Please support Game Informer. Print magazine subscriptions are less than $2 per issue


Eight Big Changes Coming To Pokémon Sun And Moon

by AJ Moser on Aug 10, 2016 at 09:50 AM

Want The Next Issue In Your Mailbox?

Subscribe now

Pokémon Go caught the world’s attention this summer, proving to be one of the biggest mobile games of all time. While the thrill of finding and capturing the original generation of creatures on smartphones brought Pokémon to a whole new audience, the next proper installment in the series is still on the horizon. Sun and Moon are coming to the 3DS in November, and seem to be bringing the biggest changes to the series since Red and Blue. If you have lost interest in the franchise, these might be the games to bring you back. We’ve compiled and explained some of the brand new features in Sun and Moon to show how this generation of Pokémon is truly unlike anything that has come before.

Island Trials
The main objective of every Pokémon game has been the same since 1996. While training your team of super powered creatures, travel around various landscapes, beat eight gym leaders, challenge the Elite Four, and become champion of the Pokémon League. Sun and Moon are putting a significant twist on this tried-and-true formula. The Alola region is a string of islands, each one composing a unique environment and posing its own challenges. Rather than defeat a gym leader, trainers partake in Island Trials to prove their worth.

Corresponding with each of the islands on the Alola region map, four Trial Captains have been introduced so far, each specializing in a different type of Pokémon. These captains replace typical gym battles with more diverse gameplay challenges.  Mallow is a grass type expert, and asks you to find cooking ingredients in a lush jungle. Kiawe, the fire expert, waits on top of a volcano and will test your memory of a special dance. Lana and Sophocles specialize in water and electric types, respectively, but their trails have yet to be seen.  Though the captains aren't gym leaders, new forms of traditional boss battles are present in Sun and Moon.

Totems and Kahunas
Another part of the island challenge puts players up against Totem Pokémon, which are larger than other members of their species and posses unique skills. The most recent trailer showed off two totem Pokémon, Gumshoos and Lurantis. In addition to increased size, Totem Pokémon have the ability to call in allies. The player can only use one Pokémon in these fights, posing an asymmetrical advantage for the enemy. While horde battles in X and Y also put players at an unfair advantage, those Pokémon were typically under-leveled. 

After these totem battles, the final step of the island challenge is to defeat the island’s guardian. Players will confront a Kahuna, the strongest trainer on their respective island.  This trainer is partnered with the island’s guardian Pokémon, the area's guardian deity. Only one of these Pokémon has been revealed so far, Tapu Koko, the protector of Melemele Island. Hala, the friendly old man who gives players their first Pokémon, is the Kahuna of Melemele Island, where the journey begins. After beating each of these guardian Pokémon, players have completed the rite of the island challenge for that area, but it is unclear if they can add to their team.

Alola Forms

One the most talked about reveals in the latest trailer for Sun and Moon were all of the new Pokémon shown off in the game. The Alola forms of old Pokémon received a particular spotlight, bringing changes for some of the most beloved creatures from the past. We saw the evolutionary lines of Sandslash and Ninetales have become ice type, while Exeggutor underwent a massive growth spurt and gained the dragon type. Mega Evolution, introduced in X and Y, changes the design and type of Pokémon but only temporarily. These Alola forms are more like brand new Pokémon, and their potential is promising.

One thing worth noting is that all of the Pokémon revealed to have Alola variations so far are from the original 150. The roster may continue to grow, but we have a few safe guesses as to some of the other Alola forms we will see on our journey. First off, the Trial Captain Kiawe who is an expert in fire type is noted on the official website to use a Marowak. This Pokémon is not typically fire type, but might be getting a new form to fit with Kiawe’s theme. Since we know Vulpix and Ninetales are getting Alola forms, other likely candidates are Growlithe and Arcanine. These pairs act like opposites, and were originally exclusive to either Red or Blue versions. You couldn’t get a Vulpix in Red  or Growlithe in Blue without trading. If Growlithe and Arcanine get Alola forms too, they will most likely be exclusive to the game that Vulpix and Ninetales don't appear in. Better think carefully about if you want to pick up Sun or Moon if this is the case.

Read on to learn how riding Pokémon works as well as new multiple ways to power up your team.

Battle Royal

One of the most exciting parts of the Pokémon series is training your team of monsters to do battle with your friends. From the local link cable to the introduction of Wi-Fi, multiplayer competition has always been a big part of Pokémon. A new mode in Sun and Moon will bring a free-for-all frenzy form of Pokémon battles, something the series hasn’t done yet. Battle Royal pits four players against each other at once, and ends when one player has lost all their Pokémon.

Each player brings up to three Pokémon into the arena, and the tallied total remaining at the end of battle combined with the number of foes they knocked put determines the winner. The strategy of defending yourself from multiple allies while choosing the right target changes how Pokémon battles are fought. These battles provide a high-pressure situation when you get a group of friends gets together, but you can also play online against strangers.

Poké Ride

Players have long requested to be able to freely ride their Pokémon while exploring, and finally have the opportunity in Sun and Moon. Pokémon Rides are a brand new mechanic, expanding on the brief segments that were present in X and Y.  The official artwork depicts a special kind of PokéBall used by the trainer. Using this item, you can summon the Pokémon you want to ride but they can’t be used in battle.You will likely unlock more Pokémon as you need to move past certain obstacles in the environments. The features of these rideable Pokémon seem to have the same function as a lot of HM moves that were previously required to pass obstacles in the world.

Moves like surf and fly had to be learned by on one of your team's Pokémon, but Sun and Moon offer the ability to rent a Pokémon with that ability at any time. Lapras and Sharpedo are seen carrying players across bodies of water, and Tauros can bash through rocks. Charizard is one of the Pokémon rides that takes to the skies, and may incorporate the soaring ability introduced in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, letting you move about freely while in the air. We also see a Stoutland sniffing out items on the ground. More Poké Rides with a variety of helpful uses are going to be revealed in the build-up to release.


Pokémon X and Y introduced mega evolution, and Pokémon Sun and Moon introduce another crystal-based mechanic that unleashes a Pokémon’s hidden power relying on the bond with its trainer. Players have a special bracelet, the Z-Ring letting them hold Z-Crystals, which can be found hidden in various locations around the Alola region. When the player is holding the crystal of a certain type, they can utilize a devastating move in battle. The only condition to use a Z-Move is that the Pokémon knows a move of the corresponding type.

These unique moves can only be used once per battle, and trainers can hold up to six crystals at a time. If you’re really into Z-moves, you can buy an actual Z-Ring and crystals to wear on your wrist while you play Pokémon Sun and Moon. The toy connects with the game, lights up, and makes sounds when you use a Z-move in the game. It is up to you if you want to copy the goofy poses your in-game trainer makes when using one of these moves as well.

Your New Pokédex

The most essential item on every trainer’s journey in the Pokémon world is the Pokédex. This handy tool keeps a catalog of the creatures you’ve encountered and captured. In Sun and Moon, the Pokédex is taking on a number of new roles and even talks to the player. Rotom, a Pokémon that possesses electronic devices, has taken over your Pokédex duties this time around. It functions as a map and keeps even better track of how and where to find rare Pokémon.

The Pokédex itself is just as essential as always to catching them all, but Sun and Moon introduce additional ways to come across Pokémon. You can now scan and create QR codes for individual Pokémon that reveals information about their habitat. These codes can be scanned with the 3DS and help uncover secrets about the Alola region. Distribution methods haven’t been revealed yet, but this is just one more step bringing Pokémon closer to the real world. 

Hyper Training

Level 100 has always been the level cap for Pokémon to hit, and a necessity for competitive play. Knowledge of mechanics like effort values and individual values is essential for trainers looking to get the most out of their team. These hidden strengths determine how high a Pokémon’s statistics can go. There have been ways to monitor these values in the games before, but never change them. Hyper Training is a mysterious new feature coming to Sun and Moon that allows Pokémon that have hit level 100 even stronger.

Using bottle caps, a man named Mr. Hyper helps trainers to max out the stats of their Pokémon. This will more than likely become an essential step in making sure your team is ready for competitive multiplayer, if that interests you. Currently, the only known way to obtain bottle caps involves the mythical Pokémon Magearna. The details of this Pokémon's distribution  are vague at the moment, but players can expect to learn more leading up to the game’s November 18 release.

That’s everything we know about Pokémon Sun and Moon so far! Sound off in the comments below about what features you’re the most excited for. The next batch of info on the games is due on August 12, so keep an eye on GameInformer.