After riding the wave of nostalgia created by Pokémon Go all the way to the bank, Nintendo is reportedly looking to capitalise on the record-breaking Pokémon Sun and Moon by bringing the ever-popular pocket monsters to its upcoming home-handheld console, the Nintendo Switch.
Rumours pointing to a grand reveal of a full-fledged Pokémon game for the Switch have circled Nintendo's upcoming hardware for months, with the latest leak referring to the expected Sun and Moon semi-sequel under the codename 'Pokémon Stars'.
The fitting moniker suggests that Stars forms a Poké-trifecta with the Nintendo 3DS pair and will more than likely whisk players back to the Hawaiian-themed tropical paradise of the Alola region – a move that would be in keeping with previous mid-generation releases such as Pokémon Yellow, Crystal and Emerald, to name but a few.
While the leak points to a late 2017 launch, is there anything we can gleam any clues from Sun and Moon about the first main series Pokémon game to break away from its handheld-exclusive roots?
IBTimes UK has spent endless hours in Alola scouring for details and we've come across a few hints about what features may appear in Pokémon Stars (huge spoilers ahead for Sun and Moon). Some are a little far-fetched, others are backed up by leaks and data-mined information, and a few are based on gut instinct after years of training to become the very best, like no one ever was.
Shortly after launch, internet detectives quickly found that there are plenty of redundant files nestled deep inside Pokémon Sun and Moon's code. A recent discovery by hacker "KazoWAR", however, has led to speculation that the pair originally included a feature players have pined for since generation two.
Running, walking and resting animations were uncovered for every Pokémon in the game, alongside "low poly" versions of each creature that would fit the over-world design rather than the highly detailed battle sequences. This led many to conclude that a "Buddy Pokémon" mechanic – where Pokémon jog alongside your player avatar, was in the works – but was left on the cutting floor.
If it was planned, we can't help but think the intense strain on the 3DS hardware was probably to blame for its omission. Sun and Moon are already pushing the system to its maximum, but a Nintendo Switch version would not have this problem.
Return to Kanto
We can't be alone in feeling a little miffed at Lillie's heavy tease at the end of Pokémon Sun and Moon.
After a long journey around Alola with the player character and having engaged in her fair share of family drama, Professor Kukai's assistant embarks for Kanto – the iconic setting for Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow, and home to bumbling moron Ash Ketchum in the anime series.
Kanto is name-checked on multiple occasions throughout Sun and Moon – Dragon-type master Lance and PC Box creator Bill are both mentioned, Professor Oak's cousin shows up and "Gen 1" champions Red and Blue show up in person when you reach the Battle Tower – but much to the chagrin of our nostalgic hearts, it never follows through on taking players back to the hallowed island a la Gold and Silver.
Again, we can't help but feel that hardware restraints would have put paid to Game Freak's potential plans – a predicament solved by the Switch's far superior processing power.
What happens to Lillie and Lusamine after the latter's Ultra Beast-splicing encounter? Does Bill have a cure? Surely a third game will let us find out for ourselves.
But, if not, maybe...
Return to Kalos
This one is far more of a stretch, but hear us out.
In terms of tangible connections between the two regions, the reason behind the Kalos-native legendary Pokémon Zygarde's piecemeal appearance in Sun and Moon is still largely threadbare, while the returning Pokémon X and Y assistants Dexio and Sina pop in and out without any real fanfare or explanation.
But what about the tinfoil hat theories? Well, it all stems back to the sundial in Kalos's Anistar City, a redundant station in Couriway Town that is somehow connected to another, unnamed region, and Hoopa, an event exclusive Pokemon that we are told has the ability to move islands (like an Alolan island?).
Are they vague and unsubstantiated links? Yes. Will a return to Kalos actually happen? Probably not, but the story breadcrumbs and the Switch's tech is there if Game Freak has its sights set on a second trip to the Paris-style region.
Pokemon World Tournament
While there are still plenty of tasks to get on with after donning the mantle of the League Champion, Sun and Moon lack at lot of the post-game content found in previous entries.
A trip to the Battle Tower reveals Alola's biggest time sink, with trainers challenging other combatants in successive duels. Reaching higher ranks summons high level rivals, including familiar faces from past games such as Ruby and Sapphire's dorkish Wally and Diamond and Pearl's fearsome champ Cynthia.
The potential to expand this on feature is already in place and we expect to see something similar to Black 2 and White 2's Pokemon World Tournament. The addition of more Move Tutors for competitive battle builds and even more classic characters is all but a given.
What we'd really like to see taken from Unova are the Leaders Tournaments where each region's strongest trainers, Gym leaders and Elite Four champions do battle in a knockout environment to determine the ultimate Pokémon champion.
Going deeper into Ultra Space
Sun and Moon's story reaches its climax inside Ultra Space – an ethereal dimension that the games' Ultra Beasts call home. Our time inside Ultra Space, however, is painfully brief and is predominantly an extended cutscene featuring an epic encounter with UB-01 Nihilego and Lusamine (and a weird hybrid of the two).
Alternate realms and creatures from variable time-space dimensions are a regular theme in the Pokemon series, but we haven't truly explored one since the Distortion World in Pokémon Platinum. It would be odd if Pokémon Stars didn't follow Platinum's lead and expand on its predecessors with a full excursion into the unknown.
Whether or not there are links between the dimensions is one for Reddit, but it would certainly make sense if the rumoured remakes of Diamond and Pearl are indeed on the horizon.