In the past, every generation of Pokémon has coincided with a new system, with Red/Green on the Gameboy, Gold/Silver on the Gameboy Color, Ruby/Sapphire on the Gameboy Advance, and finally Diamond/Pearl on the DS.
Pokémon Black/White will mark the first time a second completely original Pokémon game is released for an existing system. As such, in a new Iwata Asks interview, the game’s directors, Junichi Masuda and Ken Sugimori, revealed that the most important focus of the new game was to create “a new Pokémon.”
However, because both games were to be on the DS, it would be extremely obvious if they were too similar to Diamond/Pearl or HeartGold/SoulSilver.
In Di/Pe, the team were required to concentrate on all the perks that came with the new (at the time) system — the two screens, the touchscreen, the wireless capabilities, just to name a few. Years later, now that the DS has been experimented with and explored, they felt they needed to concentrate on other aspects of the design.
Masuda stated that he was afraid that people would regard B/W as “the same game” as Di/Pe, even if both were the first of their generation. He viewed of the task of creating B/W as a challenge to the creators to make a completely different game.
This was harder than it sounds. After all, having created Pokémon for so long, Masuda felt that the creators’ views of the series had been solidified and could prove to be a hindrance in some regards.
As Iwata summarized in the interview, usually when a strategy works, most companies decide to stick with the formula. However, Masuda specifically stated that he wanted to take everything he knew about the game — everything that they had thought was “obvious” about the series — and break it. Some of the changes Masuda put out were so shocking that the team completely doubted that it could even be done.
(As for Sugimori, his first reaction to Masuda’s proclamation of the newly-declared revolution of the content was, “…Again?” His next reaction, after hearing the plan, was, “Don’t give me so much work…”)
Masuda and Sugimori have worked together for a long time, and they’ve come to terms with their differing styles of development. For Black/White, Masuda took on the role of the “idea man,” while Sugimori was the “damper,” to prevent him from going too far. He was in charge of making sure that the games retained that aspect of “Pokémon-ness.”
However, Masuda was churning out ideas so quickly that there was bound to be a lot of change. To describe this, Sugimori described a truck where Masuda was the driver. Masuda was always pressing down on the gas, going forward. Sugimori was in charge of the brakes.
However, regardless of how much harder Masuda continued to press the gas, Sugimori would simultaneously press down on the breaks with the same pressure as before, resulting in the truck moving even further than before. As such, the changes in the game were much greater than in any past Pokémon project.
In fact, Masuda handed Sugimori a 200-page draft document with all the new ideas listed in it. This was the first time ever they’d done this. Sugimori read through all the pages and picked at every single sentence, asking questions such as “What do you mean by ‘crossing the bridge?’” or “How would you ‘take part in other people’s games?’”
As a result of Masuda’s radical ideas that sought to redefine the games, Pokémon Black/White turned out to be radically different from their predecessors. And because of Sugimori’s careful cautiousness that tended towards the conservative, the games still retained aspects of the series at their core that were unchanged.
We’ll bring you more on Pokémon Black/White’s development throughout the week.