Afterwords – Pokémon X & Y
The latest core entry in the Pokémon franchise is the biggest step forward the series has taken in many years. It’s a huge game with a newly realized 3D world and 3D Pokémon, and it’s full of mystery in both its plot and its development. We spoke with series producer Junichi Masuda about the difficulties of taking Pokémon in this new direction, as well as questions about the plot, general Pokémon lore, and what’s going on with Klefki and Espurr.
When this feature appeared in the February issue of the magazine, we cut a number of questions in order to save space. Below, you will find the full interview.
Game Informer: There are hints of a romance between the player character and Shauna, especially during the fireworks scene, did this romance angle come from the fact that Paris is the city of love? Or would you like future Pokémon games to include more of a love story?
Junichi Masuda: Yes, with France being the basis for the region, I wanted to implement some elements of romance with Shauna when playing as a boy and express a deep friendship when playing as a girl. For example, when running through the forest early in the game, Shauna will stay behind the player. We did this to express that Shauna is interested in the player. The fireworks scene also expressed Shauna and the player becoming closer to each other – going from just having met, to becoming friends, to becoming very close friends.
In the future, I think I may add more romantic elements if I can do it in a fun way. However, I don’t think I want to take it in a direction that shows people fighting or a relationship falling apart. Doing that would take too much of the focus off of catching Pokémon! (laughs)
Game Informer: What was the inspiration for Team Flare’s evil objective and the character of Lysandre?
Junichi Masuda: The idea for Lysandre came up when I was working on AZ’s character settings. He’s a person who thought AZ’s ultimate weapon was brilliant and became obsessed with it. However, he’s more obsessed with what he could do with the weapon than what the reason for its creation was originally. I wanted to express how terrifying obsession can be with this character.
In Pokémon Black Version and Pokémon White Version, Team Plasma’s philosophy had a bit more of a serious tone to it. With Team Flare, I wanted to separate them from some kind of philosophy and make them a bit more goofy and funny.
Game Informer: The legacy of this gigantic war that raged 3,000 years ago is important to the story of the game. Was this inspired by the impact of World War II on France today?
Junichi Masuda: It was not inspired by those events. It came from my desire for war and terrorism to vanish from the world. By showing the war that transpired in ages long past, I wanted the player to think about war. The fact that the same events may occur all over again – I wanted to leave that decision in the player’s hands. What I wanted to tell them was, “Don’t leave it up to others to change things – you have to be the one to enact change.”
Game Informer: The exact details of the war and its impact on the world of Pokémon are ambiguous. Will we ever learn more about what transpired during that war?
Junichi Masuda: The war was a clash between two different countries. People treated Pokémon with special powers as mere tools in their conflict. They gathered lots of Pokémon and Pokémon with unique powers. This long conflict was drawn out and many lives were lost. In order to emerge victorious, the soldiers believed that they needed even more powerful Pokémon. AZ loved his Pokémon, which he had received from his late mother, but it was forcefully taken from him by the soldiers. His Pokémon ended up becoming just another sacrifice in the war. Distraught with grief, AZ began work on his machine. Little did he know that his creation would bring great sorrow to the world.
Game Informer: The giant man named AZ was a surprising addition to the story of the game. Was everybody from 3,000 years ago on the Pokémon planet as big as him? What story was the team trying to express by including this character?
Junichi Masuda: AZ used a machine to bring his beloved Pokémon back to life. By doing so, he gave his Pokémon eternal life, and he was also affected by this. Part of that was him turning into a giant and still living even after 3,000 years have passed. However, unlike his Pokémon, he still grew old. Was living so long a good thing for AZ? Was using the machine to give his Pokémon eternal life a good thing? I wanted to express these things as well as as the differences between the encounters and losses that we experience in our lives compared to what AZ feels about the encounters and losses he has experienced over 3,000 years. However, what I most wanted to express with this character was the bonds between people and Pokémon.
Game Informer: Fans have read into some of the dialogue from travelers in the game as being hints of an upcoming Ruby/Sapphire remake. Do you care to comment?
Junichi Masuda: Travelers play the role of characters who have come from other regions. We put them in the game to make sure people know that the new region is connected with the rest of the world.
Game Informer: In our Pokemon’s Burning Questions interview in 2012, you said “Humans are definitely separate from Pokémon. The way you think about it is different than how we think about animals in relation to humans on Earth.” But then in Pokémon X&Y a character says, “They say that in the ancient days, man and Pokémon were the same.” I’m curious if you and the team changed your mind on this topic.
Junichi Masuda: This is simply showing a different way of thinking from a past era. In ancient times, like in the myths and legends we put in the Diamond and Pearl games, it was said that Pokémon were the same as humans. However, I like to think of Pokémon as mysterious creatures – they’re closer to humans than dogs or cats that people might keep as pets.
Game Informer: Occasionally in the game, most notably in Lumiose City, the camera’s perspective shifts to rest behind the character’s head. Is the team interested in trying to keep this closer perspective throughout an entire game in the future? Or do you see the overhead cameras as a key component of the Pokémon experience?
Junichi Masuda: The overhead view makes it easier for players to be able to understand where they should go based off where their character is in the world in relation to where the grass is positioned. It makes it easier to know, for example, where you need to stand to get seen by another Trainer, or what the shortest route through a patch of grass would be. We implement the overhead camera more for gameplay reasons rather than for any visual reason.
Game Informer: Which Pokémon proved to be the most difficult to take from a 2D sprite to a 3D model? Were any Pokémon’s inclusions removed because it didn’t seem like they would work as 3D models?
Junichi Masuda: We’ve never decided not to create a Pokémon because it was difficult to make it work as a 3D model. However, some Pokémon that do special things, like the Mega Evolved Gengar, were very difficult to make–not just the 3D modeling, but also the programming involved to make them work in battles.
Game Informer: The new 3D battles look fantastic, but I’m curious why the Pokémon still have the circular patch of grass or land underneath them? Is there a technical reason for keeping this remnant from the past?
Junichi Masuda: From a technical point of view, it would be easier not to have the circular patches. We use them as a way to express the space in which Pokémon exist. For example, it would look really strange to have Pokémon standing on top of the water without them.
Game Informer: The game launched the same day as the 2DS and the majority of the game is not in stereoscopic 3D. Was this a technical limitation? Or was it designed this way to lessen eyestrain for children and young fans?
Junichi Masuda: One of the themes we wanted to express in Pokémon X and Pokémon Y was “beauty,” so we wanted to use the 3DS’s rendering capabilities to their fullest, to focus on that aspect. By doing so, I think we were able to create some very impressive settings.
Also, one of the cool things about the 3DS is that you don’t need special glasses to see the stereoscopic 3D effect. It’s not like in a movie theater, where you would need to put on 3D glasses if the scene were to switch to 3D midway. This feature of the 3DS allowed us to use the stereoscopic 3D effect at specific moments in the game where we felt it would be particularly effective.
Game Informer: What were the discussions like behind the new approach to sharing experience this time around? Some have argued that this item makes the game too easy. Did you have to make an effort to balance the game for both players that used it and those that didn’t?
Junichi Masuda: There are so many Pokémon living in the Kalos region, you can encounter a different Pokémon just about every time you go into the tall grass. We wanted players to try raising lots of Pokémon, which is why we changed how the Exp. Share item worked. Of course, we also made it so players could turn off the Exp. Share and still enjoy the game if they wanted to.
Game Informer: Do you worry the small number of Mega Evolutions will limit competitive Pokémon in official tournaments? Do you see Mega Evolutions as a mainstay of the series moving forward?
Junichi Masuda: Because the Pokémon needs to use its held item slot for the Mega Stone that is required to trigger Mega Evolution, I don’t think it will represent a huge advantage in competitions. The 2014 Pokémon World Championships will take place in Washington D.C., and qualifying events are underway, so I’m excited to see how the games play out and decide what direction we want to take from there. I hope we get a lot of people to participate in the events.
Game Informer: What is the story behind the new Pokémon Klefki? Who’s idea was it and why did it make the cut?
Junichi Masuda: The base idea came from Ms. Ibe – one of our graphic designers. Since the Kalos region has a lot of history, we felt we could attach some story elements to a key design. The idea for Klefki came from thinking of old mansions and secret keys and such.
Game Informer: Historically, your trainer’s father has been absent, but in Pokémon X&Y your father apparently purchased the computer that’s in your room for you. What is your father up to? And where are the fathers of the previous games?
Junichi Masuda: Wherever could they be? They’re probably off working somewhere, or maybe just having Pokémon battles? (laughs) It’s apparent that they are at least making enough money to buy the player’s character a computer! (laughs)
Game Informer: In the Lumiose City art museum there’s a painting that looks like Red from Pokémon Red & Blue giving flowers to his mother. There are some people nearby that say they are from Kanto staring at the art mentioning how somebody they were traveling with really wanted to see this painting, but they are in the bathroom with stomach problems. The sign by the painting reads, “This masterpiece is a moving tribute to the artist’s departed mother.” Is this Red from the original Pokémon games? And did his mother pass away?
Junichi Masuda: What incredible imagination! I think that’s great. The tale about flowers is referring to Shaymin from the Sinnoh region. The guy who is stuck in the bathroom with stomach problems is actually a joke we put in about one of our graphic designers who came down with something while we were on location at the Louvre doing research for the game.
Game Informer: Is there any advantage to giving a tip to the camera man, or the story teller? I always offered a good tip, because I didn’t want them to think I was a jerk.
Junichi Masuda: Thanks for the tips! (laughs)
I think we’ll be announcing what we wanted to do in regards to tips on the Pokémon Global Link or elsewhere soon.
Game Informer: How long has Pokémon X&Y been in development? Had work already begun on the game while Black & White 2 were in development?
Junichi Masuda: Yes, the conceptual planning for Pokémon X and Pokémon Y began before Pokémon Black Version and Pokémon White Version were released. The idea for the game first arose around June of 2010. Then we spent 3 years developing the game, and – when you include the localization work – it ended up being a big project on which around 500 people were involved.
Game Informer: The pacing of Pokémon X&Y is dramatically sped up compared to previous games. You have your first badge before you meet the Professor Sycamore. Can you talk about why that decision was made? Was there a fear that rookie players would be left behind?
Junichi Masuda: One thing that I can say is that people these days don’t have a lot of time. Kids today are overwhelmed with information and busy on social networks, blogs, etc. When considering the reality of the era, we wanted to make the games easy for new players to get into and also fun for players of previous games. The fact that you get your Pokémon from a group of friends you just met has a modern feel to it.
Also, the professor being younger this time and the fact that he trusts the player and his or her friends kind of reflects modern times (in Japan these days, the relationship between teachers and students is more like a friendship than it was in the past).
Game Informer: The Pokémon Espurr has become a popular internet meme with fans citing his vacant expression representing a troubled past. What happened to Espurr, or what did he see that made him so vacant?
Junichi Masuda: I wonder what happened, too! (laughs) I’d like everyone to think about it. I’m not sure Espurr would be willing to talk about it even if we asked, though. (laughs)
Game Informer: Why can’t you choose to wear no hat?
Junichi Masuda: It’s a way to symbolize the player’s character. You can tell at a glance who it is because of the hat.
Game Informer: Will there ever be paid DLC for Pokémon X&Y where players will be able to purchase rare Pokémon or additional single-player content?
Junichi Masuda: While we won’t ever sell Pokémon, we do plan on releasing the Pokémon Bank as a downloadable 3DS application. With it, you’ll be able to bring over Pokémon from the previous games and also deposit up to 3,000 of your Pokémon in it.
Game Informer: Who do you like to pick as your starters?
Junichi Masuda: Fennekin, of course! I love playing with Fennekin in Pokémon-Amie!