Can’t wait another month for Pokémon Sun and Moon version? No problem! Nintendo and GameFreak have released a demo version to the 3DS eshop so all you impatient trainers can wet your whistle and get a taste of what’s to come. I had the chance to sit down and play through it yesterday, and I have to give it my approval. After playing through the original Pokémon Yellow Version on my 3DS recently, it’s VERY clear that Pokémon has come a long way since it’s inception.

While not everything is wonderful, Pokémon’s newest entry seems to be making some really smart changes to the formula to streamline the experience and make the game both more fun and more accessible to the largest possible audience.The demo was VERY short, only giving us a brief taste of the atmosphere in the world and some of the new mechanics, but it’s enough to get a grasp of what we can expect in November. Here are my thoughts on the Pokémon Sun and Moon Demo version:

Story Time
Sun and Moon takes place on the tropical islands of Alola, an imposter Hawaii where everyone is friendly and it’s always warm.
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Alola boasts a variety of new Pokémon, which is whatever. What’s more interesting, however, is GameFreak giving some of your favorite Pokémon a fresh coat of paint with the addition of new Alolan forms. These old friends get a new identity, along with a new type. Some of them look fantastic. For example, look at this Alolan form of Marowak.

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Following the original game’s narrative, she’s now an effing ghost! Super rad! Unfortunately, not everyone meets the same fate, as Exeggutor’s Alolan form looks a lot less like the neat Pineapple tree we are familiar with, and more like a fetish sex toy.

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Can’t win ‘em all I guess…

Anyway, Friendship is definitely magical in the Pokémon world, and they’re trying really hard to display that in S&M. It’s very clear they are attempting to line up the game’s story and presentation with the popular anime show of the same name. The characters are colorful and expressive, and they really care about you and your relationships. Your character, who in the demo is known as “Sun”, is the new guy in town and gets the generic “let me show you around” from your new island friend, Hau.

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Hau gives you the grand tour of the town and introduces you to Professor Kukui. Something is different about this professor. Over the years, the Pokémon professors have become younger and more attractive, but this guy is a Tumblr artist’s dream. Check out these pecks!

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…And his Crocs. Swoon.

After talking to Professor Beefcake, we learn that every kid in Alola has to take a Pokémon trial when they turn 11, which I can only assume is what give them the life experience and financial independence to leave home as a child and travel the country. In reality, this trial is the meat of the demo and an introduction into the core mechanics and some of the additions to Sun and Moon. You get a feel for the world, the characters, and the enemies. Like I said before; it’s short. You can play through the whole thing in probably 20 minutes. Luckily, there is incentive to return, as the demo offers goodies for going back and talking to various people on different days. These goodies can be transferred to the main game when it releases. One of the goodies is a Pokémon.

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k…

Let’s take a look at some of the changes I noticed.

Pokémon Snap!
One of the showcases of the demo was the camera feature. At certain set piece points during the game, you can switch to a camera mode and snap up to six pictures of Pokémon who are prancing across the screen. Think Pokémon Snap if it were a tiny-mini-microgame. In the Demo, the result of snapping a picture would scare the Pokémon, causing them to battle you. It’s not really known yet whether this feature will be any more fleshed out in the full version.

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Statistics
Gone are the days of trying to remember what the status effect is on your Pokémon. Although those of us who have been playing for a while already know what goes down when an opponent uses “Tail Whip”, the newcomer might not. Now, at any time between turns, you can tap a status indicator above you or your opponent’s Pokémon, and see what ailments might be hampering their abilities.

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You can also see what moves will be effective (or not so much) against your opponent, provided you’ve faced that Pokémon type in the past. It’s an exciting new addition that will allow for better strategy, and hopefully prevent amateur mistakes in battle.

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The best additions to Pokémon in years.
Guys… Take a peek at this.

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That’s right. There’s now a button right on the main screen that allows you to toss a pokeball. No more scrolling through menu after menu, trying to get to the right pokeball to catch your Pokémon, only to have to do it all over again once it breaks free. This is going to be a huge time saver for those chronic collectors.

Sun and Moon also lets you swap newly acquired Pokémon into your party, provided it’s full. This will eliminate having to visit the PC in the Pokémon Center every time you catch something great. Fantastic!

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Be gone, Pokeslave!

In the past, you would progress through various obstacles on the map by using special Pokémon moves known as Hidden Machines (HMs). You would teach these HMs to a Pokémon in your party and they could do things like cut down a tree or move a boulder blocking your path. You could use your Pokémon to swim across the ocean or soar into the sky and visit a different town. While a novel concept, it’s ultimately a hassle for two reasons:
Pokémon only learn four moves. Not only do these HMs take a one of those precious spaces; once learned, the cannot be forgotten.
Because of this, most trainers resort to keeping a Pokémon in their party that most have dubbed an HM slave. This Pokémon’s ONLY purpose is to harbor as many of the HM moves as possible.

These problems potentially prevent you from keeping the Pokémon you actually want, and it slows your progress by forcing you to grind more than you might previously had needed. Sun and Moon solves this problem with a new mechanic to the series, a partner system. Rather than waste Pokémon slots or move spaces, you can now summon specific friendly Pokémon who will do things like carry you from place to place or bash obstacles. GameFreak says it’s a new way to explore the relationship between trainers and Pokémon, spotlighting how important they are in eachother’s lives. We all know what’s really going on, though.

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Ditching the D-Pad
Pokémon has finally given up the option to navigate the world by using the system’s D-Pad. (Those four little arrow buttons) Instead, all of your walking is done with the 3DS’ Circle Pad. This isn’t a huge deal, as you don’t really lose anything from the lack of support, but the demo doesn’t really seem to make use of the D-Pad outside of battle anyway, so getting rid of it seems like an odd choice. The best I can come up with is that it wouldn’t have felt like natural movement as the new game seems to have completely gone away from grid based movement like prior games.

Chugging Along with Performance.
Pokémon’s game engine has been going strong for three games now. Despite three generations of refinement, it seemed to have an awful lot of trouble holding a steady framerate at times. I’m running the newest available 3DS hardware, so I can only imagine the issue is exacerbated on older systems. This occurred both in battle and while utilizing the new camera features. Maybe this will be fixed in the final version, though I wouldn’t hold my breath. The disclusion of 3D visuals (the console’s flagship feature) in the game would suggest otherwise. Both Pokémon X&Y and ORAS would see performance slow dramatically when 3D was enabled. The fact that it’s absent completely speaks to this otherwise outstanding game’s hardware limitations.

Strange Stories

Sun and Moon are making Departures from the classic Pokémon formula in a lot of ways. Some are refreshing, some… not so much.

GameFreak has told us they’re ditching the progression system of collecting badges by visiting Pokémon gyms and defeating their leaders. This time around, it’s all about trials on the maps islands, where you must prove yourself as a trainer. This sounds different at first, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that these trials include visiting spots and defeating a powerful trainer. You might even be rewarded with some kind of symbol. You know, like a badge or something.

I said before that the game looks like it’s trying to line up with the Anime series. This is fantastic for those of you who have followed the show religiously, but those of us who have shifted away in life might be left needing answers. For example: At one point in the demo, your Greninja proclaims it has an incredibly strong bond with you as a trainer, causing it to it to evolve into “Ash-Greninja.”

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K. Let me Google what the hell that means.

Ash is the Protagonist of the Anime. We know that. In the recent series, Ash’s Greninja does exactly what my Pokémon did in the game, bonding with him so strong it evolved to a more powerful state, taking on his partial appearance.

The problem here is that I am not Ash. I received this Pokémon on loan from another trainer 20 minutes ago. Why is it evolving to look like someone in a different region because it feels attached to me? Slow down, Greninja—we just met!

This could be entirely explained in the full game and just meant to showcase options in the demo, but it could also lead to gaping plot holes that leave you scratching your head because you haven’t invested time into the show.

Despite those few shortcomings I noticed, I enjoyed my time with the demo. I really liked the new features, and I’ll definitely be returning to grab the special demo items, as well as the full game.

You can pick up the special demo version right now on Nintendo 3DS eshop, and the full versions of Pokémon Sun and Moon release on November 18th for $39.99

I’m unabashedly in love with Nintendo; ESPECIALLY Zelda! Spelunky is my jam. Burritos are life.
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