"[We] 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."
- The Pokemon Company president Tsunekazu Ishihara.
In the wake of Nintendo president Satoru Iwata's untimely passing earlier this year, many colleagues came forward to share stories of working alongside him at HAL Laboratory and, later, Nintendo proper.
Last week Japanese website 4Gamer published just such a conversation with Pokemon Company chief Tsunekazu Ishihara, and today Siliconera posted a translated version which sheds light on exactly how Iwata helped bring Pokemon to the West -- two years after the first games were released in Japan as Pocket Monsters Red and Green.
"Iwata-san got the source code for Red and Green, and bam, read through it all, then began mapping out a course on how to make a foreign version for it," said Ishihara. "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."
This is chiefly notable because the Pokemon games became hugely popular in the U.S., driving significant sales for Nintendo over multiple generations of hardware and expanding into a multimedia franchise.
Ishihara's recollections suggest that may never have happened without Iwata's direct intervention, and they also elucidate another example of how Iwata often got personally involved in the development of games after he'd been promoted to executive roles.
You can read more of Ishihara's remembrances, including an anecdote about Iwata talking turkey with a Nintendo engineer "from noon until midnight," over on Siliconera.