Pokémon and Smash [Masuda x Sakurai]


The following two excerpts are from the latest Nintendo Dream issue, October 2016. In this feature, Masahiro Sakurai interviews Yuji Horii and Junichi Masuda about Dragon Quest and Pokémon. The interview is quite long, but I wanted to provide official ‘SG translations’ for the sections directly relating to Smash. Special thanks to Soma and SutaMen for revising these translations! (It’s the same issue with the Dragon Quest for NX information).

Sakurai: I thought it’d be good if we could release Smash in North America and Europe at the same time, but it turned out to be very difficult because of the voices for individual Pokémon.
Masuda: The voices for Pokémon?
Sakurai: That’s right. Unlike the mainline games, Smash uses the voices from the anime, and in Europe the same Pokémon will have a different voice actor in each country.
Horii: Is that so?
Sakurai: Since there were so many, I couldn’t fit them all in…
Masuda: And you needed to have all the voice actors record their lines…
Sakurai: So I had to wait for all the recordings to come back…
Masuda: That’s pretty difficult. But Pikachu, at least, shares the same voice actor across the world.
Sakurai: Even in all versions of the anime, it’s Ikue Ōtani, right?
Masuda: That’s right. Pikachu is the only Pokémon that’s like that. We did that so the name “Pikachu” would be universal in every region of the world.

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In this section, the three of them are discussing various spin off games to Dragon Quest and Pokémon.

Masuda: While discussing how I approached the design of Pokémon [in Pokémon Scramble], I started with the thought of designing them like wind up toys. I made a similar remark during development. I was very fond of the idea.
Sakurai: Having gameplay centered around gaining stronger and stronger toys is different from the core series. In addition there’s the Mystery Dungeon series where Pokémon can talk in the game…. Ah, speaking of talking Pokémon, there’s Detective Pikachu. I was very surprised about that.
Masuda: It was surprising. I decided myself that if Pikachu were to become a detective, he’d speak with an old man voice [laughs].
Sakurai: I thought to myself, “Is this really allowed…” Because while I was working on Smash, there were very stringent restrictions on how I could design Pokémon.

Everyone: [laughs] Masuda: I think that’s a natural reaction to seeing Detective Pikachu [laughs]. We had a lot of restrictions in place for Pikachu. For a long time.
Sakurai: According to the character license, Pikachu couldn’t speak and he couldn’t wear any clothing.
Masuda:That’s right. I felt that Pikachu as a character become very established and entrenched over the course of these 20 years. So I thought that it was okay to loosen up on some of those restrictions. For example, Pikachu can wear clothes now because Pikachu is so recognizable, and it’s obvious that it’s Pikachu even with clothing on.
Sakurai: I see. So what you’re saying is that even though Pikachu is wearing clothes, most people will understand that’s not his true form, so to speak. It’s just a temporary phase.
Masuda: That’s right. And that’s the same reason why Detective Pikachu wears a hat. So now, even if Pikachu says (in an old man voice) “Hey! Sakurai!”…

Everyone: [laughs] Masuda: I think people will think, “Man, Pikachu sure has changed.”
Horii: It feels like there’s a different person inside of the Pikachu, though [laughs].
Sakurai: But, if you think about it, there have been many individual Pikachus.
Masuda: That’s right. I think it’s good to see differences with Pikachu. Not all of the Pikachus need to make that cute roar.
Sakurai: Pikachu has become quite the interesting character.
Masuda: It’s been 20 years since Pikachu was born, so I want to introduce a new style and broaden its image. However, I think keeping that balance is pretty difficult, because I need to weigh protecting the old image against staying on the offensive and creating new, fresh takes on the character.

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  1. I find it peculiar that Sakurai didn’t mention Pikachu’s hats in Smash Bros. when he brought up Pikachu’s license disallowing clothing on the character. I’d imagine that an exception was made for Pikachu’s hats, since it’s probable that the license forbade Sakurai from drastically altering Pikachu’s color scheme for its alternate costumes.

    1. You’re probably right that it was some sort of compromise. The Pokemon Company most likely told Sakurai that Pikachu must be yellow, and Jigglypuff must be pink, but Sakurai probably explained that there had to be a way to differentiate different teams with the same character. Since Pikachu’s hats and Jigglypuff’s accessories don’t cover much of the character, they are still recognizable as their characters. I’m guessing the rules got slightly more lax with characters like Mewtwo or Charizard, since they have different colors.

  2. “Because while I was working on Smash, there were very stringent restrictions on how I could design Pokémon.”

    Didn’t he say a while back that the Pokemon Company wasn’t that strict when it came to dealing with Pokemon in Smash?

  3. >We did that so the name “Pikachu” would be universal in every region of the world.

    *Insert rant about how Pokemon Sun/Moon effectively changed the Cantonese pronunciation of Pikachu into Pikayau here*

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