It seems like only yesterday that Nintendo and Game Freak announced the latest installment of their hit franchise, Pokémon Sun & Moon, would be coming in November. Since then, we’ve seen a flurry of updates via YouTube videos showing off a number of the new Pokémon and added features. While Pokémon GO has been holding us over as we await the arrival of the handheld, there’s just no substitute for the continuation of the original saga. Sure enough, the November 18th release of the game has seen the Internet go wild over the new gameplay and pocket monsters alike.
A few weeks back, we laid out some of the new Pokémon we were anxious to catch, but with the game finally here, there’s even more reason to be excited. If you haven’t already grabbed a copy of one (or both) versions of the game, here’s 15 Reasons You Need To Be Playing Sun And Moon.
15. New Pokémon
As fun as new towns, levels, and bosses are, it just wouldn’t be the same if a new Pokémon game didn’t have, well, new Pokémon. Luckily, we don’t have to live in that dark, cold world, as Sun & Moon is packed full of new creatures to capture and train. There’s the man-made Type: Null and Magearna; the interesting type combos like the Fighting/Ice Crabominable and the Ghost/Ground Palossand; and all sorts of other birds (a toucan Pokémon!), bugs (a swoll mosquito!), and beasts (a cute little koala!) roaming around the new Alola region.
There’s also new Starters, of course, with the grassy owl Rowlet, the fiery cat Litten, and the watery seal Popplio. And we can’t forget the mascots of the respective versions of the new game, the Legendaries Solgaleo and Lunala. Which of these two you prefer will likely determine which game you get (though Rockruff’s werewolf-like evolution in Moon also tips the scales). There’s 79 new Pokémon in total, and, as is Nintendo’s and Game Freak’s wont, we’re likely to get a few more added as bonus rare creatures are revealed.
14. Battle Royal
Not to be confused with a Battle Royale, the new Battle Royal feature takes the traditional one-on-one and two-on-two battles of past Pokémon games and gives them a bit of a twist. In a Battle Royal, you’ll square off against 3 opponents. Each participant will have 3 Pokémon on their team and will send them out one at a time versus the other trainers. The whole fight ends when one player has their whole team knocked out, but there’s one more twist.
Victories are tallied based on how many Pokémon you’ve KO’d, but also on how many you have remaining. That means it’s not enough to simply finish off one person as quick as you can to end the match. This new style encourages being strategic about which Pokémon you cause to faint, as you’ll want to accumulate as many total KOs as possible. While battling Pokémon has never been dull, it’s still nice that Nintendo has introduced various tweaks to the format over the years to provide a little variety to the proceedings.
13. QR Scanner
Bringing a bit of Pokémon GO’s augmented reality into the traditional Pokémon franchise, one of the new features present in Sun & Moon is a QR Scanner that provides you with valuable information on the creatures of the Alola region. Using the cameras on the 3DS, you’ll be able to scan QR codes you find in real life and have them access information about specific Pokémon within the game. Each Pokémon has their own QR code associated with them, and the data inside will give you all sorts of useful information, like where to find that particular Pokémon in the game.
By using this, you’ll not only be able to add an extra dimension to your Pokédex, but you’ll also be able to seek out the habitats of Pokémon you haven’t yet caught in the game. Say you scan a code and it reveals a Legendary like Solgaleo; you’ll then have the information on where to find that Pokémon in-game and be able to hunt it down. Even better, you can share QR codes with friends, enabling you to catch up to each other’s Pokédex entries. Searching out and catching Pokémon is as crucial to the gameplay as battling, so like Battle Royal, it’s exciting to see Nintendo add another layer to this original element of the games.
12. Team Skull
With all the new Pokémon to capture in the region of Alola, there’s bound to be a sinister force that stands between you and your goal of being the very best. In the first iteration of the game, your foes were Team Rocket, and the trend of a new group of enemies to trainers and Pokémon alike has continued with each subsequent installment of the franchise. There was Team Aqua, Magma, Galactic, Plasma, Flare, and now, Team Skull.
Half-health goths, half-Juggalos, Team Skull are a band of misfits (or “ruffians” as Nintendo describes them) who want nothing more than to watch the world burn. Like the villainous Teams before them, their sole mission is to steal Pokémon, and it’s up to you to put a stop to them. Led by Guzma and enforced by Plumeria (named after the not-at-all evil flowering trees native to Hawaii) and Gladion (who battles with the freaky-cool Type: Null), Team Skull will be a continuous thorn in your side as you make your way through Alola. You’ll mostly battle the Team Skull Grunts, however, who are forced to buy their own uniforms, according to Nintendo. No wonder they’re pissed!
11. Ultra Beasts
Ever since the original Pokémon games, there have always been a series of Legendaries in each entry. Often, they’re the mascots on the front covers of each version of the game. But since the beginning, there have also been other mysterious creatures that seem to be just as rare, if not more so. In the first games, Mew and Mewtwo occupied this position. Since then, a whole heap of bonus Pokémon have been included with each game. While the mechanical Magearna certainly fits this mold in Sun & Moon, Nintendo and Game Freak decided to take things a step further in the new game by introducing the cryptic Ultra Beasts.
While playing the game will reveal more information about these elusive creatures, what’s known off the bat is that they cause all sorts of havoc in the Alola region. Given the designations UB-01 and so on, each Ultra Beast goes by a codename. That, along with their humanoid appearance (that swoll mosquito mentioned earlier and seen above essentially looks like a roided out Power Ranger or Masked Rider), has led to speculation that the Ultra Beasts could be some bizarre human/Pokémon hybrids. To find out, you’ll just have to play the game.
10. New Avatars
Just like most games, you navigate the world of Pokémon with an avatar, or a player character. In the first game, you were simply Red, but ever since Pokémon Crystal, you’ve been able to choose your gender. While there’s still only the two options available, this has at least given players a bit more choice when it comes to how they traverse their region and capture Pokémon. The more recent games have also added in-game shops where you can change your clothes and hair, providing a bit more customization. With Sun & Moon, you can now select from four different skin/hair color options per gender, adding some much-needed diversity to the world of Pokémon.
When it comes to clothes, previous player characters have run the gamut from wearing standard summer outfits, to Victorian and steampunk attire, depending on the game. For Sun & Moon, the designers opted for some casual exploration outfits for both the female and male avatars. Equipped with t-shirts, shorts, sneakers, mailbags, and hats, each option has plenty of attire to swap out once you get some credits from whooping a few School Kids and Hikers, and arrive in a bigger city with plenty of shops.
9. Four New Islands
Back in the first Pokémon series, you simply roamed around the Kanto region after leaving your home of Pallet Town. Little did you know, that there was a whole world of Pokémon out waiting for you. By the time Gold & Silver rolled around, it became clear that each new game would reveal a new region, full of towns, trainers, and tons of unique Pokémon. While it’s not a surprise that Sun & Moon followed suit, the game once again provides a twist on the formula.
The Alola region isn’t simply one mass of land for you to navigate, but rather four interconnected islands, each with their own culture and Pokémon. Each island is ruled by a kahuna, chosen by the mysterious Guardian Deities that protect the four lands. This unique approach opens up all sorts of possibilities for travel, training, and highlighting real world ideas like variants among creatures who dwell in isolated tropical habitats.
8. Rotom Pokédex
In order to help you keep track of all of these new Pokémon in the Alola region, you’re gonna need the latest version of the Pokédex. In each previous game, this device contained all the information on each of the creatures you encountered and captured. Given to you by the region’s Professor when you begin your journey, the Pokédex is a great way to study the stats of your warriors and keep track of which Pokémon you’ve seen and who you’ve obtained. If you’ve been paying attention so far, you’re likely thinking that the Pokédex in Sun & Moon isn’t quite the same as the devices from previous games. Give yourself a Rare Candy, because this isn’t your grandmother’s Pokédex.
The Pokédex Professor Kukui gives you is in fact inhabited by a Rotom. Introduced in Generation IV, Rotom is an Electric/Ghost-type that frequently inhabits appliances, thus changing its Ghost-type to match the “type” of the device. Instead of a lawn mower or a fridge, this Rotom brings your Pokédex to life, not only by keeping track of the creatures you’ve captured, but by giving you tips and a map for your journey. Hopefully, it can fly alongside you as well, because it’s a bit too big to fit in your pocket like the previous versions.
7. Hyper Training
Once you’ve started catching all sorts of new Pokémon in the Alola region, you’re gonna need to train them up so that they can learn new moves, increase their level and stats, and maybe even evolve. In every game, there’s a number of ways to beef up your battlers. You can battle wild Pokémon, challenge other trainers and Gym Leaders, and there are even special items that can raise the level and stats of your Pokémon. Given enough time and training, you’ll be able to max out your Pokémon at Lv. 100, thus achieving their maximum potential. But true to form, Sun & Moon has broken this barrier thanks to Hyper Training.
By collecting Bottle Caps (one is available if you capture a Magearna, for instance), you can seek out the mysterious Mr. Hyper. Though his location isn’t widely known, finding him will enable you to trade in your Bottle Caps for some of his Hyper Training. By using this method, you can actually continue to increase the stats of Pokémon who are maxed out at Lv. 100. The very best just got better.
6. The Aether Foundation
Aside from the four main islands that you can travel to on your journey around the Alola region, there’s a fifth mass of land situated in the middle of the others. This artificial island, name Aether Paradise, is actually home to the Aether Foundation. A group of scientists who look like they’re straight out of the Capitol in Hunger Games, the Aether Foundation conduct all manner of research on the Pokémon native to Alola. Led by President Lusamine and managed by branch chiefs Faba and Wicke, the Aether Foundation will provide clues to a number of the mysterious and unique aspects of the Alola region.
Aside from studying Pokémon, they’re also on the frontlines of research involving the Ultra Beasts. While generations of Pokémon games have led players to be wary of any group of oddly clad scientists doing secretive work, it’s likely that the Aether Foundation will be a place you won’t want to avoid as you attempt to unlock all of the secrets of Alola and its Pokémon.
5. Pokémon Global Link
With the arrival of Sun & Moon, the Pokémon Global Link website will be updated with a host of new features. The PGL offers all sorts of extra content and gameplay outside of the regular games. With it, you can connect and battle with trainers all over the world. Within the game, you can certainly work towards being the best trainer there is, but the Rating Battles feature in PGL will allow you to compete with other trainers in the real world to determine who’s truly the best. The updated site will also offer you chances to participate in special events, missions, and battles, encouraging you to check back regularly.
Another of the exciting new features is the ability to play with other people’s Pokémon (if you’re down with OPP, that is). Using the new Battle Teams feature, you’ll be able to create various squads of Pokémon to use in battle though the PGL. Even better, you’ll be able to offer your teams up for rent by other players. Using a special QR code, you’ll be able to compete in battle with an expert team crafted by another player. Over the years, Nintendo has increased the way players could interact with each other and share their love of Pokémon, and the latest version of the PGL seems to be continuing and improving that mission.
4. The Island Challenge
While Hyper Training gives you a way to power up maxed out Pokémon, the Island Challenge feature provides up-and-coming trainers with fun, new ways to raise up their team. On each of the four islands of the Alola region, you’ll have the chance to compete in various trials under the umbrella of the Island Challenge. Some of these missions will require you to battle trainers, but others will involve special tasks and puzzles that you’ll need to accomplish.
After you’ve completed a trial, your final task will be to battle against a Totem Pokémon. Each island has various Totem Pokémon that appear as larger versions of creatures from the Alolan Pokédex, with an added aura around them. Not only are they tougher opponents than usual, they can also call upon allies to assist them. Once you’ve cleared all of the trials on an island, it’s time for the Grand Trial. Here, you’ll face off against the kahuna that leads the island for a chance to have your name recognized across the land for your deeds.
One of the most talked about new features that was previewed for Sun & Moon ahead of its release was the ability for trainers and Pokémon to join forces and unleash powerful new Z-Moves. Similar to the Mega Evolution and the accompanying Mega Stones introduced for X & Y, you need both a stone (a Z-Crystal) and a bracelet (a Z-Ring) to bring out this power in your Pokémon. When your Pokémon learns the corresponding move and is equipped with the necessary Z-Crystal, you’ll be able to trigger the explosive attack once per battle. Doing so will play a full-screen animation sequence to showcase the raw power of the Z-Moves.
What’s that? You wish Nintendo would take more of your money? You’re in luck! Just like with Pokémon GO, Sun & Moon has its own real-world merchandise you can buy to sync up with the game. Thanks to Tomy International, you can buy your very own Z-Ring that will light up, vibrate, and play sound effects each time you bust out a Z-Move in the game. It may be a bit frivolous, but it’s likely the closest we’ll ever get to feeling like real trainers until Google and Nintendo team up for a VR Pokémon experience.
2. Guardian Deities
If there’s one downside to Sun & Moon, it’s the surplus of super rare Pokémon (an oxymoron if we’ve ever heard one). Out of the less than a hundred new creatures, a good chunk of them are Legendaries, Starters, and various other rare and mythical Pokémon. As mentioned earlier, each of the four islands is led by a kahuna, who are given their position and authority by the four Guardian Deities that protect each area of Alola. Each of the four Guardians has a painted shell designed after an animal. Thanks to a preview highlighting the Deities last month, we know that during battle, they’re able to conceal themselves within these shells and mount a massive energy body to fight with.
Given their magical nature, it’s no surprise that each of the Guardian Deities is a Fairy-type. They’ve also all got an added type, however, with Tapu Koko (the first Deity you’ll encounter) being part Electric, Tapu Lele being half Psychic, Balu boasting a Grass type, and Fini being part Water. Along with the Island Challenges, the Guardian Deities provide further motivation to explore every inch of Alola, as if you needed persuading.
1. Alolan Regional Variants
Sun & Moon managed to top all other Pokémon games by getting more people talking about the old Pokémon rather than the new. While Pokémon GO has introduced a whole new generation of trainers to the original 150 Pokémon, Sun & Moon decided to, of course, put a twist on it. There have always been region-specific versions of certain Pokémon, but they often just involved different color schemes. With Sun & Moon, the real world concept of regional variance has been introduced.
On the island of Alola, Pokémon from the original game have adapted some noticeable differences from their counterparts in other regions. The most buzzed-about of these Alola forms is the giraffe-like Exeggutor. There’s also an acid-trip Muk, Golems and Rattatas with evil mustaches, a surfing Raichu, icy versions of Sandshrew and Vulpix, a demonic Marowak, and a Dugtrio with flowing, golden locks. While many of these provide designers with an opportunity to tweak and play with older Pokémon, and the type-swapping provides long-time players with fun, new ways to enjoy Generation I creatures, the follicle choices alone show that Nintendo and Game Freak have a sense of humor and more than a dash of marketing panache.
Do you have Pokémon Sun & Moon yet? What are your favorite new features and Pokémon? Let us know in the comments.
Pokémon Sun & Moon are available in stores now.