It seems like every other day there's an update on Pokemon Sun and Moon. And after a while, it's been hard to believe that there could be all that many things left. But the Pokemon Company proved with this latest update that we basically know nothing about the world of Alola. So today let's discuss the new Pokemon and new features announced for Sun and Moon!
"What the heck, Ian? Exeggutor isn't new! This is Gen One stuff." If that's your reaction, chances are you haven't seen this:
See that crazy tall Exeggutor? Turns out that this is one of a number of Pokemon that has something called an Alola form - a "regional variant" adapted to a specific climate in Alola. The Pokedex entry on the official website explains that Exeggutor can absorb sunlight year-round in Alola, enabling it to reach this gargantuan size. It also develops a fourth head on its tail, allowing it to protect itself from attacks from the rear. It uses its long neck to swing its hard heads down and smash opponents, although that skinny neck can be a weakness too. Alolan Exeggutor is Grass/Dragon type with the ability Frisk, which allows it to search its opponent to see what item it has. Grass/Dragon is a rare typing shared only with the Mega form of Sceptile.
The people of Alola brag that this is the "true" form of Exeggutor. Personally, I don't know what they are bragging about. This Pokemon just looks ridiculous to me, and Grass/Dragon doesn't really have too many advantages over Exeggutor's original Grass/Psychic typing. It trades a 4x weakness to Bug for a 4x weakness to Ice, and while Dragon hits more types for neutral damage from an offensive standpoint, Psychic deals super-effective damage to Poison (one of Exeggutor's weaknesses) and Fighting (one of the strongest types in the game). I understand that Pokemon shouldn't be measured only by combat ability, but poor typing and poor design together have earned my official seal of disapproval.
SANDSHREW AND SANDSLASH
Sandshrew and Sandslash are typically Ground type Pokemon that live in the sand, but volcanic eruptions in Alola drove them from their traditional homes. They moved to the frigid mountains, where their outer shells formed a layer of ice as strong as Steel. This lessened their mobility compared to the normal variant, but it toughened them up for the icy climate. These Pokemon use their claws to carve a path through the snow and ice. When Sandslash moves this way, it creates a beautiful spray of ice and snow, and catching a photo of this phenomenon is a strong desire of Alolan photographers. Sandslash defends itself by burying its body in snow so that the icy spines on its back jut out. This variant is Ice/Steel type and has the ability Snow Cloak, which raises Evasion in hailstorms.
I do enjoy the new design of these classic Pokemon. Sandshrew's igloo shell, in particular, is a really great touch. Ice/Steel is an interesting typing with definite pluses and minuses - while it is strong against two of the toughest types in the game (Dragon and Fairy), it's also 4x weak to two of the strongest types in the game (Fire and Fighting). If the description in the Pokedex reflects the stat changes to this form of Sandshrew and Sandslash, we'll also see a speed drop in exchange for some enhanced defenses. Since these Pokemon weren't always the fastest critters anyway, the defense boost will probably be more beneficial.
VULPIX AND NINETALES
OH MY GOSH THIS POKEMON IS ADORABLE AND THEN IT IS BEAUTIFUL AND I CAN'T EVEN. I HAVE SO MANY EMOTIONS RIGHT NOW.
Okay, so let's take a moment for me to calm down. Vulpix originally came to Alola with humans from other regions but they moved up into the mountains to live in a habitat that wasn't so heavily populated. There they live in small families for survival, using their freezing breath (roughly -50 degrees Celsius) to solidify any foes that come after them. They don't function well in high temperatures but their tails lower the temperature around them. Ninetales, meanwhile, are considered to be holy emissaries of the sacred mountains upon which they live. They're known for their gentleness but they fiercely protect their territory with powerful ice projectiles capable of pulverizing stone. Vulpix is a pure ice type, while Ninetales becomes Ice/Fairy. They share the ability Snow Cloak, which raises evasion in hail.
I LOVE the designs of these Pokemon. Vulpix and Ninetales were gorgeous anyway, but somehow their icy forms have surpassed the beauty of the ones that came before. As far as typing, this thing is a nightmare to Dragon types, but it boasts a nice little 4x weakness to Steel Pokemon. Luckily, there aren't that many really viable Steel types out there. I can see this Pokemon being really powerful, as both Ice and Fairy have some pretty powerful special moves at their disposal. I'm pretty sure that this Pokemon is going to be on my first Alola team, although the double Fairy coverage with Mimikyu may be something I have to begrudgingly address at some point.
Those were all the Alola forms introduced for pre-existing Pokemon, but the latest update also revealed some new Pokemon as well!
The evolved form of Yungoos. Where Yungoos is reckless and pursues its prey, Gumshoos tracks its prey carefully and stands in quiet watch until its victim walks by. True to its name, this careful creature maneuvers like a seasoned detective to capture its food. It will stand watch until nightfall if necessary, but they will fall asleep where they stand when the sun sets. Like Yungoos, it can have the Stakeout or Strong Jaw ability.
When I first saw this Pokemon, I'll admit to balking a bit. The choice in name seemed so odd to me - why name it after a gumshoe? But then reading its description and seeing how its hunting habits have grown since its pre-evolved form, the name makes sense. The design is pretty solid, too. I love how it just stands calmly with its hands behind its back; when your opponent is standing like that, you know you're about to be in for a one-sided fight - and it isn't your side.
That's right, big ole Mudsdale comes from this little guy. Mudbray's tale is a sad one. Once these creatures populated the world, but sadly they were overhunted. Now the Alola region is the only remaining place where these Pokemon run free in the wild. Mudbray loves to play - you guessed it - in the mud. If it can't play in the mud, it gets stressed and stops listening to orders from its trainer. Just like its older form, Mudbray is all about power. The superhuman strength on this thing allows it to carry 50 times its own weight. And since it weighs just south of 250, it can carry nearly 12,500 pounds! Mudbray is a ground type and has either the ability Own Tempo or Stamina.
I really enjoyed it when Mudsdale was announced and this little critter definitely makes sense as a pre-evolution for that behemoth. The design does its job, the unique ability Stamina is awesome, and Mudbray's story - while sad - adds yet more depth to the ecology of Alola.
Wait, shouldn't "Minior" be the nickname of the donkey Pokemon up above? Get it? Oh, bother.
According to the Pokedex, this little guy lives way up in the stratosphere and feeds on the waste particles there. This forms a hard shell around its body, and when that shell gets heavy enough the Pokemon will fall from the sky to the earth below. The core of Minior can be one of a number of colors, but until the outer shell breaks you'll have no idea what's underneath.
Minior has a brand new ability called Shields Down that causes it to change forms when its health drops below 50%. When Minior has its shell, it has incredible defenses and total immunity to status problems. When the shell breaks off, Minior becomes very fast and has a lot more attacking power. This is a pretty interesting ability, allowing Minior to serve as a wall until it is broken down and then making it into an attacking Pokemon. I'm definitely curious to see how this ability affects Minior's competitive usage, as the form change would have to be carefully managed in a longer battle. Minior is Rock/Flying, which is a decent typing. Flying protects Rock from three of its five weaknesses, so the two types definitely work together well.
I enjoy Minior's design and the idea of Shields Down, though I don't particularly anticipate myself wanting to use this Pokemon on my team. At least not in my first run. Even so, it looks great and I'll be excited to catch one and find out what nice pastel color it is under that tough exterior.
FOMANTIS AND LURANTIS
Is it Christmas already? Fomantis is a pure Grass Pokemon that relies greatly on photosynthesis not only for energy, but to build up the power it will someday wield in its evolved form. This Pokemon is actually active during the night, moving from place to place since it is dangerous to plant oneself in the same spot for two days in a row. It gathers energy through photosynthesis while it sleeps in the daytime. Fomantis is a ranged attacker, using moves like Razor Leaf and Solar Beam to fight off enemies that interfere with the process of photosynthesis. Of course, since Solar Beam uses precious energy from sunlight, that's more of a last resort.
Lurantis fights by drawing in foes with its beauty and scent before wreaking havoc upon them. Some say it is the most beautiful Grass Pokemon because of its coloration, but naturally that's up for debate (Lilligant, anyone?). Lurantis knows a brand new move called Solar Blade, which based on the description sounds like a physical variant of Solar Beam. Lurantis gathers energy from the sun on one turn, and then unleashes a blade powerful enough to cleave through stone on the next turn.
One last interesting note from the Pokedex about Lurantis - apparently this Pokemon is the Totem Pokemon of Lush Jungle, one of the trial sites for Akala Island. Here we get a name for one of the Alola islands besides Melemele, which is pretty cool. If you don't know what a Totem Pokemon is or what significance a trial site has, we'll address that in a bit.
Oricorio is a Flying type Pokemon that feeds on nectar from the flowers throughout the Alola region. The vast differences in each island and on the nectar that Oricorio feeds upon causes it to assume different styles on each island. As such, there are technically four forms of Oricorio: Baile, Pom-Pom, Pa'u, and Sensu. Each style has a different primary typing, making Oricorio a bit different based on where you catch it.
Baile style is a Fire type. It is a passionate dancer that can ignite the downy fluff it flings out while dancing. Pom-Pom style is an Electric type, and it rubs its pom-poms together to create static electricity. Like a cheerleader, this Pokemon loves to encourage people. The Psychic type Oricorio dances the Pa'u style, said to be a dance in honor of its guardian deity. It moves at its own pace, which can be frustrating to a trainer trying to give orders. Finally, there's Sensu style, which is a Ghost type. The people of Kanto are reminded of their homeland by this style, which gathers in the power of nearby spirits to grant fighting strength.
All of the Oricorio styles share a move and an ability. The move is Revelation Dance, which changes types based on which style Oricorio is dancing. This allows it to line up with each style's primary type - Fire for Baile, Electric for Pom-Pom, Psychic for Pa'u, and Ghost for Sensu. The ability is Dancer, which allows Oricorio to immediately copy and use any dancing move used by the opponent. Swords Dance, Dragon Dance, Teeter Dance, Petal Dance - there are plenty of moves to copy this way.
I think Oricorio is pretty great. All of the designs are neat (although I'm not too fond of the Pom-Pom style), and the idea of a Pokemon that has a different form on each island of Alola is definitely a good one. I also enjoy that Oricorio's typings are all somewhat rare (with the exception of Fire/Flying). The Dancer ability is incredible, giving Oricorio free usage of moves like Swords Dance, Dragon Dance, and Quiver Dance that are very popular in the competitive setting. Seeing an Oricorio on your team will definitely make opponents think twice about setting up with such a move.
That's the end of all the new Pokemon, but it's not even close to the end of the new information released with this trailer. First let's check out a few details which have been expanded upon, but are not technically "new."
We've seen plenty of hints about Pokemon riding in the trailers, but now more details have come forward. In Alola there is a service called Poke Ride which allows you to ride Pokemon to places that humans cannot reach. The website stresses that these Pokemon are not on your team, but that you can call on them anytime. I'm not sure how literally to take that - will there be a whistle or flute that literally calls the Pokemon to you? Or is it more like you can go to a Poke Ride stable and pick up a Pokemon anytime you want? I suspect the latter.
Pokemon that are able to be ridden include Stoutland, Lapras, Sharpedo, Tauros, Mudsdale, and Charizard. Stoutland, Tauros, and Mudsdale all handle things on land, Lapras and Sharpedo are for the water, and Charizard is for flying. I'm guessing there are going to be more options as well, but I can't help but wonder - are the differences between different "rides" practical or simply visual? I'd be curious to see how Stoutland, Mudsdale, and Tauros all have different functions for riding on land, particularly when none of them serves the purpose of being really fast (something you'd think would be an obvious need to fill).
According to the website, Poke Ride is possible because humans and Pokemon are so closely integrated on Alola, a fact that is further represented by the Rotom Pokedex. That's pretty intriguing to me, but what really intrigues me about Poke Ride is the possibility that it could completely eradicate HM moves. We've already seen that there are Poke Ride Pokemon available for water and air - covering both the Surf and Fly HMs - plus we've seen Tauros demonstrate the ability to smash a boulder with his head - previously covered by Rock Smash. Is it possible that instead of teaching HM moves to your party Pokemon, you utilize Poke Ride instead? Personally, I would love that change, as HM moves are one of the more frustrating holdovers from older Pokemon games. Using up a whole move slot just to cut the occasional bush gets really irritating, so it'd be nice if this Poke Ride mechanic was used as a fun, cool way to include those obstacles while eliminating the need for special moves.
What internet speculators were originally calling "synergy moves" have now been confirmed to be Z-Moves. Z-Moves combine a mystical gem on a bracelet worn by the trainer with a corresponding gem held by a Pokemon. Sound familiar? Yeah, it seems like Z-Moves may be replacing the idea of Mega Evolution entirely. Anyway, there's one Z-Move for every type, and these attacks are extremely powerful. So powerful, in fact, that you can only use a Z-Move once per battle.
Unlike Mega Evolution, Z-Moves can be used by every Pokemon. The only requirement is that the Pokemon must already have a move that corresponds to the type of the Z-Move, and be holding a Z-Crystal that also corresponds to that type. So a Pikachu that only knows Quick Attack can't use the Electrical Z-Move Gigavolt Havoc, but it could use the Normal type Z-Move. Alola has a Z-Crystal for every type in the game, for a total of 18 crystals to collect.
The website goes on to say that there will be some new merchandise to accompany Z-Moves: a real life Z-Ring! Fans can wear these while they play and the wireless connection between the game and the Z-Ring will cause the bracelet to light up in tandem with the player character's. It also makes sounds to go along with it, all in the interest of increasing the realism of the game and making it more immersive. Personally, I have no interest in this, but I can already picture kids scrambling to scoop one of these things up.
I'm still curious to know exactly how powerful Z-Moves are. I assume they are more powerful than even moves like Hyper Beam or Giga Impact, but how much more? Can they be stopped by using Protect, or avoided on the dodging turn of moves like Dig and Fly? If so, predicting the use of an opponent's Z-Move would become very important in competitive - assuming they are even permitted in competitive. Perhaps players would rather place an item with more long-term usefulness (a Choice Item, Life Orb, Assault Vest, or something similar) rather than a crystal that can basically just be used once. If that's the case and Mega Evolution is truly gone, the competitive scene might look a lot more like it did before X and Y rather than what it is now.
Now we've glanced at the Pokemon and our expanded knowledge of previously announced features, let's take a look at the brand new features revealed in the trailer!
THE ISLAND CHALLENGE
One of the unique things about the culture of Alola is that young trainers undergo a rite of passage known as the Island Challenge. This challenge sends the trainer to explore all four islands of Alola and to complete a number of trials on each one. Each island has multiple trials led by the island's trial captain. These aren't as simple as just battling someone - they require you to explore the island, gathering items or knowledge along the way. Each individual trial is ended by battling a Totem Pokemon, a Pokemon that is larger and more powerful than typical members of its species. These Totem Pokemon can summon allies to their side in battle and unleash dangerous combos with them, requiring you to fight smartly to overcome them (in theory, of course. You might be able to click Surf a couple of times and be fine). At the end of each island's trial you'll face the Kahuna of the island in one final battle. What happens once you finish the trial on all four islands? Well, I'm guessing that the fifth, man-made island of Alola comes into play at that point, and that the Island Challenge has some sort of Champion that you'll have to face at the end of the game. That's just speculation on my part, though.
Some folks have wondered if the Island Challenge is replacing the typical "eight gym" system. My take on the matter? Heck yeah it is. The Island Challenge may have fewer "boss characters" to battle than an eight gym set up, but the possibility of multiple non-combat trials means that this challenge will be a lot more involved. Plus you face a gaggle of Totem Pokemon along the way, so the challenge of battle won't be totally absent. I think it would make little sense for there to be both gyms and the Island Challenge, so I'm putting my eggs in one basket and saying that gym battles are gone - at least for seventh generation. If the Island Challenge is well received, we may see more variety in the Pokemon League setup in future Pokemon titles as well.
Each island has a different trial captain, and according to the website each one went through the Island Challenge themselves only a few years prior. Each trial captain specializes in a specific type, though I'm not really sure why if they aren't battled like gym leaders. Perhaps you do fight them, but that isn't explicitly stated in the description. The different captains are your guides during the trials of their specific islands, giving you your tasks and advising you on how to complete them.
The four trial captains are Sophocles, Mallow, Lana, and Kiawe. Sophocles is an electric type specialist who is inventive and apparently a bit rude. Mallow is a grass-type specialist, and she loves to cook with unusual ingredients. Lana is the water specialist and a fisherman (fisherwoman? Fishergirl? Fisherperson?) with multiple younger sisters. Kiawe specializes in Fire-type Pokemon and learns traditional Alolan dances with his trusty Marowak. I was about to make a joke about how Marowak is OBVIOUSLY a Fire type, but this could actually be a hint - after all, we've seen Alolan forms of Ninetales and Sandslash become the Ice type. Perhaps Marowak has legitimately adapted to be a Fire Pokemon in the Alola region? I suppose we'll find out when the game comes out, if not before.
THE BIG KAHUNAS
Each island of Alola has a leader who also serves as your opponent in what's called the grand trial - the final trial on each island. These guys are chosen by the guardian deities of each island, so they're pretty important. Hala is the kahuna of Melemele, and also the grandfather of your rival Hau, not to mention the one who gives you your starter Pokemon. This makes defeating him a pretty big moment.
My hope is that because there are half the number of kahunas as there are normal gym leaders, these guys will be a lot tougher to defeat than the typical gym leader and have teams that use more than one type of Pokemon. Of course, having said that, the screenshot showing Hala facing off against you shows only three Pokemon on his team, so my hopes aren't particularly high when it comes to difficulty. There's no indication of whether the kahunas specialize in certain types the way that the trial captains do, though, so perhaps at least that aspect of my hopes will come true.
I thought my excitement for Pokemon Sun and Moon couldn't rise much higher, but the Pokemon Company is once again defying my expectations when it comes to this game. I think the changes they are making are much-needed after twenty years, and they will hopefully revitalize the game and make it more engaging for old and new fans alike.
Meanwhile, if you're a fan of this article, be sure to check out my blog Adventure Rules, where you can find all of my pieces on Sun and Moon as well as articles on other Nintendo titles or even rumors about the Nintendo NX. You can find my blog at ianshepard.wordpress.com.