It's been only a few weeks since the announcement of the next main series Pokemon games Sun and Moon. Within that time speculation has already begun. And one question in particular lingers about; are Sun and Moon Gen7 or gen6.5? For obvious reasons most people lean towards the upcoming games being gen 7. Seeing how we'll get a new region, with new pokemon, new trainers, and new features, how could Sun and Moon possibly be Gen6.5?
Gen 6.5 may sound like a silly notion based on crushed hopes for a "Pokemon Z" (I myself was rooting for XZ/YZ). But there actually is good reason for Sun and Moon to possibly be this different type of generation.
You're probably guessing at those reasons revolve around Zygarde's forms not being featured in the main series games, X and Y's shortage of new pokemon, and the snorlax load of mysteries in X/Y/OR/AS (some that were definite hints towards new games). And you're right, but I'll get to those points later on. To properly start this explanation we need to answer one question...
What makes a Pokemon generation?
Now you may be saying to yourself "Well that's an easy answer". Which you would then follow up with; a pokemon generation is determined by region, characters, in game features, and new pokemon (just as mentioned before). While that does seem like the case, it's not quite the full answer. These things can be part of the definition but it's more than safe to say that what really makes a pokemon generation is the hardware and software.
It should be no surprise that each generation of Pokemon has been made for each generation of Nintendo Handheld. This means games are built with different hardware and software to meet the needs of the system they're played on. As a result games of the same generation can equally communicate with each other (trade/battle) and are able to read the data of the previous generation(transfer). Also with each generational upgrade the games are able to store more data which means each game can fully store the pokemon of past generations as well as the pokemon introduced in that generation. Now what does this have to do with Sun and Moon being Gen6.5?
Looking back on how there's a generation for each console, well find the following:
Gen1(Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow)= GameBoy
Gen2(Gold, Silver, and Crystal)=GameBoy Color
Gen3(Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, FireRed, and LeafGreen)= GameBoy Advance
Gen4(Diamond, Pearl, Platinum, HeartGold, and SoulSilver)=DS
Gen5(Black, White, Black2, and White2)=DSi
Gen6(X, Y, OmegaRuby, and AlphaSapphire)=3DS
Sun and Moon are 3DS games, by default they should be Gen6 games. But how can we be sure? The list says that the Gen5 games are for the DSi but they were playable on the DS consoles. So doesn't that mean that Gen7 games could be made for the 6th generation console. It's possible, but when taking a closer look at the Gen5 games we'll that they are in fact DSi games. On the front of cartridges for these games are codes that start with "TWL". Just as the "NTR" on Gen4 games specifies them as DS games, the "TWL" on the Gen5 games specifies that they are games with DSi features due to the hardware/software different from the previous gen that allows them to do so. This won't be the case for Sun and Moon. There hasn't been any major changes to the 3DS system that would require the games to have hardware/software difference that would make them Gen7.
While this is one main reason for Sun and Moon possibly being Gen6.5, it does bring up another question; Why would GreakFreak go through the trouble of making a new region, new characters, and new pokemon only to have it be an extension of the current generation? For that answer we have to look back at the games Black2/White2.
The addition of Black2/White2 was quite the surprise for poke-fans. What would drive Gamefreak to make these games that broke the monotony? Before Gen5 we got games such as Yellow, Crystal, Emerald, and Platinum. These games served as more complete counterpart to the initial two games with a reworked (but highly similar) story and a few new few features. And that was it. While they offer third option for those who didn't want to chose between the initial two versions, they kind of defeat the purpose of the idea of games being "version exclusive". And what was one solution to this; sequels. With Black2 and White2 players would have another two games to choose and the completion of a story they were introduced to in the previous games set in the same region. Again, that was it. Even though these sequels had decent sales one has to admit that a continuing story isn't the biggest selling point of these games. Over all the main flaw with Yellow, Crystal, Emerald, Platinum, and Black2/White2 is that in a sense they can be easily skipped. Something that GameFreak may have solved with Sun and Moon.
With all of that said, what about the "more obvious" points mentioned at the beginning? Well to keep it simple and clean:
Along with not having it's other forms in the games Zygarde also two signature moves (Thousand Waves and Thousand Arrows) that have yet to be formally revealed/accessible.
There are still plenty of event pokemon (such as AZ's Floette ) that have yet to be released.
X/Y pokemon count:
X/Y only introduced 75 new pokemon which may be the result of the the developers putting more effort into translating the previous 649 pokemon from 2D sprites into 3D models. And seeing how the games can be updated/patched, pokemon from sun and moon could be traded with X/Y.
Now all of this isn't to say for a fact that Sun and Moon will be Gen6.5, just reasons to consider why they could be. The main thing to keep in mind with all of this is that while GameFreak is trying to be less predictable, they're still very intentional with the making of these games. So when they:
Tell about an upward flowing water fall that is now where to be found.
Put the signature items for one set of legendary pokemon in the cave of another without any explanation
Show you a souvenir from an unknown region three years before the announcement of new games.
Players can bet that an answer will come soon enough, hopefully this holiday season.