Game Freak on Pokemon Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon – development, new features, and more
A recent issue of Famitsu had a pretty big interview for Pokemon Ultra Sun and Pokemon Ultra Moon. Director Kazumasa Iwao and producer Shigeru Ohmori were present to talk about the big games coming to 3DS this month.
Kazumasa and Ohmori went in-depth about development, new features, and more. There was even some reflection about last year’s Sun/Moon, such as the increase in difficulty for Lana’s Trial.
You can read our full interview summary below.
In what kind of organization structure is the development for the newest game proceeding?
The interview starts with Famitsu asking new director Kazumasa Iwao about his past experience with the Pokemon series. Iwao first became involved with Pokemon from Black/White. After previously working as a planner who created maps, UI, and battle systems, he then worked on Sun/Moon as a battle director.
Shigeru Ohmori has become the producer for Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon, replacing Junichi Masuda. However, it doesn’t mean Masuda isn’t involved with Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon, as he was still be supervising the games.
When Ohmori gave the task of designing battles to Iwao, he was able to do a good job with the new features, such as the Z-Moves and Ultra Beasts. So this time Iwao has been appointed as the director because he can be trusted.
Iwao felt really relieved that Z-Moves have been received well by players. There will of course be some uneasy feelings when they add new features, because they have to balance them with existing ones. They need to take extra caution in not destroying the depth to battles and technical aspects. Iwao felt relieved after seeing that the Z-Moves are being used in the current meta-game.
Famitsu later asked Ohmori about the details of his producer position. Producers don’t get involved on the detailed parts of the creative process, but they’re involved with development by thinking about how to add appeal to make the game played by many more fans, and count how many employees are needed to make sure the development proceeds smoothly. This is the first time Ohmori worked as a producer, so he’s facing the Pokemon series from a perspective different from before.
Famitsu then asked Iwao on how he’s seeing Ohmori’s production method. He said that Ohmori gave requests and advice that are accurate and very easy to understand, especially since Ohmori previously worked as director for Sun/Moon, so he understands the content of the original game.
Being the director of Pokemon, which is one of the world’s top IPs, is of course going to put much pressure on Iwao, especially since it’s his first time working in this position. But in the middle phase of Sun/Moon’s development, when Ohmori, Iwao, and Masuda drank together in an izakaya bar, they said that Iwao should become the director of the next game. Iwao started thinking ‘what should he do when he becomes one’ right after that.
Ohmori is impressed that Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon were developed as how Iwao visualized the two games. He thinks Iwao has the power to include individual features while thinking about the overall picture of the whole project, making it have a good total balance.
Iwao has properly thought about the game’s whole volume, so it should be able to be enjoyed by players from a broad age range. They wouldn’t know the actual results until the games are actually out and played by people out there though.
Famitsu wanted to look back on last year’s Sun/Moon, and asked both top staffers what they think of it right now. Ohmori remembers that the reactions to the characters and storyline were much bigger than what he anticipated. They had so many challenges in changing the system, but Ohmori and Iwao are relieved that they were accepted mostly.
Each Pokemon game has been played by millions of people, so when Famitsu asked whether they had to be resolved in making major changes, Ohmori admitted that it was frightening to change what has been piled up for 20 years. He honestly felt it would be more mentally safe to him if they didn’t change anything. However, as creators, they must have courage when they think there are things that should be changed in order to make the game more interesting. Looking back at one year after Sun/Moon’s release, they think many players are glad as a result.
For example, they changed the usual Gym system to Trials. They think the change of structure from using Trainers to Pokemon as the main roles for solving puzzles is doing well. Since it was their first time doing it though, they weren’t sure whether Totem Pokemon calling out SOS partners would work well until they actually finished the system.
Iwao raised the difficulty by a bit for the second trial, which was why Lana’s Wishiwashi felt more difficult. But he also mentioned some alternate ways to win easily, such as by bringing Paras. He wants users to be at least conscious of the fun of battle tactics. A lot of people complained that this Wishiwashi was too strong, but actually it was even stronger during development.
Ohmori balanced the boss strength so that players would have difficulty if they charge in without thinking, but will have an easy time if they come in with a proper strategy. Because of the newly implemented Z-Moves, he also made enemies stronger in general so that there are more incentives to use Z-Moves.
When asked about the ideas for Z-Move presentations, Iwao drew the storyboards by himself first before designer staff implemented them into the game graphics. The entire team also had “Z-Pose Meetings” which were entirely dedicated to deciding the poses.
Iwao didn’t have any hardships and had much fun in deciding the poses, which are distinguished by the Pokemon type. But it was a bit difficult to differentiate between Rock and Ground types since their motifs are quite similar.