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The brains behind Pokemon Black and White

GameFreak reveals all in a rare interview.
Eurogamer How do you come up with the Pokemon names?
Junichi Masuda

There are two different ways of approaching it. One is, sometimes our planning team already have the setting for the Pokemon, so they make a request of the designer team, saying, 'We like to have this type of Pokemon, for example fire type. This Pokemon has to have this feature.' At that stage they might have put some name they would like to have.

Another approach is, some designers come up with some Pokemon ideas. When they present their ideas to the planning team they sometimes already have the name – not fixed, but a temporary name.

So, most of the time we have about five names to one Pokemon. But then there's the issue of trademarks. We have to go through a legal process and check out whether we can use the names in the Japanese market. That's how we do it in Japan, first.

Overseas, of course we try to localise all of the Pokemon names - most of them - so other people overseas understand the original meaning we had from the Japanese. We try not to dilute the meaning. That's how we come up with all the Pokemon names.

Eurogamer The names of the games are associated with colours. There have been so many games now. Will you run out of colours soon? What happens when you do?
Junichi Masuda

This time, for Black and White, the main concept was extreme in the scenario. So, that's where the name Black and White comes from. It's extreme, different, opposite. This time was the first time we put the title based on the scenario and the world point of view. This title was based on the content of the videogame scenario.

Going forward, I predict we will continue putting titles based on the worldview, like we did for Black and White. But of course, it's really difficult!

Black and White are scheduled for release on 4th March.
Eurogamer In Japan, local wireless DS features are used more than they are in the West, where it's harder to meet people who also play Pokemon. Do you consider adding depth to the single-player side of the game so those players get as much out of Pokemon as those who can play with friends?
Junichi Masuda

When I developed this videogame I tried to create a system that, even if you're playing by yourself, the single player can enjoy it. I always try to make the videogames something a single player can enjoy at first.

The element you can connect to others, that is something we added as spice to expand the videogame. Most people play by themselves up until they clear the main storyline. Up until the point of clearing the main storyline, most of the time players try to grow up the Pokemon, raise them, then once they clear the main storyline, they start to battle against others and exchange with others. So this videogame is totally designed for both.

Also, when I create videogames I do consider the situation in the West, for instance Europe. In Japan kids sometimes gather in the park and play against others. In Europe I've overheard there are not many situations like that, so I always consider this. But of course, until I came to Europe, I didn't notice much about the situation, so it's really important to come to Europe and get information.

Eurogamer What process do you go through when localising Pokemon games? Is that the main reason why it launches in Europe months after Japan?
Junichi Masuda

For Black and White we totally changed the scheme of the organisation. This time we translated directly from Japanese to all other languages. Before, we localised from Japanese to English, and from English to other European languages. So this time it was Japanese directly to European languages.

That made the launch timing a little closer to the Japanese launch. This time, the launch in Europe is 4th March, which is two days before the US launch. So we're making an effort. This time we had many new localisation staff.

The gap between the Japanese launch and the European launch is because we always try to make the best videogame experience for not only Japanese users, but the people in other countries who enjoy localised videogames.

For example, we take care with the Pokemon names. We can all adapt Japanese names to Europe, but then sometimes it wouldn't mean anything to the European kids and players. So we always take all the processes seriously when we localise.

Eurogamer The Nintendo 3DS has a number of interesting connectivity features. Have you begun to think about how the 3DS can change the Pokemon series?
Junichi Masuda

There are many new and good elements. The 3DS has advanced technologies. If we consider producing and developing new games for the 3DS, we would like to take advantage of all those new technologies and elements.

Eurogamer Have you had any ideas?
Junichi Masuda

Yes, but nothing fixed.

Eurogamer There have been hundreds of Pokemon down the years. Which is your favourite?
Junichi Masuda

I like Victini the best. Victini is something Miss Ibe designed. One of the reasons I like it is the idea of this Pokemon is it's a Victory Pokemon. It will lead to victory for players. Also, when I requested Miss Ibe design this new Pokemon, I said it should be a Pokemon that is more appealing to women than men. I liked that concept.

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About the Author

Wesley Yin-Poole avatar

Wesley Yin-Poole

Deputy Editorial Director

Wesley is deputy editorial director of ReedPop. He likes news, interviews, and more news. He also likes Street Fighter more than anyone can get him to shut up about it.


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