Interviews// Pokemon in Black and White: Junichi Masuda

Posted 4 Mar 2011 15:00 by
There’s a lot of love in this club. For Pokemon, that is. I’m sat in the middle of a VIP area of a Leicester Square bar about to chat to Game Freak’s Junichi Masuda and Ken Sugimori.

A row of DS consoles frame a packed dancefloor full of Nintendo representatives, journalists and lucky competition winners eager to get their hands on Pokemon Black and White early.

The moment I stepped into the venue, I was greeted by huge costumes of the three starter Pokemon - Tepig, Snivy and Oshawott - and immediately my inner child went squealing for a picture.

That excitement soon turned into an intense, overwhelming feeling of nerves as I speak with director Masuda-san and designer Sugimori-san. But the developers must have been equally as nervous as to how fans would react to this new, rebooted version.

For a start, there were a few challenges involved in bringing the series back to its roots in Black and White. “It was very difficult this time around, because we actually broke down absolutely everything the games had in the past and tried to rebuild it. That process was quite hard,” Masuda mused.

With a development time of around four years, it seems that the team had got the balance right - gone are the extraneous and convoluted things like Poffin making and underground exploration, replaced with a heavier emphasis on adventure and story-based play.

But for all the good work Game Freak has done in cutting the chaff here, is there a danger of things slowly inching back to the confusing and arduous world of mandatory fashion shows to complete your Pokedex? Just as I asked this, a representative for the Pokemon Company said, “I don’t think that’s the point, it’s not that it got too confusing. That’s not the point of Black and White’s existence,” before asking the translator to rephrase my question to a simple “Why did you decide to reboot the franchise?”

The translator asked me if this was what I wanted to ask. Um, sure, I guess. Pretty sure I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter.

Masuda said that the studio’s reasoning for rebooting the franchise was he wanted everybody to begin from the same starting line. “There are kids who have played Diamond and Pearl, and adults who grew up with Red and Blue. When you get these players to battle, some may know more about each other’s weaknesses than others. We wanted everyone to start from scratch and lead a team that they had never experienced before.”

My thoughts turned to the role of the home console in general when it comes to the Pokemon franchise - Game Freak has always said that the main adventure games will be exclusive to handheld platforms like the Nintendo DS, so how does the Wii fit in on the grand scheme of things? Are games like Pokemon Snap and Battle Revolution the only products fit for the home? Perhaps not...
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