Hello there! Welcome back to the world of Pokemon! Stepping into the sunny shores of the Alola region, our latest Pokemon legend is about to unfold! Let’s go!
Its been a little over two years since we got a new Pokemon game (three if you’re talking about a new region) and the level of anticipation I was feeling was as strong as it’s ever been. The first Pokemon game I ever received was Pokemon Red back in 1998 for Christmas, and my parents refused to let me open it until Christmas Day. I remember sitting there just staring at the Charizard on the box, itching to rip it open and begin my adventure. This was the exact feeling I had when I was holding the Pokemon Sun box in my hands.
MINOR SPOILERS ARE PRESENT THROUGHOUT
Our latest adventure takes place in the Alola region, where the sun shines bright and the water is clear enough to see the school of Wishiwashi swimming underneath your feet. Taking inspiration from the American state of Hawaii, Director Shigeru Ohmori has shared that Alola is supposed to incorporate a meaning of a land that “overflows with life-force that supports many different forms of life.”
Like with the majority of Pokemon games, you start off your adventure by being introduced to the Professor of the region. In Alola, it’s Professor Kukui who gets the honour of explaining to you what the world of Pokemon entails. He’s a dashingly handsome man with abs of steel, I honestly couldn’t help but feel my in-game mum was flirting with him.
He takes you up to the island and asks you to find the Kahuna, aka the head of the Island. As you look for him, you come across a young girl name Lillie who needs your help. After you help her, you meet Tapu Koko, the guardian deity Pokemon of the Melemele Island, something that is apparently super rare for trainers. From there, the Professor, Kahuna and Lillie realise that you’re destined for greatness and your adventure begins.
You are presented with three starter Pokemon for this journey – the adorable Grass/Flying owl Rowlett, the adorable Fire cat Litten, and the adorable Water seal Popplio. Which one should I pick? I’ve been stressing about this decision ever since the starters were revealed all those months ago.
Now, some useless trivia about myself: during my first play through of each game, my starters have been as follows – Bulbasaur, Chikorita, Torchic, Piplup, Tepig and Fennekin.
As you can see, I’ve always opted for the Grass or Fire starter, with the exception of Piplup. If I were to base this on type, I’d pick either Rowlett or Litten. If I were to base this on cuteness level, I’d pick Rowlett. So that’s what I did. The little fluff ball of cuteness is now my partner, and I’ve blessed him with his new name: Archie.
At this point, the Kahuna’s grandson Hau (who you may have met if you played through the Sun/Moon demo) rocks up and challenges you to a battle. It’s evident that he will be your main rival for this game. He sends out his Popplio, and we fight it out, with me coming out victorious. Professor Kukui and the Kahuna suggest to you that you should take on the Island Trials to become the Island Challenge Champion. They explain that there are four islands, and each island has a trial and grand trial that you must overcome before challenging the Island Kahuna. After proving yourself worthy against all Kahunas will you be the Island Challenge Champion.
Lillie, our lovely lady friend from before has decided to take on the role of guiding you through your new life in Alola, which is pretty nice. She’s a very mysterious girl, and I can’t help but feel there’s more to her than meets the eye.
As we trudge along the grassy routes, we encounter a variety of Pokemon, including Pikipek, this generations default bird, as well as some old faces I’ve missed. A nice surprise is that Alolan Meowth and Alolan Rattata make an appearance early on. Now, the part that literally had all Pokemon fans shook to the core when it was revealed was the introduction of Alolan forms. For those who don’t know, Alolan forms are Pokemon from the past generation who have changed their appearance and typing drastically due to the exposure of the Alola region’s different climate from where they once originated. I’m loving every single Alolan form I’ve come across so far, and I’ve even put some in my party, even though I’ve never had their Kanto counterpart on my team before. Alolan Grimer is probably my favourite so far.
I’m loving the amount of Pokemon available for you to catch right off the bat. All the new Pokemon I’ve encountered have unique concepts and seeing as how we’re up to over 700 Pokemon now, it’s hard to think of what else they could possibly come up with. The Pokemon feel like Pokemon (excuse me Vanilluxe and Trubbish) and it’s exciting to discover a new one at every turn.
A brand new feature, or perhaps just an upgrade to Pokemon Amie is also now at play. Whenever your Pokemon completes a battle, you are given an option to “Care” for it. In this screen, you are able to use various grooming tools to clean and nurse your Pokemon to increase its happiness level. If your Pokemon has suffered Paralysis or Poison, you can swab it away with medicine. If it’s been hit by Sand Attack or a Water type move, you can clean them with a cloth or blow dry them respectively. It’s a very hands-on experience which strengthens your bond and connection to your Pokemon. I’m loving this feature because not only is it a hands-on experience with your Pokemon, but it also means I don’t need to buy any more Paralyz Heals ever again!
Professor Kukui tells you about Rotom, the Electric/Ghost who is about to fuse with your Pokedex, becoming the Rotom Dex. The Rotom Dex now acts like a sidekick, think Navi from Ocarina of Time (and possibly more annoying), giving you hints and tips, while telling you where to go on the map. It enjoys popping up with useless comments every time you exit a building, which, in all honesty is a bit annoying. Is there an upgrade where you can shut him up? I’ll be waiting, GameFreak.
Continuing with the long introduction phase of the game, you then head to a Pokemon School where you battle the kids and the teacher until you meet Ilima, the Trial Captain. He lets you know that he’ll be helping you complete your trial on this Island. I’m finding that there is a little bit of hand holding in the beginning, and while it’s normal for games to have an introductory period, this is taking a long time. I’m just eager to get out there and do my thing!
You explore through to Hau’Oli, which is the city on the beaches of Melemele Island where you discover that it’s the biggest shopping district of the Alola Region. I’m really loving the presentation of the island. You can spend a very long time being immersed in your surroundings and wasting time just exploring. Entering the clothing store (which looks like an Abercrombie and Fitch), you see racks and racks of colourful clothing choices. Now, character customization was a big and welcome change in the later generations, but with Sun and Moon, the options are endless. I spent a good 30 minutes in the store trying on everything available, from singlets, tshirts and polos, to pants, socks, shoes, bags, hats and accessories. Next door to the clothing store, there is a hair salon, and for 4000?, you can get a haircut! I’m now rocking a “modern quiff.” It’s a great way to make your character truly your own, and make it your own story.
The in-game music is very calming and soothing to listen to, and the Pokemon Centre theme has been given a refreshing Island Remix. Speaking of Pokemon Centres, in a new twist of events, if you’re travelling with six Pokemon and catch a new one, you now have the option of sending the newly caught Pokemon to the PC, or swapping it out with a Pokemon in your party.
A lady at the Tourist Bureau upgrades your Rotom Dex and gives you the ability to take photos with the new camera installed. You’re then challenged to take a series of photos of Pikachu, and then pick the one you think is the best to be awarded points. It’s a cute feature that I’ve yet to explore in more depth, but it’s great to see the inclusion of something that is reminiscent of Pokemon Snap from the Nintendo 64 days. I’m happy to see GameFreak attempting to really put their everything into this game, but not just for the sake of adding things.
The villains of the game are Team Skull. Two bumbling grunts come for you and Ilima, but are easily defeated. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Team Skull, they seem nice, really. Maybe they’re just misunderstood. Remember how menacing Team Magma or Team Rocket were? Team Skull seem kind of sweet to be honest.
As I reach the Verdant Cave for my first trial with Ilima, I can now see that Gyms are definitely no more. The trial is like a more interactive mission-based Gym, you could say. For this particular one, I had to hunt down three Yungoos before finally battling the Totem Pokemon of the Trial, a Gumshoos. Totem Pokemon, for those who don’t know, are generally super sized versions of their species, with a special aura that raises their Special Defense in battle. After taking down this tyrant Trump look-a-like Pokemon, I was rewarded with my first Z-Crystal.
Z-Crystals make for a new way of play for every Pokemon. There is a Z-Crystal for every type of move, and in this instance, I received the Normalium Z, which allows any Pokemon who has a Normal Type move to use the Z move “Breakneck Blitz”. There are also Pokemon Specific Z-Crystals which bring out Pokemon specific Z-Moves. I’m liking the Z-Moves – it’s interesting and definitely gives you an edge if used correctly. The only downside is the animation sequence takes a long time.
After completing my trial, it’s back to the island to face off against the Kahuna, Hala. Defeating him means I’ve now completed the Trial of Melemele Island.
I really like that there seems to be so many steps required to complete an entire Island Challenge. The intricacy and layers of events is set at a really good pace, and the game doesn’t rush you to do anything. I spent a good portion of my time catching all my Pokemon, and making sure they had the right Nature. Yes, I’m that kind of person.
Pokemon now have the ability to call for allies during battle, similar to the Totem Pokemon. This is extremely frustrating when you’re trying to catch a certain type of Pokemon and they keep calling for help. You can’t catch a Pokemon when there are two on the screen like in previous games, so you have to knock the other one out quickly. The only positive thing out of this is if they call on a stronger Pokemon for you to catch. Luckily however, sometimes their call for help fails.
The second Island you arrive to, Akala Island is perhaps three times as big as Melemele Island. I spent around five hours here catching and training my Pokemon while trudging along up the mountain paths and sandy outback towns. It’s great that they can fit so many things onto one Island, that when you think about it, it still seems like one entire map like previous games, except this time it’s separated by islands, making it into a super map kind of thing.
There are three trials on the Island of Akala, each one unique, and dare I say, funny, in their own way. You’ll meet the three Trial Captains Lana, Kiawe and Mallow, who test you on various skills. Like I said, I really love how this seems to be the new Gym system. They’ve taken a repetitive and sequential system of old and tweaked it to make it a new and exciting concept entirely. It still feels like you’re collecting Gym badges, but really, you’re not.
On Akala Island you are also introduced to The Battle Royal Dome. It’s an interesting Hunger Games feature that definitely makes for interesting play. I won’t spoil this part because it’s pretty funny, but wait until you see who you’re up against the first time. While playing in the Battle Royal Dome, I noticed the frame rate was starting to drop.
For those who are wondering, my team as of now is Dartrix, Pikipek’s evolution (can’t give away the name yet, sorry!) Alolan Grimer, and a few old favourites that you’ll be glad to see!
Honestly, it’s such a big world with so many things to do, I’m just excited to keep playing! I enjoy taking my time with the game, talking to every NPC, going into every house and checking every single rubbish bin for presents. The plethora of characters you meet are so colourful and each have their own personality and story to tell. They’ll ask you to carry out missions like finding them a Pokemon, or sometimes they’ll just give you items because that’s what Alola is about.
Pokemon Sun and Moon have taken the Pokemon games above and beyond to a whole new level. The roster of Pokemon present is perhaps the most diverse and unique I’ve ever seen, with designs, abilities and typing we could never have imagined they’d create. GameFreak has tweaked and altered things for the better, and have perhaps created the most immersive and interactive Pokemon game yet.