Final Fantasy fans have their day. Dragon Quest fans have their day. Pokemon fans have their day. If there are fans of any series that don’t always have their day, it’s those of Namco Bandai’s Tales franchise. Western fans, that is.
Since the series’ fruition, the western hemisphere hasn’t been as abundant in Tales releases as its homeland Japan has been. Tales of Phantasia, the game that began the series, released for the first time in North America and Europe as a Gameboy Advance title 11 years after its original Japanese debut as a Super Nintendo game. The Japanese version of the GBA port released three years earlier. Nonetheless, the territory received additional PlayStation 1 and PlayStation Portable ports of Phantasia in 1998 and 2006, respectively; a “Cross Edition” of the PSP port was released in 2010.
Further down the line, more Tales titles saw the same treatment. Jumping to more recent events, Tales of Vesperia originally released as an Xbox 360-exclusive in summer 2008. In summer 2009, an enhanced PlayStation 3 port was released in Japan, adding new characters, a fully-voiced script, new story segments, new dungeons, new attacks, updated towns, etc. As of this writing, Namco has not announced plans to release the game overseas.
Namco Bandai’s failure to localize these ports are just one-half of the Tales fan’s disturbance. Few main entries — or mothership titles, as they’re called — failed to release at all overseas. Out of the thirteen mothership titles, which include PlayStation 3′s upcoming Tales of Xillia, four never saw release in the western world. Those being: Tales of Destiny 2 (PS2), Tales of Rebirth (PS2), Tales of Innocence (DS), and Tales of Hearts (DS). Several other spin-off titles, such as most of the entries in the Tales of the World branch, never saw release here, either.
Enough is enough, says the Tales fan. Created with goals similar to those of the recent Mega Man Legends 3 and Operation Rainfall Nintendo campaigns is a new, Tales-focused group who call themselves The Aselian Movement.
The Aselian Movement
The Aselian Movement is not a single group, but a aggregation of groups working together under a single banner. They’re comprised of: Operation 13, ToXLocalization, Tales of Rebirth Localization, and VesperiaPS3. We took an afternoon to sit down and discuss priorities with the administrators of each group.
“Operation 13 is a campaign with a goal to get Tales of Xillia localized in the west for both the United States and Europe,” said Kyle Smith, who goes by the internet alias RRPG and is one of the admins behind the operation. “The game is about to release in Japan, and it’s supposed to represent the 15th Anniversary of the Tales franchise. We do know for a fact that Tales of Graces f [for PS3] and Tales of the Abyss 3D [for 3DS] are coming out within the coming year, but we want to let Namco Bandai know that we are strongly interested in them bringing Xillia overseas.”
ToXLocalization, headed by the Tales-loving couple that is Sean Higgins and his fiance, has a similar ambition.
“Our main goal is to unite our fans and have our voices be heard by Namco Bandai,” said Higgins. “[We're hoping] this will ultimately lead to fixing their issues such as proper localizations and advertising.”
Due to its time of release — that is, it hasn’t even come out in Japan, yet — Tales of Xillia is more than likely the group’s most probable chance of localization. During this past July’s Japan Expo in France, Namco Tales Studio executive Makoto Yoshizumi said Xillia could come west “if fans show they are really enthusiastic about the game.” That’s exactly what both Smith and Higgins are attempting to display. Though, that doesn’t stop Cody Arnold, the man behind Tales of Rebirth Localization, from fighting for what he calls a PlayStation Portable game of deep meaning.
“I started this campaign because Tales of Rebirth is something that’s been so important to me for such a long time,” Arnold told us. “I played some of the PS2 version once and forgot what it was. Then, I found it again and have since been playing through it and understanding its deep meaning. ‘There is no color to life’ is a very deep quote expressed through the game and through its characters. We all deal with racism in life, and in Tales of Rebirth, a story is told about how that type of hatred towards one another nearly destroys everyone.
“I myself am learning and beginning to understand Rebirth. But I want people who are afraid to import, or that want to play it, to be able to experience this amazing game in their native language. So I created this, in hopes that maybe once Namco Bandai is finished with Tales of the Abyss 3D, they’ll decide to work on another handheld, and I would like for them to notice my page and hope it will influence their decision on what to work on next.”
Tales of Rebirth released on PSP in Japan in 2008. It is a remake of the PS2 version, which released in 2004.
Perhaps one of the biggest Tales controversies in recent years is Tales of Vesperia. Rudi Harper, who runs the VesperiaPS3 campaign, is determined to bring what some Tales fans call the “complete” version of
“Rudi Harper created the Twitter @VesperiaPS3 after the incident with Namco Bandai and their ‘A Tale of Two Richards’ site, where Vesperia WAS teased,” said Arnold, in reference to day six of the teaser site’s updates. “That was only the beginning. I believe that he felt Namco was wrong to tease a game that fans wanted so much; and the number of people that still want it led him to create [VesperiaPS3] to gather support. He then followed in Operation Rainfall’s footsteps with the letters campaign.”
Four campaigns, one banner.
“We are all working for one series, therefore we decided we would be more powerful if we came together. And together with a name for all of us, yet while still remaining separate entities, we could show Namco Bandai the there IS a demand for their games and that the fan base DOES want to see this series do well on our shores.”
Tales Meets the West
Each administrator is a dedicated Tales fan, who shared with us their insights into the western status of the series.
“Namco Bandai not putting in enough dedication to this franchise for a niche audience when they are really this big publisher is just baffling to great extents,” commented Smith. “I mean, sure they put in big emphasis on other properties like Soul Calibur, Tekken, the Naruto games, Pac-Man, and Katamari Damacy of all things, but Namco’s Tales series seems to be left in the back-burner, most of the time. Of course, there are differences in the Western and Japanese markets when it comes to gaming, but with a JRPG that is really big in Japan, it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be big in the West as there are big fans of Japanese role-playing game franchises out there. The Tales series is amongst that category that we wish to see more of.”
No doubt one of Namco Bandai’s biggest concerns in bringing over Tales games are low sales numbers and high localization cost. While there is a market for Japanese role-playing games in the western hemisphere, other genres — specifically, the shooter — tend to sell much better. Asked about the potential sales of the games the group is pinning for, Arnold suggested simply to do what you can to support the publisher.
“The thing I would say in return to that would still be to support Namco Bandai and purchase their games. But don’t just go out blindly and buy a game that has ‘Namco Bandai’ printed at the bottom of it. The fans that complain the most are generally the ones who do the least in terms of supporting the companies. So as I have done and will continue to do, I ask people to purchase Tales of Graces F and Tales of the Abyss 3D. Abyss 3DS is easy money for Namco. It’s one of the first RPG’s on the 3DS therefore it can draw in newer fans to the series that might go on to purchase Graces F, then Xillia and whatever would come after.”
“Easy money” is correct. Tales of the Abyss 3D is almost a direct port of the PS2 version, meaning Namco Bandai spent little to no money in translation or voice-acting in bringing the port westward, as the PS2 version saw a western release in 2006.
Arnold added, “In terms of Vesperia, [the game] has already been released on the Xbox 360, therefore much of the story has already been translated, which Namco Bandai could use and add whatever else would NEED to be translated: the new artes, Flynn and Patty’s lines, the changed story dialogue, etc. But they would also need to re-do a few scenes with Flynn and Patty added in. But most of the work would be finished.”
Higgins proposed Namco Bandai translate the games by machine, then use a single translator to form it all out.
He said, “Partial machine translation of the text in a game requires the cost of less human translators. A poor example of this is Tales of Phantasia for the Game Boy Advance. The translation seems to ONLY have been machine translated with a simple spell check. An example is the game’s infamous quote, ‘a war that happened year ago that devastated the world, they called it Kangaroo.’ The name was truly Ragnarok [not Kangaroo]. Just a single human translator is all it takes to make corrections. That reduces cost immensely. The final way to reduce cost is to allow third-party companies to take the reigns on your project. Xseed practically begged Namco Bandai to allow them to translate and release Tales of Rebirth on the PSP (years back), but they were denied without reason.”
Smith believes you’ve got to spend money to make money, and that if Namco Bandai makes the effort, they’ll earn their revenue.
“We do understand that there is a great amount of money involved into translating and revoicing a JRPG, but there is also the phrase, ‘you’ve got to spend money to make money.’ The money on Namco Bandai’s part MUST be spent on those two factors, as I hardly ever see so much marketing for the Tales series,” he said.
“Of course, we see the opposite when it comes to the other franchises, as they have had big marketing and hype where the Tales series did not. If they aren’t committed to it in the Western market, then they should at least work with smaller and independent companies that know how to treat a JRPG like this very well. I’m talking about companies like Atlus, NIS America, and Xseed Games.”
Smith added, “If you aren’t that fully committed to the Tales series in the West, then why not find every little bit of help from a smaller company that puts in a great amount of effort to do something like this — very well — for both them and you? Take a look at Disgaea and see how much of a success that has become.”
Arnold brought up a rather blunt statement, reckoning Namco Bandai “needs to be able to work on Tales games like they do their others — like they do with Naruto and Dragon Ball Z.”
If there’s any Tales title that was considered a success in the west, it’s Gamecube’s Tales of Symphonia, which released in 2004. The fifth mothership title in the series, Symphonia sold 953,000 units worldwide on Gamecube. A PS2 version, only released in Japan (this time, due to legal issues — Nintendo translated and published the game for America and Europe) sold an additional 486,000 units.
Marketing for Symphonia is described as some of, if not the best, the series has ever had. Many Tales fans today weren’t fans until 2004, when the game released.
“Nintendo had a hand in helping market Symphonia,” said Arnold on the subject. “And bam, Symphonia did absolutely wonderful, fans loved it.
“But they also didn’t know that it was part of a series. There may STILL be people who don’t know. But if I were to compare marketing for a Tales game to marketing of, say, an RPG like giant Square Enix, it wouldn’t compare. Whenever I go to websites or into a store I see advertising for their games. I even own both of the GameStop displays for Final Fantasy XIII — you know, those giant posters. I can guarantee you, if Namco would make a giant poster of, say, Asbel and Sophie [from Tales of Graces F], or maybe even smaller ones to be displayed around the store or around numerous different stores, sales would definitely increase. By a lot. At least in my opinion, it would. Some people DO purchase games based on how they look and they might see the character designs and be instantly sold.”
Smith weighed in his thoughts, implying Symphonia was Nintendo’s desperate calling for an RPG, causing the Gamecube manufacturer to do marketing to perfection.
“Tales of Symphonia on the Gamecube was a game to help push system sales, as Nintendo was desperate for RPG content on their system, since Satoru Iwata took over as president and had to clean up Hiroshi Yamauchi’s mess. Tales of Symphonia had really huge production values as they had a professional voice cast with big name voice actors, like Scott Menville, Cam Clarke, Jennifer Hale, Kari Wahlgren, Crispin Freeman, Tara Strong, and so many others,” he said.
“My guess is that since the game was slated to release on the Gamecube, Nintendo must’ve had a hand in helping Namco with marketing and hyping the game since they still had that 5-year deal to help work with each other on their properties. Nintendo had great marketing before they plummeted in the west not too long ago, and that is what I believe made Tales of Symphonia a huge success.”
Higgins echoes the thoughts of Arnold, and adds his belief that it was not until Vesperia that people realized Symphonia was part of a franchise.
“Tales of Symphonia was successful due to such a high level of advertisement,” he said. “The most memorable part of any fan’s advertisement experience was on the front cover of Nintendo’s most well-known magazine Nintendo Power. Our local game stores even had supporting material for the game’s release. Word-of-mouth was not necessary for the spread of this product’s debut! It is no surprise that Symphonia is well known as the Tales fan’s ‘first.’ It is sad to state that although Vesperia is one of the latest in the series, it was not until its release did every fan start to say ‘Wait… it’s part of a series?’”
Suitably enough, this writer happens to have a chum whose actions mimicked exactly those brought up by Higgins.
A Labor of Love
Despite Namco Bandai’s poor localization standards for Tales in the west, fans are still fans. Each will continue to support the series when possible, but these four groups will continue to do more.
“By supporting each of our campaigns, which each target a specific game in the franchise, we will rally together and make the fan base more prominent and more wide-stretched than it already is,” said Smith, closing off his speech. “Be sure to support Namco Bandai by buying Tales of Graces f and Tales of the Abyss 3D when they release, and we may be able to see more Tales games in the future. However, the number one priority is to let your voice be heard.”
Higgins closed off with a much more comical approach. Comical meaning, this probably isn’t what you’d do if you were a college student and had no money. You’d probably instead get another job and make money. Or beg your parents.
“Why did we choose Tales? Let’s say you are a college student. You just used your last dollar on groceries for the week. You come home to the weekend drained from work and your classes. Your three friends come over simply to hang out. What will you do with no money, your energy drained, and borderline depressed from the week? Play a video game, of course! But not just any video game! A Tales video game! Tales games give you an in-depth four-person interactive adventure! You and your friends can play through a massive storyline together. You’ll make numerous memories with all of your friends, battling monsters and saving the world from unyielding doom! The game mechanics are intentionally made for an entertaining, four-player experience. MY reason for picking Tales is the fact that I am not isolating myself, while still being able to enjoy a story of epic proportions. Why should we take this pleasure away from working-class people? We hope our campaign will finally reach Namco Bandai and all the fans’ voices be heard!”
Higgins statement hits close to home. I, too, have memories playing Tales of Symphonia with my siblings, experiencing single-player and multiplayer both at once.
As all Tales fans should, Arnold hopes for the release of all Tales games in the west.
“I want to see this series do well, and I want to see Tales of Rebirth along with the others [Tales of Xillia and Tales of Vesperia] on our shores. In order to do so, I believe that Namco Bandai needs to work on their marketing. They want the games to sell well, right? So market them. The fans are clearly hungry for the series, so much in fact that they offer to market it themselves, in case Namco doesn’t.
“I will continue to do my best to market their games. And I encourage others to do so, as well. And we will continue to work together — Operation 13, ToXLocalization, Tales of Rebirth Localization, and VesperiaPS3 — under our name, ‘The Aselian Movement,’ and have our voices heard. Together, we plan to show Namco that we DO want these games and that they CAN trust in the western fan base.”
What can you do to help? It’s simple. Like/follow/spread the four campaigns of The Aselian Movement through your favorite social network(s):
- Operation 13: Facebook, Twitter
- ToXLocalization: Facebook, Twitter
- Tales of Rebirth Localization: Facebook, Twitter
- VesperiaPS3: Facebook, Twitter
As the numbers increase, Namco Bandai will see more fans are interested in the series. Hopefully then they’ll take action.
Of course, pre-order Tales of the Abyss 3D and Tales of Graces f, as well. Here are some links: