Late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata's involvement in the Pokemon series is widely known but it seems the franchise, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in February, may never have even made it outside Japan without his efforts.
Siliconera has translated a recent 4Gamer interview with Pokemon Company president and CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara in which he discusses who Iwata, then president of HAL Laboratories, helped bring Pokemon to the West.
At the time Game Freak had quite limited resources, which caused a problem for the developer. "On top of former [Nintendo president Hiroshi] Yamauchi-san’s unconditional command of overseas development, he was also there instructing us to 'hurry up and make the next title'," Ishihara said. "However, we only saw one possible choice at the time, and decided to focus our attention on Gold and Silver rather than an English version, and thought 'overseas development is just a dream within a dream,' and gave up on that idea. But that’s where one man raised his hand—HAL Laboratory’s president Iwata."
Iwata got the source code for Red and Green, read it in its entirety, and began planning for overseas development.
Ishihara continued, "Iwata-san first did the analysis, and with those instructions, Nintendo’s Murakawa-san [Teruki Murakawa, then 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."
The original Pokemon games, including Red, Blue, Yellow, and Green – which was never released outside Japan – will be made available through the eShop's Virtual Console on February 27th.