There are many possible forms the game could take – it could be some kind of extended cut port of Pokémon Sun and Moon, it could be an entirely new sequel, or it could be a side release such as PokkenTournament, which would fall in line with Nintendo’s Pokémon release approach for consoles such as Gamecube.
The scenario that’s proving most popular among theorists is that Pokémon Stars will be a port of the 3DS Sun and Moon titles, essentially bringing these games over to the newer console with some new features added (think of it as being the Pokémon Yellow to Sun and Moon's Red and Blue. We’d posit that Eclipse makes more sense as a title than Stars, but that’s besides the point.
We’ve already laid out exactly why we think the mainline Nintendo 3DS titles would be well-suited to Nintendo’s newest console but beyond our staunch belief that it simply makes sense, there’s been an ever-growing number of rumors that point to the fact that it’s what we’re going to get.
Here we've laid out exactly what those rumors are, and we've also thrown in a few things we'd like to see from the first Pokémon Nintendo Switch title.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The much-rumored debut of the Pokémon franchise on Nintendo Switch.
- When can I play it? There's no release date or even a confirmation of the game's existence but rumors point to a mid-2017 reveal with a late 2017 to mid-2018 release.
- What can I play it on? Nintendo Switch of course!
The story so far
There's been no final confirmation or game reveal from either Game Freak or the Pokémon Company but over the past year there have been several reports and interviews that suggest it's only a matter of time.
Main series producer, Junichi Masuda, doesn’t discount it and Pokémon Company CEO confirms.
In September 2016, back when the Switch was still known as the NX, Pokémon Company CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara confirmed in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the company would develop games for the console.
Later in the year, Pokémon series producer, Junichi Masuda, was less enthusiastic with his commitment to Switch support. However, he did not discount that mainline Pokémon titles were a possibility for the Switch, stating that he was waiting for the console to be released to market to determine whether or not it would benefit from Pokémon .
Then came the Eurogamer report
Adding fuel to the rumor fire, Eurogamer published a report late last year that said multiple sources had confirmed a new version of Pokémon Sun and Moon was being developed for the Switch under the code named Pokémon Stars.
According to the report, this third title was developed alongside Sun and Moon for 3DS and already had feature working versions of Sun and Moon content.
Development was said to be slowed down in the run up to the launch of the 3DS titles but after their release would resume and work would begin on new features.
The report finished up by stating that though the game had initially been slotted for a Summer 2017 release, it was then pushed to later in the year.
Then came the hiring call
Just after the Switch’s release in March of this year, Game Freak re-started the rumor mill by posting job ads on Indeed Japan stating that they were looking to temporarily hire people capable of creating character models on machines like the Wii U and PlayStation Vita for a new entry in an RPG series which is “popular on a global scale.”
Now, there was no direct mention of Pokémon in this listing but it does seem like the most likely scenario considering Game Freak doesn’t have many RPG franchises under its belt that would fall into this globally popular category.
What we'd like to see
That's everything we know. Now let's get into the things we'd love to see from the rumored game.
Better graphics and animations
Game Freak pushed the Nintendo 3DS to its absolute limits with Pokémon Sun and Moon (to the point where 3D support had to be removed). That means Game Freak is ready to move beyond the limitations of the 3DS and we’d fully expect to see graphical advancements in the Nintendo Switch version.
The graphics and animations in Sun and Moon were already excellent, definitely the best we’ve seen so far from a Pokémon game, but moving to Nintendo Switch could very well allow for sharper character and environment models and much more expressive character faces.
A well-translated UI
For a long time now, the Pokémon games have been developed for Nintendo’s DS handhelds which has given developers two screens over which to spread the game’s UI. This has resulted in arguably one of the most well-designed UIs in video games with Game Freak making the most of the space to put interactive menus on the bottom touchscreen of the DS consoles.
The Nintendo Switch, however, only uses one screen which would mean Game Freak would have to drastically rethink its UI approach and there’s a risk it wouldn’t work quite as seamlessly. Of course, the company had to develop single screen UIs for Pokémon before the release of the DS but we’re not sure we’d like to return to this more crammed in design.
The fact that the Switch has a touchscreen could possibly help to balance matters, though, as it would allow for more immediate interaction rather than a return to using the directional pad to scroll through options. There's also room for interesting innovations using the console's modular controllers.
A mainline title
Though the Pokémon Company has confirmed that it’s planning to release a title for the Nintendo Switch, this doesn’t guarantee a mainline title.
It’s actually reasonably likely that we’ll see a side title such as Pokken Tournament released on the new console in addition to, if not instead of, a mainline title. We’d really rather it was the former rather than the latter but it’s hard to ignore the fact that it’d be much easier to port Pokken Tournament to Nintendo Switch quickly than Sun and Moon.
Traditionally, Nintendo has used its home consoles for Pokémon games such as Stadium, Snap and Pokken Tournament and kept its mainline titles on handheld devices.
The Switch presents an interesting problem, though, because it’s both a home and handheld console. It’s basically a console that allows Game Freak to retain the player connectivity offered by handhelds while accessing overcoming the graphical and processing limitations of the 3DS.
We think the most likely scenario is that we’ll see a side Pokémon title released on Switch before we see any kind of new mainline game, but that we will see one eventually.
This mainline title, code named Pokémon Stars, is likely to be a re-imagining of Sun and Moon in the vein of Pokémon Yellow, Crystal or Platinum rather than a direct sequel like Black and White 2.
Admittedly, Pokémon Sun and Moon’s story was pretty well set up for some kind of sequel. There were many interesting character threads left to follow and it’d be easy for a new character to encounter these people so that the player can discover what paths they’ve taken.
But at the moment it’s probably best to take the port with extended features approach as it’d be the perfect way to draw in the new Switch audience who haven’t played Sun and Moon before then releasing a direct sequel.
Make good use of the Festival Plaza
The Festival Plaza was an odd addition to Sun and Moon. It felt strangely separate from the main game and wasn’t a particularly good use of online features. This could completely change with the Switch. The plaza could become the perfect place for players to meet up and the LAN party capabilities of the Switch could see Festival Plaza become the place where an eSports community takes off.
While most people say they’re not sure they can handle any more Pokémon and that they stopped paying attention after the original 150, we just want to see more. The new setting in Pokémon Sun and Moon brought in interesting and fun Alolan variations on Pokémon we already know and love so if we can’t get any more completely new creatures, we’d love to see a few more instances of this.
Make sure you come to us for the latest news and updates on Pokémon Stars as we'll be updating this page as and when it happens.