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Filed under: Straight from the Source (Interview)

Straight from the Source: Game Freak (Pokemon)

eigotaku and PushDustin sat down with Game Freak to discuss the Nintendo Switch and the company!

Two representatives from Game Freak took part in this interview.

Masayuki Onoue (Director) and Hitomi Ogawa (Designer).


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*Special thanks to Ollie Jameson from Minus World for his help with transcribing this interview!
*Special thanks to Soma from Source Gaming who ensured accuracy with the translations. 

This is part of our BitSumit coverage! We still have one more interview coming from BitSummit, so please subscribe to us on Twitter. You can see our previous interviews by checking out the BitSummit Category on this site!

What was the main inspiration for Giga Wrecker?

Masayuki Onoue: We wanted to start off with an action game that you can create and break things in. We asked people within the company for ideas for a new game, and this was one of the ideas that came up.

Tembo The Badass Elephant was a very bizarre and fun game. How did you get the idea of making a game about a “war veteran” elephant?

Masayuki Onoue: I was a programmer on that project. The idea was part of an entrepreneurial program within the company where anyone could raise their hand and start a project, developing anything that they want. The caveat is that we have to do everything – promotion, development, everything. That’s why we’re here today. We don’t have experience in promotion, but we’re trying it out. This is our fourth project in the Gear program within the company.

So that’s Tembo and Giga Wrecker?

Masayuki Onoe: That’s the last two. The first one was Harmoknight, and after was Pocket Card Jockey. The last two games started together, but Tembo came out first.


It must be very exciting, having a think-tank of all of these ideas and projects. Do you share a lot of these ideas within the company and exchange ideas?

Masayuki Onoe: It may not have been as much as you would think. There’s not a lot of communication between the programmers and the designers. The programmers work on system building and the underlying logic, and the designers are more graphically orientated, so there may not actually be as much cross-pollination between those groups. It also depends on who started the project – if it was a programmer, then you have more of a logic-based concept.


What has your exposure been to the Nintendo Switch? Have you used it and what are your thoughts on it?

Hitomi Ogawa: I really like the home screen, the movement of each of the UI elements and the sound effects that play when you press each button. The UI, from a designer’s point of view, is very impressive.


Are there any particular features of the Switch – or any other console – that have attracted you when coming up with project ideas?

Hitomi Ogawa: During development, we actually didn’t have any knowledge of the Switch’s features. After release, we got to play around with it a bit, and I think Giga Wrecker could make good use of the HD rumble.

Masayuki Onoe: You can split the controller into the two Joy-cons, so we could make it so that you can collect debris using the motion controls. Also, if we could work in having the game switch between different modes based on whether it’s in portable or home console mode, that could be fun. But I haven’t thought of anything specifically.


What made you decide to release the game on PS4 and other consoles besides those made by Nintendo? Was it just for a new experience?

Masayuki Onoe: We did want to do it for the challenge, instead of just continually releasing for Nintendo platforms.


Are you trying to make sure people know Game Freak as a company not just for Pokémon, but as a game company?

Masayuki Onoe: Yes. Exactly.

I’d like to ask about how involved Game Freak was in bringing various characters to Super Smash Bros.

Masayuki Onoe: Because I’m a programmer, I don’t know!

Hitomi Ogawa: [ She says she doesn’t know as well but I can’t make out what she says in particular]


What does being “indie” mean to you?

Masayuki Onoe: We’re worried about whether or not the games Game Freak put out will be considered indie or not!


It’s interesting, because Game Freak’s connection with Nintendo doesn’t seem very “indie,” but it feels like the smaller, internal projects like ‘Giga Wrecker’ have that feeling, especially with such an organic way of coming up with ideas.

Masayuki Onoe: Our relationship with Nintendo certainly isn’t “indie.” But I do think these games we’re making now are very indie, and they’re developed in that style. Brainstorming a bunch of ideas and then picking one and working on it, and just making a game that we want to make, is pretty indie, I think. Having that idea and making it into a game is what I think of as being indie.


Ubisoft, a European developer, are doing a similar thing with triple-A projects such as Assassin’s Creed alongside smaller projects like Child of Light. It’s all under the same umbrella, but there’s a ‘free’ philosophy to how the games are made.

Masayuki Onoe: Just as one example, when I play the games that Nippon Ichi has released, I can see the fun in that and get an individual sense.

  1. I would call Game Freak an Indie publisher when it comes to Pocket Card Jockey and Giga Wrecker, but not with Harmoknight and Tembo. I beleive I’ve cavitched about this before, but indie simply means “without any assistance from a larger publisher.” Nintendo had some say in Harmoknight as they were the global publishers of that game, and Tembo had marketting and localization help from Sega (also of note: Tembo was directed by a non-Japanese man, James Turner; i just find that interesting). Child of Light is, again, an “Art House,” or perhaps sticking closer to marketing terminologies, a “Single-A Game.” It’s a smaller team working within a MASSIVE studio.

    Zeebor on June 6 |
    • James Turner, yep! He was also the director for HarmoKnight. That Western cartoon-esque art from both games is all his work. He’s also designed nearly a dozen Pokémon at this point, too.

      tokotamer on June 11 |