Pokémon Black/White director Junichi Masuda is a busy man, jetting around the world to promote the latest games in the 'Mon series.
We sat down with him to discuss reinventing a franchise, 3DS, his love for New York and The Prodigy, and why you shouldn't expect a new Wii Pokémon game any time soon...
With Pokémon Black/White, you've made some big changes to the series - a new region, 156 new monsters. Why have you chosen now to shake things up?
In order to make players surprised, there needs to be something different. That's why there are 156 new Pokémon, so players can only encounter new Pokémon up until they clear the main storyline, and that leads to some surprises.
What was the thinking behind the new setting being based on the United States? Was it a conscious decision to appeal to a more international audience?
As you mentioned, appealing to an international audience is one of the reasons, but there are also others, too. One is that I organise musical concerts in Japan based on the setting of the regions in the past titles, like Johto, Kanto and Hoenn.
Then I thought if I could hold another concert somewhere else, where should it be? And I thought perhaps New York would be a good place to choose. That's why we used the US as the setting for this new region.
Why New York in particular?
[Laughs] I perhaps have a longing for New York as a city! Also because I organise these concerts that use classical versions of videogame music, it's quite modern and not really authentic classical.
If it was authentic classical I may have chosen Europe, but because it's closer to pop music, New York seemed to fit better.
Because Black/White's Story mode only has new Pokémon, it almost feels like a fresh start for the series. Did it feel like a new beginning making the game?
It felt fresh to me during development, because while I was developing the game I was playing the demo versions and the unfinished code - and when I played, I tried to play it as if I was a kid.
I tried to become like a child - because adults don't like the same things kids do - and then I would see different things; for example, a new character or trainer, or a town.
And sometimes I would encounter a new Pokémon, and I didn't know much about that Pokémon because it's new, so I didn't know its type or its other details.
So that gave me a lot of surprises, and sometimes when that happened I would ask the people who knew more about that Pokémon within the office, so I could beat them!
Was there any conflict in the need to appeal to new fans, but also to those who've played Pokémon games before? Did you, for example, consider a tutorial skip for those who've grown up with older Pokémon titles?
I didn't take out parts like the tutorial or teaching players the upgrade system because I wanted to try not to ignore newcomers. I always like to take care of the new players. For example, I didn't take out the parts where we are teaching people how to catch Pokémon, or how to use Pokéballs, so those elements are still in there.
At the same time, with regard to the people who've already played Pokémon in the past, I considered that they play more videogames and are better at them, so this time I added some new features in the battle system so I could target both newcomers and older players.
Were there any other DS games that influenced the new elements in Black/White - like Dragon Quest IX's Tag mode for example?