New Pokemon RPGs come out clockwork almost every year, which may lead you believe the team at Game Freak doesn’t get particularly stressed about making them. Turns out that definitely isn’t the case – in fact, one entry in the series sent longtime Pokemon designer Junichi Masuda to the hospital.
Masuda was the director of Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, and, according to him, it was by far the most challenging generation to produce. At the time, the Pokemon fad was seemingly fizzling out, the pressure keep it going was immense, and Masuda legitimately thought Ruby and Sapphire would fail.
"After Gold and Silver came out, it was a huge hit around the world, but shortly after everyone was saying, 'That’s it. The Pokemon fad is over! It’s dead!' The atmosphere and general thinking was that the Pokémon fad was over and there was huge pressure to prove people wrong. 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 [of Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire] I had a dream that it was a complete failure, a total nightmare. 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."
“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!’ 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.”
Between the original GBA version and the 3DS remake, Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire have sold over 28 million copies, so I suppose all that stress was worth it! Also, kind of unnecessary – I have a feeling Masuda has been a little more chill since.