It all started with a report from Eurogamer on November 18, 2016—coincidentally, the same day that Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon launched in North America and Japan on Nintendo 3DS. “Multiple sources” told Eurogamer that the third version of Pokémon Sun and Moon was well into development for Nintendo Switch and would release in 2017 under the name Pokémon Stars. It almost sounded too good to be true.
Since the initial report surfaced, there have been multiple signs and theories upon which people are basing an eventual announcement for Pokémon Stars—most recently that the February 2016 video reveal of Pokémon Sun and Moon was taken off Nintendo’s official YouTube channel. We also reported earlier that Game Freak, the developer behind the main series Pokémon games, was hiring for a console game. So, while we should don our tin foil hats on whether we’ll actually be getting some sort of Pokémon Stars game, there’s no reason we can’t still be excited at the prospect.
Whether the rumored Switch Pokémon title is a main-line entry or a spinoff, it has the potential to look fantastic on Nintendo Switch. Capable of running at 720p in handheld mode and 1080p while docked, any Pokémon game on Switch could look beautiful.
To get an idea, you can check out Pokémon Sun and Moon in action running on Citra, a Nintendo 3DS emulator for PC, Mac, and Linux.
While emulation does come with its drawbacks (frame rate inconsistency, etc.), it gives us an idea of what a potential main series Pokémon game on Nintendo Switch could look like. In this particular video, we see Pokémon Sun and Moon running at 1080p and at a frame rate of anywhere between 40 and 60 frames per second (depending on how much is happening on screen). While certain textures, such as grass in the overworld and background images during battles, do look pixelated or muddy in this example, the main graphics, such as NPCs, Pokémon, and visual effects, all translate beautifully in full HD. NPC interaction is fun to watch in 1080p and battles play out with a fluidity and smoothness I wish was present on the 3DS versions. I bought a New 3DS specifically for the frame rate drops I experienced in the demo for Sun and Moon on my regular 3DS XL, and this emulation makes even my New 3DS pale in comparison regarding frame rate.
I’m no game developer, but with a self-proclaimed “work-in-progress” emulator being able to make a 3DS game look this good, I can’t imagine it would be any more difficult to do so on Switch. Additionally, I can’t imagine a world where Game Freak didn’t originally create all its assets for Sun and Moon in full HD and downscale them for 240p output on 3DS, so it’s likely they already have all the core assets needed for a full Switch port. Either way, though, if this is something that’s being worked on, I’m sure it’ll look fantastic.
Whether or not you buy into the rumors and reports that Pokémon Stars is coming to Switch this year, there’s no denying any such port would be a fantastic addition to the Switch lineup. If it happens, the only complication I can see would be whether or not the Switch and 3DS versions can communicate with each other, but we may have our answer yet. Here’s to hoping we get one last Nintendo Direct before E3 2017!