Game Freak’s Junichi Masuda was very stressed and had health issues while working on Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire
Which Pokemon games were the most challenging to make? When Game Informer posed that question to Game Freak co-founder and Pokemon director / producer Junichi Masuda, he referred to Ruby and Sapphire.
Masuda first told the magazine:
“With Ruby and Sapphire, the screen got a little longer and it was a different aspect ratio, a lot more colors and sound channels so the tech was improved dramatically. It allowed us to do a lot more and gave us more freedom, but at the same time it made it take a lot longer to do things and was more resource-intensive.”
“After Gold and Silver came out, it was a huge hit around the world, but shortly after everyone was saying, ‘That’s it. The Pokémon fad is over! It’s dead!’ It was a very stressful project, for sure. When we were first developing it, I had the idea in mind that it would be Ruby and Sapphire, and then the next games, including the titles, would be Diamond and Pearl, and in between we would do the remakes, FireRed and LeafGreen, so we could create this structure where you could take the Pokémon from the Kanto region to the Diamond and Pearl games.”
One issue that came up as development started concerned trademarks. It was initially thought that Ruby and Sapphire may not be usable. Masuda also pointed out how it was very stressful at the time due to how Pokemon was being perceived by some.
“At the time, the atmosphere and general thinking was that the Pokémon fad was over and there was huge pressure to prove people wrong. The next time I visited it was all Star Wars. Everyone was saying it was on a downtrend, the fad’s over and I really felt that pressure to make something amazing.”
“I got really stressed out and had to go to the hospital and had some stomach issues and had to get a camera inserted and they didn’t know what it was – very stressful. The night before release I had a dream that it was a complete failure, a total nightmare.”
“We at Game Freak took that as a challenge and said, ‘It’s not dead. We’re going to show you guys you’re wrong!’ The morning after, the day of release, I went into the local shop and saw people lining up to buy it and was extremely relieved. It was close. Super scary at the time.”
Pokemon Ruby and Pokemon Sapphire were actually the first games in the series worked on by Shigeru Ohmori, who went on to direct the 3DS remakes. As opposed to Masuda, he enjoyed the time working on the GBA titles.
Reflecting on how he then went on to lead the way on Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, Ohmori said:
“I kept hearing from Masuda about how hard the original Ruby and Sapphire games were and I kind of had that pressure in mind while creating Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby. But from my perspective, it was a lot of fun to work on them, so I was super motivated to work as the director on the remakes.”