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Pokémon Switch Rumor Mill-Tank: Substantiating and Analyzing the Rumors

Lately, the Pokémon community has been in an uproar over the rumors and alleged leaks concerning the upcoming Pokémon titles on Nintendo Switch, supposedly titled Pokémon Let’s Go! Pikachu and Pokémon Let’s Go! Eevee.  Purportedly remakes of Pokémon Yellow, the games are said to combine elements of current Pokémon games (such as replacing HMs with the Poké Ride feature from Sun and Moon) and Pokémon GO (ie. wild Pokémon appearing on the map before they are encountered), and enable players to connect the mobile game to the console game in some way.  Developer Game Freak had suggested interest in connecting the main series games to Pokémon GO as early as October, 2016, so news of that caliber isn’t too unexpected.  More intriguing is just how substantial these reports as a whole are, the validity and variety of the rumors sources, and what it means for the next core Pokémon titles.

While fake Pokémon title leaks are more common than Pidgey, weight is being given to the most recent batch of rumors and leaks due to the amount of matching reports and complimentary information from different sources.  Most recently, CSC Corporate Domains, the same entity that previously registered “pokemon-sunmoon.com” for Game Freak and The Pokemon Company, registered “pokemonletsgopikachu.com” and “pokemonletsgoeevee.com,” further substantiating the claims.  Now, fans are circling back to previously dismissed leaks (like the photo below showing a trainer with an Eevee on their head riding a Lapras on what looks to be a Kanto route filled with visible, wild Pokémon) and questioning their validity all over again.  For many, this is more than enough evidence that Pokémon on Switch is everything its been rumored to be, that is, a remake of Pokémon Yellow with some connection to the mobile game Pokémon GO.

pokémon let's go
Does “Pokémon GO” features simply mean visible Pokémon on the map?

While the reliability of all previously mentioned leaks can be debated, far more substantial albeit subtle hints might have been provided by the games’ director, Junichi Masuda, the Poké-man himself.  Prior to the announcement of Sun and Moon, Masuda tweeted a curious picture of the moon still visible in the day-time sky, now accepted as a winking tease of the then unannounced sixth generation.  On May 10, 2018 he tweeted the following picture:

Broken down, it’s a picture of a plush Poké Ball floating near the front of the image, not unlike a Pokémon encounter in Pokémon GO.  Looming in the background is a Pikachu dressed as the Super Mario Bros. character, Luigi, whose catchphrase is notably “Let’s a go!”  Between the ball and the bro are two Pokémon, Eevee and Pikachu.  Taken altogether and considering the source, this could easily be an intentional tease of Pokemon Let’s Go! Pikachu and Eevee editions.  Since then, Masuda has tweeted several more pictures of plush Eevee and Pikachu together, including one of the Game Freak team with Masuda in the center holding the two characters up, as well as one of a display of plush at the Pokémon Center in Osaka, a stuffed Eevee seemingly out of place in a bin full of Pikachus; smaller stuffed Pikachus riding Lapras lie just beside them.  This can easily be explained away considering Pikachu’s mascot status and the popularity of Eevee, but strikes me as a little too cheeky to dismiss without thought.

That could be a fun call back to the origins of Pokémon, or, it’s an indication that we’re heading back to Kanto.

Perhaps the most validating sources of all are the games themselves.  Alola, the region in Sun and Moon, has always been juxtaposed with Kanto, the original region in Pokémon.  One of the key features in Sun and Moon is the regional variation of Kanto Pokémon, including Ninetales, Raichu, Sandslash, and many others.  Nearly a quarter of the Sun and Moon Pokédex is Kanto Pokémon, not including those regional variants.  Four of the seven ride Pokémon which replaced HMs in the seventh generation are from Kanto.  Narratively, the game opens with the protagonist moving from Kanto to Alola and *SPOILERS* concludes with Lillie, one of the friends the protagonist makes on their journey, moving to Kanto to help her mother.  The player comes into contact with Samson Oak, brother of Kanto’s Professor Oak, as they travel throughout Alola.  Near the end of the game, *SPOILERS* the protagonist of Sun and Moon comes into contact with none other than Red, the protagonist of, you guessed it, Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow and his rival, Blue.  In Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon the player has a run in with the villains from Kanto as well in the form of Team Rainbow Rocket and their boss, Giovanni and his genetically enhanced clone Pokémon, Mewtwo.  All of that could simply be a fun call back to the origins of the Pokémon series, or, it’s an obvious indication that the games are heading back to Kanto and we all missed it.

Perhaps the easiest explanation as to why so few predicted a remake of Yellow on the horizon is that back in April, Nintendo Life reported on an alleged leak from the Spanish version of the Official Nintendo Magazine discussing Pokémon on Switch.  The leak itself appears to highlight the franchise making the jump from portable consoles to a home console, refer to the titles as the eighth generation of Pokémon, and promise surprising new mechanics.  While the author of the Nintendo Life article is careful to use delicate language like “appears to,””indicates,” and “if true…would suggest” in the story, the piece is poorly titled and leaves the impression that Nintendo confirmed the next Pokémon games to be a new generation (implying a new region and all new Pokémon to catch), when, in fact, as the piece even reminds readers, the story comes from a source with a history of making a few errors.  By the time the story circulated across all media outlets, Pokémon on Switch had all but been confirmed as a new generation in the mind of the public.  In reality, the only thing truly confirmed is that Game Freak is developing a “core RPG Pokémon title” for the Switch as per Tsunekazu Ishihara’s announcement at E3 2017.  While Nintendo Life’s source might not be entirely wrong, some details could have easily been misinterpreted and or mistranslated in the journey from Japanese, to Spanish, and finally to English.  In either case, news of a remake rather than a new generation understandably comes as a disappointment to fans eager for something new.

That’s not to say that the next titles being generation eight isn’t without precedent.  The Pokemon Company and Game Freak have always made the jump to new hardware with a new generation.  Throughout the history of the franchise, there’s also never been a definitive release pattern deciding what’s next for the franchise between a new generation, the “special,” “definitive,” or “third” editions of those generations (ie. YellowCrystal, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon), or a remake title.  Emerald followed FireRed and LeafGreen, for example, while HeartGold and SoulSilver came after Platinum in the fourth generation, so it stands to reason that generation eight could follow immediately after the definitive versions of the generation seven games, Ultra Sun and Moon.

However, if the lifecycle of a generation of Pokémon is defined as the span from one new region to the introduction of another, so that, for example, everything in between Ruby, Sapphire and Diamond, Pearl was considered third gen, including FireRed, LeafGreen (remakes included as extensions of the generation as they typically borrow mechanics, the engine, and typically highlight the latest generation of Pokémon), then each generation of Pokémon has lasted three to four years with the exception of generation one (which was, of course, before the phenomenon was a billion dollar franchise and had any sort of cycle).  Assuming Pokémon Switch releases this year, that would make the seventh generation the shortest in franchise history in terms of lifespan.  While possible, it seems more likely to me that the Switch titles are a continuation of generation seven, perhaps direct sequels to Sun and Moon that were probably originally intended for release on the 3DS but had their production moved to the Switch.

While there’s precedent for the next Pokémon to be a new generation, there’s more precedent for a remake of Yellow.

While there’s precedent for the next Pokémon titles to be a new generation, there’s perhaps more precedent for a remake of Pokémon Yellow.  For starters, there’s the afore mentioned inexplicable link between Kanto and Alola.  Pokémon GO is conspicuously introducing Alola variants of Kanto Pokémon in the coming weeks four generations ahead of schedule.  Further, “core RPG” doesn’t necessarily mean a new title over a remake, especially if that remake is something of a sequel.  Chronologically, one might expect a remake of Diamond and Pearl to be in order, however, it has been even longer since a main series Pokémon game was set entirely in Kanto, the last titles being FireRed and LeafGreen on the Game Boy Advance in 2004!  Considering Pokémon’s popularity with younger audiences, there’s presumably a large portion of the Pokémon community that’ never experienced the most popular (but not the best) generation of Pokémon!

“Pokémon” has come a long way since 2004!

The last games to feature the Kanto region were HeartGold and SoulSilver nine years ago.  Just like the original Gold and Silver, players are given the opportunity to tour Kanto after defeating all of Johto’s gyms and the Elite Four.  It’s a brilliant treat in the post game, but a short tour overall and hardly the triumphant return Gen One elitists have been clamoring for (Cloystering for?), and I’m sure there are a multitude of Poké-fans under the age of nine who haven’t had the pleasure of playing through the games that started it all or it’s remake.  Speaking of HeartGoldSoulSilver, they’re the only games, excluding Pikachu in Yellow, that feature the follow mechanic, which allows players to see the first Pokémon in their party walking behind them in game.  Intriguingly, soon after the release of Sun and Moon, hackers uncovered low polygon models and walking animations for all Pokémon in the games’ code, presumably a follow feature cut from the game!  But why cut the feature when almost all of the work for it appears to be completed?  Perhaps Game Freak was facing a deadline and couldn’t fully complete the feature in time.  But shouldn’t that mean the feature should be present in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon which released a year later?  Perhaps, unless the follow feature was purposely postponed until the remake of the game that introduced the mechanic in the first place!

Assuming all of this is true, what would that mean for the next Pokémon game?  Presumably, a number of things.  Hopefully it means the return of the follow mechanic, with additional animations offered to the titular Pikachu and Eevee, like riding on the trainers head rather than being recalled when utilizing the ride Pokémon.  If the remakes are an extension of the seventh generation, it might also mean the return of some of Sun and Moon‘s key features and narrative threads such as the afore mentioned ride Pokémon, Z-moves, regional variants of Pokémon (Kanto versions of Alola Pokémon!?!), and the return of Lillie and an aged Red and Blue.  We might not get a multitude of new Pokémon, but, if we’re lucky, we might see more Ultra Beasts and maybe even some new Mega Evolutions (for the love of Arceus, please don’t abandon this feature like the follow mechanic, Game Freak)!  Then, there are the rumored Pokémon GO elements.  If limited to light touches, like occasionally encountering a Pokémon visible on screen, it might make for a livelier, more actualized Pokémon world.  Too heavy handed and I think Game Freak and the Pokémon Company threaten to ostracize the main series fans!

Red returns with his trusty Pikachu!

Maybe not as exciting as a new generation, but if the new game ends up anything like described in the paragraph above, it could be exceptional.  That goes without mentioning the potential for the introduction of new Eeveelutions!  That could be just what the doctor Nurse Joy ordered!  So maybe Pokémon on Switch isn’t generation eight, but with a follow mechanic, maybe the ghost Eeveelution I’ve been begging for for years, and some new regional variants; honestly, given the choice between a new generation and a Yellow remake,  I might choose you, Let’s Go! Pikachu.  But actually, I’d probably choose Eevee.

 

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