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Pokemon developer: Original games were nearly wiped out in computer crash

Pikachu, Charmander and company were nearly Poke-gone.

Pikachus Parade At Yokohama's Summer Festival
Pikachu march in Yokohama's Summer Festival in Japan, in August.
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As Pokemon Red and Blue turn 20 in the US on Friday, developer Game Freak is revealing how close it came to losing all the data before the Nintendo Game Boy classics were finished.

Junichi Masuda, who worked as a composer and programmer on the original games and is now one of Game Freak's directors, told Polygon about a nasty computer crash that nearly resulted in all their work being lost after four years of development, in a piece cited by Nintendo Life.

The team was using Sun Sparcstation 1 computers, running Unix, to make the game, and the machines were prone to crashing.

"We had a really bad crash that ... we didn't know how to recover the computer from. That had all of the data for the game, all of the Pokemon, the main character and everything. It really felt like, "Oh my God, if we can't recover this data, we're finished here'," he said.

"I just remember doing a lot of different research. I called the company that I used to work for, seeing if they had any advice to recover the data."

Masuda turned to an internet service provider for advice and read English language books (due a lack of information in Japanese) on the Unix machines. He and his colleagues ultimately solved the problem.

"That was like the most nerve-racking moment, I think, in development," he said.

After overcoming this challenge, Pokemon Red and Green came out in Japan on Feb. 27, 1996. Blue, an enhanced version came out that October, and replaced Green for the US release on Sept. 28, 1998. The games hit Australia on Oct. 23 and Europe on Oct. 5, 1999.

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These games sold 31.3 million copies, and the franchise as a whole has sold 227.6 million copies, and mobile spinoff Pokemon Go just hit $2 billion in revenue.

The series' next major release, Pokemon Let's Go, is coming to Nintendo Switch on Nov. 16, and Nintendo unveiled its limited-edition console bundles earlier this month.