Aloha from Alola: Pokemon Sun & Moon Demo

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We’re a month away from Pokemon Sun & Moon hitting stores worldwide. To celebrate, and promote the upcoming game, Nintendo has released a demo to whet players’ appetites. This is similar to what they did with Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Saphire back in 2014. However, this Pokemon isn’t just a new generation; it’s both a familiar and foreign experience for veterans like myself. The Sun & Moon demo isn’t just meant to kill time before November 18th but intended to show players that there’s a lot of differences coming to Pokemon this time around. Unfortunately while showing all the changes to the formula they removed any semblance of challenge, at least in this demo.

You play the demo as Sun, a young boy who has just moved from the Kanto region with his Mom to the tropical paradise of Alola. You’re quickly introduced to NPC (and rival?) Hau and this game’s Team Rocket, Team Skull. While Pokemon games have struggled to create a team as good as Team Rocket, Team Skull feels very strange. They have an air of a city gang, and it’s not clear from your run-ins with them what their end goal is. They seem dangerous in the way a man with a baseball bat is dangerous rather than how a thief is dangerous. But of course, they’re no match for you, the mighty protagonist.

I should mention that for the demo you are given a Greninja as your only Pokemon. A super-powered, special-edition, form-changing  Greninja that removes any feeling of vulnerability because pretty much every other Pokemon you face is underpowered. After quickly disposing of Team Skull you’re introduced this generation’s Professor Oak, Professor Kukui. This “Brofessor” (because that’s kind of what he looks like) introduces you several of the core game mechanics of Sun and Moon. I’m not going to go through them all because it’s all stuff that if you’ve played a Pokemon game you’ve already heard. But I will focus on one of the biggest features in Sun & Moon, the trials. Each trial will involve some task for the player to accomplish before they face a “Totem” Pokemon, a stronger Pokemon that acts a boss for the trial. The trial for the demo was essentially Pokemon Snap, with the player using a camera the Poke-Finder to take pictures of Pokemon. Conveniently this startles said Pokemon, and you have to fight them.

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Once the trial is over, you then fight an Admin of Team Skull. Luckily this is also a convenient time for the game to show off the new battle mechanic of “Z-Moves.” These attacks are the “Limit-Breaks” of the Pokemon world with certain Pokemon now able to perform incredibly powerful attacks. Did I mention that the demo is easy?

I understand that Pokemon has always been an easy game, but it’s difficult to tell who the demo is for. While 6-year old James might not have grasped how straightforward Pokemon is, 25-year old James certainly does. There’s a lot of new stuff coming in Sun & Moon, but if you’re familiar with Pokemon, you learn that stuff very quickly. Sure there are no Gyms, but the new “Island Challenge” and the trials are another form of that. And while it’s not clear if you ever bike in Sun & Moon, you will be riding a Taurus at some point (which is much cooler anyway). It’s these changes and all the Alola Form Pokemon that show that Pokemon Sun & Moon is honoring the franchise’s 20th anniversary by both doing and not doing the same thing that is always has done.

I’m looking forward to Sun & Moon both for its many twists on the Pokemon formula and the fact that it’s a Pokemon game. I don’t think a dinky little demo with rewards for the full version is really going to change that.

Before I end my little review of the demo, I want to point out that as far as settings go Alola is looking to be perhaps the prettiest of locales that the franchise has ever been to. While the amount of water might cause traumatic flashbacks to the Hoenn region, it’s looking like Alola will be a colorful, diverse, and interesting region for trainers new and old to explore. Plus we get Hanson Dugtrio, that’s kind of cool (no it’s not).

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Pokemon Sun & Moon comes out November 18th, 2016 worldwide.


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