Fine-Tuning the Pokémon

Posted By at 7:55 PM on Tuesday November 8, 2011

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Did you have everything planned out from the very beginning, right down to the little details? Or did you gradually add things along the way?

Masuda: Game Freak’s modus operandi is that we add ideas and break things down. For example, at one point we took out the health gauge during battles and tried using phrases like “That hurt,” and “That really hurt,” instead. That didn’t turn out to be very interesting, though, and we went back to using the meters. Rather than using an idea as-is, we all come together and ask ourselves whether there isn’t an even better idea.

In the game, the Pokémon are capable of a lot of different things. Wasn’t that difficult for the programmers?

Watanabe: Despite the large volume of work, we managed to handle the heavy workload. It was the fine-tuning that was the hardest.

Sugimori: With 151 Pokémon, it wouldn’t do to have incredibly strong characters and extremely weak ones, so we devised ways to even them out a bit.

Who was in charge of the Pokémon levels?

Nishino: Tajiri [Satoshi Tajiri, creator of Pokémon] was in charge of the basics, but I was the one that fine-tuned the balance. I’d begin by looking at a picture of a Pokémon and asking myself “How strong would this Pokémon be?”, deciding its level from there. Then I’d play-test it, and readjust its level if it wasn’t fun enough. Wash, rinse, and repeat. There were also times when I’d have to decide on a character and level based on what was necessary for the story at the time.

Morimoto: There would be occasions when the designers would get an order from the scenario writers to create a character that would block the way, say.

Did you ever have to figure out how to get something to work on the Game Boy?

Masuda: Well, programming for the Game Boy meant you weren’t going to have a lot of buttons to work with and the memory capacity would be small. It was worth it to try and make something that would fit within the limits of the system, however.

Watanabe: We didn’t want to compromise our standards by saying “It’s only a Game Boy game, so let’s just leave it like this.” We were always wanting to make something that would put even the Super Nintendo to shame.

Sugimori: Because the screen is small and there isn’t a lot of space, we had to remove everything that wasn’t serving any purpose. Even in the character portraits, we weren’t able to use a lot of colour or put in tiny details, so we dedicated ourselves to drawing designs that were symbolic and easy to understand. I think that, as a result, the designs appealed to a large number of people.

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