For the sixth generation of Pokémon, Game Freak decided to base the games’ region on Europe—mainly France. However, while Pokémon X and Y’s Kalos region is inspired by France, simply throwing in an Eiffel Tower and baguettes wasn’t going to cut it. Art directors Ken Sugimori and Takao Unno shared their design process in this week’s Famitsu magazine.
Famitsu started out by asking Ken Sugimori how he feels now that Pokémon X and Y are finally out.
“Honestly, ‘it’s finally been released,’ are my true feelings,” replies Sugimori. “The reason being, this time the Pokémon were made using 3D models, so we had to finish their designs earlier on, and the design team actually finished towards the end of 2012.”
“It actually still feels like I’m in a dream,” Unno adds. “Just last year, while directing Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, I was also participating in the production of Pokémon X and Y.”
Unno, who was in charge of Pokémon X and Y as the games’ 3D art director, was responsible for working on the field maps and Pokémon graphics, which he believes went quite smoothly, considering he transitioned from working on the previous games to start on the next generation of Pokémon.
Switching from one title to another this way might sound hectic, especially when you take the generation leap and transition from 2D to 3D into consideration; however, it was thanks to director Junichi Masuda’s orders that kept Unno and Sugimori on their toes, as he gave specific orders when it came to designing the new Pokémon.
“This time, since the stage was set in Europe, he told us to not go with what we had in mind, but that he wanted us to thoroughly check our material prior to designing things,” says Sugimori. “In order to properly bring out their local atmosphere, we actually went to France.”
“Once the stage is set, it’s much easier to come up with designs for Pokémon,” Unno elaborates. “For example, in Europe, rabbits are often seen on the hills and fields, so we had the image of a rabbit to create Bunnelby. Actually, if you go to the nature-filled countryside, there were many rabbit holes right next to the roads.”
Famitsu continues by asking if Bunnelby was created only because the games are set in Europe.
“Well, if you end up being too picky about the local atmosphere, there’s always the risk of possibly having ideas and their representations be too close to each other,” says Sugimori. “For this reason, while respecting the local atmosphere, we balanced things out to not let them be too one-sided, as we designed them.”
While Pokémon X and Y were modeled after a European influence, Game Freak had to take other precautions before going forward as well.
“Not only for Europe, but whenever we use other countries as a model, we make sure that it’s not a stereotypical or humorous representation, similar to how foreigners can misunderstand Japan,” says Sugimori. “Of course, there are some parts we daringly made funny, and fooled around in some parts, but in the end we did thorough research, and from there we decided on which direction to take.”