Update: Game Freak has revealed that Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon will be the last titles in the Pokemon franchise to come to the handheld DS line, strongly suggesting that any future core games will be exclusively available on the Nintendo Switch and could very well take players away from Alola. 

In a recent interview with IGN, the director of Game Freak, Shigeru Ohmori, said that the company has pushed the 3DS to its limits and achieved all it can on the platform:

“When we were making Pokemon X and Y, we really were trying to push the 3DS system to its absolute limits – which is what we thought we’d done. But when Sun and Moon came around, we completely redesigned the system, and actually ended up pushing the 3DS even further to what we thought was the most we could draw out of it.”

It makes sense that the developer is now looking to move away from the console given that staying with it will only hinder advancements in the series. 

“With Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon we’ve tried to eke that out more and really, really push the system to its absolute limits,” Ohmori said, “and we’re now feeling that perhaps this is the maximum of what we can get out. So we’re really treating Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon as the culmination of our work with the 3DS system.”

Original article continues below…

Though there’s been no official confirmation that a game explicitly called Pokémon Stars is coming to the Nintendo Switch, we do know that a Pokémon game is coming to the console in the next couple of years. 

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, at the very least we know it’s going to be a mainline addition and not just another side title like Pokken Tournament. 

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. 

There is, however, the release of Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon to consider. These were swan song for Pokemon on the Nintendo 3DS and they extended the story of Sun and Moon in an almost-sequel manner. Would it be worth continuing the Alola story to Switch or will Game Freak commemorate a new console with a brand new region and generation. 

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 now confirmed debut of the Pokémon franchise on Nintendo Switch.
  • When can I play it? It’ll be 2018 at the earliest
  • What can I play it on? Nintendo Switch of course!

Release date

We don’t have any kind of solid release date for Pokemon on Nintendo Switch but Nintendo’s Q1 financial reports have given us a window at the very least. A very wide open window. 

In the company’s list of upcoming games it has Pokemon RPG for Nintendo Switch listed as due for release in ‘2018 or later’. Nintendo did say during E3 that the earliest we could expect to see the game was 2018 so the fact that 2018 is still being entertained as a release year suggests development for the game is progressing at a steady rate but things are probably too early to commit to 2018 definitely.

There’s no denying it’d make a great release for the Christmas period in 2018, though. 

The story so far

CEO of the Pokemon Company publicly puts faith in the Switch

In an interview with Bloomberg, The Pokemon Company’s CEO, Tsunekazu Ishihara has said that while he originally thought the Nintendo Switch wouldn’t be a success, he now realizes his error. 

Ishihara said that he told Nintendo that in the age of the smartphone, no one would want to carry around a games console before adding “it’s obvious I was wrong.”

“I came to realize the key to a successful game is quite simple – software with absolute quality leads sales of hardware,” he said, “Playing style can be flexible if the software is attractive enough.” 

What about his own company’s software offering for the console? Ishihara offered what could be seen as a few small hints. 

“With the Switch,“ he said, ”we see it as a chance to create Pokémon that goes deeper and with a higher level of expression. As a result, that makes it an extremely important platform […] Right now we’re using 7 to 8 inch screens, but on a high-definition TV you can express a whole different world with graphics and sound.”

He also suggested larger scale multiplayer gameplay is being considered: “Until now, games were made as one for one person, but now you can go home and play with everyone – so how do we tackle these themes, and how do we make sure it’s not complicated?” Whether or not that’ll be split Joy-Con local multiplayer or something more online based, we can’t tell. 

As far as extra Pokemon-themed peripherals for the console, Ishihara wasn’t able to offer any confirmation but did say he’d “like to think of that possibility.”

Game’s developers admit they’re feeling the pressure

Considering the yet-to-be named Pokemon Switch title will be the first mainline game in the franchise to come to a home console it’s understandable that fans are excited but this means expectations are high.

As a result, the game’s developers have admitted they’re feeling the pressure. In an interview with Game Informer series director/producer/composer Junichi Masuda and director Shigeru Ohmori said that though it’s “really fun” to see “all the excitement for the announcement” it does mean there’s “a lot of pressure” on the team. 

Ohmori said that Game Freak is going to to do its utmost to meet a game that’s capable of living up to these expectations but asks that fans don’t raise them “too high.”

Pokemon confirmed for Nintendo Switch at E3 2017

After a long build up of speculation, Nintendo confirmed during its 2017 E3 live stream that a core Pokemon game would be coming to Nintendo Switch. 

Other than the fact that the game is coming, we know nothing else. Nintendo didn’t offer a name nor did it offer a release date other than it being more than a year away.

The fact that the release date is so far in the future means it could very well be different from Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon which have been confirmed to be coming to the 3DS later this year. 

This announcement means that the Nintendo Switch is breaking the Nintendo home console curse, whereby only side titles, such as the already confirmed Pokken Tournament, were released while mainline titles stayed on handhelds.

The Pokemon Company and Game Freak had previously said that they were waiting to see how the Nintendo Switch performed and whether or not it would work with the Pokemon series before committing a core game to the console. 

Rumors have been circulating for a number of months about the game, suggesting it might be released under the name Pokemon Stars, but Nintendo offered no comment on this. 

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 .

(Image: © Pokemon Company)

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.

(Image: © The Pokemon Company)

The line of merchandise

A recently announced line of merchandise titled ‘Look Upon the Stars’ is yet another sign that the Sun and Moon follow up could be coming. 

The official image for the line which you can see above is heavily geared towards everything stars and everything in the line is patterned with constellations. It’s fairly heavy-handed in terms of hinting and the fact that the line goes on sale in Japanese Pokemon centers at the end of May, just ahead of E3, has fan hopes high for an official announcement. 

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. 

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. 

New Pokémon 

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. 

Motion controls

The Nintendo Switch benefits from its motion-control capable Joy-Cons. We’ve seen them used in some interesting ways thus far which gives us some hope that they’ll be implemented in Pokemon Stars. The hat-throwing mechanic used in Super Mario Odyssey, for example, could be translated to a PokeBall throwing mechanic and that’d be an interesting new dimension to the series that only the Switch could offer.

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