4Gamer.net recently went to interview Tsunekazu Ishihara (CEO of The Pokémon Company), Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka, Satoshi Mitsuhara (President and COO of HAL Laboratory) and Nobuo Kawakami (President and Representative Director). The topic of that interview was Satoru Iwata, who passed away in July.
In this interview, Tsunekazu Ishihara talks about how Satoru Iwata was involved in the loalisation of the very first Pokémon games, back in 1998 (when he was still President of HAL Laboratory). It’s not something that isn’t widely known, though it’s nothing really new for Pokémon experts. Game Freak was already working on Pokémon Gold / Silver at that time, and they didn’t really have anyone to spare for making localised versions of the original.
In fact, they never even thought of releasing the games outside Japan until Hiroshi Yamauchi told them to launch them in America. But at the same time, he was also telling them to hurry up and make the sequel, which left them in a rather sticky situation. In the end, Game Freak chose to focus on Pokémon Gold / Silver, and basically gave up on the localisation of Pokémon Red / Blue.
That’s where Satoru Iwata stepped in: he looked at the game code, and began making plans for a loalised version of Pokémon Red / Green. Nobuo Kawakami found that bit rather amusing, because code analysis is definitely not something the president of a company would do.
Here’s what happened next:
Iwata-san first did the analysis, and with those instructions, Nintendo’s Murakawa-san [Assistant Department Manager of the plan production headquarters] went on to work on its localization. Murakawa was an engineer in the hardware field, but one day he was told by his superior to “go do an employment examination for the project.” This basically meant to go visit Iwata-san and for Murakawa to carefully examine and see if he could accomplish the work himself. So he stepped into Hal Laboratory, and you had Iwata-san there telling Murakawa-san about all the work he has done up until then. They say that the talk ended up lasting from noon until midnight.
In other words: the localisation of the very first Pokémon games may never have happened without the help of Satoru Iwata. It’s not the only time he stepped in and “saved the day”: he also helped debug Super Smash Bros. Melee, helped with planning for Pokémon Stadium, and more.