How Pokemon Sun and Moon hopes to be the most accessible Pokemon to date

After 20 years, it's easy to dismiss another main Pokemon title as just more of the same. But Pokemon Sun and Moon are making a couple of changes that are worth paying attention to.


To help conclude its 20th anniversary year, Pokemon is headed on a tropical vacation. Pokemon Sun and Moon marks something of a different motif for the tried-and-true monster-collecting RPG, taking players on a trip across a series of Hawaii-inspired islands. But aside from the scenery, there are a couple of other noticeable differences that can be seen on this new journey. Prior to the release of the game's demo on Tuesday, Shacknews had the opportunity to learn some more about what will make this latest entry to the main Pokemon franchise something a little different from The Pokemon Company and Game Freak's previous efforts.

Sun and Moon retain the 3D character models used in the previous generation of Pokemon games, but the game's developers have a new goal in mind with this set of games. Realizing this is now a post-Pokemon GO world, the goal isn't just to put players into a world of Pokemon. The goal is now to help bring the game's world to life and help players feel closer to their Pokemon than in previous games. Part of that involves a tweaked presentation, featuring an overworld map of human characters that are now proportional in size to the world's Pokemon. Humans will tower over Meowth and Pikachu, for example, but will stand toe-to-toe with a Machamp, as seen in the game's demo.

A bigger part of that also involves customizing a player's trainer, a feature revealed earlier this year. On top of choosing between a boy and girl trainer, a selection of premade character options will be made available. The idea, noted during the presentation, is to help appeal to a younger audience and help draw them closer to the world.

And with the younger gaming audience squarely in mind, Pokemon Sun and Moon is also built around the idea of accessibility. While there are many 20 year veterans out there, there are just as many players with no previous knowledge of Pokemon that may find the games intimidating. For the latter set, battles are going to be much more simplified. Those using the Sun and Moon demo may have already noticed instances where available moves in battle will come along with helper text, indicating whether the move will be "Super Effective" or "Not Very Effective." While those looking to build strong Pokemon with a varied move set will still be able to do so, newcomers just looking to go with what they have will have an easier time battling and knowing which moves work and which will not.

There are also a few new interface changes that will benefit veterans. Pokemon that have been affected by stat-affecting moves, like Sand Attack or Swords Dance, will be able to see just how many times the Pokemon has been affected by the move. This will make planning around stat boosts easier or even give players a cue to change to a different Pokemon.

Changes will also extend into the main overall quest structure. Anyone that has played a main Pokemon game in the last 20 years knows the routine: Find Pokemon, catch Pokemon, conquer eight Gyms, defeat the Elite Four, become the Champion. That structure has been thrown out the window in favor of Kahunas. Kahunas will operate similarly to Gym Leaders, but with a few key differences. First off, players will need to complete different Trials before earning the right to face the Kahuna. The Trial operates similarly to a standard RPG side quest, with certain ones tasking players with defeating a certain number of a certain Pokemon species, taking pictures with the new PokeFinder item (similar to the Nintendo 64 classic Pokemon Snap), or answering trivia about the area. If nothing else, just hearing that a main Pokemon game is mixing up the usual routine is a breath of fresh air in itself.

But for veteran players, the biggest change will be the elimination of the dreaded Hidden Machine. For those unfamiliar, Hidden Machines would teach Pokemon moves that would be required to traverse the world. Since the HM move is permanent and cannot be deleted, it would often require teaching the weaker moves (like the 40-damage Cut) to a weaker Pokemon. While the HMs themselves will still be available for their moves (like the stronger Surf), the idea of teaching HMs to Pokemon for getting around the world has been eliminated. Instead, players will be utilizing PokeRide, which will have trainers call upon a Pokemon to take them around the islands. Examples include calling a Charizard to Fly, a Lapras to Surf, or a Machamp to plow through boulders with Strength and each of these instances will feature new animations.

Finally, there are the Pokemon themselves. In addition to new Pokemon species, the last few months have seen the debut of a number of new Alola variants of familiar Pokemon species. The developers have been hard at work designing the remixed creatures, as well as crafting backstories for why they've undergone their mutations. As of now, the plan is to only offer Alolan variants to the Generation I (Red/Blue/Yellow) Pokemon. Newer generation Pokemon, like the ones in Pokemon Gold and Silver, are not getting Alolan variants for this game, but the concept of newer Alolan variants was not ruled out.

Those looking to get a look at the brave new world of Pokemon can get a small taste through the free Sun and Moon demo that was released on Tuesday. Those players will also get to carry over its Greninja, which includes the Ash-Greninja ability, the first anime tie-in to hit a Pokemon game in many years. Everyone else looking to see how much Pokemon has changed will be able to get Pokemon Sun and Moon on November 18.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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