trailer movie for the PS3 version will be available through PlayStation Store some time this month.
The big development for Vesperia this year may not be its move to the PS3, though. Namco Bandai is adapting the game for the big screen with a year 2009 animated feature titled Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike.
The movie tells the story of Vesperia main character Yuri when he was a member of the Imperial Knights prior to the events of the game. Other characters appearing from the game include Repede, Raven, Estellise, and Rita.
This latest anime adaptation for the Tales series is being produced by Production I.G., with direction by Kanta Kamei, who worked on Kill Bill Vol.1 and, more close to home, directed the movie parts for PS2's Tales of Legendia. The movie's script is being written by Reiko Yoshida, who's credited with a variety of anime and dramas.
Speaking at the press event today, Vesperia producer Yoshito Higuchi said that the PS3 version of Vesperia has approximately the same sized script as the Xbox 360 version just for new voice. He also said that Namco Bandai is planning some form of connectivity between the PS3 version of Vesperia and the new anime.
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