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What was Game Freak before creating Pokemon? The curious story that maybe you don’t know

Game Freak it is today one of the best known video game developers of the entire world. This Japanese company is in charge of producing, since 1996, the games of the saga pokemon for the various Nintendo consoles. However, the reality is that Game Freak did not begin his career in the industry reaping successes with its pocket monsters, no, that would happen a few years later after its foundation…

Originally Game Freak was not even a company dedicated to the creation of video games. Don’t you know his curious story? So keep reading us because next we are going to recount how the modest beginnings were of Game Freak and how it became what it is today.


Game Freak was initially a video game magazine

To talk about the origins of Game Freak we have to go back more than four decades in time, towards 80’s. Specifically, we must go back to the period that covers from 1981 to 1986, since it was in these years when the name of Game Freak appeared. for the first time in the world, and no, it didn’t do it as a video game company. Really back in those Game Freak days it was a print magazine specialized in video game press and self-published by Satoshi Tajiri.


Tajiri (born in Tokyo in 1965), the one who would later be the father and creator from the series ‘Pokmon’as a teenager he was a great fan of arcade rooms who loved to spend his free time in them. In the year 81 he began to self-publish your own fanzine hand written. In these publications he especially focused on the arcade game scene that he liked so much, offering strategies to help the other players and showing different easter eggs or easter egg.


Ken Sugimoridesigner of the first Pokemon, discovered the Game Freak magazine and soon start collaborating with Satoshi Tajiri.

Over time, one of the issues of the magazine It will end up coming into the hands of Ken Sugimori in a shop dojinshi. Sugimori (who years later would be the designer of the first 151 pokemon) was an illustrator and manga artist who shared the same passion as Tajiri for the medium of video games, so offered to collaborate in the publication of future issues of the magazine adding illustrations. Little by little, the bulletin continued to take shape and be published until the year 1986.


Mendel Palacethe first Game Freak game

The true passion of Satoshi Tajiri and his childhood dream always had been designing video games (In fact, despite what a bad student he had been, he had a technical degree in electronics and computer science). As more contributors came to Game Freak’s magazine, both he and Sugimori realized that They wanted to undertake the development of their own gamesbut at that time they were just a small group of fans who didn’t think they could publish any arcade games.

Nevertheless, Everything changed with the arrival of the NES console. of Nintendo and its growing popularity (machine known as famicom in Japan). “When we first decided that we wanted to make a game for the Famicom, it was when we started developing ‘Quinty’ (‘Mendel Palace’ in the US), and we were true indies at the timeremembered Junichi Masudaone of the co-founders of Game Freak and composer in the saga ‘Pokmon’in an interview for gameinformer a few years ago.


Mendel Palace, the first Game Freak game

“When we started making the game, actually we did not have any official development teamMasuda explained. “so we had to hack the NES and figure out how it worked so we could develop ourselves without the official Nintendo toolkit”.

“Only we were friends doing a hobby while we build that game”recalls Junichi Masuda of the development of Mendel Palace.


Finally Mendel Palace saw the light in 1989. It was a puzzle game in which, curiously, Nintendo was not interested first of all. This is because Game Freak was not a formal development company at the time. Tajiri wanted to close a deal with namco to distribute the game, but they told him that they could not make a contract with an individual, but rather they must form a company first. “So we made the decision to form the Game Freak company”and so the magazine officially became a video game company and Mendel Palace It was distributed by Namco for the NES in Japan and by Hudson Soft in the US.

the germ of ‘Pokmon’

The germ of Pok games

After the publication of its first game, and with the recent release of the gameboy portable from Nintendo, began to born a new idea in the head of Satoshi Tajiri. He was 1990 and the designer had felt inspired by wire links of the portable, which could allow players to exchange a series of imaginary creatures with each other to collect them all; These beings will receive the name of Pocket Monsters (either pokemon).


Tajiri had grown up as a child in Machidaan area that in its infancy still maintained a rural atmosphere. Cro liked to collect insects, but as the years passed and Japan’s urban areas spread, habitats for hunting insects were lost. By the early 1990s, Tajiri felt that the children now played more at home instead of outside, hence the germ that would give life to ‘Pokmon’: a game that will consist of capturing virtual pocket creatures on the Game Boy.


Initially Nintendo did not understand the project ‘Pokmon’ and did not want to financially support the development of the game. However, Miyamoto was fascinated for the proposal and gave advice to Tajiri and his team.

But far from what it may seem, when Tajiri presented his idea to Nintendo, the company did not quite understand it. They did not feel great enthusiasm, except for Shigeru Miyamoto that he did see potential in the proposal. Good old Miyamoto would serve as project adviser in the coming years, contributing different ideas, such as creating cartridges with different exclusive Pokemon for each one since that will promote the commercial aspect. But ‘Pokmon’ It would take a while to see light at the end of the tunnel.


The early years of Game Freak before ‘Pokmon’

Game Freak believes in the potential of ‘Pokmon’and that led them to working quietly on this project for six years. Unfortunately for them Nintendo does not write contracts during that time to carry out this idea and for this reason, Junichi Masuda remembers: “The feeling at the time was not that we got a deal with them […]. We were just developing it on our own.”. In those years, Game Freak I had to survive as it was. The machine was not going to stop, so now that they were a small company they had to make games.

The new titles they were not long in coming. In 1991 published two works, on the one hand they worked with Sony to create ‘Smart Ball’ on SNES, a platform game, and on the other hand they collaborated directly with Nintendo on one of your IPs. This first commission resulted in the game ‘Yoshi’a falling block puzzle game in which players have to match images to make family enemies of the franchise ‘Super Mario’.


Yoshi puzzle game developed by Game Freak

“It was really successful”Masuda commented. “So we formed that relationship and we got along very well and we kept the development units”. This led them to strengthen ties with Nintendo and with geniuses of the time like Miyamoto or the late Gunpei Yokoi (creator of ‘Kid Icarus’ and ‘Metroid’).


These games will follow ‘Magical Taruruto-kun’ in 1992 (Sega Mega Drive), ‘Mario & Wario’ in 1993 (SNES) and finally in 1994, ‘Nontan to Issho: KuruKuru Puzzle’ (Game Boy, SNES) and ‘Pulseman’ (Mega Drive).

Early Game Freak games before Pok

For end of the year 95Game Freak had achieved finish the development of the first games of ‘Pokmon’: pokemon red and pokemon green in Japan. The first versions were released in February 1996 in the country and, after a slow start, they began to sell at a good pace. the rest is history. The most successful franchise in the world of video games was born and was going to destroy with everything in its path.


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