Just in time for Pokémon ‘s 20th anniversary this year, Nintendo is releasing two brand new entires in the series on 3DS with Pokémon Sun and Moon. Every iteration of the franchise has introduced new gameplay features and design tweaks to try and keep the franchise from growing stale, but most of these changes have been more evolutionary than revolutionary. Although Sun and Moon still adhere to the tried-and-true formula that has helped Pokémon maintain its popularity for the past two decades, there are actually quite a few big changes introduced this time around hat represent a bit of a reinvention for the series. If you’re planning on picking up a copy of Pokémon Sun or Moon, here are the most important new features that you need to know about.
10. The Pokédex
An essential item in every trainer’s toolbox, the familiar Pokédex has been given a substantial overhaul in Sun and Moon. It not only functions as a map and helps keep track of how and where to find rare Pokémon , but will even talk to you, with a Pokémon called Rotom running the show (it can possess electronic devices). Additionally, the new Pokédex allows for new ways to discover Pokémon , including the ability to scan QR codes with the 3DS that provide additional information about specific Pokémon and various secrets about the Alola region in which the game is set.
One of the big selling points for Pokémon X and Y was the introduction of Mega Evolutions. Sun and Moon sees the return of this feature, as well as the introduction of another crystal-based mechanic that, while not as cool as Mega Evolutions, tweaks gameplay in an important way. Players are given a device called a Z-Ring that allows them to hold Z-Crystals, which can be found hidden throughout the Alola region. These crystals can be used in battle to unleash a devestating super move, but only if the Pokémon being used has a move that corresponds to the crystal type.
A Z-Move can only be used once per battle and players can hold up to six crystals at a time. Nintendo is pushing Z-Moves to such a degree that they’re actually selling a peripheral that you can wear on your wrist while you play the game. The device is pretty silly and unnecessary, but it will at least make battles more lively affairs thanks to its light-up abilities and sound effects.
Sun and Moon certainly boast the best visuals in the series to date and while the bump in presentation make Pokémon battles even more fun and engaging than they were already, there are some important quality of life enhancements that make the act of battling better than it’s ever been. The most important change is the introduction of a type effectiveness indicator. Unlike every other Pokémon game, in which you have to constantly look up or memorize which moves and types are effective in a given situation, the system in Sun and Moon automatically charts a move’s effectiveness after the first time you use it against a specific Pokémon.
In practice, this takes the annoying guessing work out of battles and lets you know right away whether or not a fire move is going to be effective against a water type Pokémon (hint: it’s not). This may sound like a needless oversimplification to some players, but considering just how many different Pokémon types have been introduced over the years, this feature will likely be accepted with open arms by the Pokémon community at large.
7. Gyms And Badges Are Gone
The quest to battle gym leaders and earn badges has been a series hallmark since Pokémon Red and Blue, but Sun and Moon take the bold step of ditching these elements altogether. Instead, players are tasked with beating island trials and facing off against various captains on each of the Alola region’s four islands. At the end of these challenges, you’ll still face off against a powerful foe, but the road to get there is much more varied than it’s been in the past. In addition to traditional battles, you’ll also participate in a bunch of non-combat challenges, such as scavenger hunts and quizzes. It’s an interesting way of tying the game’s setting more closely into what you’re doing and helps spice up the franchise’s gameplay formula.
6. Wild Pokémon
In an effort to make players actually want to head into sections of tall grass, Sun and Moon have tweaked wild Pokémon encounters to make them less tedious and more dynamic. Now, wild Pokémon are able to use a “call for help” mechanic that allows them to cry out for help in the middle of an encounter and potentially gain an assist from another Pokémon . This means that you could suddenly be faced with a two-on-one battle at a moment’s notice, which is a nice way of changing up the challenge of wild Pokémon encounters, which have grown to be an annoying grind in Pokémon games.
5. Alola Forms
Helping to tie Sun and Moon’s tropical theme into the Pokémon themselves is the introduction of Alola forms, which transform various first-generation Pokémon into bigger, stronger versions. For instance, there’s a super tall Exeggutor that has Dragon abilities and ice versions of Nintales and Sandslash. Unlike the Mega Evolutions introduced in Pokemon X and Y, which were temporary transformations, the Alola forms are effectively all new Pokémon and are a creative way to change up the designs and abilities of some of the most popular and beloved Pokémon. One important thing to note is that Sun and Moon have different Alola forms available, so you may want to research which ones you can obtain in-game before deciding on which version to get.
4. Battle Royal
Sun and Moon don’t add much in the way of new multiplayer features over the previous games, but they do add one new mode that is sure to lead to make waves among the player base: Battle Royal. Like the name implies, this mode is a free-for-all frenzy that pits four players against each other at once. Each player brings up to three Pokémon into battle and the match ends after one player loses all of their Pokémon. A winner is determined by combining the remaining Pokémon at the end of battle with the number of foes they were able to defeat. In practice, Battle Royal is much more hectic than regular battles and requires players to defend themselves from all sides, which introduces a whole new level of strategy into the battle system.
3. “Care” Feature
Sun and Moon add a new way to interact with your team of Pokémon with the “Care” feature, which allows you to treat status effects after a battle. For instance, you can dab them with a cotton swab or brush away dirt with a brush and even pet them, which is honestly something we’ve always wanted to be able to do in a Pokémon game (okay, you could in Alpha Sapphire, but it was a bit limited). The Care features actually have tangible benefits too, as it eliminates the need to buy items in stores that eliminate status effects, makes your Pokémon more affectionate, and even makes them stronger in battle. Whether or not this feature becomes more of a chore than something players enjoy doing remains to be seen, but at the very least it provides a new way to interact and forge a bond with your team of Pokémon.
2. Pokémon Rides
One of the most oft-requested features for new Pokémon games is the ability to freely ride any Pokémon while exploring and Sun and Moon finally introduces this feature. Functioning similarly to HM moves of past games, Pokémon Rides let you summon a Pokémon to, well, ride, but the stipulation is that they cannot be used in battle. Moves like surf and fly also return, but instead of having to own a Pokémon and teach them these moves, you’re now able to rent a Pokémon that can use these abilities at any time.
1. A More Focused Story
Pokémon games have never been known for their deep, compelling stories and while Sun and Moon aren’t telling a Last of Us caliber narrative by any means, there is definitely more focus on story here than in any previous Pokémon game. The game tasks you with travelling around the four isles of Alola, completing trials of skill and battling the region’s strongest trainers, but thanks to the game’s interesting cast of characters, you may find yourself being invested in Sun and Moon’s story more than you may have thought possible.
Much of this has to do with the meaningful relationships you can build with the game’s human characters, as you continue to interact with them and follow their own journeys to become Pokémon masters alongside your own. Couple that with the fact that the game’s setting is one of the best in the series and it’s easy to find yourself getting lost in the world of Sun and Moon in ways that just weren’t possible in previous Pokémon games.