The third generation of Pokémon games marked the series’ first appearance on the GameBoy Advance, but it also came at a point where the Pokémon brand was beginning to die down.
According to a recent interview with Game Freak co-founder Junichi Masuda, creating a whole new Pokémon adventure was such a difficult experience that it took a toll on the director’s physical health.
Releasing in 2003 to impressive sales figures and lasting praise, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire was a great step for the franchise that proved that the Pokémon brand wasn’t going away. Thanks to an increase in screen size, as well as a lot more colors and sound channels to work with, the developer was able to do a lot more with the game than it could with previous titles, but it also took far longer to make changes.
The biggest issue wasn’t the development however, it was the question of whether there was a demand for a new generation of Pokémon.
“After Gold and Silver came out, it was a huge hit around the world, but shortly after everyone was saying, ‘That’s it. The Pokémon fad is over! It’s dead!’ It was a very stressful project, for sure.”
Masuda goes on to say that there was a huge amount of pressure to prove the world wrong, as toy stores were beginning to abandon their old Nintendo merchandise in favor of Star Wars products. To further the issues, trademark research suggested that Game Freak would not be able to publish the game under the names Ruby and Sapphire, uprooting the developer’s plans completely.
“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.”
Despite the stress-induced hospital trip, Masuda continued work on the upcoming games, finally releasing them after getting the all-clear on the names Ruby and Sapphire. The morning after release, the Game Freak co-founder went into his local shop and saw eager fans lining up to get their copies of the games, feeling a tremendous sense of relief. Since then, Ruby and Sapphire have become so popular that they received a long-requested remaster on the 3DS.
The Pokémon in the third generation are also so loved by fans that their inclusion in worldwide phenomenon Pokémon GO is being eagerly awaited by the AR title’s player-base. Despite how difficult the production of Ruby and Sapphire was, it’s clear that the Pokemon franchise lives on to this day because of the quality of the Game Boy Advance generation, proving that Game Freak didn’t let the stress get to it too much while developing another esteemed Pokémon game.