Welcome to the Tropical Islands of Alola
As you might expect, Pokemon Sun and Moon take us to an entirely new region in the world: the tropical islands of Alola. This region is different from anything we’ve seen before, and the people that live there have formed incredibly close relationships with the Pokemon of the islands.
The biggest change with this new setting is a shift in aesthetic. Alola is a bright and cheerful location similar to Hawaii, and its residents dress and act accordingly. Of course, the islands also draw tons of tourists from around the world, resulting in characters like the original Red and Blue popping up.
There are also two different organizations that have machinations on the islands. The mischievous Team Skull that wants to take people’s Pokemon, and the Aether Foundation that wants to set up a safe space for all Pokemon to live. It remains to be seen what role each will play in the story, or how they’ll interact.
The sunny tropical setting will be affecting much more about the games than just their look, however, as you’ll see soon.
A Whole New Set of Pokemon
The main draw of every new Pokemon game is the weird and wonderful creatures you’ll be able to capture along your journey. Sun and Moon really comes out of the gate running in this regard, as they’re introducing a wacky and colorful cast of new Pokemon. We don’t know exactly how many new Pokemon Sun and Moon will add on just yet, but so far we’ve been introduced to about 30 new ones.
Some of these are just ridiculous, like the sandcastle Pokemon Palossand or the pink bear (featured above) named Bewear, who gives death hugs. Of course one of the most popular Pokemon so far has been Mimikyu, a Ghost type that wears a Pikachu disguise because it’s tired of being scary and wants to be loved.
Nintendo and the team behind Sun and Moon have been very vocal about the wacky tone of the new games and new Pokemon, saying that they really wanted to go all out for the series’ 20th anniversary. You can read more about the wacky tone of the game and why it could be a good thing right here.
Perhaps the most important Pokemon on every journey, is the starter you choose to be by your side at the beginning. Sun and Moon’s starters are a colorful trio filled with personality.
First up you have Rowlet, the adorable little owl that’s a Flying and Grass type. Rowlet has the ability Overgrow that boosts the power of Grass type moves and it evolves into Dartrix, a Pokemon that cares the most about how it looks. The final evolution is Decidueye a Grass/Ghost Pokemon that uses its quills as arrows to attack enemies.
Next up we have Litten, a tiny cat that’s a Fire type. Litten has the ability Blaze that boosts fire attacks, and its fur actually produces flammable oils that it uses to create fire attacks. Litten evolves into a larger cat named Torracat that uses a flame sac around its neck to create fire. The final evolution is Incineroar, an giant imposing cat that stands on two legs and is a Fire/Dark type.
Finally we have Popplio, a Water type seal Pokemon that can snort bubbles of water from its nose as an attack. Popplio evolves into Brionne, whose description says is nice and cheerful all the time, even if it’s a front. The final evolution is a glamorous sea lion named Primarina, who’s a Water/Fairy type.
Alolan Forms of the First Generation
Not only do we get brand new Pokemon with Sun and Moon, we also get some crazy versions of the First Generation in their Alolan forms. Basically, the climate and temperament of Alola has caused these Pokemon to develop differently from their original forms.
The first Alolan type we saw from the game was the utterly ridiculous Exeggutor, which you can see above. The blazing sun of Alola caused this Pokemon to just keep growing and growing continuously, apparently. For some first-gen Pokemon, all this will do is change their look, but for others it could add on new moves or even change their type. Alolan Rattata and Raticate, for example, have now become Normal/Dark types, while Alolan Sandshrew and Sandslash have now become Ice/Steel types. Those are some pretty drastic changes that alter how you look at using classic Pokemon. No doubt it’ll be great fun to see which of the original Pokemon have changed in the new region.
Sun and Moon have new powerful attacks known as Z-Moves that can be used once per battle. These lavishly animated super moves combine the power of both the Pokemon and Trainer, as they fall into resonance with each other. You can see a few examples of Z-Moves with this trailer here, and on the official Sun and Moon site.
In order to pull off a Z-Move, two conditions must be met. A trainer wears something called a Z-Ring around their wrist, and can set Z-Crystals into it. First, the specified Pokemon must have learned the same ability that is on the Z-Crystal, and secondly the Pokemon must also be holding the Z-Crystal. These powerful moves add a little flair to Sun and Moon’s battles system, and give you even more options.
Pokemon Gyms Have Been Replaced With Trials
Pokemon Gyms are a tradition in the series, but this time round they’re being switched up a little bit. These experiences will be a bit more fleshed out and require players to do more than just battle other trainers. Each Trial has a “Trial Captain” that will send you on the Island Challenge Trials. These will require you to do things like go out and find items, or complete knowledge tests. After you complete the trails you’ll face the giant Totem Pokemon in battle.
Finally, after completing all that you’ll be able to take on the Grand Trial. This has you facing the Kahuna of each island, or the equivalent of a Gym Leader. Ultimately, you’ll be facing off against a powerful trainer, but the road to get there is slightly different.
No More HMs
In the past, beating Pokemon Gyms would allow your party to use the useful HM (Hidden Machine) abilities. These would be things like cut, surf, or fly that would let you traverse different party of the world or travel more easily. HMs are a thing of the past in Sun and Moon, as this time you’ll actually have Pokemon like Charizard that can be found to help clear the path, or ferry you where you need to go.
By passing the Trials in Sun and Moon, you will instead be gifted powerful Z-Crystals and Z-Moves as a reward. This will hopefully take away some of the frustrating exploration that earlier games in the series had.
The Pokemon Bank
The Pokemon Bank is a nifty little application you can download via the Nintendo eShop. The Bank lets you store up to 3,000 Pokemon online from multiple different entries in the series, and then transfer those Pokemon into different games. The service does cost a yearly fee of $4.99 however, and of course requires an internet connection.
The neat thing with Sun and Moon is that there’s quite a few titles you’ll be able to transfer Pokemon from, including the eShop versions of Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow. On top of that you can also transfer creatures from Omega Ruby, Alpha Sapphire, X, and Y into Sun and Moon. If you’ve got Pokemon just lying around in old copies, now might be a great time to give them new life. Take a look at the Pokemon Bank’s official site for more info.
Multiplayer and New Modes
Sun and Moon also provide a few new ways for you to play with friends, or interact with the game. A new feature called Poke Pelago gives all those Pokemon placed in boxes a nice little island to enjoy. You can visit this island and develop facilities there, meet new Pokemon who might join your party, and even obtain valuable items.
The Festival Plaza is where interactions with other players are this time, and you can battle, trade, shop with Festival Coins, and even go on missions with others there. On top of that, there’s a new local co-op mode known as Battle Royal. Here four players choose three Pokemon each, no items are allowed, and they enter a ring where it’s literally a free-for-all. Anyone can attack anyone.
As if all this wasn’t enough, there’s also a photo mode that lets you take Pokemon Snap style pictures.
Sticking with series tradition, Pokemon Sun and Moon will have a few minor differences. Keep in mind that the main story and experience will be the same however.
First off, Sun and Moon take place at different times of day based off of your 3DS’ system time. So if your clock is at 3:00 P.M. Sun will take place at 3:00 PM, the exact time. Moon, however, will set the in-game time to 12 hours ahead of whatever your 3DS is set at.
Of course, there will also be a handful of Pokemon in both Sun and Moon that can only be caught in that version. You can see the full list of exclusive Pokemon here.