The Methodical Destruction of Pokémon In Black & White

By Laura . September 13, 2010 . 11:30am


With Pokémon Black/White, directors Junichi Masuda and Ken Sugimori wanted to be especially radical. Because Diamond/Pearl were created as the ultimate compilation of the series (complete with an impressive name — “Diamond,” the hardest of all minerals — as Iwata put it in his interview).


If they were to develop a new game thereafter, they would have to change all but the most basic aspects of the series.


A few of these changes were to do with trying to maintain the series’ broad audience. Originally, Pokémon was created with the aim of being for both children and adults. Despite this, Masuda felt a little bitter at the thought that the audience was always getting older and would eventually “graduate” from the series. Ever since Platinum, he had been wondering, “How can I keep a hold of these fans?”


Some of the smaller ideas that were tossed around during development were a study of what the favorite topics of this generation of people were, as well as the usage of kanji in the game.


Some mainstays that had always remained ever since the first Pokémon games were also changed. An example of this is the usage of TMs. Originally, they would disappear after one use. Game Freak learnt that, as a result, there were many people who would kept TMs in their item box, and they became a sort of collector’s item, never to be used.


Masuda had noticed, though, that people liked to change moves often, and experiment with new combinations. In light of this, in Pokémon Black/White, TMs can be used more than once.


Another change, this one on a much grander scale, was the completely new setting and set of Pokémon.


As with every other game before, these new generation of Pokémon games take place in a new setting. However, this time, the region, Isshu, is very distant from those of the previous games. As a result, there are absolutely no old Pokémon appearing in the game.


This way, everyone — both newcomers and veterans to the series — can start the game on an equal footing. No one will see a previous Pokémon they’ve come to know or like and it without any consideration of the newer ones.


Another complaint Masuda had heard was that children were having too much trouble completing the main story of the game, and that they usually ended giving up. Along this line, the map was designed so that it would be a linear adventure and younger players wouldn’t get lost. Since most of the appeal of the game was what you did post-story, Masuda wanted as many people to reach that point as possible.


This doesn’t mean the game is any shallower than before, however. In fact, one of the main focuses in this game is urging players to come up with their own way of playing the game. Even though the game was essentially designed so that there would only be one destination you go to at a time, there are many ways to get to that point. As a result, there is a tight balance between a feeling of freedom without allowing too much deviation such that players get lost.



Tsunekazu Ishihara, the producer of B/W, stated that even though he had played through the game three times with the three different starters, he feels like he’s only uncovered a fifth of the game.


The Iwata Asks session also hints at a change in scenario, but these weren’t clear in the interview other than the fact that it may be deeper than in previous games.


There were a great many changes being made, but the goal of Pokémon Black/White was to keep the core the same. What made up the basics, then? Masuda and Sugimori both had a lot of trouble trying to pinpoint what exactly these basics were, in order to decide what to keep and what to change.


For Sugimori, Pokémon had always been somewhat based on reality. It was the story of a “boy’s summer” with the setting based on Japan. The boy wasn’t a superhero with special powers of any sort; he was just a boy collecting bugs in the summer, and as he continued to collect, he continued to grow.


But with the stage being set in a much larger scale — a region based off of New York as opposed to places in Japan — the creators had to make sure all the more that their feet were firmly set in reality. They didn’t want to make the character designs too fantasy-based, or the story too outlandish. Even when they created the new Pokémon, the design team constantly kept this in mind.


This ideal was reflected in both the designs of the humans, as well as the design of the Pokémon themselves.


Masuda wanted to give the games’ introduction the same feel as previous titles. While Sugimori was the one who suggested that the introduction to the game by a Professor with the three starter Pokémon was very important to the atmosphere, it was Masuda who concentrated on making the start of the game familiar. As a result, gyms and Pokémon Centers are introduced to the player as quickly as possible.


Even after you cross the great bridge that leads out of the metropolis center and enter the world of freedom where everything from the previous generations has been changed, Masuda wanted to the region of Isshu to at least maintain the same feeling as previous titles — a feeling of “Love and Peace.” A world where people would always give up priority seats for senior citizens on the subway.


With these ideas in tow, Masuda and Sugimori sought to create what was essentially an old game in a completely new set of clothes.

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  • NeoTechni

    “How can I keep a hold of these fans?”Remove all forms of grinding, including super rare pokemon like Feebas in Ruby/Sapphire which was only available on one random tile in an area and you had to systematically search for it taking a minimum of 2 battles on each tile to be sure. Took me 6 god damned hours. No more exclusive pokemon that people in most of the world have to buy a gameshark/actionreplay to getRemove all retarded limitations, ie: You cant import pokemon from previous games until AFTER you’ve beaten the game and no longer want to play. Or other games where you couldn’t import/catch older pokemon until you caught EVERY new one.Increase the number of moves you can learn. Even just to 6.Remove all gimmicks (berry mixing, contests)Switch to 3D like Pokemon stadium, bring the announcer tooThe actions you perform the most often should take the least amount of timeOn a game where trading is so necessary, make it take a lot less timeDont ask 12 times if you’re sure you want to saveLet us remove the typewriter effect for text, some of us can read past a 12th grade level.

    “Another complaint Masuda had heard was that children were having too much trouble completing the main story of the game,”

    Step 1: Stop caring about the damned idiots.

    • Pichi

      Some of those remarks are cutting off the majority of the audience, the children. Somethings might not be interesting to “hardcore”(like the contests) but kids will like them and give them more to do. It needs to be easy enough for them to get through and read well.

      • NeoTechni

        Except trying to appeal to kids so much is what alienates the adults, and those who have been fans since childhood. And I doubt kids are the majority anymoreThe game should not be easy enough for them at the cost of making it boring to everyone else. The least they could do is add difficulty levels.

        • KHSoraKeyBlade

          i think the anime can be the fault for why the series has such an impact on kids. I love the games because they keep me preoccupied for 30hrs or more but I still blame the anime for being dragged on so much. i think this is why the DS/Wii have become so family/kid friendly, because they are constantly thinking wait these games need to be able to be used by kids too. That’s probably why the best graphics on the Wii come from games that are not really targeted at kids; Brawl, Metroid, Twilight Princess just to name a few. But oh well the Pokemon games never fail to keep me happy so when B/W get released i’ll be there on the first day to get my copy of it.

        • Zeik56

          Kids are absolutely the majority, by a large margin. Fans who started with Red/Blue have grown up, yes, but a lot of them have also stopped playing, and it’s also drawn in many new children. Like it or not, Pokemon is a game that has a massive appeal with children, and unless that changes they’re going to continue designing the games with them in mind.

          • TomSkylark

            Well, sure–and folks who argue that the game “isn’t for kids,” at least as a sheer marketing force, are fooling themselves. But at the same time, the assumption going on in the above interview (“children are either stupid, or can’t make it through the game, or simply need to have things spelled out for them”) is fairly silly. I agree that cutting back to just new Pokemon is a really smart move so that new child players won’t feel alienated. That being said, I daresay that children have the time, energy, and desire, to be just as–if not more–obsessive about the bells, whistles, and strategies as adult players who were themselves fans as children. Yes, the series grew incrementally more complicated with each entry, but overall the gameplay mechanics are terribly approachable, but also allow a degree of depth according to one’s play-level and investment. There’s a flexibility in the game design already, and assuming that children simply “won’t get it” is sort of selling that target audience short.

        • SeventhEvening

          I hate to say it, but I’m an adult and the easy difficulty appeals greatly to me. Pokemon is a game I can play during work breaks, on a bus or a train, in the bathroom, or whenever I just have a minute or two. And then when I see some of my friends, I can pull my DS out and trade. That is the most core element of pokemon: it’s light and easy and socially oriented. The gimmicks add to the feeling that I can do anything I want in the game. No one puts a gun to your head and makes you do them. If I wanted anything else, I’d play another game. Monster Hunter 2G is where I go when I want a challenge and am on the go.

          From the sound of things, Pokemon offers almost nothing for you. Why don’t you go play a Megaten game or something. Something more challenging and gimmick free. I feel that the changes you proposed would really destroy the game for the vast majority of players.

          • NeoTechni

            “From the sound of things, Pokemon offers almost nothing for you”

            Not at all. I said them wanting to make B&W more kid-oriented than Pokemon currently is, is a bad idea.

            “And then when I see some of my friends, I can pull my DS out and trade. ”

            And making the game harder/leaving it the way it is rather than making it more kiddy, would not prevent you from doing so

          • SeventhEvening

            Did you actually read my post before responding? Or the article above that? Higher in this thread you listed a bunch of changes you’d prefer that would basically gut most of the absolute basic elements of the game that have been around from the start. I’m saying those would be a bad idea. You selected the single example in my post that would not be affected by the changes you proposed.

            They’re doing things that make the game more kid-oriented, but also doing a number of things specifically with adult players in mind. In the above article, Masuda specifically mentions how he wanted to makes sure he had features that appealed to older players so they wouldn’t “graduate” from the game. Given that adult players are an incredibly small minority, the fact that they’re discussing ways of making sure the game is improved for adults is fantastic.

            If all you’re arguing is that you want the game to “not be more kiddy”, then you would seem to be preaching to the choir according to this article.

          • NeoTechni

            “Did you actually read my post before responding?”

            Yes I did. Don’t assume just cause someone disagrees with you that they didnt read what you said, that’s ignorance.

            “Higher in this thread you listed a bunch of changes you’d prefer that would basically gut most of the absolute basic elements of the game that have been around from the start.”

            No, they wouldn’t. While unnecessary/retarded restrictions and repetition have been around for far too long, that doesnt make them good things.

            “Given that adult players are an incredibly small minority,”

            Given that’s false.

          • It would just alienate casuals and many children who the game is aimed at, which would be stupid.

    • KHSoraKeyBlade

      I’m liking what I’m hearing so far about B/W but what you said makes me agree completely, sure I’m pretty sure that kids don’t care about what they do next in the game anyway, they pick a starter then randomly fight different pokemon and trainers. I don’t really think that kids would seriously complain that they don’t know what their doing.
      On another note being able to use TM’s more than once is a bonus, but a move set of more than four is desperately needed :/

    • I think you hit it right on the nail!

    • Draparde

      i agree with the pokemon you can only get by going somewhere IRL that i live no where near. if they wanted to do that, allow a DLC or update that lets ya do it ingame afterwerd.

      as for the gimmicks, im all for having more things to do in any game. however if its there, give it some reward that makes it worth doing.

      personally i prefer 2D for a game like pokemon, especially on their handhelds…i never liked there 3D games too much but that might just be me.

      i also believe a pokemon that stops caring about the kids, will be something thats not pokemon any longer, unfortunately

    • Zeik56

      I have to disagree with a lot of this.

      Increasing the move limit is a terrible idea. There’s a limit for a reason, and that’s because you need to strategically think of the most advantageous moves to give to your Pokemon, and how they work cohesively with the rest of the party to make the make the most efficient group you can. Increasing it any further only gives you more reasons to just use one Pokemon to sweep through every enemy in the game. This would be especially devastating to the competitive Metagame, where it really matters.

      Also 3D? GOD NO. Not only does 3D usually look awful on the DS, but Pokemon loses most of it’s charm in 3D. Even the most recent Pokemon games on the Wii feel completely stale and lifeless compared to the DS games. I can only imagine how awful it would be on the DS. Stick to 2D please.

    • Spoiler alert:
      This game is targeted towards children and ignoring them would be idiotic.

      • NeoTechni

        You said that twice.

        This game is played by a lot of non-children. Ignoring that is also stupid

  • Wait. Usage of kanji?

    Maybe I should be canceling my import pre-order and waiting for the English version on this one after all.

    • Pichi

      You can choose if you want Kana or the Kanji.

  • Kibbitz

    The path is linear so kids don’t get lost, confused and quit. Yet, there are several different ways to get to each point in the linear path.

    I’m not sure what to make of this. I’d expect kids to get lost in standard JRPGs mostly because they don’t remember or note down details of who/what/where to deal with next, have a poor or no in-game reminder system and because the locations that they’d have to check is increased as more of the game world is revealed.

    So how are they addressing this with a linear yet multiple route path? After considering this, the only thing I can imagine is that backtracking is reduced or impossible until maybe post-game. That way, no matter which path you take and whatever events happen, you will only need to move forward to advance. Alternatively, the multiple route may not be literally be different routes available at one time to the player, but a different route for each starter.

    • NeoTechni

      “have a poor or no in-game reminder system”

      That is the problem they need to solve. Simply adding a mark on the map of where to go next is the solution, Zelda had it

      • Kibbitz

        Agreed, it’s simple and mostly problem-free. They could even allow it to be turned off in options for the people who don’t want it.

        Thing is, this doesn’t sound like how they’re approaching the problem at all.

  • No no no no no no no. So the game is far easier? I watned elite 4 people to have pokemon at levels no less than 70, the later gym leaders to have pokemon approaching the level 60’s. I wanted to be able to see my favorite old pokemon in game and catch them! I dont want new ones, I want my old ones…This is like multiple steps in the wrong direction.

    • mach

      If you want old Pokemon play the old games. The biggest attraction of every PKMN generation is the introduction of new Pokemon. If you like the old ones, there are four generations of games you can go back and play.

      • It just wont be the same with the introduction of new attacks, and Im quite sure that at end game, most people will be using pokemon teams online still full of last generation pokemon.

        Making all pokemon avaialble at the start of the game is a wise move and increasing the level of freedom players have in their pokemon and their pokemon teams.

        • mach

          That’s the most moronic thing I’ve ever heard. There has never been a Pokemon game where all the monsters are available from the start. Seeing as most of the Pokemon you listed as your favorites were ones that could only be found near the endgame anyway, I fail to see how the presence of only new monsters at the start of B/W will affect you at all. Or do you just really love running into Pidgey for the five billionth time since Red and Blue?

          Moreover, the game designers really shouldn’t focus undue attention on the needs of hardcore, online players who make up only a slight fraction of the games’ target audience. Instead, they should ensure that the game is appealing to as many members of the audience as possible. Establishing a new, fresh experience with all new monsters will recreate the same sense of discovery that was in R/B. That was what drew people into the series in the first place. If you still want your old Pokemon, just catch them during the endgame. Most hardcore players only use Pokemon caught at that stage of the game anyway, since it’s easier to manipulate moves and EVs after the main story is over.

          • Ouch, those words pierced my heart deeply, though Im not mortally wounded.

            Anyway, moronic it is not, for we have in all cases been able to trade with the other games immediately from the start. I would always bring over my dream team over immediately into the games; this was vital in the previous generation of pokemon and heart gold remakes; why constrain myself with the rather weak presentation and extremely limiting variability in pokemon, when I had access to just about all pokemon to trade over?

            From this, it seems that trading over wont even be possible until endgame, through possible some fiendish machination like pal park and limiting the number of pokemon that can be brought over to just 6 a day or something rediculous.

            Im excited about new pokemon, but it will be rather annoying the whole time being unable to access my dream team.

          • SeventhEvening

            You couldn’t bring pokemon over from previous generations until after you beat the game (palpark, wayback machine). It also was never vital to pull in a “dream team”. I started from scratch each time. That’s part of the game. I mean, hell, the game isn’t exactly hard to begin with.

            Additionally, the game has always had components built in to prevent people from doing that. For example, high level pokemon ignoring orders if you don’t have enough badges and what not. I hate to say it, but I agree with Mach.

          • mach

            SeventhEnding has pretty much said what I wanted to tell you. You clearly have a selective memory when it comes to Pokemon game mechanics.

      • Kibbitz

        However, the old games aren’t this new upcoming game. The graphics and sound are supposed to be better, and the gameplay mechanics might be significantly different. I think those are sufficient reasons to want a new game, with or without old Pokemon.

    • Zeik56

      What’s the point of even playing new games if you just want to use your old Pokemon? This is something they should have been doing since Gold/Silver. I am so sick of seeing Rattata, Zubat, etc. It’s about time we had a completely fresh experience with Pokemon.

      • There are so many old pokemon that I would never give up training, like the eevee-evolutions, old steel type pokemon, the first three birds, Dragonite. Apart from just looks so of these pokemon are just great power pokemon.

        • Zeik56

          Well here’s your chance to find some new powerful Pokemon.

        • Admittedly, that’s exactly what the creators wanted to prevent.

  • Hmmm… Since they included something based off the MoMA then there should be a new artist Pokemon in the new games.

  • MrRobbyM

    Hey look, it’s Metagross and Aipom. Seriously though, why more gen 3-like pokemon? Those were my least favorite pokemon designs.

    • Asura

      They were my favorite. I’m very happy.

      • MrRobbyM

        Well then, lucky you.

  • In redgards to the kid comments, I’m pretty sure I played this game in like 1st or 2nd grade on my old gameboy pocket and actually knew what I was doing…maybe its just tha kids these days.

    And to me the new pokemon look like generic ones, that you’d find in like “back pocket monsters” or some stupid rip=off. They look more kiddy and stupid than ever.

    Alas (lol i sed alas), i’ll still be buying a 3DS and this game coem next year (:

  • TomSkylark

    Oh dear. I was really excited until the part where they held up newly linear gameplay as a positive. Now, given that it sounds like the statement was somewhat more complicated than that, and that I too have had problems (i.e., job, life) finishing the main stories of past Pokemon games, I honestly don’t think the solution is to make it easy to get to “Post-Game” content–simply make that stuff available from the Get Go, and assume that folks will have to figure it out on their own.

    If anything, the thing that KEPT me from finishing Pearl–aside from the time sink factor of Pokemon generally–was the fact that I knew such a huge chunk of the game wasn’t available to me; it felt like unnecessary hand-holding. I kept saying, “Oh wow X Feature looks amazing… too bad I’ll have to beat the Elite Four before I can tinker with it.”

    I understand that they want this to appeal to kids, but kids are even more obsessive and compulsive about gaming than adults; dumbing things down isn’t going to make kids any happier–it’s just going to make them as frustrated as the adults.

  • TyeTheCzar

    They seriously need to either bring EV and IV points to the forefront for competitive play, or just simply change the stat-levelling up into being able to choose which ones to upgrade like in Diablo and other WRPGs.

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