The lights are on
Pokémon Black and White 2 are less than a month away so we decided to chat with the games' producer about the franchise’s first numbered sequels. Junichi Masuda has been with Game Freak since the company’s inception, and he is the producer on Black and White 2.
What was the reasoning behind doing a sequel to Black and White opposed to doing something like Pokémon Gray?
Near the end of Black version and White version’s development, the Game Freak staff was all playing the game and playing through the entire scenario and the story and I heard from a lot of my staff that the characters like N and Ghetsis from the original games, they’re very interesting and a lot of the staff were curious what became of these characters after the end of the game. So from that we really got the idea to maybe follow-up on this. We thought perhaps we could expand on this story a bit more. Take it a bit further in that direction and after that, talking with Mr. Unno, we eventually decided to set it two years later in the same region and we just kind of saw this as a chance to – we hadn’t really done a sequel for the Pokémon games, a direct sequel – so we saw this as a chance to challenge ourselves with something new.
Why stick to the original DS? Why not move to the 3DS for the new Pokémon?
So first, being a direct sequel to Pokémon Black version and Pokémon White version, we really wanted to make sure that players of the original game would be able to play the sequels. Maybe not all of them have a Nintendo 3DS, but they definitely had a Nintendo DS if they played the original games. Also, the Nintendo DS platform is really just owned by pretty much the most people around the world. So many kids and so many players from the around the world have the Nintendo DS platform, so it made sense that if we wanted to have the most people possible play the games to put it on the Nintendo DS. However, it wasn’t just about having Pokémon Black version and Pokémon White version players play the games. We wanted to make sure that it was enjoyable for new players, too. We also really wanted to focus on making sure the games could communicate with the original Pokémon Black and Pokémon White versions and it made the most sense to put the games on the Nintendo DS this time. However, we also wanted to have a nice surprise for the owners of the Nintendo 3DS so we developed the Pokémon Dream Radar application which is available on the Nintendo eShop. It’s kind of a supplementary game that features some action-packed gameplay where you can catch Pokémon using the gyro sensor and the AR function of the Nintendo 3DS. Since the Nintendo 3DS can play Nintendo DS games, if you have the Pokémon Black version 2 or Pokémon White version 2 in your Nintendo 3DS you can transfer the Pokémon you caught in Pokémon Dream Radar to your Nintendo DS game. We thought that was very interesting.
In Pokémon Black and White, there are sprites and polygonal characters. Are you interested in a fully polygonal Pokémon game in the future?
There are definitely good aspects to both 3D and 2D. For example if you look at the Pokémon on the package you can really see how cool it looks as a 2D illustration and in the games, for the Pokémon characters, one of the reasons we use sprites, at least currently, is because we like to have more of a comical, kind of look like an animation, this kind of visual style is what we want to do for the Pokémon games. If we were able to take that style we have now and have it translate into 3D with no problems; that is definitely something we would be into. However, it’s not just about the visual appearance either. The feeling and the control of the character is also very important to us. There is definitely a certain feeling you have when you control these 2D characters. It may be different if we switched over to 3D.
How often do you hear requests from fans or the press about the possibility of a Pokémon MMO?
In terms of how often we get asked, I’m on Twitter and I get asked every once in a while, but it’s really not very often – from fans at least. I get the feeling that maybe not all of our fans are really interested in such an online game. It’s more so in interviews with the media and whatnot that I get asked about online games, like “Are you guys going to make an online version of Pokémon?” In terms of that, when you are playing remotely with someone very far away, obviously online, using the Internet like that is a really great option and it works great for that purpose, but with the Pokémon games, we really like to focus on face-to-face communication, and in-person communication, playing with people in the same space. One example might be like people from around the world come to the Olympics and have this huge event and that’s really exciting. While online play is a feature we also like and want to have in the games, encouraging this in-person face-to-face communication is something we want to continue to promote in our games.
The digitized cries of the Pokémon have stayed the same, more or less, since the beginning. Is this something that would ever change? Will there ever be new Pokémon cries?
The original games, I was the one that made the cries, the sounds for the Pokémon, and over time, you may not have noticed them, but they have actually changed over time throughout the games. They have changed, the cries in the game, but we definitely keep them different than the ones in the animated series.
Has the Pokémon team ever considered speeding up the pacing of the battles, maybe incorporating more action, or timed button-presses like what we see in the Mario RPG titles?
When we were making the original games, Red and Blue, we really tried a lot of things, a lot of different battle systems and a lot of different aspects for the battle systems. We even tried things like getting rid of the concept of hit points. But we ended up with the battle system that went into the final game and has evolved over time in the current games. One of the base concepts of Pokémon is to really make it playable for anyone. Anyone can pick up the game and play it and enjoy it. By having a lot more action-packed gameplay, or some kind of gameplay that requires timed button presses, it might be a little bit too difficult for some people, especially for people who aren’t used to playing games. The idea of being able to go into a battle and think carefully about what moves you want to use, to really have the best tactics in battle is something we really value highly in the Pokémon games.
In the Pokémon World Championships, there is a time limit on when you can choose your moves and whatnot. That is one way that the battles can be enjoyed, at the high-level play having a limited amount of time. Similar to chess, we really want players to be able to have enough time to think about which moves they want to use, and not really feel like they’re being rushed and I think that style of battle is really what works. It’s what we think is best for the Pokémon games right now at least.
Email the author Kyle Hilliard, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.