Hands-on: Pokémon Sun and Moon evolves the series further
Demo of the game teases what's to come
One Christmas morning, I opened a present to find that behind the wrapper was a copy of Pokémon Gold; a game that went on to become my favorite of all time. I was living in England, and my mum had been on a trip to the US where the game was on sale. On the island country, I resided, it was not available for another six months. Needless to say, I played the game almost exclusively 24/7 till I beat it. When we returned from winter break, I was the coolest kid in school!
Pokémon is a franchise that is so near and dear to my heart, that I both welcome and fear change within it. However, after what I considered to be stagnant entries in the franchise, Black/White and Black 2/White 2, the series reinvigorated itself with the release of X & Y. Receiving a massive visual overhaul, as well as returning to a lot of the series’ roots, I was more determined to catch ‘em all than ever!
The lead up to Sun and Moon has been just as tantalizing. The bold directions that seem to be steering the game, such as the removal of Gym Leaders for Trial Captains, Z Moves which seemingly replace the Mega Evolutions introduced in X & Y, the inclusion of Totem Pokemon, etc, all have me excited to play. After getting my hands on the demo today, I can firmly say that this intrigue will continue, as well as being pleasantly surprised at the small design tweaks.
The demo starts with your character, a young boy by the name of Sun (you cannot choose gender in the demo), receiving a letter in the mail. There is no name attached to the message, but only that the person is congratulating you on your move from the Kanto region to Alola and that they have sent their Greninja to aid you in your journey. While the game never explicitly states who the sender is, all signs point to Ash which becomes more evident as the game progresses.
You are then taken to City Hall by your mum to change your legal address (exactly what I want to do in a Pokémon game), and it’s here where the player experiences some of the more subtle nuances of the game design. Characters appear a lot less cartoony than they did in X & Y, which was already a significant improvement over the sprites of old.
The height of characters and Pokémon now differs as well, giving a greater sense of scale and making the world seem even more realized. In the background, the sounds of Pokémon can be heard, especially when you’re running through tall grass. Again, this adds to the immersion, something of a barrier in past entries.
Through the demo, you meet your friend Hau who helps you battle Team Skull, a more lighthearted enemy than some of the previous teams that seemingly just want to instill a little chaos. Their music is super fun, and I look forward to future interactions with them. However, your Greninja easily overpowers the Pokémon they battle with, so your interaction is short.
Hau introduces you to Professor Kukui, who acts as a Trial Captain. I don’t know if in the final game he’ll also serve in this role, or it's exclusively for this demo, but I assume the latter. His trial involves you having to use the Poké Finder to take pictures of pocket monsters, a feature revealed weeks ago.
Overall, it’s a pretty simple task. If this is indicative of how all trials will play out in the game, I’m a little concerned that I’m going to miss the gym battles of old. But again, it’s hard to say how much this demo actually realizes the nature of the final game. Once you take all the pictures, you face off against a Totem Pokémon Hakamo-o and his ally Rockruff. It’s at this point where your Greninja will turn into Ash’s Greninja, which you apparently can transfer to the main game.
The final encounter is between Sun and Team Skull Admin Plumeria. Kakui’s Pikachu assists you in this confrontation, and his Z-Move Gigavolt Havok easily K.O’s Plumeria’s Goldbat.
There are reasons to replay the demo over the coming days, as several events are happening within the trial. Whilst the demo wasn’t enough to convince me fully the changes are the right move, (please let Trials be more involved!) I am pleasantly surprised that Game Freak didn’t rest on their laurels with X & Y and are deciding to continue evolving the series when they could have easily just put a new coat of paint on the past entry in the franchise. The full game releases November 18th, so I guess until then we’re stuck playing the demo on repeat!