It's long been rumored that a Game Freak employee served as the inspiration for Pokémon's Snorlax character, an extremely large pocket monster that only really likes to eat and sleep. However, it's a rumor no more. In a recent interview, Pokémon art director Ken Sugimori revealed that planner Koji Nishino served as the basis for the now iconic character.
Snorlax (whose English name comes from combining the terms "snore" and "relax") debuted in the very first Pokémon role-playing games for Game Boy back in 1996. He instantly became a fan favorite character, and has become a series staple ever since. Weighing over 1,000 pounds, the pocket monster serves as an early hurdle that blocks the player's way in two of Red and Blue's routes and can only be awakened by using a Poké Flute. His popularity even inspired another pocket monster called Munchlax to serve as its pre-evolved form, and he's appeared in plenty of merchandise and anime over the years. And now, players finally know who inspired his creation.
Ken Sugimori told Japanese newspaper Yomiuri (translation via Kotaku), "[Nishino], with [his huge] appearance, was the model for the Snorlax Pokémon. Though, he’s abnormally fussy about cute things." This confirmation comes after years of speculation as rumors stated the Japanese name of Snorlax (Kabigon) was based on Nishino's nickname, which he received due to a reputation that he would eat food even if it was moldy. In the past, Nishino has even been quoted as saying that Snorlax is like a kid to him, so the hints have definitely been out in the open for awhile.
These sort of gaming urban legends tend to pop up surrounding popular titles, and oftentimes, they wind up being more fiction than fact. That's why it's great to see one of the true instances, such as Snorlax being based upon a real Game Freak employee, receive confirmation several years after the fact. Nishino still works for the company and has had an important role for the series since its inception in the mid 1990s, so there's a chance he can inspire yet another Pokémon character down the line.
Nishino and Game Freak are currently working on several new Pokémon titles for Nintendo Switch, which are Pokémon: Let's Go Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee!, which are in co-development with Pokémon Go studio Niantic and will serve as an entry level game into the series once it is released in November of this year. Another game is a core Pokémon title slated to arrive in 2019.