We’ve come a long way since Pokemon Sun and Moon were first leaked. Yesterday at 8 AM EST, a trailer was released showcasing our first real look at the new game, including the region where the adventure will take place, the three starter Pokemon, and the two legendary Pokemon, as well as stuff like release dates and box art. I’m nerding out about it, so today let’s talk about all the new info that came with the release.
INFO #1: THE ALOLA REGION
The night before the trailer was released, I sat down with a group of friends at Huddle House to enjoy a meal together before everyone headed their separate ways, some of us to other towns. During that evening of hanging out and eating breakfast at 11 PM, our discussion fell on Pokemon Sun and Moon and what it might entail. One member of our merry band proceeded to describe that many fans were theorizing that the next region would be based on Hawaii. There were all sorts of clues, he said, from the yellow fire trucks to the Hawaiian-style bird teased in the original announcement of Sun and Moon. Turns out all those folks were right, because with yesterday’s trailer we got our first glimpse of the tropical Alola region.
It doesn’t take a name that sounds suspiciously like “aloha” to invoke the idea of Hawaii. The region is all greenery, beaches, and volcanic mountains, giving this title a unique tropical feel. I’m hoping that being based on an island doesn’t make this game as water-filled as ORAS, though – I have no desire to do that much surfing again. The map of the region seems like that won’t be an issue, as it looks like most of the action will likely take place on one main island.
Aesthetically, it looks like the game will feature more behind-the-character movement as opposed to top-down, which should create a more immersive experience. I mean, it’s not first-person, but it’ll still look cool to move along the actual routes and get to see all the fun environments in more intimate detail. And those environments do look good – the civilizations they’ve shown feel more like real places than in XY or ORAS, and all the cultural touches really add flavor. We’ve not seen much of this game yet, but what we have seen looks darn good!
INFO #2: CHARACTER CUSTOMIZATION
There’s not much to say on this topic thus far, but it is worth noting that there are now four starting options per gender instead of three. And one of those options is black! As a white guy, I generally stick to that when playing games, but I know a lot of folks of color who were bothered by the fact that the closest thing they could get to their skin tone was tan. There are still two white options versus one olive and one black option, but hey, it’s progress. If we as players and critics keep pushing for ethnic diversity, I think we’ll continue to see improvements on that front in future titles.
One hope I have is that outfit customization has returned, but is also a lot cheaper. It cost an obscene amount of money to dress uniquely in XY, money much better spent on healing items and Pokeballs. When a hat costs more than spray-on medicine that magically heals all of your cuts and bruises, there’s something wrong with the economy. I’m also hoping that the outfits just look better in general. In particular, male characters suffered from a lack of aesthetically pleasing customization options and that’s just a bummer. Yeah, we’re guys, but that doesn’t mean we’re cool with our characters all being palette swaps of each other while the ladies get to put their unique style onto their character. That’s a double standard, dang it!
Another thing I noticed from the video is that the characters seem taller. I don’t know if this is just due to the graphical changes in the game, or if we can expect our characters to be older in this rendition of Pokemon. Older is fine with me, although I seriously doubt that it will impact the content of the game in any way.
There’s one last character detail I want to point out that doesn’t involve customization but is too short to list anywhere else. There’s a dark young fellow in yellow shorts with an orange backpack in the trailer that seems an awful lot like rival material. I really, really hope that if he is, he is the game’s only rival character. The huge, annoying party of “rivals” in XY was really irritating. I also hope that this rival is actually a RIVAL, with a personality that makes you want to overcome him along with competent battle skills. Though if his smile is any indication, the best I can hope for is a friendly-but-challenging rival.
INFO #3: THE STARTERS
This is what we’re all really here for, right? New Pokemon, particularly new starter Pokemon, are always good news, and thanks to this trailer we know what the starter options will be: Rowlet, Litten, and Popplio.
Litten is the fire-type starter, a black cat with red-orange stripes and whiskers. This little thing has an admittedly simple design – it looks way too much like a generic cat Pokemon for a starter. And don’t even get me started on the name. However, I do appreciate the idea of the fire type starter being something chill and intellectual. Litten’s Pokedex entry on the website describes it as both logical and passionate, a coolheaded creature that doesn’t outwardly display its emotions. The creature’s fur is covered in flammable oil, so when this little critter grooms itself, that oil collects inside and can be lit and spit back out as a flaming hairball. While that sounds gross, I am intrigued by the statement about Litten’s shedding process. Apparently, this little kitty sheds its old fur by burning it. It makes me wonder if Litten’s evolution will be something really unique, its blazing fur burned away to create something totally different. Only time will tell.
Popplio is the water-type starter and looks like a seal dressed for the circus. Big awkward flippers, a goofy pink nose, and some kind of tutu-looking fin around its neck makes for a weird looking Pokemon. I’m not a big fan of the design, but it is kind of cute I guess. Its physicality is a detriment on land, but Popplio’s awkwardness disappears in the water, where it can swim over 25 MPH. It blows up water balloons with its nose that it then uses to perform acrobatic feats or mess with enemies. The Pokedex describes it as both hard-working and frivolous, always practicing with its balloons but tending to get carried away. I usually get into the whole awkward aesthetic (gotta side with my peeps, after all), but the circus bubble nose blowing thing just really doesn’t do it for me. I’ve seen a lot of other folks who really like Popplio, though, so good on them.
Finally, there’s Rowlet. This little owl-looking creature has a leafy bow tie and tail, along with the ability to rotate its head 180 degrees (as owls are known to do). According to its Pokedex entry, Rowlet is all about silence – it can fly through the air and even attack its prey without making a single noise. It attacks using either its talons or by launching razor-sharp leaf feathers from its body. This makes it sound like Rowlet is going to be a physical attacker, similar to Chespin in XY. This grass-flying Pokemon is unique in its dual typing, a typing only shared with Tropius, the Jumpluff line, and a form of Shaymin. The Pokedex describes it as being able to see in the dark, and it apparently uses its head-turning ability to look at its trainer to receive instructions during battle. Yet another interesting feature of Rowlet is his Leafage move, a new grass type move that Rowlet starts the game with. My guess is that this is a special grass move with 40 power, putting it on par with Ember and Water Gun, which Litten and Popplio start with. This little owl has a whole lot of unique features and a great design, and in case you couldn’t tell, is my favorite of the three. I think a lot of people share that opinion, as I’ve been seeing Rowlet fanart all over the place already.
I’ve already predicted Rowlet to be the physical attacker in this trio, but what about the other two? Guessing on design, I believe that Litten would specialize in speed and Popplio in special attack. However, if we go by Pokedex entry the way we did with Rowlet, is seems more like Litten will be the special attacker and Popplio will specialize in speed. The former’s Pokedex description describes its intellect and cool head, while the latter’s focuses on its swimming speed and land acrobatics. Only time will tell which is true, but I’m going to guess that the Pokedex descriptions, not the visual design or animal inspiration of the Pokemon, is the more reliable indicator of what their stats will be like.
Now if only we could see their evolutions…
INFO #4: LEGENDARIES
Ever since Gold and Silver, each generation of Pokemon has featured a unique legendary for each version. Ho-Oh and Lugia, Groudon and Kyogre, Dialga and Palkia, Reshiram and Zekrom, and Xerneas and Ylvaltal. Sun and Moon are continuing this tradition with two new legendary Pokemon:
Sunstroke and Moonstruck!
Haha, just kidding, those aren’t the names. You believed me though, right? Right? You don’t have to be embarrassed, it’s okay that you believed me.
The legendaries have not been named yet – or rather, their names have not been announced. However, they have been showcased, and they are featured on the box art of the games. A lot of folks are really hyped about the Sun legendary, but to me it just looks like a fancy lion. The Moon legendary is a bat Pokemon whose body can create and fire a giant laser beam. Come on, guys, that’s obviously cooler!
In all seriousness, it’s hard to say much about these things since we know so little about them. The designs are cool; my biggest complaint about them is that right now it seems that the Moon legendary may be the same typing as Ylveltal, which would be kind of lame. Of course, I as a player never really utilize legendaries. I’m way more excited to learn more about the new “regular” Pokemon in the game. It does seem like these legends will work into the story, since the Moon Pokemon’s laser beam animation did not look like part of a battle scene. It could have just been a shot for the opening cut scene, but who knows, maybe this thing really will be unloading huge lasers onto the land of Alola.
INFO #5: RELEASE DATE
So when the heck does this game come out? Before yesterday, we just knew “Holiday 2016.” Now, we have an official release date: November 18th, 2016. Plenty of time to scoop it up before Christmas, or you can always put it on your list. That release date is only six months away, but six months is plenty of time to find out more and more about the game. I’m hoping that although this won’t be playable at E3, we’ll at least get a digital presentation giving us some more info. I’m looking forward to lots of new Pokemon and a strong combination of the best game mechanics from XY and ORAS.
Now that we know more about Sun and Moon, I’m more excited than ever before! I hope you’ve enjoyed this examination of what we know so far. Be sure to comment with your favorite starter and whether you think you’ll get Sun or Moon version!