Tales of Arise Producer Yusuke Tomizawa Famitsu Interview: Character Designs by Minoru Iwamoto, Tradition vs Evolution

More Tales of Arise details in the interview!

The Next Tales of mothership title, Tales of Arise was just announced at this year's E3. Take a look at Famitsu's interview with its producer, Yusuke Tomizawa-san!

At the recent Microsoft E3 press conference, Tales of Arise was announced! Of course, not without a little hiccup here and there, but no matter. The Producer for Tales of Arise, Yusuke Tomizawa-san, shares info on the upcoming game in this interview from Famitsu!

Yusuke Tomizawa
Yusuke TomizawaYusuke Tomizawa – Producer for the Tales of Series, and also the General Producer for the GOD EATER series and Product Manager for CODE VEIN.

For those who are TLDR, the key points:

  • The goal this time around is the harmony between "tradition vs evolution"
  • Armor guy and the girl are indeed the hero and heroine. Both are designed by Minoru Iwamoto, who is also directing the art for the game, a first in the series to have both character designer also direct the art.
  • Bandai Namco Studio involves people from Tales of Berseria and Phantasia.
  • Main hero looks like that to appeal more to Western fans, but his looks may change depending on circumstances in game
  • The game takes place 300 years after the whole Rena enslaves Dahna thing.
  • The hero is from Dahna and the heroine is from Rena. Because of this discrimination, they're off to a rocky start.
  • The game started with codename "Arise" with the intention to "revive" the series. In the end it just kind of stuck despite other name proposals.
  • In order to further the series, they're pushing Tales to also evolve in some parts, even if it means breaking certain traditions such as the whole acronym thing (Tales of Phantasia = TOP, etc.).
  • Steps to attract new players have been done.

Without further ado, the interview!

Tradition vs Evolution in Gaining New Fans

--- Finally, the latest work for the series, Tales of Arise, has been announced. When was development started?

YT: It has been a year since Tales of Vesperia: REMASTER (Definitive Edition) has been announced, but Arise was in production long before that. As you'll see from the trailer, Tales of Arise is a very challenging title. It took us a long time to reevaluate exactly how the Tales of Series currently is and how it should move on from here.

--- Indeed, looking at the PV, it really draws a line to how the Tales of Series has been up until now.

YT: I assumed it would have that impact. In analyzing the charm that the Tales of Series has had for the past 20 years, there are indeed still areas that must undergo evolution as it heads toward the future. For the series to maintain and expand its brand in the future, younger users also need to be able to look at the new Tales games.

--- That is something long-standing series' tend to experience. Do you intend to also have young users become fans?

YT: And for that, we, of course, needed a different approach than before. The challenge was how we could communicate the title to be more attractive to fans and to be more attractive than ever before. Looking at the trailer alone, long time Tales of fans may feel unsettled, but I believe we've expressed the attractive points in Tales of that we've retained, and the points that needed to undergo changes were well discussed. I believe we'll be able to further show how we want to evolve what we changed as we reveal more details in the future.

--- Rather than feel evolution or change, the feeling the trailer invoked was more of surprise.  Speaking of evolution, the graphics seem to have been heavily updated. The scene of the city and the fields look very beautiful.

YT: Graphics have really evolved in this. We've been using engines dedicated to Tales of since before, but now we're utilizing Unreal Engine 4. However, realistic graphics found in current-gen games is not the goal of Tales of Arise. In an attempt to develop unique watercolor style graphics with rich lighting and atmosphere and attractive characters, we've developed our own style of shading with Unreal Engine 4 as the base.

--- It also feels that the height of the characters feels different than before.

YT: This isn't about the characters, but we wanted this work to be more immersive than before. To provide that, we aim to enhance how characters move and act to allow you the feel that the character "really lives in our world". In approaching that, to avoid having the character blend with the watercolor like backgrounds, we've emphasized their heights to be more human-like. We also take particular emphasis on the force of the character's motions. For example, if the character were to turn its head, instead of the entire back or body just moving to follow, the body now twists in a more realistic fashion.

--- Speaking of the characters, in the trailer we got to see what seems to be the hero and heroine. There were no credits as to the character designers, so who is the character designer this time?

YT: You may have noticed from the key visual on the website, but the character designer for the main characters this time around is Minoru Iwamoto from Bandai Namco Studio. He is also in charge of the art direction, which includes how characters blend with the backgrounds that I mentioned earlier.

--- Iwamoto-san has designed Edna and Zaveid from Tales of Zestiria and Laphicet and Eizen from Tales of Berseria, but this will be the first time he has designed the main characters, isn't it?

YT: This will also be the first time that the main character designer would also be in charge of the game's art direction. This creates a sense of harmony for the game's art on different levels. In an example, by having someone design the appearance of the world and how characters are dressed simultaneously, we are able to reach a level of cultural harmony never done before. As I mentioned, our goal in the game is to provide a more immersive feel, hence we chose this direction in the art production.

--- The expressions of the 3D character models were also quite realistic.

YT: Yes. The facial animations and camera work are all made at the same level of 3D animation seen on TV and theater. Some may think, "if the 3D animations will be enhanced this much, then is there still a need for 2D animations?" For the Tales of Series, however, 2D animation is still important and part of the tradition, and is part of the major balance against the evolution part. We will make both approaches effectively dramatic.

--- By the way, Bandai Namco Studio is in charge of the game?

YT: Yes, they are. The staff does vary, with members from the latest work, Tales of Berseria, but we also have members who worked on Tales of Phantasia. The staff consists of both new and old members with a profound love for the series who are working together to succeed in the balance of evolution and tradition.

--- Will the main staff such as the director be announced in the future?

YT: We have various staff in different sections. As such, for example, when we want to have information on how battles go announced in the future, we'd like those staff members to voice them out themselves. For now, the music composer is a secret. And of course, we're not forgetting the theme song, either.

Dahna and Rena. The Hero and Heroine.

--- In the trailer, the worlds were called Dahna and Rena. What kind of worlds are they?

YT: The world where the main characters live in is Dahna, and the floating planet seen in both the key visual and trailer is Rena. Dahna is described as a world filled with nature, and the residents of Dahna revere Rena as the planet where the "dead and the divine reside". Rena, on the other hand, is a world with advanced science and magic technology, and they have invaded Dahna 300 years prior to the events of the game. You could call Dahna's culture as more of the middle ages, with little science and no magic. With Rena's overwhelming power, Dahna's people were defeated and enslaved. Our story begins 300 years later, from a one-sided view of the relationship between the two. From this beginning alone, one may feel a hard and dark atmosphere.

--- In such circumstances, our man in armor seems like our hero.

YT: He is, of course, the main hero. His story builds up on how to overthrow his current affairs. His appearance also has not yet been seen in the previous titles. Even though he's the hero, he's hiding behind a full-face helmet (lol). With regards to designs like those of royal knights, since the Tales of Series is also now popular overseas, hence this was taken into consideration in the designs. That said, the hero's helmet also has certain physical characteristics. We were trying to design a Tales-like character but at the same time give a new feel. Please wait for further information on the hero, including name, voice actor, etc. By the way, the hero's appearance isn't limited to that armor. He will have different clothing based on different situations.

--- For the female character, instead of a cute vibe, she had a more dignified feel. Is she the heroine?

YT: Yes, she is the heroine. She is a strong and cool woman that we made to appear in the trailer to be able to participate well in battle. She also seems to not get along with the hero at first. Indeed, this has to do with the conflict between Dahna and Rena. Our main hero is from Dahna, and our heroine is from Rena, so they are of different races. The people of Rena discriminate against the people of Dahna, so the start of their relationship eventually leads to significant drama.

--- In the trailer, we saw the two in battle. Of course the battles were action-packed.

YT: Just like in the previous Tales, battles are action-packed with enemies and encounters. We only showed a few battle scenes in the trailer, but we hoped to transmit that message. This time, we want new players to feel that "Tales of battles are refreshing" and that they are able to fight in quick, intuitive ways.

--- Tales of Series' battle system varies, and some require time to get used to enjoying combos. This time, would we feel more ease in getting into the action?

YT: Depending on the situation, there are specific actions that can be executed. There will also be elements to increase battle proficiency. Please wait for further info with regards to that.

--- The enemy that the hero was facing in the trailer looked quite vicious.

YT: The goal of the enemy's design is to make him look more threatening. When we first consulted the development team, we wanted to go with having "more satisfaction in defeating a worthy enemy". There was the worry that female players may hate it if the enemies are too scary, but in RPGs it's important to have that sense of accomplishment in defeating the enemy. That's what we wanted to convey in the trailer.

--- In the previous games, we had cute enemies like the Polwigle, but the taste seems to have changed this time.

YT: For example, if we had a cute boar come out, Tales fans will know that it's an enemy from tradition, but new players might feel that gap in between and have a difficult time in getting that sense of accomplishment. As I said earlier, the game's goal is to strengthen the harmony between the characters and the worlds and to create an immersive feel, so the enemies are designed according to that tone. That doesn't mean there are no cute enemies at all, though. And though we can't say yet, there will also be a mascot-like existence. It also definitely doesn't mean that the game won't heave heartwarming elements. In order to have you feel the impact, we'll take it one at a time.

Choosing the title "Tales of Arise"

--- You are highly emphasizing the balance between tradition and evolution. In the trailer, we felt a lot of the change and evolution part, but what about the tradition part?

YT: There are many elements that make a Tales game, such as the action battles and the skits or chats. We composed each element while thinking exactly why they're so popular and how can we make them evolve somehow. The team is working to make it feel still as a Tales game, and we feel it important to communicate with our fans, hence why we launched the blog. We're thinking of leading the communication through social media, as well.

--- Will there be trial versions or meet-up events?

YT: I can't confirm anything yet, but I would like opportunities for the players to try the game before release.

--- We're looking forward to that. By the way, we would like to inquire about the title. Up until now, the titles in the series would take up an acronym based on the English title, such as Tales of Phantasia being "TOP". Based on that rule though, Tales of Arise would be "TOA", but we already have Tales of the Abyss for that. Nevertheless, was there a special significance in choosing "Arise"?

YT: That is what our users have been using, right? At first, I thought it would be something we haven't used yet, like "N" or "O", but the game's codename during the early development stages was already "Arise", which came to be because of the strong desire to "revive" the Tales of Series. After that we had hundreds of titles proposed both from the development team and around the world, but in the end the title "Arise" was the closest to our vision. That's why, even if we had to bend that acronym rule, I wanted to convey the passion we have for this title. This is also linked to the game, as we have our characters who are trying to overturn their oppressing surroundings.

--- So what acronym should we use from now on?

YT: We prefer "Arise" or "TOArise". We aim to convey the title properly to new players, too. For example, if you look at "TOP", not all people will recognize it as "Tales of Phantasia", but if you look at "TOArise", somehow the message gets through somewhat. I know we're asking the fans to bend a rule that's been followed for so long, but if we must expand the series, we must be prepared to do unrivaled methods.

--- On to the last question. The release of Tales of Arise is 2020, but around what time specifically are we expecting?

YT: I'm sorry, but I cannot say just yet. Visually, the game is completed to some extent, but polishing still needs to be done. There are still many pieces to be set in, such as battles and stories. It might take a while, but please look forward to it.

Tales of Arise is now available at the following shops (Note: Please keep in mind that we may receive a commission when you click on our links and make a purchase. This, however, has no bearing on our reviews and comparisons.):

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Tales of Arise
Tales of AriseTales of Arise is the latest mothership title (new classification: original title) of the Tales of Series which was first announced during Microsoft’s Press Conference in E3 2019. The game was released for the PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One and PC Digital via Steam on September 9, 2021 for Asia and Japan and September 10, 2021 for the rest of the world. The game features use of the Unreal Engine 4 and works on the theme of tradition versus evolution of the series.

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A745 (or Abby, as most people call her) is the founder of Abyssal Chronicles. She is currently a doctor, but that doesn't stop her from showing her love for the Tales of Series. She loves potato chips. A lot.

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