As promised earlier this month, The Pokémon Company just released a Demo Version of the upcoming Pokémon Sun & Moon! Here are our thoughts and reactions to playing through this short taster of the game, and what we expect to see from the Alola Region based on our experience… [Spoilers]
Details on the Demo
The Demo can be downloaded from the eShop, and requires 3058 Blocks of free space on your SD Card.
Things open with a short introduction to your Character, although you don’t get the option to choose gender or name. You can only play as a Boy named ‘Sun’. As soon as you step out of the door, there is a letter waiting letting you know about the Greninja you have just been given. However, the writer doesn’t sign their name… how mysterious. Or not, as Pokémon Anime fans will know this Greninja as Ash-Greninja from the cartoon series (and it’s Original Trainer Name is listed as Ash in the stats screen).
This is a special Greninja that can transform in to a symbiotic version of itself and Ash from the Anime Series. It’s a cool feature, and a Pokémon you can only acquire by playing the Demo. However, it isn’t that exciting to play through a Demo of the new game, using one from the Generation we just played through. I started Pokémon X with a Greninja, so this isn’t as fun as being offered an Alolan Pokémon. It’s unlikly any other Pokémon will take on such a transformation though, so it is kind of special.
Moving on from there, your Mother takes you to the Hau’oli City civic centre to register your new address, as your family has just moved to Alola from the Kanto Region. While waiting, another boy named Hau arrives and offers to show you around Alola…
This leads you into a battle confrontation with Team Skull (the badies) who are lurking around town. Next, a trip to the Pokémon Centre and then to meet Prof. Kukui, who invites you to try out a Pokémon Trial on the island.
Taking part in the Trial on Ten Carat Hill, you’re asked by Prof. Kukui to take a few pictures of some Dragon Pokémon, Jangmo-0 and Hakamo-o (part of the same evolutionary line).
The Trail area is the first time we really see the Alola Region for what it is. The land is much more dimensional that in previous games, with slopes and turns which appear very natural. Patches of grass are also less defined and appear more wild! You can also see some areas blocked off by suspiciously placed rocks…
By using the Pokémon Finder, you can try out the new Photo features of the game. This is the only part of the Demo that utilises Stereoscopic 3D, as it would appear the enhanced engine and greater on-screen polygon count have cut this feature out of battles and environments completely.
Taking pictures is fun, although only the most basic form of the tool is on show here. What’s more exciting though is that snapping a Pokémon’s image can startle them, triggering a battle encounter.
Prof. Kukui also lends you a Lv.40 Pikachu to help you through the trial, which is a nice touch that leads into the Demo’s presentation of Z-Moves later on. Z-Moves are a new feature of Sun & Moon, which allows one Pokémon in your team to use a super strong move once per-battle. A second run in with Team Skull gives you the perfect opportunity to try this out!
After finishing the trial, the Demo comes to a close, and you’re treated with a fresh trailer showing some new characters and locations. No new Pokémon though. I have heard there is one new Pokémon in the Demo, but I haven’t found it… yet.
Yet being the operative word, as straight after the Demo’s first conclusion you can head back in and play the Trial over again, only this time with the use of an PokéRide loaner Pokémon, Tauros. With the help of Tauros’ super speed you can break through those suspicious rocks from before, and find new areas!
That’s all we’ll say about the Demo for now, as there seems to be a little more to discover as well as incentives to return again on specific days. In fact, one NPC insists we play again TOMORROW! So we’ll leave the rest to be explored unspoiled.
As far as reactions go, it’s clear this is a much more detailed Pokémon world than we’ve seen before! The City location feels highly detailed, and more like a real town than a cartoon-ish representation. Likewise, the hill and cave environments give a great sense of wilderness, and demand to be explored. For the first time since Pokémon Snap, I felt like I was venturing into the private, unseen world of the Pokémon. The dynamic encounters as a result of taking Jangmo-0’s and Hakamo-o’s photograph felt exciting, and gave them real personality!
It’s a shame however, that the DexNav feature from Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire doesn’t return. As that was a great way to find individual Pokémon that felt very immersive and gave your Monsters a personal connection. D-Pad control is also gone, in favour of much more dynamic character movement exclusive to the Circle Pad. No special controls for the New Nintendo 3DS feature in the Demo, so we can assume there won’t be any upon release either.
The UI for Sun & Moon has also taken a leap forward from the previous Generation, although not all fans are in agreement with it. Now, you’ll be given extra information on type effectiveness when battling Pokémon you’ve met before, with moves label ‘Not Very Effective’ or ‘Super Effective’ etc. depending what you’re fighting. Some fans have expressed concerns that this will weaken the competitive play of the game. However, with 18 Types and well over 700 different Pokémon to catch, it’s easy to see how this will be useful for new and casual players. I became a Pokémon Master in Pokémon X, but even so I can’t remember everything! Hopefully they’ll be an option to disable this for those it irritates, but personally I’m happy with it.
Additionally, the UI feels much more fluid than before, with menus overlaying one another, move and Pokémon information is also more readily available thanks to quick touch screen prompts. Everything has a really beautiful brush stroke art style, with a wonderfully colourful look. This is a much more fun and stylish battle system than anything I can remember in Pokémon before. You can even Press Y to go straight to PokéBalls, a great change!
Music also plays a big role in Alola, and brings this region to life in a way other games have perhaps fallen short of. It really does feel like taking a trip to another place (although perhaps not if you are from the inspirational, Hawaii). you even get some different tunes during the Night time, which has a stronger implication on which version you buy, as Sun takes place in the Day, and Moon at Night. I wasn’t a fan of the new Pokémon Centre theme though, this was the only time the new music style felt forced.
Overall, this Demo shows a lot of promise for Sun & Moon when they launch in Europe on the 23rd November (18th November elsewhere). The lack of 3D support is disappointing, but it’s easy to see why it’s missing, given the rich visuals. Again, I would have preferred a Gen 7 Pokémon as my guide, rather than Ash-Greninja, but it’s a nice freebie for hardcore fans. Personally, I can wait to get out into Alola and start filling up my Rotom-Dex with new Pokémon! Expect a full review in November.