Pokemon Platinum Q&A: Giratina, Anti-Matter, and E=MC2
We chat with a Takeshi Kawachimaru and Junichi Masuda about the upcoming Pokemon game for Nintendo DS.
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The Pokemon phenomenon continues to roll on. Eleven years after the U.S. release of Pokemon Red & Blue on the original Game Boy, the series is stronger than ever. Pokemon Platinum is the upcoming release on the Nintendo DS platform after a string of hits that included Diamond, Pearl, and the two Pokemon Dungeon games. Still, with so many Pokemon games out there, it might be tough for the developers to find new directions for the series, right? We put that question, and a few others, to two of the main forces behind Pokemon Platinum: game director Junichi Masuda and game designer Takeshi Kawachimaru.
GameSpot: How did you approach this entry in the series? How does the team decide on what upgrades and enhancements will be featured in a new game?
Takeshi Kawachimaru: When we first started work on Platinum, we all had lots of opinions ("I want to change this," "How about changing that?"). We would have lost the connection to Diamond and Pearl if we made too many changes, so I decided to focus on what we most wanted to change. If you compare Diamond and Pearl to Platinum, you'll notice big changes in the area map as well as the heroes. I'll be happy if fans who played Diamond and Pearl have fun finding the changes.
Junichi Masuda: We produced Diamond and Pearl as the ultimate Pokemon titles. From the get-go, I felt Platinum had to be even stronger than its prequels. One of the ways we enhanced Platinum was with Giratina's Forme change (we eventually chose to feature its new Origin Forme on the package). When designing Giratina's Origin Forme, we paid meticulous attention to the character's details. Our designer redrew Giratina's image again and again to make the Pokemon significantly different than its Altered Forme (seen in Diamond and Pearl) and change its shape. We decided on the concept that Giratina Origin Forme is a Pokemon from an "antimatter" world.
GS: Can you tell us about the new features in Platinum and the thinking behind each of the additions?
TK: The most significant new feature would be Distortion World. When we started developing Platinum, Masuda explained some key concepts, such as "antimatter," "E=MC²," and "There's an antimatter world, a paradox of time and space that exists in relation to Dialga and Palkia." Among the flood of concepts he gave me was a term called "Reversed Mt. Fuji" ("Sakasa Fuji"). Masuda explained that Sakasa Fuji refers to the reflection of Mt. Fuji on the lake, which embodies the antimatter world. I thought of how I could incorporate all the concepts into Platinum and did extensive research. I didn't really understand what antimatter meant at first, but I think I was able to grasp the concept eventually and conveyed it in the game.
JM: Thanks to Kawachimaru's deep understanding of the themes, antimatter effectively became the core concept of Platinum (in the Distortion World). In addition to the core concept, we created the new Wi-Fi Plaza and Battle Frontier. We included these new features because we wanted our fans to be able to play and share information with many friends. Pokemon Platinum is packed with new exciting features beyond what was in Diamond and Pearl.
GS: Pokemon Platinum broke sales records in Japan, selling over 1 million copies in the first three days of its release. Were you surprised that it broke this sales record?
TK: I was very surprised and excited! I just want to say thank you very much to all the Pokemon fans who waited for Platinum so patiently!
JM: It's fantastic! I was moved and surprised because our goal is to create games that will be loved by fans. I felt our players' love from the games selling so quickly.
GS: How would you describe the core Pokemon formula? What game elements did you feel Platinum had to have?
TK: It makes you feel like the Pokemon are really living in the game screen. I think that's the core element of Pokemon. I hope that fans love their Pokemon as though they are their friends.
I wanted fans who have already played Diamond or Pearl to enjoy the newness and change in Platinum. I think the Distortion World symbolizes both. I would be very happy if players discover the newness and change in the many features, like the changes in the area map, play control enhancements, and the expanded Pokemon world.
JM: What's always in my mind when I create the concept of the Pokemon world is the idea of an ideal world--a fantasy world in a video game that humans in our world would want to live in. Also, what makes the Pokemon unique is their relationship with humans; the relationships aren't merely that of an owner and his or her pet--it goes beyond that.
If I were to describe the game elements of Pokemon Platinum in one word, it would be "change."
GS: Were there any features/concepts you thought about while you were making Pokemon Platinum that you got in to the game? Are there any ideas that you came up with but are saving for a future title?
TK: There were two concepts that I personally wanted to take on--external and internal connectivity. First, (for the external), I wanted to give fans playing from their own homes the sense that there are millions of Pokemon fans all over the world. To achieve this goal, I created the Global Terminal and Wi-Fi Plaza (that allow users from all over the world to connect together).
Another concept I wanted to include (for internal connectivity) was something that would allow players to communicate more with their parents, brothers, sisters, and friends about their strategies. I think that the concept is realized well in Platinum with the Battle Frontier. Now, two players can take on battles together at all the facilities in the Battle Frontier. There's only one thing that worries me, though: I hope that friends don't get into disagreements about each other's choices while they take on the Battle Frontier together!
I do have ideas for a future title, but I can't tell you right now! But when I tell you, everybody will be surprised. That's for sure.
JM: We come up with a lot of new ideas every day, and we think about how to make the ideas more fun and exciting. We want to create games that will surprise, thrill, and excite you. So be sure to look forward to that!
GS: Are there any new features or ideas in Pokemon Platinum that were inspired by Pokemon fans? What kinds of enhancements do you make based on fans' reactions to Pokemon games?
TK: There's a hardcore Pokemon fan who collects Clefairy from around the world--he's a member of the development staff at Game Freak, actually. For fans like him, we made a small change to the search abilities in the Global Trade Station (GTS).
JM: I feel it's my job to surprise our fans with new ideas! So in that sense, I am inspired by them [laughs].
GS: Thanks for your time.