Interviews// Tsunekazu Ishihara: The Pokémon Interview

I don’t see a language barrier...

Posted 14 Jun 2007 16:24 by
SPOnG: You’ve said in the past that you think of Pokemon Diamond and Pokemon Pearl as being ‘the ultimate’ Pokémon. Why are they?

Tsunekazu Ishihara: One of the elements that will make it the ultimate Pokémon is the fact that you can bring all of your Pokémon from the previous iterations to this game and they will be available to play on the DS version. Previously you could only trade and battle your Pokémon on a local basis. Now, with the WiFi mode, you can do that on a global basis. So, the fact that players from around the world can travel together and exchange Pokémon and battle – this indeed suggests it is the ultimate Pokémon.

SPOnG: Is there no language barrier?

Tsunekazu Ishihara: Well let’s say, for arguments sake, that a Japanese player decides to exchange with a player in Germany. That name will appear in each others’ respective language. So, although there are possibly a few limitations as far as language is concerned, generally I don’t see a language barrier in this Pokémon.

SPOnG: On the same topic, can you explain what the Global Trade Station is in the game? And how that works?

Tsunekazu Ishihara: Within the game itself a facility called the Global Trade Station will appear. It’s a fictitious institution in the game where you can trade and exchange your Pokémon with other players. However, this is connected via WiFi to a real server somewhere. So, you put up your Pokémon for trading and likewise someone, somewhere else is doing the same. So this is how you make the trading and exchanging of Pokémon happen.

SPOnG: Talking now more generally about Nintendo’s overall strategy with DS. A big part of that strategy is to increase the appeal to casual gamers or to those who might not previously have been considered hardcore gaming fans. What’s your overall impression of how this has gone to date?

Tsunekazu Ishihara: Indeed, hardware like the DS, which has such a broad appeal, with the fact that anyone can easily and instantly understand it… It’s certainly a ‘welcome factor’ for such a game like Pokémon which was originally designed with five-year-olds in mind. In that sense this broad appeal and the large installed base [of DS users]… I also hope that Pokémon can contribute to further increases in this [the number of DS users].

SPOnG: The latest figures were something like just over 40 million worldwide?

Tsunekazu Ishihara: Yes, you probably need to check with Nintendo on the exact figures!

SPOnG: Are you confident that the DS hardware will continue to sell at such a rapid rate?

Tsunekazu Ishihara: Well, I feel that Pokémon is a game that always gets released when the hardware is about to become quite mature – in other words it is continuously selling – which is what we have done with Pokemon Diamond and Pokemon Pearl. So we hope this will contribute to further [hardware] sales.

SPOnG: How many new Pokémon do we get with Pokemon Diamond and Pokemon Pearl?

Tsunekazu Ishihara: In total, to date, there has been in excess of four hundred Pokémon and more than a hundred are new.

SPOnG: So what are your own personal favourites from the new Pokémon?

Tsunekazu Ishihara: [grins]These three – Piplup, Turtwig and Chimcha (pictured here)

SPOnG: Lets talk a little now about about Wii and DS connectivity – a big feature of Pokémon Battle Revolution is being able to play with DS,

Tsunekazu Ishihara: To put it simply, if you have a DS with either Pokemon Diamond and Pokemon Pearl inserted in it, and you are playing with your Pokémon and you have a copy of the Wii’s Battle Revolution, you will be able to use your Pokémon in the Wii version to fight against other Pokémon. In effect your DS becomes like the controller for the Wii.

SPOnG: So what are the plans for future versions on DS and Wii? Anything you can tell us about that?

Tsunekazu Ishihara: At present Pokemon Diamond and Pokemon Pearl are the DS games and Pokémon Battle Revolution will be the Wii game. So the emphasis here is to focus on the success of these titles, commercially, and then we will move onto the next project.

SPOnG: Okay, last quick question – two criticisms I’ve noticed which crop up time and time again are that lots of gamers don’t like Friend Codes within the games and there has also been some criticism of Pokemon Diamond and Pokemon Pearl for still being in 2D instead of 3D. How do you respond to these criticisms?

Tsunekazu Ishihara: As you may know Pokemon Diamond and Pokemon Pearl include a feature which is very similar which is very similar to an IP, so you can chat to friends over the Internet via the WiFi connection. In this respect we have to be very careful about the security and we want to be careful that it is not possible to talk to complete strangers – so in that respect it was necessary to have this [friend] code in place as a security measure. This is something I take very seriously.

The other elements that don’t require this code are already in there – but they tend to be separated, these two - so that you chat with people that you only know and you trust. But other things like casually trading a Pokémon with someone, can be done without even knowing them. So, we have intentionally separated these elements.

Where privacy is needed we have put this measure in place. And where you want to play with lots of people that you don’t need to know, this is also available.

In respect to your second question, if you look at the map [indicates DS screen] you will notice that they are all designed in 3D. We just wanted to maintain the feel of what Pokémon used to be – so it is the same feeling of walking through the town or the field or the map or whatever. So, we wanted to maintain the original idea of Pokémon being a game that you played on this big map. It is, physically, in three dimensions but it is designed in such a way that it doesn’t look like it is in three dimensions. Intentionally. So that we maintain the original feel of the game.

What most consumers refer to as 3D, they will be able to experience on the Wii version of Pokémon Battle Revolution.

So coming up with something new that doesn’t spoil what originally made it fun is quite a challenge and this is what we have put a lot of effort into, so this is why we decided on these visual effects.

SPOnG: Thank you for you time.
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