Bringing Tales to North America - A Conundrum
As an avid JRPG fan, I watch the news feverishly that comes out of my favorite Japanese developers. You see the results of that a lot if you keep up with the news on this site, because I feel some of these lesser-known titles could use all the press they can get, especially since some of them have the chance to come to Western regions via localization.
One of my favorite franchises, Namco-Bandai’s Tales series, has been mysteriously absent from the North American gaming scene for over two years now, which is an unusually long period of time for a gap in available franchise titles. The last game released over here was the Xbox 360 exclusive Tales of Vesperia. This is one of the games I originally bought an Xbox 360 to play (take note, Microsoft, someone outside of Japan actually buys your console to play JRPGs!). In fact, I consider it one of the best in the genre this generation.
It is quite disappointing, then, to see not a single Tales game released in North America since, not even the PS3 iteration of Tales of Vesperia, which has been out in Japan for over a year and includes additional content. Namco’s last statement on the matter mentioned that they have no plans to release the port outside of Japan. This seems to go contrary to a statement made by the English voice actor for the game’s main protagonist, Troy Baker. Baker confirmed that he had done additional voice acting work for the PS3 version of the game earlier this year.
Why haven’t we heard anything about this supposed North American PS3 version of Tales of Vesperia? Is Namco-Bandai really in that deep of financial trouble that they would snub their long-standing Sony-related fans on this side of the Pacific? Apparently so.
Since the release of Tales of Vesperia in 2008, there have been many more Tales titles released and announced in and for Japan only, with no mention that they would ever see the light of day outside of that region. My thoughts, as a fan of the franchise, immediately go to ways we can rectify this. That, of course, leads me to look at other studios that do North American localization, and I start to wonder if Namco would, at some point, allow them to localize their precious Tales franchise, at least getting the game out there to fans outside of Japan.
What companies would I look to for this localization work? Three spring to mind immediately: Atlus, NIS America and XSEED. To start off with, one of these publishers has actually gone on record as mentioning this situation when asked by a Tales fan on the PlayStation Blog. This came, of course, recently after the announcement that Namco-Bandai has three new Tales games in the works – Tales of Graces F for the PS3 (an HD remake of the Wii title), Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology 3 for the PSP and an unnamed original Tales title for the PS3.
On the possibility of localizing and publishing the Tales games, here’s what XSEED localization specialist Tom Lipschultz had to say when asked specifically about bringing the PSP Tales games to North America:
“Might be hard to pry those away from Bandai Namco. But we can try, I guess! We’ll look into it. Just keep your fingers crossed.”
Then someone asked about both the PS3 and PSP games, getting this response:
“Man, lots of Tales love in here! Well, as I said above, it’s always tough to license from a Japanese publisher that actually has its own American branch, but we’ll definitely continue to look into all possibilities.”
Yes, indeed, Namco-Bandai has a North American publishing branch. So, again, what is the hold up on these Tales titles? Money? If so, why not farm the localization out to other studios who specialize in localizing Japanese titles?
While I adore XSEED and their localization is usually pretty solid, I’d be more tempted to hope that NIS America or Atlus take the job, if indeed Namco decides to loosen the reins on their precious RPG franchise. Nippon Ichi is in a tight financial spot right now, but I’m not sure that translates over to their American localization studio. However, recently they talked about their projects through early 2011, so if this even begins to happen, we probably won’t see any Tales titles out of them until 2012 or later.
Atlus, though, seems to be my pick for localizing the Tales franchise. They’re financially stable, do probably the best localization in the industry and seem to split their time between well-known (Shin Megami Tensei) and more niche titles (Knights in the Nightmare). They also aren’t afraid to take a chance on new IPs and have worked heavily on the PS3 and PSP, with stuff like Demon’s Souls, 3D Dot Game Heroes, Persona PSP, Persona 3 Portable and Hexyz Force, just to name a few.
I also wouldn’t rule out other up-and-coming localization teams, such as those at Aksys or Ignition Entertainment. Although, I swear, if Ignition takes the Tales games and does what they did to Arc Rise Fantasia, I’m going to be punching kittens.
So, I suppose this entire thought process ends with a plea to Namco-Bandai. As a fan of the Tales franchise from the PS1 era, I’m practically begging you to either localize these titles yourself or farm them out to another great localization studio. If you are doing it yourself, then stop going all Square-Enix on us and actually let us know, even vaguely, what your plans are so we stop constantly wondering. Seriously, it’s stressing me out. The whole idea is to just get these titles to Western regions. However, quality is important, as well. It’s understandable that this franchise is your RPG baby, but eventually every parent has to let go for the benefit of their children, and I’m thinking this is one of those times. There are obviously localization teams that would love to work with you and who would take care of the franchise and handle it right, so why not look into it? The result could be beneficial to both you, the localization studio and, most importantly, your fans in regions outside of Japan.