Pokemon Director Explains Why Series is Becoming Easier

"Rather than any actual feedback from players, it's more accepting the realities of modern life," Junichi Masuda says.


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Part of the reason why Pokemon games are becoming more inviting is because they must compete against a raft of other products, many of which are given away for free on smartphones. That's according to veteran Pokemon developer Junichi Masuda, co-founder of Pokemon series developer Game Freak, and a person who has been involved with the popular brand since its inception.

We recently caught up with Masuda to talk about the Pokemon series, and we asked him for his thoughts regarding why recent games have made things easier for players.

"Rather than any actual feedback from players, it's more accepting the realities of modern life," he said. "Kids these days or even people who grew up playing Pokemon--everyone is a lot more busy. There are a lot more things competing for a person's time than there were back then. For example, there are so many free games you can play on your phone now, there's so many entertainment options, so making it a little easier to play is the reason for that."

"Back when I was younger, someone would buy us a game and that was the only game we had, so we had to play it," he added. "I don't think that's really the case for many people these days."

Our interview also touched on the upcoming Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire remakes for 3DS. Asked why Game Freak went down that route instead of creating, say, a "Pokemon Z" to follow 2013's X/Y, Masuda said the developer is always looking to surprise players.

"For example, if after Black and White we came out with a grey, people would have been expecting that," he said. "Same thing with X/Y and having a Z straight afterwards. So we're always just trying to surprise people."

"One of the main appeals of Pokemon over the years is the concept that even through all these games, you can have people 20 years apart but they can still talk about Pokemon" -- Masuda

Another driving factor in working on the remakes is that it's what fans want, Masuda said.

"There's been a lot of demand from people to remake Ruby/Sapphire on social media, for example," he said. "Right now really felt like a good time to do it, and instead of doing a direct sequel to X/Y we're tying it together in some unique ways."

Finally, we asked Masuda if Game Freak might ever consider rebooting the entire Pokemon series, bringing it to life in a new way that potentially strays from popular convention. Masuda suggested that this is unlikely, as he said one of the hallmarks of the series is that it's relatable to a wide range of players and ages.

"One of the main appeals of Pokemon over the years is the concept that even through all these games, you can have people 20 years apart but they can still talk about Pokemon," he said. "There's always the gyms, the elite four champions, a lot of the pokemon are featured throughout all the different generations. A lot of that shared experience, even if you're 20 years apart, is something that's really appealing about Pokemon. So right now, I think keeping that element of the series, and seeing all of these new Pokemon from X/Y treated equally with the previous generations, I think that's really exciting. And we really want to focus on that for the moment at least."

"But if I leave Game Freak I can't speak to the future," he added.

Pokemon Alpha Sapphire/Omega Ruby will be released exclusively for 3DS on November 21. For much more on the remakes, check out GameSpot's just-published preview [LINK to Randy's piece].

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Avatar image for psx_warrior

I don't understand all the hate Game Freak is getting over the latest games. The games have always been easy of your Pokemon are leveled up enough. If not, you get beaten. it's always been like that.

I think what he's trying to say is that they've made it easier to catch more Pokemon and to properly train them up without having to search out the right Pokemon to put your Pokemon up against in order to level up the right ev stats. Super training makes that a lot easier, but it also opens up a whole new world for people like me that want to train up a good team because there are so many Pokemon with different abilities to choose from. So much strategy that my head spins at the possibilities of the teams I can build, and taking them online to test my metal against other trainers. I would even go as far as to call it an e-sport because of the depth of strategy involved.

It's so much more fun than it used to be quite honestly. I was just about burnt out with the tired old formula of just battling other trainers in the games in order to level up my Pokemon and do what I thought at the time was proper training when it really wasn't proper training at all.

I just don't get all the hate. The games really are better in every way, though I will concede that the single player difficulty could be ramped up, but then again such has always been the case.

Avatar image for Juan1988

Geez Eddie... "[LINK to Randy's piece]"


Avatar image for Bourne_Endeavor

Does Masuda not realize there are such things as difficulty modes they could implement to offer players the experience they choose? Of course, devs seem afraid to ever make higher difficulty settings challenging, Dark Souls notwithstanding. Simply put, it sounds as though they know Pokemon is a cashcow and putting in the extra manpower to challenge players wouldn't be worthwhile from a financial standpoint. That said, one has to wonder if becoming too casual could be just as detrimental.

Avatar image for Juan1988

<< LINK REMOVED >> the thing is that Pokemon only has 1 save file, to push people to buy the other version (or having friends or siblings buying each one), so they don't put the easy or hard mode in, it's up to the player to chose his or her own adventure! You can chose to grind and level up a lot, or rush the game, or use only the pokemons available in said area...

In the end what's so captivating about the game is all its possibilities and its depth (either casual or hardcore gameplay), you get to play YOUR adventure the way YOU want it to be.

I don't mind that there are few or less challenging rival fights, other than that the game difficulty is pretty much the same, they should add an EV/IV stat reader to the game instead of relying on a character who tells you the potential of your Pokemon (IV) and super training (EV),

Avatar image for ninboxstation

this is the wrong road for Pokemon..., making it more "casual" is just wrong...

if gamefreak doesnt understand that, it will become the downfall of the series..
(even if for many the multiplayer aspect is the most important..., the singleplayer part is for others the most fun..)

Avatar image for robotten75957

Noone is telling us we had to make the game eazier we buisnesmen in suits who never play games just think people like eazy games.

Avatar image for jacksamuk

The post game for X and Y was terrible - I mean, since I am comparing it to the beloved HeartGold - SoulSilver - . I don't have that much of a time on my hands to breed pokemon and go out there in the cruel online world to be humiliated by kids that only play pokemon. I loved HeartGold for that reason, I could just eventually return to the game and go to the battle tower, or just beat the old leaders again and enjoy, challenge myself here and there by choosing only specific types of pokemon to face them and etc. I had a lot of fun like that and the games was just endless !

Now in X and Y... I just left it there after I beat it. Unfortunately. :(

Avatar image for terrariafan247

This is what ruined X and Y for me, you could basically complete it with any team. Why bother making most of the older pokemon catchable if there is no need to use them?!

Avatar image for Squire_Ramza

I wish the elite 4 and champion battles from X and Y weren't such a joke. I never knew the elite 4/champ in Leaf Green and Fire Red leveled up after defeating them the first time. That was a welcome surprise. I'd be in favor of a difficulty selection but it wont happen.

Avatar image for Tacanacy

@Squire_Ramza The E4 was absurd, and so was the rest of the X and Y games. Hardly any grinding, and you reached lv. 80 for every Pokémon in your party. I OHKO-ed every Pokémon in E4 the first time I battled them. The difficulty level with ordinary trainers throughout the games has been pathetic in all games in the series, but X and Y were awful. I remember struggling to beat E4 and even some Gym leaders in R/S/E, so if it's extremely easy in OR/AS as it was in X/Y, I'll quit the series-- unless they one day for the first time in the history manages to create an actual storyline with a proper and original story.

Avatar image for gx3394

Turn Exp share off. I did and found XY rather difficult towards the end. I reached the E4 at level 55

Avatar image for Tacanacy

<< LINK REMOVED >> If you manage to pretend that Exp. Share doesn't exist, and that the extremely tedious wild battles don't make you constantly think of using Exp. Share and skipping that grinding, then sure, I guess it's very easy to play without it. But that doesn't work one bit for me, it's too ridiculous. Exp. Share should never have been changed. For me to ever buy into this ridiculous and shallow self-conviction that there isn't a legal tool within the game that could spare me most of the extremely tedious grinding, it would at least have to be an optional handicap before starting a new game save file.

Avatar image for gx3394

double post

Avatar image for Drkr_Zen

Welp, that explains why ONE Nintendo series is growing more and more easy, to the point of being near brain dead simple, so why the others? Why is Zelda, Mario, Yoshi and a number of other Nintendo titles getting easier and easier to complete?

Why do I have 99 lives by the time I finish World 1? Why am I told to take a break every 15 minutes? Why does the game constantly ask me if it wants to complete the level FOR me if I die a few times, Nintendo?

Avatar image for psx_warrior

<< LINK REMOVED >> It's not as if you have to let the game do it. It is only optional you know.

Avatar image for b1ank

They do realize this is Pokemon they're talking about right? Not like it wont sell. You have generations of people playing this series. How many people can say that about their games?

Avatar image for jecomans

Getting easier? I don't remember Yellow being any more taxing than X was?

Avatar image for IJONOI

Won't be long now til they've ran of colours and numbers. Then what? Each game will need its own licence plate. You'll be apply and pay extra for customisable registrations.

Avatar image for Gamescook

For much more on the remakes, check out GameSpot's just-published preview [LINK to Randy's piece].


Avatar image for Arachnofunk

Why not make the difficulty level optional?

Avatar image for jecomans

<< LINK REMOVED >> And a good NG+ system with much higher level bosses and over-leveling? Or more thorough end-game content and high-level dungeons/Zubat caves?

Avatar image for simsumre

<< LINK REMOVED >> That would be too hard.

Avatar image for simsumre

This is why nobody wants to work anymore, this generation has been given everything the easy way. You can't lose playing sports, here's a trophy just for participating. That mean kid is a bully, don't bother learning how to defend yourself. That test is too hard, too many kids are failing! Let's lower the requirements to pass! It's complete stupidity on the levels of idiocracy. That video game is too hard, let's make it easier! Not "I have a sense of accomplishment because I did something really diffictult". No, make it easier so I can bash my head on the screen and beat the game!

I wonder what happens when these kids turn 16 and get a job? Oh right, my burger is always messed up because putting a burger together was too hard. Now you push buttons on computer that looks like it came from Fisher Price and half the process is simulated. And we expect these people to be productive adults within society?

Avatar image for hystavito

@simsumre Well one thing that differentiates video games from most of that other stuff, it's a business and the key point is making money :). Mobile has further opened the floodgates on this and it's not going away. Higher difficulty games will more and more only be found in the indie space.

Avatar image for Gamescook

@simsumre I think we just want to play online without spending a thousand hours breeding, and then another thousand grinding, first. Calm down.

Avatar image for DeadPhoenix86

<< LINK REMOVED >> that's because allot of gamers are casual and are not very good at it gaming. so they want to sell a product that is accessible for anyone who picks it up.

Avatar image for Essian

Being able to beat every trainer with a single pokemon and every boss with 1 or 2 is sad. Doesn't feel like an accomplishment anymore, it feels like an obligatory time sink.

Will be skipping the next games unless they crank the difficulty back up in the solo game. Or, here's a thought... difficulty options?

Avatar image for taiken87

<< LINK REMOVED >>The game seems easier now because you've mastered all of the elements. The first time playing Red and Blue, you had to learn the type chart, which Pokemon had what moves and how strong they were/their base stats, and such. No one had any idea about EV training, breeding for better Pokemon, or anything of that sort. Even capturing Pokemon is less of a mystery, as you can look up the formula for capture and see exactly what the probability of capture is. Once you've mastered these elements, yes, Pokemon just turns into a numbers game with cool animals.

Avatar image for Dawnshadow

<< LINK REMOVED >> "Being able to beat every trainer with a single pokemon and every boss with 1 or 2 is sad. Doesn't feel like an accomplishment anymore, it feels like an obligatory time sink. "

You could do that in the first games. That's not new. (Granted, psychic WAS sort of OP back then.)

Avatar image for jecomans

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> In 17 years across every gen I have not noticed any difference in the difficulty of the games?

Avatar image for daikkenaurora12

I remember them saying that they were going back to the pokemon of old but I guess they changed their minds.

Avatar image for Mist00

I like this interview, at least now we have a clear understanding that pokemon will never be made a mature product or even a semi-serious game. Now we can all stop hoping for it cause it'll never happen unless he leaves gamefreak.

Avatar image for psx_warrior

<< LINK REMOVED >> Anybody who really believes that has no clue how much depth there really is to the Pokemon games.

Avatar image for huehueireportu

What a lame excuse, u cant compare stupid smartphone games with a game like pokemon, especially the older ones, a gamer who rather play candy crush than pokemon don't deserve your attention Game Freak, focus on your fans not on the mainstream, this line of thinking is the reason they are killing so many game franchises these days.

Avatar image for psx_warrior

<< LINK REMOVED >> I happen to agree with him, though. The Pokemon games have gotten so much better since adding super training and Pokemon Amie. It's made it a lot easier for people like me to train up our Pokemon the way we want to train them and compete online. I've won a bunch of battles as a result of the super training and Pokemon Amie. Now they've added with the two latest games the ability to know whether or not you've caught all the Pokemon in a particular area. All of this has made the games so much more accessible and exciting to play. Game Freak is on the right track with the Pokemon games.

Avatar image for linthes999

" "But if I leave Game Freak I can't speak to the future," he added."

Um.. So he's hinting that it could be a possibility that he may leave Gamefreak? Seems like an odd statement to close an interview on.

Avatar image for LVT_PTA_PB

Interesting and honest interview

Avatar image for jecomans

<< LINK REMOVED >> I wish they did pay attention to fan feedback though.