Nintendo Accion 220
"Creating Pokemon is a responsibility"
Junichi Masuda, Mana Ibe
Translation - Saternoir
Proofreading - Lewtwo
With their presence in London to promote Pokemon Black & White, we took the opportunity to ask a few questions to Mr. Masuda, who was accompanied by Pokemon designer Mana Ibe.
NINTENDO ACCION: Pokemon Black & White are the best-selling Pokemon ever in Japan. Did you expect it?
Masuda - The truth is that I didn't. In fact, when we created the franchise I never thought it would be this big. We were surprised by the result from the very first game.
How is the feedback and are the players happy with the new features?
Masuda - I think they're very happy with Black & White, and the main reason is the C-Gear. By using the Wi-Fi internet connection you can battle with other players, exchange information, see what they're doing in the game: whether they're training, in the Pokemon Center or in the in-game shops... Players are taking full advantage of these possibilities! It is a truly unique feature, a transmission system not seen in other games.
You designed 150 new Pokemon - was it a big effort? How many Pokemon did you create before selecting the ones to be included?
Ibe - When we begin designing a single Pokemon, we make about 100 sketches until we come up with the final Pokemon. That's just to create a single Pokemon!
With these games, you wanted to attract new players and keep the old ones happy, right?
Masuda - Yes, and it has been a challenge to achieve this. When we developed the games we tried to make the game mechanics enjoyable for newcomers. That's usually a goal we set for ourselves every time we make a Pokemon game. At the same time, we want to keep veteran players around. We are very keen for them to be part of the franchise. For this we tried to make a deeper plot that they could reflect on. In addition, we used more advanced technology that would appeal to a more adult audience.
So you have harnessed the power of DS...
Masuda - On Game Freak, when we were working on Pokemon Black & White we made a thorough study of the console's hardware. We investigated its power and that's how we squeezed out its capacity. Compared to Diamond and Pearl, the technological aspect of the games has increased. Moreover, you can communicate with friends while you're playing. To me, that's an example of depth.
In Pokemon Black & White there are many differences between them. Will this trend increase in future games?
Masuda - The core concept of Pokemon Black & White was to create opposite editions. Therefore there is nothing better to achieve that than the colours black and white. That's why we made the White Forest, symbolising nature, as opposed to the artificial Black City. In future Pokemon games, I will try to keep this trend going, with significant differences between the two versions.
In Pokemon Black & White the Ranking Battle makes its debut. Will we see Pokemon championships online?
Masuda - The Pokemon World Championships are organised by The Pokemon Company. We will soon provide information on the Global Battle Union. We will then reveal information about the online battles.
Many players use their own Pokemon teams to compete - do you have them in mind when developing the game?
Masuda - Yes, of course; I took notes of these players to create the new battle system in Black & White. The battle system is one of the most important strengths of Pokemon. We wanted to make it deep enough so it's easy to play, and at the same time, more strategic. In addition, GAME FREAK introduced two new battle types. The first are the Triple Battles, an enhanced version of the doubles system, that allows you to create more opportunities for strategy. The second are the Rotation Battles, which has a luck factor involved; when you battle an opponent there is a chance factor. It's easier to play for all audiences, and veterans do not have as much of an advantage. It's ideal for newcomers.
The music in Pokemon games has become more epic - how would you describe the process behind this evolution?
Masuda - My working methodology has been the same since I first created music for Pokemon Red & Green. This time, I've been in charge of composing the music for the new region, but I have also focused on and prioritised the battle music. It is very similar to the music I created for Red and Green. When composing, I always keep in mind that the players should be moved by the music, and that this should encourage them to go deeper into the story.
Japanese culture has a strong influence on Pokemon, but the games' success is worldwide. What do you think is the key?
Masuda - I think the success lies in three elements. First is, when we make a Pokemon game, we do it on the basis of gameplay. Second one is that there are many Pokemon that are inspired by animals and things you might see near you in real life. And the third and final element is that you can play, share and enjoy Pokemon with your friends. Oh but one more thing; the games are not closed games, Pokemon is a franchise that keeps on expanding constantly. As a complement to the games, there are things such as the trading cards or the animated series. It's a phenomenon that keeps expanding in all areas. In Pokemon you meet characters that can be either enemies or allies, and that helped to reinforce the adoption of the game. For example, if you see a Pokemon looking wild and fearsome, you have the possibility of becoming their friend. That's attractive!
The Pokemon fanbase tends to create their own Pokemon. Do you happen to know about these, and what do you think of them?
Masuda - When we first began with the franchise, I wanted to create something that would go beyond people's expectations and imagination. And also, when I worked on the Pokemon film, I wanted to expand the concept of the games and make it more accessible to everyone. I'm very grateful that the players have been very involved in the franchise, imagining and creating their own creatures, that's a consequence of how big and varied the Pokemon franchise turned out to be.
[translator's note: Masuda is only credited under "Original Music" on M01 so it's unclear what he's referring to]
Many children around the world love Pokemon. How does it feel to have created something so dear to them?
Masuda - I'm very happy that people from every corner of the world know about Pokemon and I'm very grateful for the phenomenon around it. Almost everyone recognises the Pokemon themselves. I feel very lucky. When we created Pokemon, we always felt a great love for our work. Now I'm proud to see how young children see a picture of a Pokemon, and say its name and point to it. But I also think that creating Pokemon is a responsibility. A kind of responsibility that everyone who creates something new has.
Pokemon was born 15 years ago, and the phenomenon is more alive than ever. Do you think it will last for another 15 years? Would you like to be involved in its development for that long?
Masuda - I wish for Pokemon to continue yet another 15 years. For me, one of the most important things is for Pokemon to be played by lots of people. We've reached it and with Pokemon Black & White I want to achieve the same thing I will also want in 15 years; maintaining the success of the franchise.
What features of the 3DS can be used in future Pokemon games - augmented reality perhaps?
Masuda - Well, right now, Pokemon Black & White are out in Japan and about to launch in Europe - I'm really excited about it! And actually, I haven't had much time to think about the new 3DS.
Do you have time to play other games - which ones?
Masuda - I like shooters. What you create as a developer doesn't have to be the same as what you like to play.