Sun and Moon herald the 7th generation of Pokémon games. As with each new generation, you can expect a lot of shake-ups to the tried-and-tested formula. Of course, we'll be discussing these in depth throughout our guide, but for now, here's a preview of things to come:
1. A Fresh Type of Adventure
For six successive generations, the basic goal of the Pokémon games has remained unchanged: defeat the eight Gym Leaders, Elite Four and become the Pokémon League Champion.
When you arrive in the tropical Alola region, you'll find there's no Pokémon League and definitely no Gym Leaders. Instead, the youth of Alola are encouraged to travel across the four islands of Alola to pass the various island trials, thereby completing Alola's unique Island Challenge.
The gameplay is still largely the same, so you'll still be battling and catching Pokémon, while exploring a new and mysterious region. However, it's definitely refreshing to have a different theme of progression for a change.
2. The Rotom Pokedex
The Pokédex you're given in Alola is like no other--it literally houses a Ghost and Electric-type Pokemon known as Rotom.
In addition to the usual features you'd expect of a Pokédex, such as automatically recording data on Pokémon caught and seen, the Rotom Pokédex doubles as a useful traveling companion, displaying your current location in real time and providing advice if you ever get stuck.
Hmm, perhaps we should invest in a Rotom for GamerGuides!
3. Full 360 degree Movement
Okay, Pokémon X and Y already let you move around in 360 degrees with the Roller Skates and Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire do allow free movement with the Circle Pad. However, those games were still restricted to the grid-based gameplay of yore.
Pokémon Sun and Moon mark a complete departure from the grid--and it's clear to see that the entire landscape of Alola is sculptured to take full advantage of the new 360 degree movement. It might not sound like a big change, but trust us--you won't want to go back!
4. All-Powerful Z-Moves
Pokémon X and Y introduced Mega Evolution, which heavily influenced the battle scene. Sun and Moon continues the trend with its Z-Moves, incredibly powerful moves you can only use once per battle.
Like Mega Evolution, you'll need a Z-Ring and the matching Z-Crystals, of which there is one for each type and some more for specific Pokémon species. Each Z-Move is accompanied by a silly dance and a completely over-the-top attack animation, because why not?
5. Alolan Forms
Some Pokémon found in previous games, such as Exeggutor, have changed their appearances to adapt to the harsh Alolan climate. These so-called "Alolan Form" Pokémon often have different types and abilities compared to their standard counterparts.
This is Pokémon Sun and Moon's clever way of re-inventing old favorites, somewhat akin to how Mega Evolution was handled in X, Y, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire.
6. New Anime Tie-ins
Just before Sun and Moon's release, many fans predicted that Nintendo would release a definitive version or follow up to Pokémon X and Y. Around this time, the Pokémon anime debuted new Greninja and Zygarde forms, which would have been right at home in a hypothetical "Pokémon Z".
However, this never happened and instead the Greninja and Zygarde forms were shoe-horned into various spin-off games, such as Pokémon Shuffle, before finally making it to Sun and Moon many months after. Well, better late than never, we suppose!
7. Poke Finder
In lieu of a true Pokémon Snap sequel, this is probably the closest thing we're getting for now. Built into the Rotom Pokédex is the Poké Finder--a feature that allows you to take photographs of Pokémon at designated Poké Finder photo spots.
After each photo session, you can select a photo to appraise. The rarer the Pokémon and the better the photo, the better your score. As you overall score increases, more features will be unlocked such as the ability to zoom or catch a Pokémon's attention.
8. Poke Pelago
An honest hands up... who's ever felt sorry for all the Pokémon they kept stashed away in their Pokémon boxes, never to see the light of day? In Sun and Moon, these Pokémon bench-warmers can finally join in the fun via Poké Pelago!
In this quaint mini-game, Pokémon deposited in boxes can visit small island paradises, where they can relax and enjoy some fresh air for once. These islands can also be developed into facilities that yield items or allow you to raise your Pokémon or even make new friends.
9. Hyper Training
With Pokémon X and Y came Super Training, a way for novice and intermediate Pokémon trainers to train their Pokémon's "base stats" as the games call them or Effort Values (EVs) as veteran players know them.
After Super Training, we have the aptly named Hyper Training, which allows trainers to train their Pokémon's "innate stats" or in other words *gasp* Individual Values (IVs).
Prior to this, a Pokémon's IVs were largely randomized and could not be changed after the fact. With Hyper Training, there is the potential for any Pokémon to have the best possible IVs, which is nothing short of a game-changer.
10. Ultra Beasts
As the game progresses, you'll eventually encounter the mysterious Ultra Beasts, unidentified creatures considered to be a threat to the Alola region. What exactly are these Ultra Beasts? Are they Pokémon or something more sinister and disturbing? You'll just have to find out...