Pokemon Sun and Moon releases today in all regions except Europe (releases on November 23rd). The seventh generation of Pokemon games are shaping up to be the biggest installments in the 20-year-spanning role-playing game series, if the pre-orders milestone and demo downloads boasted by Nintendo is any indication. The mega-hit mobile game Pokemon Go no doubt had a hand in making Pokemon Sun and Moon more visible, especially to non-Pokemon fans.
But even if that wasn't the case, the games were still bound to hog more of the spotlight than previous installments. This is due to the numerous gameplay videos released by Nintendo leading up to the games' launch. And thanks to these gameplay videos, we were able to get a good look at what's in store for us in the all-new Alola region. Here are five things that stand out.
1. A more open world
The Alola region, which was based on the island of Hawaii, promises to be the most beautifully created amongst all other regions. Along with the improved 3D sprites, Pokemon Sun and Moon has also made traveling around more "open" than any other Pokemon game before. The games are no longer based on a movement-restricting grid, which has affected the game world design in previous games. This means, square patches of grass are now out of the menu, replaced by smoother edges apparent in the overall design.
2. Goodbye, Gyms
The most notable change in Pokemon Sun and Moon is the absence of the traditional Pokemon Gyms, and in their place are "The Island Challenges." In these trials, you will be required to go through side-quests, like collecting items or completing puzzles. After completing the island-specific quest, you will be thrown into battle against beefed-up versions of numerous Pokemon, called "Totem Pokemon." They are usually marked by being a lot bigger than their normal counterpart.
Successfully defeating these Totem Pokemon will earn you a battle against the "Kahuna of the Island," called the "Grand Trial." Kahunas are essentially Gym Leaders, for all intents and purposes. This change is perhaps the most welcome as it allows you to explore the Alola region in a more natural way, instead of simply hopping from town to town in search of the Gym. Gone are the days where you simply have to plow through lowly Gym Trainers to reach the Gym Leader at the back of the Gym for that shiny badge.
3. All-powerful Z-Moves
Due to the ever-growing number of Pokemon moves, the competitive battling scene has been shifted numerous times in the past. Arguably, the biggest change came with the fourth-gen games, Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, when the "physical" and "special" attributes of moves were completely overhauled. Now, things are about change again in a big way with the introduction of Z-Moves.
Z-Moves are powerful moves that can only be used once per battle. An "ultimate attack," so to speak. Each of the 18 types is represented by one Z-Move, although there are some Pokemon-specific Z-Moves, too, like "Pulverizing Pancake" for Snorlax. To use a Z-Move in battle, both the Trainer and the Pokemon must be equipped with a specific item: a Z-Ring and a Z-Crystal, respectively. These moves can potentially sway the battle in your favor almost immediately. Of course, you have to use them at the right time.
Non-damaging moves or status effects can also be turned into a Z-Move. In which case, the Z-Move improves upon the move by adding another special effect on top of the original effect. For example, "Thunder Wave" will also boost the Special Defense stat of the user, aside from inflicting the Paralyze status effect on the opponent.
It's also worth noting that a damaging Z-Move bases its power on the move used to activate it. With the addition of Z-Moves, strategies and tactics will be reconfigured once again - especially since Z-Moves go through defensive moves like "Protect."
4. Alola Forms
Pokemon Sun and Moon introduces "Alola Forms." These are alternate designs of a select few Pokemon from the original 151 Pokemon from the first-gen games, Pokemon Red and Blue. Alola Forms, as the name implies, are exclusive to the Alola region. Pokemon Sun and Moon marks the 20th anniversary of the long-running franchise and what better way to commemorate it than putting the spotlight on the original 151 Pokemon again.
Aside from the aesthetic change, these Pokemon come with altered types as well, to better represent the change in design. The most notable of which is the Grass/Psychic Pokemon Exeggutor, who has now turned into a Grass/Dragon Pokemon with an extremely elongated neck. Talk about a major makeover.
5. The Battle Tree
Previous games have allowed you to go up against Gym Leaders, Elite Four members, Pokemon League Champions, and other notable Trainers from other regions, usually in an endgame hub like the Battle Frontier in Pokemon Emerald. And it looks like Pokemon Sun and Moon will continue that trend with The Battle Tree. But this one promises to be the most exciting yet, simply because of two things: Red and Blue.
No, we don't mean the first-gen games. We mean the names of the legendary Trainers from the first-gen games. And unlike Ash Ketchum from the Pokemon TV show, Red and Blue actually grew up. That's not even the best part yet. The best part is that you have the chance to team-up with either of the two. After defeating opponents at the Battle Tree, you can "scout" them for future battle hook-ups. Among the other notable Trainers hanging around at the Battle Tree are Cynthia, the Champion in Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, and Wally, your friendly rival in Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire.
Pokemon Sun and Moon may be the swan song Pokemon games for the 3DS. It was rumored a few months ago that Game Freak is developing a new Pokemon game for the upcoming Nintendo Switch. The next-gen console also functions as a handheld console which may eventually replace the 3DS in the market. If both turn out to be the case, then Game Freak will have left the 3DS with arguably the best Pokemon games in the franchise.