Game news Pokémon: Big changes to expect following the departure of the producer?
Junichi Masuda, emblematic figure of Game Freak, leaves the ship for new adventures. What does this bode for the studio?
Pillar of the Game Freak house, Junichi Masuda steps down as General Manager of Game Freak on May 31 : “I was the director of the Pokémon video game series, from Pokémon Ruby Version and Pokémon Sapphire Version to Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, and I participated in the development of many video games, including Pokémon GO. I would like to express my sincere thanks to all Pokemon fans“. In 1989, the one who would later become a composer, project manager, programmer and producer formed his own studio with two other young people whose title was inspired by a fanzine distributed by Satoshi Tajiri, legendary creator of Pokémon. Alongside Ken Sugimori and Tajiri, they published Mendel Palace in 1989, then Mario & Yoshi in 1991. The Pokémon adventure began in 1996 with the Red and Green versions in Japan.And after twenty-three years of career, Masuda moved away from development of the star franchise, ahead of the release of Pokémon Scarlet / Violet.
In the future, I hope to transcend the boundaries of video games trying to bring more surprises, fun and excitement to people around the world, while doing my best to connect people, expand the circle of “game” and help create a richer world to share. I appreciate your continued support in my new role.
That the fervent supporters of Masuda are reassured, the man does not go very far. He will now serve as Chief Creative Fellow at The Pokémon Company.. At Nintendo, the same prestigious position is occupied by a certain Shigeru Miyamoto. He therefore takes charge of the creation and assists the teams without getting directly involved in the development of the games. “Masuda-san will use his deep understanding of the Pokémon brand to develop new services and products within the Pokémon Company, drawing on his years of experience and creative thinking.“, claims The Pokémon Company.
What does it portend?
Because it’s been a few years now that some complaints have been raining on the work of Game Freak, some players come to rejoice in Masuda’s departure. Back in the days of Sword/Shield in 2019 already, Destructoid wrote “Game Freak and Pokémon Company must take the plunge or go home this year“.
Pokémon Sword and Shield is not up to par. Surely a franchise worth $92 billion can afford to have better-looking trees than those in 1998’s The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. As for the animations, there’s no reason 2003’s Pokémon Colosseum should have better combat animations than Sword and Shield.
On the forums, it’s the same thing. “Can we all agree that GameFreak, as a developer, excels at disappointing fans more than wowing them?“, can we read in particular on Reddit a few years earlier. We accuse a growing ease, a loop of gameplay which struggles to renew itself and to be sufficiently stimulating as well as a technique always too withdrawn. Comments in particular relayed to the release of Sparkling Diamond and Sparkling Pearl. JC Smith, Marketing Director of the Pokémon Company, spoke at the end of 2021 in the columns of Axios Gaming about the conflict between fans’ desires to have a story in their hands more mature adapted and the creative vision of the team: “There’s also a vision of what creators want to deliver, and it’s about finding that delicate balance.“. Anyway, can we consider Masuda responsible for the dissatisfaction of the players? On Twitter, journalist Joe Merrick has a clear opinion on the matter: “No, idiots, Masuda isn’t to blame for anything you don’t like about games. (…) This notion of Masuda and Ishihara as boogeymen who stop all your gambling desires and who are solely responsible for anything you don’t like is an absurd continuation of the constant misinformation and bile spread by youtubers in 2019. Stop it.”
No you idiots, Masuda isn’t to blame for everything you don’t like about the games. No this doesn’t mean that X feature will now be added.
Good lord, be respectful
—Joe Merrick (@JoeMerrick) June 1, 2022
Pokémon Scarlet / Violet, the good news?
Before leaving the nest, Masuda will probably not have missed hard work on Pokémon Scarlet / Violet, just unveiled in pictures this Wednesday, June 1st. These two versions will be the first in the main series to offer a true open world, similar to what we discovered in Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Game Freak also indicates that these games will upset the saga by its openness, and by the richness of its universe. The team also seems to rely heavily on online play beyond trading Pokémon remotely. What, surely, to delight some fans waiting for renewal.
You’ll experience a new style of adventure in a world you can explore freely, at your own pace and in any order you like, regardless of the main storyline. Of course, you will have to develop your Pokémon Trainer skills, but many other discoveries and intrigues await you. Meet a multitude of individuals and Pokémon, and explore the Pokémon universe at your leisure.
Both versions will be available from November 18, 2022 on Nintendo Switch.