Cognition Dissemination: Where is Bandai Namco’s Tales Franchise?

For years, Bandai Namco quickly jumped from one installment in their long-running Tales franchise to another. After the franchise hit it big between the PSOne and PS2/Gamecube eras, the franchise’s development outfit at Tales Studio assigned two teams to creating each game so they could release them in a quicker fashion. This was indicated through the presentation styles. The 2D titles like Tales of Destiny 2 and Tales of Rebirth were from one team, while the 3D games like Tales of Symphonia and Tales of the Abyss were from another.

Eventually, they had to become one team to deal with the realities of game development beyond the PS2 era, and after Tales Studio was absorbed into Bandai Namco after suffering financial issues. But there wasn’t too long of a gap between Tales of Graces (the last title from Tales Studio) and Tales of Xillia (the first one from Bandai Namco internally). Nor was the wait between Tales of Xillia 2, Tales of Zestiria, and Tales of Berseria too long.

Berseria’s release date is notable, because we’re now potentially within the longest gap between installments in a while. I say “potentially” because while there was a little over a two-year gap between Xillia 2 and Zestiria, the latter title was announced a year before its release in December 2013, 13 months after the former released. Berseria was the last mainline Tales release, which arrived 16 months ago in Japan, and we haven’t heard a hint of a new title in development.

From Tales of Berseria, the franchise’s latest title.

Plenty of fans expected a new title to be announced at this year’s Tales Festival in June, where it’s usually customary for Bandai Namco to announce one if there isn’t already a game to promote. But it came and went with only announcements for ongoing mobile title Tales of the Rays and other goods. The next hope came with a stream this weekend, but its focus was on members of the development team discussing the series’ history for the 22nd anniversary. The only announcements here were for a Tales of the Rays update, a Tales stage play, and the date for next year’s Tales Festival.

It’s curious how we’ve gone so long without so much as a word of a new game, but there’s nothing to worry about here. Since Bandai Namco is still hosting events for the series, they don’t plan on laying it into a grave to focus on other projects. But it’s clear they’re putting much more effort into the next project, a necessary decision considering the quality and sales of the last several installments.

Graces was mostly regarded as a good installment outside the quality of its story and characters, but its progeny contained more serious issues. Xillia was criticized for being overly linear, and because the final act was extremely rushed. Xillia 2 featured heavily recycled content and plenty of fetch quests. Zestiria contained an overly complicated equipment system and had players wandering through a mostly barren open world to venture from one location to the other, and a wild battle camera. Berseria was an improvement on all the previous titles, though was nonetheless criticized for using a modified version of the same battle system it’s used for years.

The franchise’s sales have also been dwindling over time, especially in Japan. Xillia sold extremely well, but Xillia 2’s marked the slide downward (which sold below expectations), which continued with Zestiria. Despite Berseria being regarded as a step up, it wasn’t enough to win back those who skipped previous games, perhaps due to the game resembling those installments. This is why Bandai Namco is taking a much longer time to develop the next installment. They also want the next game to be special since it will be the first one developed for current-generation systems, despite this gen being over four years old already.

The long wait has been a little tough for fans who religiously purchase every installment, but with this wait, it could have a simultaneous worldwide release. There was a long gap between each title localization at one point, thanks to Bandai Namco not localizing Graces f until after intense fan requests 15 months after its Japanese release. The localization periods between games started shortening over time, and the gap between the Japanese and western releases of Berseria was only five months. Now, there’s a chance for everyone to receive the next game concurrently, particularly given the increasing number of such releases from the company these days.

I’m surprised they haven’t remastered Tales of Vesperia yet.

The sales and quality issues mean it’s no surprise that the next installment is taking a while. What is surprising is how they haven’t released any ports or remasters to fill the gap. The 26-month gap between Xillia 2 and Zestiria didn’t feel long, for instance, because they released remasters of the Tales of Symphonia games and a remake of Tales of Hearts to hold fans off. Comparatively, they haven’t provided anything outside updates for the aforementioned Tales of the Rays in the time since Berseria, and nor have they announced anything. There was a lot of demand among fans for a localization of the Tales of Vesperia PS3 port at one point (to an annoying degree), so I’m surprised they haven’t remastered it yet. Perhaps they’ll announce something of the sort soon.

Current indications suggest that the newest Tales game will at least be teased at the next Tales Festival, which will occur on June 16th and 17th — notably after E3 2018 (it’s usually the weekend before it). It will ideally be a project worth looking forward to.

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