Pokémon Z: Fact or Fiction

By DHR-107. Art by FellFromtheSky.
« Previous Article Home Next Article »

As we near the end of the 6th Generation of Pokémon, there has been a niggling feeling for some of us of what could have been. Pokémon X and Y introduced a new region, Kalos, for players to explore. This new region was one of the largest we have ever seen, had the largest city we have ever seen, and brought more Pokémon than ever before. Pokémon X and Y set a new standard for Pokémon games, with 3D battles and models, as well as moving away from grid-based movements.

Most of us toiled away and were excited when ORAS was teased and then launched. However, there was still no news of a third version of Pokémon X and Y... Typically third versions (like Emerald and Platinum) have expanded on the stories and areas from the default games, as well as giving us entirely new areas and, more importantly for many people, new battle facilities. XY left us with many clues towards these, but with the announcement of Sun and Moon, these hopes were dashed. So what happened to Pokémon Z version? I am going to look at the evidence that I have noticed that may hint to Pokémon Z having existed and had enough to build on going forwards from X and Y.

Third Versions

Third versions of Pokémon games are what many of us would term, the "complete" version. While the original games set us up with a plot and a world, those were never utilized to their full degree until the third game came along. Each third game has added something new and exciting to the world where we originally played. Yellow brought us Pikachu as a starter, with him dutifully following you around. Crystal incorporated the story of Eusine and Suicune into the plot and brought us a "never-ending" trainer challenge in the form of the Battle Tower. Emerald pitted both Team Aqua and Magma against the player and introduced the most popular post-game area ever in the Battle Frontier. Platinum brought us large changes to Sinnoh's environment and large story changes that led to us fighting in the Distortion World where Giratina resides. Black and White 2, while sequels to the original games, still changed up the originals and introduced new cities and areas to fight and battle through. They also added a tremendous amount of post-game content with the Pokémon World Tournament and PokéStar Studios. All third versions since Emerald also have in common that the third member of the cover legendary trio gets a vastly expanded role and, since Platinum, new formes.

Each has brought their own ideas to the table, and many people were salivating over the thoughts of what Pokémon Z could bring. Third versions of the games make a lot of sense from a commercial and technical standpoint. With little effort an entirely new story and areas can be created. Why change what isn't broken? Third games should also be cheap to produce for the same reason. Most of the assets have already been created, with only minimal additions needed to be made to make something new. Take Platinum for instance: small changes to pacing, the changing of gym order, the addition of the Distortion World, changes to the Pokédex and adding more Pokémon earlier, and the addition of a new and improved Battle Frontier made the game significantly better in most people's eyes compared to the original games. Platinum sold about as well as a single version could, moving over 7.5 million copies compared to the original Diamond and Pearl's combined 17.5 million. With reduced development costs and reduced time taken to produce a new world, a third game is incredibly lucrative.

Evidence for Pokémon Z's Existence

On the 12th of September 2015, almost exactly two years since X and Y were released (and a year since ORAS), CoroCoro leaked. Two days later, Zygarde Complete was shown to the world officially. Our discussion thread went into meltdown with over 200 posts in three days. People's expectations went stratospheric. Was this the first news of Pokémon Z we had been waiting for?

The newly shown Zygarde formes seemed to fit a familiar pattern, much like the Kyurem formes in Black 2 and White 2. In X and Y, Zygarde is found deep within a post-game cave, where it sits waiting for the player to come and get it. However, there was an issue. Zygarde has "only" a base stat total of 600. The other members of its trio, Xerneas and Yveltal, had 680. This new forme gave it a chance to match Xerneas and Yveltal and compete with them on equal terms. If it followed the patterns of Gen III and Gen IV, then Zygarde would become the main story legendary of Pokémon Z and take back Kalos. Zygarde's Pokédex entries even hint at this story: "When the Kalos region's ecosystem falls into disarray, it appears and reveals its secret power." (X version), "It's hypothesized that it's monitoring those who destroy the ecosystem from deep in the cave where it lives." (Y version). This gave many people an idea of what Pokémon Z's story would be like.

Even the anime got in on the action. The final arc of the Kalos region plot was titled "Pokémon XY&Z," and a Zygarde Core became an integral part of the plot, all the way to the culmination in Lumiose City directly after Ash's attempt to take the Kalos League. This showdown included all the other characters in far larger roles, the Team Flare admins, Xerosic, and also Lysandre. It also had an amazing sequence that brought most of the Kalos Gym leaders together in much the same way as Black and White brought the Unova Gym Leaders together to fight on the players side. Another aspect to this is Ash-Greninja. An anime-exclusive (until Sun and Moon's demo) Pokémon that had deep bonds with Ash as a trainer. A theory for Pokémon Z was that each of XY starters—all humanoid in their designs—could have changed in a similar way to mimic your specific appearance in game. Ash-Greninja becomes far more powerful and is almost a form of Mega Evolution. Could each of the starters gotten similar boosts and gained boosts to their signature moves like Ash-Greninja does?

Data miners also discovered two new moves that were in the coding for X and Y called Thousand Arrows and Thousand Waves. These two moves were similar to Kyurem's special moves (Freeze Burn and Ice Shock), which were coded into Black and White, though Kyurem could not use them. We later found out that Kyurem-B and Kyurem-W could use these moves in Black 2 and White 2 as their signature attacks. This gave yet more evidence that a Pokémon Z may eventually come. We (much) later got more specific information about Zygarde's moves. This new batch of information showed us Zygarde-Complete's signature move: Core Enforcer. This move's animation scribes a very obvious, giant Z into the ground. It also showed us Thousand Waves and Thousand Arrows. Why were they in the code of X and Y if Bank blocks Zygarde from "moving backwards"?

The news came somewhat late, but an announcement was expected to come about Pokémon Z fairly shortly after Zygarde Complete's reveal. Since Black 2 and White 2 back in 2012, we have generally been getting a new game every year in the autumn (there has been a new game in the west every year since Red and Blue's release). 2015 would be the first time in 15 years no new game came. Except, everything went quiet. For three months the Pokémon community waited with baited breath about what was to come. February arrived and with it came the news of a new Pokémon, Magearna. A new Pokémon in the middle of a generation which isn't related to the cover legendaries? Speculation knew no bounds. Two weeks later saw the announcement of Pokémon Sun and Moon. The thought of Pokémon Z was dead, a new generation was coming.

What could have been?

Pokémon Z would have followed the general premise of other third games. It would be twisted and molded around Zygarde. My initial idea to this was that a collection quest would take place. As we now know, this is incredibly likely to happen in Pokémon Sun and Moon, as both Dexio and Sina appear and give you an item in which to collect Cells.

You would slowly collect and find other Zygarde-Cells to add to your Zygarde-Core and work your way up to Zygarde-10%. This idea was backed up by a comment about the Zygarde-Cells on the official website. I presumed that it would stay in this forme until the pivotal moment in the story (or you had tracked down enough cells), where it became Zygarde-50% and then during a cut-scene became Zygarde-Complete. This would likely be during the showdown with Lysandre in the Team Flare base at Geosenge Town. As we know now from released information, it seems Zygarde goes straight from 10% forme to Complete through the usage of its ability Power Construct.

Zygarde would then have a titanic battle with Yveltal and Xerneas as the stalwart defender of Kalos, as implied by the Dex entry shown above, very similarly to how Rayquaza comes from the heavens to defeat and stop Kyogre and Groudon in Emerald. Lysandre would likely meet the same fate as before. After that pivotal moment, AZ appears and thanks you for fixing his mistake, before you continue onwards to beat the Elite 4 in typical Pokémon fashion. This could have also led to an AZ's Floette event, which is in the code for X and Y (and has its own stats and signature move), but as it stands is the first Pokémon we know of that we cannot obtain in-game.


In addition to the various plot lines that could have happened, there are plenty of other places that were never used or traveled to during X and Y. The biggest and most irritating one for me is the mystical doors on Route 13 (the gusty Lumiose Badlands north west of Lumiose). We see in the game that there are several enormous buildings with multiple large installations including wind turbines, geothermal vents, and solar panels. When the player explores the Power Plant as part of the Team Flare subplot in X and Y, we do not get to see any of this from the inside of the small building we enter. We can see from the outside there are suspended platforms and walkways that look like they can be explored. The doors that lead to nowhere and repeat "The Power Plant's Door is shut tight... You can't get in from here". Originally this was assumed to be either a way to get the player to the correct door (in which case, why not just have one door) or linked to an event that would be unlocked with an event item. None of the four doors could ever be opened.


Another area that is entirely underutilized is the Couriway Town Train Station. Professor Sycamore tells us to go there to look up something for a surprise. Many thought this was a hint for something bigger (it's simply a note about something long past). Instead, no trains ever arrive. What is even more bizarre about this area is that the overworld map clearly shows the train line leaving to the west. And then promptly disappearing into a cave and never reappearing anywhere else. Why is it there? Many thought it might lead to an underground battle facility like the Battle Frontier. Related to train stations, new areas could have been added easily after the main game by using the Lumiose City Train Station as a warp point. That station takes us to Kiloude City, but again, nowhere else. Why couldn't there have been a fast travel option linking Lumiose to Couriway in the same manner?

There is also the strange tale of the Lumiose City haunted elevator, where a ghostly girl appears behind the player after the lights black out, floats across the room without moving her legs, talks to the player, and then disappears. Although this now appears to be a running joke with Game Freak, the spookiness of this encounter is hard to deny. She claims to be waiting for the correct person. We presumed this may have been a foreshadowing of the protagonist from Pokémon Z reaching Lumiose City. There are lots of other minor text lines and places that we could go into great depth about. Jaune Plaza in Lumiose has hints about a Pokémon appearing, although this could be explained as a translation error.

Pokémon Z also had the potential to add the last batch of Megas before Sun and Moon appears to have done away with the idea, instead championing Z moves. You could easily name a few Pokémon whose counterparts got Megas in XY or ORAS but have no equal now. Froslass to Glalie, Slowking to Slowbro, Machamp and Golem to go with their special counterparts Alakazam and Gengar. Dragonite, as the only Gen I-IV pseudo-legendary currently without a Mega Evolution. Even Milotic could have received one as a counterpart to Gyarados. Related to this idea, with small changes to rosters (and like what happened in ORAS), the Elite Four could have all had potential Mega Pokémon in eventual rematches. Throw Malva a Houndoom, and each one has a Mega-capable Pokémon. Scizor, Gyarados, and Altaria round out the four. Counting ORAS, the Elite Four in every single region except Kalos can be re-battled with stronger teams in at least one game. Emerald, Platinum, and Heart Gold & Soul Silver also all allowed the player to rebattle Gym Leaders with full teams and items. Both of these features were sorely missing in X and Y.

Why Cancel?

There are few real reasons that Pokémon Z would have been cancelled, the main two being the rush to get the Nintendo Switch (or the NX) to launch, and Pokémon's 20th birthday. Some people believe that the Switch was brought forward to try and stem the tide of the Wii U's poor sales. This meant Game Freak had to switch platforms to the Switch for the next set of Pokémon games, and given their track record on utilizing hardware to its fullest, they needed all the extra time they could use. The Pokémon Z team was immediately moved onto Switch development to get a head start.

Nintendo always does something special for a large game franchise's birthday. In Pokémon's case, Sun and Moon are a celebration of what made Pokémon so great. We can only assume that they thought ORAS was a good sendoff for Generation VI (it wasn't) and decided to put all their effort into the latest games. There were rumors that Nintendo were in financial problems, however unlikely that is, and that affected Pokémon Z's development as well.

The least likely reason, but worth mentioning, is that Satoru Iwata's failing health and subsequent death changed the plans at Nintendo. Iwata was always a huge part of Pokémon, having been directly involved with Gold and Silver's production and helping them fit Kanto onto the cart. Could his death have been a catalyst for such a huge change in direction? It is possible that Nintendo's entire business ideas changed almost overnight.


Zygarde still appears to be a large part of Sun and Moon. Considering its Dex entries relate directly to Kalos, it is odd that it would appear in the Alola region. Maybe the collection quest was still considered a good idea from Pokémon Z's development, so they managed to make it "work" in Sun and Moon? We will soon see. Another interesting take on this is why they are called Z moves. Are Z moves in a universe where the Ultimate Weapon never fires? Zygarde stops the war 3000 years ago, but the destruction causes a different type of energy to flow throughout the Pokémon world, allowing supercharged moves instead?

Of course, we could be completely wrong and Z was never considered to be its own game. The Strange Souvenir, which appears to be related to the Alola region and Sun and Moon, appears in X and Y years before the new games were even teased, let alone launched. Mega Latios and Latias are in the code for X and Y but were never released as an event, but they do, however, show up in ORAS.


I believe that Pokémon Z was definitely in development and got canceled for some reason. We will never know the truth about whether or not that is the case unless one of the developers allows us a brief look into Game Freak. Nintendo does not tend to release information about games that have their plans changed or remain unreleased. The mix of reasons above cover the main aspects as to why I believe Pokémon Z vanished from Nintendo's release schedules and from our consoles. I believe it would have been a substantial upgrade on the scale of Platinum from Diamond and Pearl, leaving both XY and ORAS in its wake.

With this in mind, I will bid farewell to Gen VI and its myriad of enigmas. I am incredibly excited to delve into Gen VII and see what new places, Pokémon, and secrets Game Freak have in store for us.

« Previous Article Home Next Article »