Developed by Game Freak and published by Nintendo, the Pokémon series began in Japan in 1996, and features several species of creatures called "Pokémon" that players, called "trainers", are encouraged to capture, train, and use to battle other players' Pokémon or interact with the game's world. Pikachu was one of several different Pokémon designs conceived by Game Freak's character development team. Artist Atsuko Nishida is credited as the main person behind Pikachu's design, which was later finalized by artist Ken Sugimori. According to series producer Satoshi Tajiri, the idea of the name came from a mouselike animal called pika and then derived from a combination of two Japanese sounds: pika, a sound an electric spark makes, and chu, a sound a mouse makes. Despite its name's origins, however, Nishida based Pikachu's generation 1 design, especially its cheeks, on squirrels. Developer Junichi Masuda noted Pikachu's name as one of the most difficult to create, due to an effort to make it appealing to both Japanese and American audiences.
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