Pokémon’s Developers On Virtual Console Absences, Twitch, And Super Smash Bros.
We had a chance to speak with Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire producer Junichi Masuda and director Shigeru Ohmori recently, and decided to ask them general questions about the Pokémon series.
Masuda has been with the Pokémon series since Blue and Red and served as a director on X and Y. He has subjected himself to our Pokémon questions many times before. You can find our interview with Masuda about the development of X and Y here, as well as our burning questions about the Pokémon series here.
Ohmori has been with Pokémon since the release of the original Ruby and Sapphire where he did game and map design. Now he is in charge of the Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire remakes releasing for 3DS November 21.
Note: responses come from Junichi Masuda and Shigeru Ohmori, as both of their responses were translated by a single translator, except where identified.
Game Informer: How come we haven’t seen any of the original Pokémon games on the 3DS Virtual Console?
Our focus right now, as you can see with Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire being a good example, is with the older titles we like to go back and update them and kind of power them up for the new generation. A lot of the communication features we feel that are obviously core to the Pokémon series, we have to update them. So for example these titles are compatible with Pokémon X and Y, you can battle and trade between the two series of games. So right now it’s just really that the only reason is that our focus is on actually updating the games and doing remakes instead of putting out the old titles.
Did Mr. Masuda or Mr. Ohmori consult on the recent iPad version of the Pokémon Trading Card Game. What do you think of the mobile platform?
Masuda: In terms of the Trading Card Game online that released recently for iPad, I didn’t really consult or anything on it, but this was something that I thought would be cool idea. It’s something that I wanted for a while because I actually own a lot of the Pokémon cards myself but, sometimes it’s hard to find a person to play with. With the Pokémon card game you need other people to play with so having this form where you can easily match with other players and play against other people – I think it’s really cool. Similarly, exploring mobile platforms, I think if there’s something that would really be specifically enhanced or better or really use this mobile platform, I think we could explore those areas as well.
Have they seen the really popular streaming Pokémon channels like Twitch Plays Pokémon and Fish Plays Pokémon. What do they think of them?
Obviously we create things so people will enjoy them and seeing people come together – watching or participating – it’s really humbling as the creator.
I’ve been playing a ton of Smash Bros. lately, as I’m sure everybody has. How involved are you are in the selection of the Pokémon who make it in the game? How did Greninja get into the game?
Even since the very first Smash Bros., it’s been Mr. Sakurai coming to us with ideas saying, “If we put this Pokemon in this game – in Smash Bros. – we’d be able to show it off in a really cool way and do something really cool with it.” The origin comes from Mr. Sakurai. We typically go with what he wants to do because he’s really thinking of not just showing off the character in a cool way, but making sure it makes sense and works really well from a gameplay perspective. We leave it up to him.
It seems like Mega Evolutions are a series staple now. What’s the decision process for which Pokémon receive Mega Evolutions?
We have a real variety of methods in terms of how we pick who gets Mega Evolutions. One of the methods is to look at the battle balance. We obviously monitor how players are playing the game through tournaments like Pokémon World Championships or even just battles online for the ratings and looking at the current environment we’ll see who we should give Mega Evolutions to in order to improve the balance or counter some of the existing favorites.
Other considerations include what fans are excited for, like which Pokémon they really want to see Mega Evolutions for, so we look at that and we introduce a few that fans are really going to enjoy. Other than that, from a story a perspective, like this time with Alpha Ruby and Omega Sapphire, we kind of explore the origins of Mega Evolutions, and in that story Rayquaza is really prominently featured. We look at the story as well to see which Pokémon need Mega Evolutions there. And then it’s up to the designers to see which ones they really want to work on. So it’s a lot of considerations we have when we determine mega evolution Pokémon.
Fans assumed after the release of Pokémon Black and White that we’d see something like a Pokémon Grey. And after Pokémon X and Y, fans were expecting something like a Pokémon Z. Will we no longer see those type of Pokémon games in the future? Extensions of already released Pokémon titles?
Masuda: For the Pokémon brand, and for Game Freak, our first and foremost goal and top priority with these titles is to always surprise and excite our fans. I’m not going to say we won’t ever do those things again, but we consider the timing and what would be the most surprising or exciting for fans at the time. Everyone was really expecting Grey, so it was exciting to come up with something fans really didn’t expect.
Do you get stressed out or overwhelmed with annualized releases like this? Since Black and White we’ve had a brand new, full Pokémon game every year. Is there any fear that you won’t be able to keep that up?
There could definitely be tough times, with people working late over a shorter development period. People really have to pour all of their resources into it. Our main goal is to have as many people as possible play and enjoy the game. Every time we make a Pokémon game, we’re always trying to make it the best game that we’ve ever made, and so far, we’re doing okay.
In Pokémon X and Y, stereoscopic 3D was limited to battles. Are we going to see more 3D in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire?
I think that the coolest thing about the 3DS’ 3D implementation is that you don’t need glasses. The reason we limited the 3D in X and Y is that you can play an RPG for long hours, and we wanted to select where we used the 3D effect. One of the reasons for this is that we wanted to put as much decoration into the overworld map as possible, which takes up rendering resources that compete with the 3D vision. So in certain parts where we want to surprise players, we’ll turn on the 3D effect for special scenes or battles, and we’ll focus on rendering resources on more elaborate environments for when they’re walking around and playing long hours.