In the Making: Pokemon Red and Blue
If you’re not sure what Pokémon are, you have been living somewhere under a rock for who knows how long. These pocket monsters have been a phenomena since the 1990s when the games were released in Japan and North America. You can’t go to a game store or convention without seeing the face of one of them plastered somewhere. This is all the result of one man and his childhood hobby. Get ready cause we’re looking at In the Making: Pokémon Red and Blue.
The idea for Pokémon goes way back to the days when creater Satoshi Tajiri was a child. As a kid, his favorite hobby was collecting insects found around his hometown. As he got older, he noticed how children were becoming more confined inside their homes rather than outside. This was because of the urbanization taking place in the area, and that ultimately reduced the insect population for his own interests.
During this time, video games were becoming part of the lives of children. Tajiri thought it would be pretty cool to have a game where kids could collect creatures and individually name them to make it more personal. He didn’t really see where his idea would be going until the Gameboy’s link cable was announced. Tajiri took his idea further by imaging players trading the creatures with each other. It wasn’t a common concept since the cable was mostly used for competitions, but it was a brilliant one nonetheless.
When Tajiri presented this idea to Nintendo, the company didn’t quite get the concept at first. However, he was given the opportunity to make the game, contradicting his fear of it being rejected. When Shigeru Miyamoto, his friend and fellow developer, first heard of the idea, he suggested the creation of having more than one cartridge for the game. This would help assist in the trading aspect where the certain creatures would be in certain cartridges.
With approval from Nintendo and a good idea to start with, Tajiri started off by naming the main characters after himself (Satoshi) and Miyamoto (Shigeru). Ken Sugimoro, who was also one of his friends and an artist, was given lead for the artistic development. With a small team of no more than 10 people, they came up with and designed all 151 Pokémon. Sugimoro had the last say and finalized each design that was made.
With character names and designs out of the way, the next piece was the music. Junichi Masuda made good use out of the four sound channels that the Gameboy had. From these channels, he created the sounds that the Pokémon would use, the other sound effects throughout the game, and the melodies that would play in the background. For the iconic opening theme that we all know too well, it was originally envisioned as a battle scene with sounds to resemble snare drums and marching beats.
After everything was set in place, the title needed an official name. The original name was Capsule Monsters. However, there was some issues with the trademark for it. It went through a lot of revisions, some being CapuMon and KapuMon. In the end, the decision was finalized for “Pocket Monsters” – which, when romanized for North American audience, is “Pokémon”.
With the decision for two cartridges instead of one, the game Pocket Monsters: Red and Green were released in Japan in early 1996. The sales were impressive, especially due to the fact people wanted to buy both of the titles instead of one. As a mail-order-only special edition, a third Blue cartridge was released a few months afterward. There was so much talk about Pokémon that Tajiri wanted to add more to the enthusiasm. He stated that an extra monster named Mew was hidden in the games, causing a lot of stir in the fans and resulting in rumors and myths.
Pocket Monsters was such a success in Japan that Nintendo wanted to expand that to North American audiences. Hiro Nakamura lead a small group of people to handle the task of renaming every monster for western gamers. These new names were based on the characteristics and look of the creature. While this process was in the works, Nintendo made sure to issue trademarks on every single one so that they could be used only in this franchise.
Things got complicated when it was becoming impossible to just alter the Japanese text to English. The team realized that the source code was not very stable and that the entire game had to be reprogrammed from square one. The result of this made it based more on the version of Blue with its advanced artwork and programming. They kept the idea of having two games instead of just one during this process.
When it was close to being finished, Nintendo went ballistic with promoting the game in North America. The team located in the States were concerned that the audience wouldn’t want cute pocket monsters, and they tried to convince Nintendo’s Japanese teams to make them more beefy. President Hiroshi Yamauchi didn’t agree with this idea, and he considered this a challenge they had to face. Luckily, when Pokémon Red and Blue was released in late 1998, the results were outstanding.
Pokémon has remained a franchise that is gaining new fans every year and keeping old ones anticipating. With the new release of Pokémon X and Y, it’s apparent that Nintendo is continuing to drive exceptional results with the series. It’s a franchise that has instilled many good memories for us, continues to keep us entertained, and most likely will for many years to come.