Home / Content DB / Iwata Asks Interview - Pokémon Black and Pokémon White Versions

Game Details:

Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo / The Pokémon Company
Platform: Nintendo DS
Release Date(s): September 18th, 2010 (JPN), March 6th, 2011 (USA), March 4th, 2011 (EUR), March 10th, 2011 (AUS), April 21st, 2011 (KOR)
Mode(s): Single player, Multiplayer
Rating(s): CERO: A (JPN), PEGI: 3+ (EUR), ESRB: E (USA)
Controller(s): Nintendo DS
Extra Contents: Black and White Main Page - Pokémon Labyrinth - Play to Befriend a Pokémon - C-Gear - Pokémon Musical - Wi-Fi Competitions - Dream World Furnishings - Iwata Asks BW

The following is a transcription of an interview conducted by Nintendo President, Satoru Iwata. It was originally posted on the Official Nintendo website. The interview was originally posted in Japanese in September 2010.

Interview Table of Contents

  1. Making a Completely New Sequel for the Nintendo DS system
  2. A Brand New Pokémon World
  3. Connecting for More Fun
  4. The Unchanging Qualities of Pokémon
  5. New Encounters in a New World

1. Making a Completely New Sequel for the Nintendo DS system


Iwata: Today we are at The Pokémon Company.1 I would like to "ask" about the Pokémon Black and Pokémon White Version games, which are just about to be released. Producer Ishihara-san is here, as well as Masuda-san and Sugimori-san from Game Freak2, the main developers of the game. Thank you for coming.

Everyone: It's our pleasure.
1. The Pokémon Company: In addition to brand management of everything related to Pokémon, including video games and the card game, the company operates six Pokémon Centers around Japan. Founded in the year 2000.

2. GAME FREAK, Inc.: The video game developer responsible for the Pokémon series and other titles. Founded in 1989.
Iwata: First, I would like to ask how you began talking about making a second completely new pair of Pokémon games for Nintendo DS. I suppose I should ask the director about this.

Masuda: Yes. I had always wanted to make a second generation for Nintendo DS. Because the Nintendo DS family of systems has spread around the world to such an amazing degree.

Iwata: There are more than 100 million out there.

Masuda: Right. If possible, I wanted everyone to own at least one, and began development with that huge ambition.

Iwata: Just like the last pair, Pokémon Black and Pokémon White Version games will be coming out for Nintendo DS, but your basic stance when you began this time was quite different than it was for the Pokémon Diamond and Pearl Versions games 3, wasn't it?
3. Pokémon Diamond Version and Pokémon Pearl Version: First released for the Nintendo DS™ system in Japan on September 28, 2006.

Masuda: Yes. Since this generation would be presented on the same system, I was extremely worried that it would turn out to be basically the same as its predecessor. If we tried to make it the same way as normal, I thought the games would turn out to be similar to Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl Versions.

Iwata: Because you're so used to making them.

Masuda: Right. So we started by changing our basic approach.

Iwata: You began with the question of how you could—for lack of a better way of putting it—break down everyone's image of what Pokémon games should be like on Nintendo DS.

Masuda: Yeah. Working on the series for so long, our mindset had become fixed. Trading Pokémon by going to a Pokémon Center had become a matter of course. We needed to break down those fixed conceptions at first.

Iwata: You decided to use this opportunity to rethink certain things that had built up over the long history of the Pokémon games, such as how you make them and the rules that govern them.

Masuda: Exactly. Also, I'd always made the Pokémon games with a desire to see everyone from children to adults play them, but it wasn't uncommon for players to move from junior high to high school to college and then feel as if they had graduated from Pokémon. I really found that to be regrettable.

So I thought long and hard about what would keep me playing year after year. I reexamined the games from a variety of angles, like "Would I play a little longer if cutting-edge elements were added?" or "What about using Japanese kanji characters instead of hiragana?"

Iwata: This time, instead of using just hiragana, you can select kanji mode.
(*Editor's note: In the Japanese version of the games, players can choose either the kanji or hiragana modes which changes the types of the characters in which the dialogue is displayed depending on their reading skills. The English version has only has one reading mode.)

Masuda: I thought some people would find kanji easier to read.

Iwata: So after the Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl Version games came out and everyone at Game Freak was making Pokémon Platinum Version4, you were examining the games from a number of different angles and thinking about how you could make them so that players never "graduated" from them.

4. Pokémon Platinum Version: First released in Japan for the Nintendo DS system on September 13, 2008 as the new version of Pokémon Diamond Version and Pokémon Pearl Version.

Masuda: Yes, I kept thinking about it for roughly two years. But when we were making the Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl Version games, we didn't have to think too hard in order to establish a difference with previous games, because we had the DS as new hardware.

Iwata: Simply making the games for the Nintendo DS created a distinction.

Masuda: Compared to the Game Boy Advance system, the wireless functionality had improved dramatically, online connectivity had been added, and it could be operated by touch. But if we had approached Pokémon Black and Pokémon White Versions with the same attitude as the previous games, they would have turned out the same, so this time a new mentality was absolutely crucial.

Iwata: I see. As the producer, Ishihara-san, it was your role to listen to Masuda-san's ideas about what he wanted to do before anyone else.

Ishihara: Yes, that's right.

Iwata: In general, producers tend to adopt the view that if something is being received well, you shouldn't mess with it too much, so when Masuda-san told you he wanted to fundamentally rethink the Pokémon games, was your happiness at his desire to make big changes mingled with nervous excitement over the same?

Ishihara: My happiness was overwhelmingly the stronger of the two. The Pokémon games began with Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green Versions5 (Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue Versions in the US) for the Game Boy system, and then Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver Versions6 came out for Game Boy Color…

Iwata: Game Boy Advance had Pokémon Ruby and Pokémon Sapphire Versions7, and the Nintendo DS has Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl Versions.
5. Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green Versions: The first generation of games in the Pokémon series. First released in Japan for the Game Boy™ system on February 27, 1996.

6. Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver Versions: The second generation of games in the Pokémon series. The games were compatible with the Game Boy Color system, so Pokémon appeared in various colors. First released in Japan on November 21, 1999.

7. Pokémon Ruby and Pokémon Sapphire Versions: The third generation of games in the Pokémon series. First released in Japan for the Game Boy Advance system on November 21, 2002.

Ishihara: It has been the series' destiny to transfer to a completely new platform every time a completely new generation came out. The DS, however, has had a long lifespan and spread around the world. We were able to make a second generation for Nintendo DS by, from the point of view of development, making effective use of already-existing resources.

Iwata: You sensed that you could use your know-how developing for Nintendo DS—your "resources" cultivated in development of Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl Versions—in making Pokémon Black and Pokémon White Versions.

Ishihara: Right. There were a lot of merits this time to polishing up what we had figured out before, but like Masuda-san said earlier, when it comes to bringing games out for the same platform, unless you really put a lot of effort into creating something distinctly new and different…

Iwata: People will say, "Is this all that's different?!"

Ishihara: Right. You run the risk of people saying, "You call this a completely new game, but…" We were really worried about that. But when I heard Masuda-san's first explanation of his thoughts, I thought, "You're gonna change that much?!" and "Can we really pull this off?"

Iwata: The changes were so big that even a grizzled veteran such as yourself wondered if it was possible?

Ishihara: That's right.

Iwata: Sugimori-san, what was your first impression when you heard what Masuda-san wanted to do?

Sugimori: Masuda gives us a sort of policy speech each time outlining what he wants to do.

Iwata: A policy speech? (laughs)

Sugimori: Yeah. And usually a lot of it is fairly eyebrow-raising.

Iwata: So this time too, you were like, "Again?!" (laughs)

Sugimori: Yeah. (laughs)

Masuda: But this time all the Pokémon are new, so I bet you were especially surprised.

Sugimori: Well, at first when he said we were going to make all new Pokémon, I said things like, "Huh?! Ease up a little, would ya?!" and "Can't we cut down on them a little?" But a few grumbles aren't enough to get this guy to change the contents of his policy speech. (laughs)

Iwata: He's stubborn. (laughs)

Masuda: Yeah. (laughs) When he said, "Can't we cut down on it a little?" I would look at him like this (looking into Sugimori-san's face) and say, "You can make it work somehow, can't you?"

Sugimori: (laughs)

Ishihara: I get the feeling Masahiro Sakurai-san8 doesn't budge either.

Iwata: Ah, that explains it to me quite succinctly. (laughs)


Ishihara: He shows us something and says, "This is what we're gonna make," and everyone's like, "Huh? We're gonna make that?!" You might think he'll change his mind somewhere along the way, but he never does.

Iwata: He runs with it all the way to the end.

Ishihara: Yep. It's hard for everyone else to keep up. (laughs)

Masuda: I think the staff had quite a hard time of it this time.
8. Masahiro Sakurai: Director of games in the Kirby™ and Super Smash Bros.™ series. He is currently developing Kid Icarus™: Uprising for the upcoming Nintendo 3DS™ system.

2. A Brand New Pokémon World


Iwata: Sugimori-san, what else did you think when you heard Masuda's "policy speech"?

Sugimori: I was somewhat reluctant, of course, but I also trusted that he wasn't wrong.

Iwata: Because you two have worked together for a long time, right?

Sugimori: Yes. It's my role to rein things in when they start to go overboard, so they don't stray outside the boundaries of the Pokémon games.

Iwata: So even as you broke down your customary way of making the games and the rules that govern them, it was your job to make adjustments so that they still felt like Pokémon games.

Sugimori: Right. But when the policy speech is a little far-flung, the way I apply the brakes turns out just right. I always brake with the same force, so the more powerful a start we get, the more different the end result is. The higher the hurdle, the higher you can jump.

Iwata: That's an interesting analogy.

Ishihara: The planning sheet prepared for the policy speech this time was about 200 pages long and contained a thorough explanation for each element of the game. For example, what it means to cross a bridge and how we would present participating in another player's game was described in full detail.

Iwata: Did you write that many for Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl Versions as well?

Masuda: No, this was the first time.

Iwata: This time, you were tackling a lot of new challenges, so there was a lot more to explain.

Masuda: Right.

Ishihara: So when we say this is a completely new game…

Iwata: It possesses a high degree of newness.

Ishihara: Even the way we made it was completely new.

Iwata: And while you usually add an all-new region with each completely new game, the whole atmosphere changed a lot this time.

Masuda: Right. We modeled it after New York.

Iwata: You finally left Japan…

Masuda: We finally went overseas! (laughs)

Iwata: Why did you model it after New York?

Masuda: Mostly because I strongly wanted to make a big change. Also, I once had my music arranged and had it performed in Pokémon concerts.9

Iwata: You're the composer, as well as the game director, right?

9. Pokémon concerts: In 2006, to commemorate Pokémon's tenth anniversary, Pokémon Happy Birthday Concerts were held at four locations around Japan. The music was arranged by composer Shigeaki Saegusa.

Masuda: Yes. I had concerts held in Kanto region (Kanto), Kansai region (Johto), Kyushu region (Hoenn) and Hokkaido prefecture (Sinnoh) in Japan to represent the regions in the Pokémon games, and when I thought about where I would like to hold another one if we could ever do it once more, I thought New York would be good, because there are lots of famous theaters for musicals and opera in Manhattan. But there were so many problems involved—like flying all the musicians and instruments to the U.S.—that it never happened.

Iwata: So the idea of setting the games in a place like New York was inspired by your idea for a concert location?

Masuda: Yes. (laughs) For some reason, New York came to me as something appropriate to follow Sinnoh, image-wise.

Iwata: So first you decided to base the setting on New York. Then what did you decide?

Masuda: We decided on the setting, and then we roughly decided where we should put towns. For this, I went to MoMA10 in New York.

Iwata: The Modern Museum of Art.

10. MoMA: The Museum of Modern Art in New York City features one of the world's foremost collections of modern art.

Masuda: Right. I sat in the chairs in the courtyard and turned over ideas. The image of a hexagon suddenly came to mind. And that reminded me of beehives. So I thought it would be interesting if we placed the equivalent of Manhattan in the center, and then laid out towns and nature areas on both sides in a series of hexagons.

Also, one area needing improvement in the past was that some children had been unable to complete the games, so this time we wanted to make it so you could go rather straightforward as long as the overall adventures are concerned.

Iwata: Completing the story is a part of the overall enjoyment of a Pokémon game, and you wanted lots of people to enjoy the games all the way through, right?

Masuda: Right. Some would say that the real fun of a Pokémon game doesn't begin until you complete the story. So first we imagined a hexagonal region, lined up some skyscrapers like in Manhattan, threw in some piers, and little by little the city came together. We decided to call it the Isshu region. (note: Isshu is the name for the region in the Japanese version. In the North American version this is called the Unova region)

Iwata: Why Isshu?

Masuda: Pokémon and people of all kinds gather in this region, resulting in tashu (Japanese for "various kinds").

Iwata: Oh, so Isshu comes from isshurui (one kind).

Masuda: Right. There may be many kinds (tashu) of people gathered there, but if you look from afar, the region looks like it only has one kind (isshu), so we gave it the name Isshu. In that way, it's a lot like New York.

Iwata: New York is indeed an interesting place where a wide variety of people and cultures mingle.

Masuda: Yes. Doesn't it sort of feel like the kind of place where people from another country might throw a rowdy party next-door but their neighbors wouldn't mind? I thought it was incredible how so many different types of people had gathered together into one city. It has a big bridge, so it's not only because I wanted to have a concert there, but for all those reasons, I thought New York was the perfect place.

Iwata: I see. While Masuda-san was settling on this new setting, Sugimori-san, you needed everyone to eventually say, "This is Pokémon." What was in your head as you tried to move forward?

Sugimori: Actually, this is the first time since the first Pokémon games, Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green Versions, that we created the entire Pokémon lineup from scratch.

Iwata: Right, it is. Whenever there's been a new generation up to this point, you've adopted Pokémon from the previous one and added in some new ones.

Sugimori: But simply by creating a new Pokémon, you have to create a whole new kind of ecosystem.

Iwata: You don't just think up a new Pokémon, you need to create a world with the right balance.

Sugimori: And when you create a new ecosystem, types of Pokémon that we've seen before pop up. Quite often you find yourself thinking things like, "We need a Pokémon like a rat, but we do that every time." When it gets like that, we think as hard as we can so people won't say, "That looks like one we saw before," or "That's not a Pokémon!"

Iwata: The Pokémon designers actually go to zoos and observe real animals to stock up ideas, don't they?

Sugimori: Yeah. If there isn't something underlying it, it doesn't feel real at all. We established a base from what we picked up at zoos and aquariums, and then challenged ourselves in our design work to see how creative we could be and how much we could surprise the fans.

Iwata: I suppose you exaggerate and deform your subject matter, but the Pokémon are born of actually going out to zoos and aquariums and observing something to serve as a basis, rather than just holing up in your room and drawing.

Sugimori: That's right. Otherwise, they wouldn't seem grounded. I want to avoid Pokémon that seem impossible or that have no explanation in answer to the question "How is this put together?"

Iwata: About how many people worked on the designs of the new Pokémon?

Sugimori: There were 17 people this time. From the beginning, all the graphic designers have been involved on the Pokémon games.

Iwata: Has that been true every time?

Sugimori: Yes. Each time, I say, "Everyone must join the team, throw out some ideas, make some designs and, at least, design one Pokémon. We've got quite a few people, including some veterans, and this time there were some first-timers.

Iwata: There weren't 17 people when you made Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green Versions, were there?

Sugimori: No. Maybe just under ten.

Iwata: I feel like it must have become more difficult since then to design Pokémon that can enter into a single ecosystem and make it feel natural. And I suppose there are lots of restrictions.

Sugimori: Yes, there are. Nonetheless, newcomers tend to come up with interesting ideas.

Iwata: Oh, you feel like newcomers are able to come up with new ideas because they aren't fettered by past designs?

Sugimori: Yeah. But, including the veterans, we've got the collective wisdom of a variety of designers, so we're able to generate a variety of Pokémon. It's a large staff, and everyone suggests something they're particularly good at or that they especially like, and then I…how can I put this…

Iwata: You pass judgment as to whether it's fit for entering into the pantheon of Pokémon?

Sugimura: Yeah, yeah. I pass judgment, and then when I illustrate it, it becomes a Pokémon.

Iwata: Sugimori-san, you have drawn each one at least once?

Sugimori: I draw all the final, official illustrations. Then, just before we create the pixel art, I draw the Pokémon from various perspectives. If there are differences in the illustrations up to that point, that's when I unify them.

Iwata: That process may be one reason why the Pokémon always possess that distinct Pokémon vibe.

Masuda: I think so. They all hang together visually.

Iwata: It's like you're a kind of filter through which everyone's ideas pass and are Pokémon-ized.

Sugimori: I suppose so. And because I serve as a filter, I can tell the staff to feel free to test the bounds of what the Pokémon are like. Earlier, I said that the younger staff members are good at coming up with interesting ideas, but some of them have grown up with Pokémon, so…

Iwata: I suppose people who have always loved Pokémon, who wanted to have something to do with them and then started working for Game Freak, will at first come up with Pokémon designs like ones they've seen before.

Sugimori: Yeah. So I tell them that they can test the bounds of what a Pokémon is a little more.

Iwata: Masuda-san, what do you think as you watch the process of creating new Pokémon take place and what kinds of requests do you make?

Masuda: I occupy a meeting room and put up their pictures in order. Then as I'm looking at them all lined up, during the latter half of development, I may get the feeling that the color balance isn't quite right.

Iwata: That's how you look at the overall balance?

Masuda: I look at them all and think things like, "This area has a little too much of such-and-such a color," or "This one's cute, but is that the right color for it?" But for each one of the Pokémon I don't say anything. I leave that to Sugimori-san.

3. Connecting for More Fun


Iwata: So all the Pokémon for this generation are new, but I also get the impression that the games' aspects of connection and communication have been strengthened. Why did you decide to make them connectable to the computer?

Masuda: I wanted players to be able to enjoy Pokémon Black and Pokémon White Versions even when they're not using their DS. I thought computers are the perfect tool for communication, and that they could be the next stage for the Pokémon games.

Iwata: Ishihara-san, what did you think when you heard about connecting to the computer?

Ishihara: Actually, most of what The Pokémon Company does is related to computers, whether it's for promotional efforts or the Pokémon Daisuki Club.11 I'd been thinking for quite some time about the possibility of tying things like that to the games themselves. But I knew it wouldn't be easy.

11. Pokémon Daisuki Club: A website operated by The Pokémon Company. As the Pokémon official fan club, it has over two million members.

Iwata: Masuda-san, when you tried to do it, was it harder than you expected?

Masuda: Yeah. It really was. At first, I was just thinking about sticking a DS card into the computer. (laughs)

Iwata: (laughs)

Masuda: But they told me that was impossible. (laughs) So finally, we decided to connect via wireless broadband Internet access, but then we had more trouble figuring out how to handle the computer world. It took quite a lot of time to eventually settle on the Pokémon Dream World.

At first, I thought it wouldn't be right if it wasn't the player him or herself to appear in the computer world. Because it would be weird if a Pokémon talked.

Iwata: Pokémon usually don't talk.

Masuda: So I imagined creating an avatar, somewhat like a Mii character, and having it live in one world. But then I was like, "Hold on a sec." Your avatar in the computer is different from the main character in the DS, and, of course, it's also different from the real you, so…it felt disjointed.

Iwata: In other words, there were three main characters.

Masuda: Right. It didn't feel right.

Iwata: How did you solve that problem?

Masuda: The idea we came up with was to create a world in which the Pokémon knows that you are the main character. With the concept of a "dream world", I wanted the Pokémon to be able to tell others about you, like "The main character of my game is saying such-and-such."

Iwata: In other words, you decided to have only Pokémon, and not an avatar, show up within the computer world.

Masuda: Exactly. It's much cuter that way. (laughs) When I started thinking about how to handle this "dream world," Sugimori-san's team had just thought of a Pokémon that dreams called Munna, so I decided to connect with that and construct within the computer a world in which various people's dreams are linked. In the end, that became the Pokémon Dream World.12

Image from the Japanese website. North American website will launch in Spring 2011.

12. Pokémon Dream World: Part of the Pokémon Global Link website, which can be accessed with a computer via the Internet and is linked with the Pokémon Black and Pokémon White Versions games. (Pokémon Global Link is scheduled to begin service in spring of 2011)

Iwata: What exactly can you do?

Masuda: First of all, you need an online environment for your Nintendo DS and a computer. When you play in the Pokémon Dream World, you can bring items and berries that you acquire to the Pokémon Black and Pokémon White Version games on your DS. Also, it allows you to communicate with all kinds of other people.

Iwata: You can connect and communicate with people all over the world, not just within Japan, who are playing Pokémon Black or Pokémon White Version games, right?

Masuda: Right. So, by connecting the games to the computer, we can expect a wide variety of connections to form, across the globe and across generations. Now you can enjoy the world of the Pokémon Black and Pokémon White Version games even when you're not using your Nintendo DS, so I feel like the Pokémon series has taken a new step forward.

Iwata: How long did you work on it until you saw results?

Masuda: I think it took about two years.

Iwata: This time, the games represent two years worth of ideas. (laughs)

Masuda: Yeah. (laughs) I spent a lot of time alone thinking about the games. I would think about them as I commuted to work by train, and when I thought of something, I would send the idea to myself with my cell phone via e-mail, and check it when I got to work.

Iwata: And while you connected the games to the computer, you also adopted infrared communication for connection between Nintendo DS units.

Masuda: At first, we didn't intend to use infrared. But I wanted the games to be connected all the time, so early on I did a lot of experiments related to that. I was using wireless to send and receive a bunch of data, when I realized the battery was only lasting about half as long as it should.

Iwata: If you use the local wireless at full power for long periods of time, it runs out of juice in no time.

Masuda: I thought players wouldn't like that at all! (laughs) So I decided to try a different method. When I was looking for a way to connect to the computer and consulted the staff at Nintendo, someone suggested infrared.

Iwata: The infrared game card that we made for Personal Trainer: Walking.13

13. Personal Trainer™: Walking: Software that helps users record the number of steps they take per minute. The two Activity Meter™ accessories that come as a set with the game use infrared to communicate with the game. First released in Japan on November 2008. Personal Trainer: Walking was developed by Creatures Inc., so the connection between the Pokémon series and infrared communication is deep.

Masuda: Yes. We learned that when you battle or trade with someone right there with you, if you face each other and connect via infrared, and then afterward switch over to local wireless, it decreases the drain on your battery.

Iwata: I found it interesting myself. Using infrared to communicate between game systems is like we've returned to the days of Game Boy Color, but first connecting via infrared when you're together facing each other and then switching to local wireless makes it possible to continue to communicate even when you're somewhat apart.

Masuda: It's pretty difficult to explain in words, but once players actually do it, I think they'll understand.

Another thing is that when you wanted to trade Pokémon before, you went to the Union Room of a Pokémon Center and had to specify whether you were a parent or a child. And you could only trade the Pokémon you had on you.

But this time, even while the main character is walking around the game world and you want to trade with your friends, you can turn on the infrared, and trade Pokémon from inside a PC Box in a Pokémon Center.

Iwata: That is unbelievably convenient! (laughs) Isn't that the first time Pokémon from inside the PC Boxes have come out so seamlessly and easily?

Masuda: Yeah, it's unbelievably convenient! (laughs)

Iwata: Why did you decide to make such a big change away from the old system of going into a Union Room and trading only what you had on hand?

Masuda: We thought trading should be easy for the Pokémon games.

Iwata: You wanted players to be able to trade more easily.

Masuda: That's right. Besides, like I mentioned at the beginning, I wanted temporarily to break down every aspect of my fixed conceptions about what a Pokémon game should be like, so I was always testing things and asking, "If I did this, what would happen?"

This time you can use a local wireless connection and infrared feature called C-Gear. Gear that has appeared in the series so far was always something the main character within the game had on hand. But this time it's different. It belongs to the player his or herself, so you can trade Pokémon from inside your boxes and trade even while trekking around on adventure.

Iwata: It belongs to the person actually playing the game, so you can trade whenever you want, as much as you want. C-Gear has a variety of functions. One is called the Xtransceiver.14

14. Xtransceiver: A feature that uses the Nintendo DSi™ and Nintendo DSi XL™ camera and microphone to allow players to video chat with friends with whom they have exchanged Friend Codes and also have a Nintendo DSi or Nintendo DSi XL system. (Only voice chat is possible with the Nintendo DS™ Lite.) While chatting, you can draw graffiti and change the pitch of your voice. Video chat is possible for up to four persons via wireless and two persons via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.

Masuda: The Xtransceiver came from an idea we had for talking with the professors in the game. I thought it would be neat if we could use that in reality, too, so I began trying a bunch of things out.

To look at someone's face and talk to them, you need a camera, so you can only do it on the Nintendo DSi or Nintendo DSi XL system, but some people wondered whether it would be any fun for people in the same place, like the four of us here today, to connect wirelessly, put themselves on their DS screens, and talk.

Iwata: Because if you're in the same room, I can look directly at your faces.

Masuda: So I thought that adding graffiti would be fun. You make the colors for the pen with a dropper, but the colors come from the camera.

Iwata: Ah, I see.

Masuda: It would have been easy to make it so you chose colors from a palette, but I wanted part of the fun to be figuring out how to make certain colors. For example, if you touch the lens of the camera with your finger, you get surprising colors. It's fun to discover things like that.

Also, we didn't put borders between the pictures. So, for example, if you take a picture of half your face and half your friend's face, you can see them together as one face. I think it would be great if people play around with it like that, too.

Iwata: It's only possible for two people, but if you use Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, you can video chat with people farther away.

Ishihara-san, when I visited you once quite some time ago, you suddenly showed me a demo for Xtransceiver and I was floored. When I thought about it later, to be honest, I wondered if you hadn't simply wanted to show it off. (laughs)

Ishihara: That's exactly right! (laughs)

Iwata: I was so amazed by it that I couldn't help but guess your ulterior motive. If something like that had been around when I was a kid, I'd have been playing with it all the time.

Masuda: (laughs)

Iwata: When you and I were kids, Ishihara-san, anytime someone got a transceiver, he was everyone's hero and we all played with it together, as you may remember. This is like a powered-up version of that. The day has come when children all over the world can easily use a device like a videophone. I thought it was a dream device.

4. The Unchanging Qualities of Pokémon


Iwata: Now I'd like to ask about something entirely different. Masuda-san said he wanted to make big changes because you were making a completely new sequel for the same hardware, but Pokémon is Pokémon, so there are some things you just can't change. Sugimori-san and Masuda-san, I'd like to ask you if there are any parts when you're working on a Pokémon game that you hold sacred and don't want to change. Sugimori-san, would you go first?

Sugimori: Let's see… In making this generation, Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl Versions were once labeled the "grand culmination" of all the games that had gone before, so…

Iwata: They truly were a "grand culmination."

Sugimori: These games come after those two and the hardware is the same, so I knew people would not be tempted to play them unless we really surprised the players.

Iwata: And Pokémon Diamond Version is a rather grand name to follow.

Sugimori: So everyone on the team was working under that pressure. But whenever we ask to ourselves "What is Pokémon?" there are always some things that we cannot change. You can tell what we considered inviolable by looking at what didn't change this time.

Iwata: Oh, I see. You changed a lot, so what you didn't change must be what's important for making the Pokémon games be Pokémon games.

Sugimori: That's right. After all, beginning with a professor speaking is surprisingly important. That alone makes a game feel like a Pokémon game.

Iwata: Part of Pokémon is beginning with a professor telling you to choose a Pokémon.

Sugimori: Yeah. Another thing is a certain down-to-earth characteristic. Until now, the stories have been small in scale—set in Japan, telling the tale of one young boy's summer. That's the basis for the Pokémon games.

Iwata: The story of a young boy catching bugs in the summer.

Sugimori: Yeah, it's like an extension of that. The basis for the Pokémon games is development of a story in a land the size of part of Japan about a regular boy without any special powers who sort of goes out and catches bugs and grows up a little in the process.

This time, the setting is a place like New York, so the scale is big, but we kept that basis in mind when designing all the characters, and um, how should I put it? We tried not to do anything too out of place or to veer too much into fantasy. I think a sense of being grounded and of being an extension of the real world is important.

Iwata: I see. Masuda-san, what do you think is important to preserve in the Pokémon games?

Masuda: Like Sugimori-san just said, the first part is the most important. In these games, you cross a big bridge partway through the story. Up until then, the world hasn't changed that much.

Iwata: Was that on purpose?

Masuda: Yes. We purposely refrained from changing it.

Iwata: You changed so much but didn't change that. I understand it's because you were certain that changing it would stop it from feeling like a Pokémon game.

Masuda: First, there's a sign that tells you the name of the town where you are…

Iwata: You've kept that.

Masuda: Yes. The reason we explain in an orderly fashion what Pokédex are, that there are gyms, or that there are Pokémon Centers, and so on, is that we consciously wanted players to fit right into the world as soon as possible.

Iwata: You kept the same structure as previous Pokémon games up until crossing the big bridge because you didn't want players to be confused about how to play the game.

Masuda: Right. But after you cross the bridge, it's more open and we say, "Now go play however you want."

Another important aspect in terms of worldview is how we always try to achieve a sense of love and peace. I don't want to create a world where people won't give their seat to an elderly person on the train if there aren't any special seats set aside for the elderly.

Iwata: The Pokémon world has been like that from the start.

Masuda: Yes. That's important.

Iwata: Ishihara-san, what do you think is important for keeping Pokémon like Pokémon?

Ishihara: I think one important aspect of the games that has kept people playing them for so long is how whether it's your first time, second time or tenth time, everyone starts the same way and without any confusion enters into the world of Pokémon and experiences fresh wonders. And even if generations change, the Pokémon games are a kind of tool that you keep on playing with.

But only preserving something good in the past won't make it last. Making changes is very important, but the only ones who can do that are the developers, like Masuda-san and Sugimori-san. This time, they really went all out and changed a lot, I think. When I got a look at the games, I was like, "Wasn't that something we needed to keep?!" That's how much they had broken it down.

Iwata: Like what, for example?

Ishihara: For example, they told me the Technical Machines15 wouldn't disappear after one use.

Iwata: Huh?!

Ishihara: I was like, "Is that all right?!" (laughs)

Iwata: I would say so! (laughs)

15. Technical Machine: An item for helping Pokémon learn new moves.

Ishihara:Until now, they disappeared after one use. For that reason, they were an item that some players would collect all 50 of but never use.

Iwata: The purpose for some was just collecting them.

Ishihara: But if someone were to ask, "Don't you want the players to try out a bunch of different moves?" I'd have to say, "Yes, I suppose so…" But, like Masuda-san mentioned earlier, I'd been involved with the series for a long time and the way I thought about it had become ossified. It was quite refreshing for that to be broken down. There was a lot of that this time. The makers are the ones who have the most strength for breaking down their own game.

Iwata: So first there was someone who wanted to break it down, and there was also someone who complained—saying, "This guy won't listen no matter what we say,"—who nonetheless ended up throwing himself into breaking it down! (laughs)

Sugimori: (laughs)

Iwata: So that's how the changes came about. You must really hope that people who want to see how the games have changed will play them.

Ishihara: Yes. I want them to see what has and hasn't changed.

5. New Encounters in a New World


Iwata: Lastly, I'd like to ask each of you to say something to the fans who are looking forward to the games. Masuda-san, would you please go first?

Masuda: Sure. When it comes to the scenarios, I came up with some of them myself, but it was Toshinobu Matsumiya who pulled them all together.

Ishihara: Matsumiya-san has been in charge of scenario and character for the Pokémon games ever since Gold and Silver.

Masuda: This time, I told him he was a genius! (laughs)

Iwata: A genius? What made you think that?

Masuda: He skillfully leads the players along, increasing their level of excitement, and thoroughly getting his message across, while also deftly building up events and establishing Gym Leaders and the characters of Team Plasma.

I think the scenarios are different than we've seen before, so I can't wait to hear what players have to say when they start playing without any prior information and eventually reach the end.

Iwata: You want to hear their impression as soon as possible.

Masuda: I wish I could just come out and say what they're like right now! (laughs)

Iwata: But you can't. (laughs) Sugimori-san?

Sugimori: Previously when you created a party in the series, you would mix in Pokémon that you knew somewhat well, so the party tended to reflect your preferences, and there was a certain feeling of trust and familiarity, but…

Iwata: In each new game, the first Pokémon you get from the professor is always a new one, but it was easy to get other Pokémon that you regularly depend on.

Sugimori: Up until now, you'd be like, "I finally got Pikachu!" and keep it on hand from the very moment you acquired it, but all of the Pokémon are new this time, so there's nothing like that in this world.

Iwata: Which makes for more new encounters.

Sugimori: Right. It can be a little lonely without those familiar faces, but I think it would be great if players enjoy these games the way they did the original Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green Version installments, taking joy in new encounters, and discovering new favorite Pokémon.

Masuda: I think if family members play together, they'll be like, "Whoa! Look at this guy!" No one knows what to expect, so it should be pretty fun. That's true for the elemental types as well.

Iwata: Everyone can start from the same place.

Masuda: Right. New players and old hands can enjoy the excitement together.

Iwata: You're last, Ishihara-san.

Ishihara: This time, there's a lot of variation in gameplay. But first, I want players to walk straight down the big road. When it comes to the classic flow of Pokémon games—receiving a Pokémon, going on an adventure, enjoying a story, and reaching the ending—these games are the most carefully-constructed ones so far.

Iwata: You didn't want to confuse the players.

Ishihara: Right. We made it so you are sure to reach the end and enjoy a sense of accomplishment. But there are lots of other points. People who want to stray down side roads can do that. Some people may want to take the side roads once they've reached where they're going, so they can do that when they take an interest in it. In that way, the games' breadth and depth is amazing.

Iwata: You've packed a lot into them.

Ishihara: That's right. You can follow your own desires, like "I'll try playing it like this," and "When I approached it like this, such-and-such happened." The games allow you to enjoy both that kind of freedom as well as a solid story. I want everyone to enjoy it to their heart's content, but to be honest, it's a tough game to master. (laughs)

Iwata: That's a challenge from Masuda-san to the players. (laughs)

Masuda: Yeah. (laughs)

Ishihara: I played it the first time with Snivy, the second time with Oshawott, and the third time with Tepig16, and even though I've played it three times, I still feel like I've only played about one-fifth of it. There's lots of stuff I haven't done, like the Pokémon Dream World.

16. Snivy™, Oshawott™, Tepig™: Names of the first three starter Pokémon from which the player chooses one at the beginning of the game.

Iwata: We still don't know what will happen after the games are released, people around us are playing them, and the gaming community is talking about them.

Ishihara: That's right. Until that happens, I won't feel like I've fully experienced them. The games are so big that I still haven't played them enough—that unless I experience them a little more fully, I can't really speak about them correctly. I definitely hope players will experience the games as deeply as they can.

Iwata: I, too, don't think players will be able to exhaust them easily.

Ishihara: They're that chock-full of content.

Iwata: I'll finish up by saying something myself. When Creatures17 was established way back when, I was a board member, so I saw you quite a bit at meetings, Ishihara-san. I remember quite clearly how, while Pokémon was in the midst of being accepted all over the world, you said you place great importance on the connections between all kinds of things.

Ishihara: Uh-huh.

17. Creatures Inc.: In addition to making the Pokémon Trading Card Game, this company has also been involved in development of software such as Personal Trainer: Walking. Chairman: Tsunekazu Ishihara. President: Hirokazu Tanaka. Headquarters: Tokyo.

Iwata: Talking with all of you today, I thought, "They truly have placed importance on connections between all kinds of things."

Masuda: (laughs)

Iwata: I feel like the Pokémon Black and Pokémon White Version games are one extreme example of that concept of connecting. Ishihara-san, you've played it three times but still only feel like you've played one-fifth of it. I think that's because while it may be fun, of course, to play through the scenarios and play the games on your own, that's just a small part of a more complete enjoyment of the games.

When lots of people around you are playing the games and you start connecting with them, it quickly becomes much more fun. It's not the kind of game you clear and then just forget about. What I realized all over again today is that achieving that effect is a result of your constant attention to connecting.

Another thing that made quite an impression on me was when Sugimori-san said that if you go all out at first and he applies the brakes the way he always does, you still go far—that the higher the hurdle, the higher you can jump. You're doing something hard, but it seems like you're enjoying it, so I thought you guys are really a great team. I can't wait to see the reception after release. Job well done, guys.

Everyone: Thank you!
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Last updated 20 Jul 2015 04:51 by Sunain.
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