Most of you probably know Game Freak as the creators of the Pokemon franchise, with over 200 million games sold, it’s one of the most successful gaming franchises of all time. What most people probably don’t know is the other games that Game Freak have made not related to Pokemon. Let’s have a look at some of those now! I’ll also take a look at some of the people who made this all possible! I’ll try to provide links to articles about the games!
Founded on April 26th 1989 (I actually begun writing this back in April…) , Game Freak’s first game was a game for the Famicom called Quinty. But the story of Game Freak goes back even further than that…
The first idea of “Game Freak” came from a video game magazine created in the early 80’s by the founder, Satoshi Tajiri. He was a huge fan of Space Invaders and decided to make his own game magazine, as there wasn’t any other publications around at the time. The magazine was made by hand and distributed among friends. Over time it went from being a hand written magazine made with a photocopier, to one with proper printing and graphics, it ended up being quite popular and one issue even sold over 10,000 copies! From this magazine he got into making games through the help of some of his contributors, they decided to create a company simply for the reason that a lot of the games back then weren’t very good!
Satoshi Tajiri has said openly that some of his creativity and obsessive nature in designing his games comes from his aspergers syndrome. In an interview with Time magazine back in 1999 he stated that he sleeps for 12 hours then stays awake for 24 because he feels he can be more creative working those hours!
Ken Sugimori, another name you might recognise as the Pokemon Artist, joined the company and worked as an artist on most of the games. Apparently, he joined the magazine after finding it in a Doujin (Fan books) shop!
So, the first game that Satoshi and his friends made in their new “Game Freak” company was a NES game called Quinty, or Mendels Palace in the US. It was an action puzzle game. I have not had the chance to play it but from what I’ve read online it seems like a fun little game. The main idea is to push the opponents off a board by running across tiles or cards on the floor.
The creation of Pokemon took six years, during this time, Satoshi also worked on some other games, some for Nintendo such as Mario & Wario and the Yoshi game for NES and GameBoy. As well as some for other companies, such as Pulse Man for the Sega Mega Drive. The next game they made though, was a Super Famicom Game called Jerry Boy. Jerry referring to the name of the main character, it was re-titled in the US as Smart Ball. A sequel was planned but unfortunately never released.
A lot of these early games also have manga adaptations created by Ken Sugimori! As well as one project he worked on called Valkyrie no Bōken Gaiden: Futari no Megami, which is actually an early visual novel type game for windows, made not with Gamefreak, but with Namco… He went on to personally design all of the original 150 pokemon! Theres a cool Ken Sugimori art book avaliable for anyone who’s intrested in his work.
Now onto some of the Nintendo titles they produced while working on Pokemon. First is a NES and Gameboy game simply titled, Yoshi. The game is a very basic puzzle game where the aim is to move mario around a small screen to match up enemies and objects that fall from the sky. If you like up an egg (match the bottm half with the top half) a Yoshi will hatch from it. It’s a very basic puzzle game and to be honest, it gets dull fast. Even so, this was a big step for Game Freak and Nintendo working together.
Magical Tariruuto-Kun was their first forray into developing for a company outside of Nintendo, this was a traditional platformer for the Sega Megadrive. A game I have had the chance to play, I don’t think its an amazing game buts its fun for a while!
After Yoshi, another, much better puzzle game starring Mario was also released, Mario & Wario is a Japan only SFC (Super Famicom) game which used the SNES Mouse to control Mario around a stage. For some reason, Mario has a bucket on his head so you have to use the mouse cursor to remove obstacles and guide Mario on his way through many challenging levels in order ot reach the goal. It’s a fun game and makes great use of the mouse peripheral. The game was actually referenced in the original Red and Blue (Green in Japan) Pokemon games, when the player interacts with the TV in his house at the start, it says “A game with MARIO wearing a bucket on his head!” The bucket on Mario’s head can also be seen as a treasure in Kirby’s Fun Pak / Super Star and as a trophy in Smash Bros Melee!
Their next Non-Nintendo outing was in the form of a futuristic 2D Action Platformer called Pulse Man. It was only available in Japan, however, it had a re-release on the Wii virtual console in all regions so now anyone can play it! There’s many references to Pulseman within the Pokemon games, including Pokemon that are based on Pulseman’s design such as Pawniard and Bisharp, as well as the move Volt Tackle being a reference to Pulsemans signature move in the game.
After their short time with Sega, they went back to Nintendo and worked on a Puzzle game for the SFC called Nontan no Issho: Kuru Kuru Puzzle. The game looks quite similar to Panel De Pon or Tetris Attack. There was also a Gameboy version in production at the same time.
There were two more games that Gamefreak Developed whilst working on the original Pokemon games, they are BUSHI Seiryūden Futari no Yūsya, an RPG for the Super Famicom. And Bazaar de Gosāru no Game de Gosāru , a platformer for the PC Engine. All I can find out about this game is that it has a monkey in it?? Probably the two least well known of all their games.
After these early games, development coninued on Pokemon Red and Blue (Green) until they were completed. It didn’t all go smoothly though, at some point, they were about to go bankrupt and an internal company at Nintendo, Creatures inc. partially bought them out. After the success of Pokemon, Nintendo hired Game Freak to help with their Gameboy Camera project. The Gameboy camera is more than just a digital camera for the gameboy, it also inclused some really fun games, a video editor and a music maker! really advanced for its time despite running on very old and basic hardware! Gamefreak did an amazing job with it!
Strangely, their next game was a PS1 only game, Click Medic, with very little about it online and a Japan only release. It was a medical simulation game kind of like trauma center and actually looks pretty fun with colourful graphics and characters!
After this, Gamefreak became too busy with the success of Pokemon, they contiuned to work on the franchise all the way up until Pokemon Emerald, After this and before Diamond & Pearl, they took some time out to create an experimental game for the GBA. This game was Drill Dozer. A very unique game about drilling. The cart came with a built in rumble feature which made it feel like an actual hand held drill as you were playing. The game is fast and fun and definitely has that classic Gamefreak graphic style, even though it was a huge departure from their normal games.
After that, they went back to coninuing the Pokemon series for DS this time, it wasn’t until 2013 that they decided to take another chance at releasing something completely different. This time it was a strange music rhythm game for the 3DS eShop called Harmoknight.
Before they jumped back into Pokemon, there was one more game, released only in Japan, called SolitiBa which is a horse racing game. Yet another interesting departure for the company… This year they also released Solibata on IOS and Android, marking their first step into the mobile market.
This brings us up to date, with Game Freak just having released Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, is it time for them to take another break and come up with a new original idea? Or would you prefer them to continue making Pokemon games?
Thanks for reading!
If there’s anything I’ve missed out or got wrong, please let me know and i’ll correct it!