Two years on from Pokémon Red and Blue’s arrival here in the west, we’re returning to Kanto when again.
Pokémon Let’s Go have actually made huge modifications – some showing more popular than others in the lead approximately its release – however there’s still a sticking around sense that, with simply the very first generation of Pokémon offered, in the very first area, we’ve seen it all in the past.
A number of weeks earlier, along with a prolonged hands-on sneak peek of Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee, we talked with Junichi Masuda, executive director and head of video game advancement at Pokémon’s primary studio Game Freak, in addition to fellow designer Kensaku Nabana, about a few of the nitty gritty information fans are constantly after, consisting of how that whole Meltan expose happened, HMs, and those continuous concerns of problem, open worlds, and the series’ future.
So it’s been 20 years given that the release of Pokémon Red and Blue in the west – 19 here in Europe – so to start with congratulations. Was that anniversary among the primary factors you picked to set Let’s Go in the Kanto area, as a retelling of Pokémon Yellow?
Junichi Masuda: So really it was more that a person of the primary targets of these video games is kids, who have not had the chance to play Pokémon Go, since you understand, they do not have a mobile phone, and we believed that among all of the previous Pokémon video games up previously, the one that’s the most relatable to kids like this would be Pokémon Yellow. So you have Pikachu obviously as a highlight in these video games, and you have Team Rocket, who appears a lot in the anime too, therefore, if we’re reimagining – this video game we’re reimagining Pikachu for modern-day audiences, we believed that Pokémon Yellow would be type of the most convenient for everybody to connect to, everybody to comprehend, and after that really we just discovered later on that it would be the 20th anniversary of the release of the video games, so we believed “Ah excellent! That lines up extremely well.”
So at the time obviously, you had the pixel art, all in white and black and monocolour, however with the brand-new video games – so we have the tv, which is among the primary methods to play, and you’re type of taking a look at it from rather close up and seeing the type of top quality graphics there, so we desire individuals to experience the distinction in between the very first extremely basic pixel art and the brand-new high graphics on the huge tv screen.
So would you state that this is the conclusive variation of Kanto? Is it near what you, or Game Freak pictured, when you were very first making it at that time?
Junichi Masuda: So this time around, undoubtedly where we’re making a video game that will be played a lot in the living-room on the huge tv as we pointed out, and the setting of the story is the Kanto area – which is an area in Japan – which is understood for, or highly related to summer season, or having a great type of summer season environment. This is something that we were constantly knowledgeable about when making this video game and likewise the truth that we didn’t wish to make it in any method a frightening video game – we desired the image to be type of friendly graphics, things like that. But in regards to things that we’ve had the ability to do this time that we weren’t at the time, so, you understand, we could not have everybody coming together playing the video game in the living-room, you needed to type of play it separately at the time of the initial video games. But this time around there’s different methods you can enjoy it you understand you might have pals coming by to your home, playing you understand two-player and one-player mode assistance play, tossing the Pokéball, you understand there’s all sorts of elements that we were type of able to be effective with developing this time around, and it seems like it was so simple this time, however at the time of the initial video games it was difficult to do, so it’s a huge distinction.
So you pointed out not desiring Kanto to be frightening, and I understand you’ve spoken about Pokémon, and Let’s Go in specific, being available to brand-new gamers – exist still puzzles and obstacles, things like Strength puzzles in caves, or have you moved away from that entirely now?
Junichi Masuda: So when we tried to think about how kids these days generally play games, what came to mind was mobile games really. Games which you play for a short time, and perhaps you’ll be moving between various games pretty quickly, so if it was a game that kind of takes about two hours to get into, we thought that perhaps people might get a bit bored and then decide to move on to a different game. So back in the day, even playing in the virtual console version of the original Pikachu version, it might take you know thirty hours, forty hours to kind of complete, or progress significantly in the game. And in this age with so many games to choose from, we thought that we’d rather make something that was easier to progress through, and kind of tailor that playstyle to how we think that the playstyle has evolved over the years and how children are playing games now.
Junichi Masuda: In the same vein, back in the day there wasn’t any kind of mechanic where you could run anywhere in the games, but now of course with the 3D map you can go diangonally, you can go whichever way you want, you can run, it’s faster to actually get around, and with the Pokémon appearing in the field as well, you can choose whether you want to catch the Pokémon or whether you want to avoid them altogether. So we’re kind of, you know, bending to the will of the players here, and giving them more options to choose the way to play that’s most fun to them.
What would you say to those players who are crying out for a bit more of a challenge, maybe adult players who’ve been playing for these 20 years or who got into it a bit later? Should they wait for next year’s RPG instead?
Junichi Masuda: So you know to those kinds of fans we’d mention the ‘catch combo’ mechanic, whereby you catch the same Pokémon multiple times in a row and get various rewards and benefits for that.
Kensaku Nabana: And also the postgame content as well, in particular the master trainiers – so these are trainers who are kind of the ultimate trainers of a specific Pokémon, so you will challenge them. So you will challenge them, and then get their title for that Pokémon, so you become the master of that Pokémon if you manage to beat them in battle.
Junichi Masude: So for me, my favourite Pokémon is Psyduck, so I’d be training my Psyduck amazingly and then would challenge the Psyduck Master, and then gain the Psyduck Master title, and that’s something you can put a lot of effort and a lot of time into, if I really wanted to create a challenge for myself – and these Master Trainers exist for all of the 151 Pokémon in the game, so you know, if you want to collect all of the titles then that’s something you can really challenge yourself with.
Does that cover all of the postgame content or is there more? Is there any story-based content after the main questline?
Junichi Masuda: So you know this is obviously based on the Yellow version, so in addition to the Master Trainers in the postgame there’s always the challenge of completing the Pokédex, and not just the in-game contents, but we’d like players to also challenge themselves with meeting up with friends and just trading Pokémon from both versions to complete that Pokédex.
Sure – and I know you haven’t talked much about this yet but is there any possibiltiy that there would be a National Pokédex beyond the 151 from Kanto? Or any plans to add Pokémon from other generations?
Junichi Masuda: So not right now – we’ll kind of, or what we’re looking forward to most right now is how the game is received. We’ll see it’s reception amongst all the players, and really we just… so right now players should become the trainer, throw their Pokéballs, and achieve that dream that everyone should be having including myself – you know it’s everyone’s dream to become a Pokémon trainer, and you know, take up your Pokéballs and get going.
We mentioned briefly those HMs like Strength – it’s been something that’s changed pretty much with every game. Do you feel like you’ve settled on an implementation of them with Let’s Go, with the fan-focused things like surfing Pikachu and flying Pikachu with the balloons?
Junichi Masuda: So yeah this is something that is tricky every time with every new game. We kind of ask ourselves well, what would you want your Pokémon to be able to do? And this time, because we had the partner Pokémon that was always without you throughout the game, you know we were able to have them have these secret techniques that only your partner can learn. But you know when it comes to the new, or future generations, that would be up to the developer of those games to decide exactly how to implement Hidden Machines. [Laughs] It’s… it’s a bother every time.
It really is difficult. [Laughs]. So sometimes you know players, you become unable to progress in the game or you kind of get stuck somewhere it’s… really bothersome. But it would be a bit boring if we just had the player push the blocks themselves!
So do you see a future where you just don’t have HMs at all, and use another system to manage how players progress?
Junichi Masuda: It’s not really like a technical issue that we have with these it’s just like you know, if you teach a Pokémon Surf, and then you go out to an island, and then you have your Pokémon forget Surf, and then you’re stuck on that island. [Laughs] What are you supposed to do with that? It’s just every time it’s the same type of problem like how can you solve that issue?
So if that were the case then the player would just have to be swimming across the ocean themselves carrying their Pokémon – and you’re like, well, am I the Pokémon? Or is my Pokémon the Pokémon? It would get confusing.
Okay, so something else I wanted to talk about, on a completely different topic, was Meltan. It had a really unusual reveal, it was really exciting for us to try and figure out what was going on, on the day. When it was discovered in the network traffic of Pokémon Go, shortly before it appeared in game, was that a leak? Or was that intentional, so a reveal disguised as a leak, to intentionally get people excited?
Junichi Masuda: [Laughs] That was planned.
So actually yeah we tried really hard on this one – we didn’t even tell company players, so even some of us were surprised when this came out as well, so only a few people know about the plan in advance so it really was a well-kept secret.
So normally I don’t really post on Twitter things about new Pokémon or Pokémon that are featured or more often encountered in Pokémon Go on specific days – but on the day Meltan was released it was community day and there was Chikorita was the Pokémon of the day, and then 15 minutes before Meltan was set to be released I tweeted “oh, everyone hurry up and catch your Chikorita you’ve only got 15 minutes left!” [laughs] which was… out of the ordinary.
We’ll make a point of paying more attention to your tweets! So when you decided to reveal it that way – as far as I know it’s never been done this way before, particularly with it first being available in a non-mainline game – when was that first thought up, and who’s idea was it to do it that way?
Junichi Masuda: So in terms of who made the decision, so it was TCPI’s PR team and Niantic, and also myself who got together and started talking about it, and really we were thinking about how we wanted people to first lay eyes on Meltan, and how to kind of make it appear like a cute Pokémon right from the start, so some people might look at it, if it were handled the wrong way, as “oh it’s like a gross Pokémon”, but they had it appear in Pokémon Go, kind of moving around, doing it’s thing, and then you know, people would be like “Ooh, what’s this now?!” And we thought that was the best way to kind of have Meltan first appear to the world.
Can you answer how we can catch it yet?
Junichi Masuda: So, well this info will actually be released on the 10th of October, but you know, we’ll tell you know – you’re under embargo, so you know don’t go talking about it at the bar or whatever! [laughs].
So, after you transfer Pokémon from Pokémon Go to Pokémon Let’s Go, you’ll receive a Mysterious Box in Go, and then f you open that box, for a limited time, you’ll be able to encounter Meltan.
Is it possible to transfer Meltan back to Let’s Go?
PR clarifies: Yes, via the usual method.
And is there only one that you have, so it’s either in Go or Let’s Go, or can you have multiple and have it in both?
Junichi Masuda: So you can have lots of Meltan at once, is the basic answer, but as you know this is the first time that we have had a Pokémon make its debut in a game that’s not the main series games, but Pokémon Go, so it’s pretty special.
Okay, thanks for answering that – even if I can’t say it until everyone already knows! So last time we spoke, back at the Let’s Go reveal in Japan, the topic of open-world Nintendo Switch games came up, like Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, and you mentioned that there’s a possibility that one day Pokémon might follow suit. I know that’s purposefully vague, but is that still something that’s being considered? Is that something that you see one day happening on the Switch?
Junichi Masuda: Well you know in general, I always want to be kind of facing new obstacles and trying to you know, do new things with Pokémon. You know it’s a different matter whether players will actually enjoy that kind of playstyle, but really you know, things like setting up an AI so that you know real world Pokémon appear, or different ways to appreciate the game, I’m always kind of thinking how to approach the Pokémon series from a different aspect so, in that sense, it’s still on the cards.
I also wanted to quickly ask about the Pokémon that are available in the game – like those which are related to Kanto but not in the original 151. Pokémon like Igglybuff, or Magmortar, that tie into first-generation Pokémon. What was the reasoning behind leaving those out?
Junichi Masuda: So, kind of at the basis of it you know is that in the first generation there aren’t any Pokémon Eggs, so you know, when we thought about how would these Pokémon be hatched in the first place, it kind of didn’t make any sense. But also you know we wanted to spend more time and put more effort into making the Kanto Pokémon, the original 151, as well made as possible, and expressing them as well as we could.
Sure – and does it suggest you have one eye on another Let’s Go style game set in Johto?
Junichi Masuda: So you know maybe – if everyone enjoys playing these video games [laughs] – but you know more than that, I know that a lot of people and fans have spent a lot of time hatching eggs, they’ve hatched… a lot of eggs, but we want them to kind of discover new ways to enjoy Pokémon video games, you know I’d be actually sad to think that for them, Pokémon is hatching eggs, so with this one we’re trying to show them a various side of the video game.
Finally, I know you can’t talk about any specifics just yet, so what I want to know is when you can start talking about that 2019 RPG…
Junichi Masuda: [Laughs] Sometime… next year.