Namco's Tales series of JRPGs has established itself as a major force in the console RPG scene, and with that comes the respect of an audience. Not all Tales fans think alike, of course! Speaking at the CESA Developers Conference in Yokohama, Tales Studio director Kenji Anabuki believes the most important ingredients which help define the Tales series to fans old and new are the lineup of characters, as well as the battle systems.
Bandai Namco Games producer Yoshito Higuchi explains that the player characters in Tales are designed to appeal to specific target audiences, highlighting their diverse personalities (and age groups) over the years. The trick is to design them for roles both in the storyline and during gameplay, even outside of battles. Their library of characters built over the years are often leveraged in entertaining ways, for example characters from separate Tales games may find themselves interacting with each other for some reason. One of these turns out to be a Smash Bros.-inpsired PSP game where Tales characters from a variety of entries duke it out in an alternate universe.
According to Anabuki, Tales Studio must balance accessibility and depth for the battle systems in Tales games. Battles in the Tales series are defined by the continually evolving "Linear Motion Battle" system. Naturally, the Tales Studios is big on leveraging "systems" fans liked in previous games for future entries. The 3D free-run system first introduced in Tales of the Abyss is one major example, as well as the chain capacity system which will be brought back for the upcoming Tales of Graces on the Wii. Tales Studio endeavors to have battles running as close to 60 frames per second as possible.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle for Tales Studios is the pedigree which the Tales series has managed to build over the years. Higuchi notes that Tales games have managed to establish itself in both 2D and 3D, and this inevitably leads to differing preferences and tastes within the fan community itself. Producing successful Tales games means capturing as much as of this diverse Tales audience as possible.