The lights are on
The release of Pokémon Sun and Moon next month ends an uncharacteristically large gap between the release of core Pokémon games. Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire release two years ago, which has given us plenty of time to come up with questions about the next entry in the series, as well as the broader Pokémon universe. We make it a point to ask long-time series producer, director and composer Junichi Masuda important Pokémon questions whenever we get to talk to him, like what does Rare Candy taste like, what really happens inside a Pokéball, and what's the deal with Klefki? This interview is no different, and you will also learn some new details about Pokémon Sun and Moon.
Game Informer: Is Yungoos/Gumshoos modeled after Donald Trump?
Junichi Masuda: It’s a very American-centric question I think, and actually a lot of people sent me comparison photos on Twitter pointing out the resemblance. But we had started the design of this Pokémon a long time back, and we didn’t have any intention to make it look like Donald Trump.
Have any Pokémon designs ever been inspired by current events?
Shigeru Ohmori: We don’t really look at current events that are going on, but one thing we do do sometimes when designing Pokémon is kind of see what kids of that era might like. Like for example maybe if there’s like a popular animal as a pet in a certain era then we might wanna try to come up with a certain Pokémon based off of that, to kind of really just focus on what kids of this era might like.
You can at least admit that the resemblance is pretty uncanny, right?
Junichi Masuda: Yeah, we were really surprised when I saw those photos. I can see why people would think it would look similar, especially the hair style.
Why Hawaii for Sun and Moon?
Shigeru Ohmori: It kind of goes back to we knew this was gonna be a 20th anniversary game. I really went back to kind of just the basics to really re-examine at this time 20 years of Pokémon: What are Pokémon? What kind of creatures are they as living beings? For example, when thinking about how to really just best express this concept I knew I wanted to focus on this idea of life and how the sun and moon are involved with creating life on this planet, and in terms of a region that would be best representative of that.
I have been to Hawaii a lot on vacations, and I know how good Hawaii is. It captures it all. You get all the warm sun, and it’s full of life and nature and it really captures all these concepts that I wanted to go through – the sun and the moon affecting life on this planet – and also kind of how the people in Hawaii really live with nature, and I felt that would just be a kind of suitable inspiration for the region that would one day express these concepts.
Some of the first trailers for the game shows concept art of vehicles. Are vehicles going to be an important part of the game? Are we going to see more vehicles in Pokémon Sun and Moon?
Shigeru Ohmori: This goes back to the conceptual stages. We really wanted to kind of re-examine or put the focus again on the relationship between humans and Pokémon and come up with a lot of different ideas about how they might interact with each other and the world. How they might, for example, work together or live together. So a lot of conceptual art pieces in the beginning stages showed maybe humans would be using vehicles and the Pokémon would be riding in them. As development went on, we kind of settled in terms of getting around in the game using the Pokémon ride feature, where you can ride on a variety of different Pokémon, so the focus really isn’t specifically on a lot of more vehicles then you would see in the past. I mean, there are some vehicles in the game that do appear.
We’ve only seen the original Kanto Pokémon in Alola forms. What's the reason for that?
Shigeru Ohmori: This is really my first time working as a director on a completely all-new title. Last time, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire was kind of remake of an older title. Also with this being the 20th anniversary, I was just thinking that we have so many fans – long-time fans of the game that have played since the beginning, and I really wanted to have a special surprise for those players. Also for the fact that Pokémon from the Kanto region of the original game are probably the most recognizable among long-time fans. So I really wanted to kind of focus on them and give them kind of them a new take on their appearance to really surprise them. But at the same time, by having the new appearance they kind of look like new Pokémon for a lot of new players who are maybe just getting started with Pokémon. So that was the reason we decided to focus on Kanto Pokémon.
We saw Professor Oak’s cousin in a recent trailer. Are we going to see more of Professor Oak’s extended family in the game?
Junichi Masuda: The cousin character, Samson Oak – we actually put that guy in the game to represent the Alola variants. He’s kind of an Alola variant himself, and that’s kind of his goal in the Alola region: to research these Pokémon that have adapted to the Alolan environment and changed how they appear. There are some other characters that may show up and may be recognized by fans of the previous games. So there’s some characters recurring, and maybe they show up with a different look than they had before. But in terms of Oak’s extended family, I think this is the only guy in Sun and Moon.
In Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, you could soar over the top of the map? Are you going to be able to do that in Sun and Moon?
Shigeru Ohmori: With Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, it being kind of a remake of a game from over a decade ago, we really wanted to show it from a different perspective, which is why we did the soar feature, which allows you to fly the skies. But with Sun and Moon, we really put the focus more on doing this rite of passage to travel across to different islands. We really put the focus more on walking the islands with your own two feet.
Have you been surprised by the success of Pokémon Go? And has any of that game's success factored into the development of Sun and Moon?
Junichi Masuda: First, with Pokémon Go, I personally didn't expect it to be such a big phenomenon that it had become. When we were first beginning the development of the game, I really just kind of expected it a lot – I mean, I guessed a lot of people would play it, but a smaller thing, where people would just enjoy going outside and catching some Pokémon. That was really actually where we put the focus of the game. We really wanted to kind of distill the experience of catching Pokémon, make it a simple experience, you can go outdoors specifically, walk around, find Pokémon, and catch them. I really just wanted to kind of express that concept with the Pokémon Go application.
And because of that we took Pokémon Go – we knew from the beginning, that was the direction of the game and with Sun and Moon, we wanted it to be more a deep experience, that people would spend a lot more time enjoying the game, not just catching Pokémon but also raising them and getting into the battling. Really just being immersed and enjoying the Pokémon universe. In terms of whether Go's success affected Sun and Moon? It didn't affect the development of the game, any of the features, but I think it's going to affect it in a way that, more people, for example, maybe just learned about Pokémon, or came back to Pokémon through Go. I think the awareness of Pokémon in general is a lot higher, so that may affect Sun and Moon in a certain way.
Will there be any cross-promotion between the two games, Pokémon Go and Sun & Moon? Like, Pokémon unlocking in one because you played the other, etc.?
Junichi Masuda: With Pokémon Go, yeah, we definitely want to have some kind of – at some point – some kind of connectivity, some way the games can interact. A lot of people, of course, knew Pokémon from the animated series, but Pokémon Go reached even way more people than the anime. It's released in more countries and has reached a much wider audience. So, I think a lot of people maybe learned about Pokémon for the first time from Pokémon Go, the core concept of throwing out a Pokéball and catching a Pokémon, so we don't want to waste that. We want people who picked up Pokémon and learned about it through Pokémon Go to also play Sun and Moon and the main series games. We want to have a kind of way to connect the two, or have a way for people who enjoyed one to enjoy some of their progress in the other. But that will definitely come down the road.
Are you personally playing Pokémon Go. And more importantly, do you know how to find Ditto?
Junichi Masuda: [laughs] Definitely I'm playing the game. Actually, I worked on the game as well, and one of the things that I helped develop was the ball-throwing mechanic, the physics and everything like that. I did a lot of detail work on that. I think I need to be good at it, as one of the people who created it! Of course, I'm only level 24, so I might be quite low level compared to some other people, but yes, both of us are playing it. In terms of Ditto, we've got some ideas – that's really all I can say."
For more about the overlap of Go and the development of Sun and Moon, the fan game Uranium, and Masuda and Ohmori's thoughts on there being too much water, head to page two.
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