An interview with Game Freak’s Junichi Masuda has revealed that Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire for the Game Boy Advance were the most stressful games in the series to make. The interview, carried out by Game Informer, is part of the publication’s in-depth coverage of the Pokemon series, including its variety of spin-offs, with the Game Freak staff.
Game Informer asked Masuda, renowned director and composer for the Pokemon series, which game he thought was the most difficult for him to make. His answer was Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire and for good reason. During production, Masuda reportedly suffered from such severe stress that it caused him physical illness.
“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.”
Masuda cited a number of reasons for his stress levels, one of them being entirely technical. The release of Ruby and Sapphire was set for the Game Boy Advance, and as Masuda explained, was quite the jump in technology. The screen size had increased, it could display more colours, and the number of sound channels available from the device had increased too. Masuda said it gave them a lot more freedom, but it meant the work took longer and was more resource intensive as they tried to make the most of the new technology.
The biggest reason though, according to Masuda, was that the days of Pokemon were on the decline. The Gold and Silver games had been a big hit but, between the release of Generations 2 and 3, there were a lot of worries on the market that the public was losing interest in the series. Toy stores had begun to stop selling merchandise and was something the Pokemon director had seen in action. He said:
“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.
“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. “