Throughout the 20 years of Pokémon, the general gameplay has remained unchanged, although Sun and Moon does attempt to spice things up.
Previously, the goal of the game was to defeat the eight Gym Leaders scattered throughout the land, earning you the rights to challenge the Pokémon League and become the Pokémon Champion.
This time there are no Gym Leaders and no Pokémon League in sight. Instead, your goal is to complete the Island Challenge, by traveling to each of Alola's four islands and passing the various trials and grand trials.
While this is going on, you'll also be tasked with filling the Pokédex, an electronic encyclopedia containing the details of Pokémon you've caught or befriended in Alola and the regions beyond.
Plus not everything is as it seems and eventually your assistance may be required to save Alola from a sinister threat. Just the life of an everyday Pokémon trainer then!
You're a seemingly average Pokémon trainer who just moved into the Alola region recently. Despite being new to these parts, it's not long before your boundless aspirations send you off on yet another Pokémon-filled adventure.
Your powers include the ability to travel endlessly without need of rest, or food... or sleep. Wow, you're a pretty tough guy or girl! To move around, you use the left Circle Pad (located above the D-pad). You can run by holding the B button.
Additionally, you're a very curious type. If you spot anything or anybody of interest, press the A button to interact. If it's a person, you'll strike up a (rather one-sided) conversation, which may advance the storyline or provide clues on how to proceed.
If it's an item, you may pick it up. Otherwise, it could be a trigger for a puzzle or a hint for how to proceed. In any case, definitely don't be shy with that A button. After all, you won't get anything done by doing nothing!
Alola is a vast place with a wide variety of locations, from populated towns to peaceful pathways or dwelling places for exotic Pokémon.
Whilst the places you visit can differ a lot in appearance, they generally fall into two types:
- Town or city: A place where people live, sometimes with their Pokémon. Here, Pokémon battles are generally far and few between. Very often, there is a Pokémon Center where you can rest your Pokémon.
- Route or dungeon: A place of nature, where wild Pokémon roam free. These places also attract other Pokémon trainers, so battles are aplenty. Most of the time, they connect different towns and cities.
What's a Pokémon trainer without Pokémon? A not very interesting person in the Pokémon world that's what! ...We kid. Anyway, true to the game's name, Pokémon--those amiable pocket monsters--are extremely important.
Before your journey properly begins, you'll be given one of three starter Pokémon to accompany you in your journey. From there, it's your responsibility to carefully raise your Pokémon, while also capturing and befriending other Pokémon.
With Pokémon by your side, you'll be safe exploring the wildernesses of Alola, which are teeming with aggressive wild Pokémon. Additionally, you'll be able to battle other Pokémon trainers, earning valuable experience and improving the bonds between you and your Pokémon.
We have a whole section dedicated to Pokémon battling just ahead, but for now we'll just briefly discuss the basics of Pokémon battles.
There are two types of Pokémon battles:
- Wild Battles: Randomly triggered when moving through tall grass or other places where Pokémon may reside. When this occurs, you'll encounter a random wild Pokémon from that habitat.
- Trainer Battles: Triggered by speaking to or being spotted by a battle-ready Pokémon trainer.
For the most part, Pokémon battles occur between two Pokémon - yours versus the wild Pokémon or the opposing trainer's Pokémon.
During battles, trainers pick moves for their Pokémon to execute, while wild Pokémon select a move from random. The battle is won if the trainer manages to defeat all of the opposing trainer's Pokémon or, if it's a wild Pokémon encounter, you KO or capture the wild Pokémon.
Winning battles earns experience for your Pokémon, making them stronger. If you defeat a trainer, you'll also earn money that you can spend in shops or elsewhere. Capturing Pokémon helps expand your team and fill up the pages in your Pokédex.
Managing your Pokémon
After each Pokémon battle, your Pokémon's HP and PP may deplete. HP (Hit Points) are your Pokémon's health--once their HP drops to 0, your Pokémon will faint and be unable to participate in battle. If all Pokémon are knocked out, you'll be sent straight to the Pokémon Center you last visited.
PP (Power Points) are the number of times a Pokémon can use a particular move. Each move has its own maximum PP value; typically the stronger the move, the less PP it has. Once a move's PP reaches 0, the Pokémon will be unable to use the move.
HP and PP can be restored by speaking to the nurse manning each Pokémon Center. If you're far from town, you can also use items such as Potions or Ether, which you can buy from shops or occasionally find lying on the floor.
Saving the Game
Last, but not least, don't forget to save your game, especially before or after you've completed something important or if you need to take a lengthy break from the game. The last thing you want is your long day's progress slipping through your fingers!
Just The One
As with all mainline Pokémon games, you only get one save file. If you want to start over, you can delete your save file by holding Up (on the D-Pad), B and X simultaneously after the Nintendo 3DS logo appears and before the title screen shows up. Keep in mind that erased data can not be recovered!