(More) Pokémon Sun and Moon news: Part 2 -Riding, Trials and Team Skull

Welcome to part 2! In part 1 we went over the new Pokémon and Alolan forms, but in this part we’ll be talking about some gameplay features and the recently revealed Team Skull!

Let’s start with the one that still has some mystery, though, riding Pokémon. For those of you holding out hope that you could just ride a member of your team everywhere, we’re sorry to report that this won’t be the case. Apparently, riding Pokémon is part of some sort of service in which you call on the help of Pokémon to get through a certain area or past an obstacle, but these Pokémon do not join your team.

Riding Tauros

Could this be the new way to clear out rocks, instead of having to waste a move slot on the Rock Smash HM?

While that is disappointing, look at what the Pokémon are used for in the trailer. Not only are they a form of transport, they’re used to smash boulders, traverse the sea and apparently you can even fly on a Charizard. Could this be a way to remove HMs? Instead of wasting a move slot, you simply call on these Pokémon to help you.

Flying on Charizard should be noted in particular, as the animation of jumping aboard looks a lot like it did when you called on Latios or Latias in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Does this mean riding Charizard is just like using the move Fly, or will it be Alola’s version of Soaring?

Riding Charizard

Eh…You may want to take a step to the side.

If it is, we’ll happy celebrate this new feature being added.

Another thing to be cleared up was the trainer dancing and the weird symbols that appeared over the starter Pokémon. Apparently, this animation precedes a Z-move (No idea what the Z stands for), which is a powerful move that can be used only once per battle.

Z-Move

We’re suddenly sort of glad we’re not trainers. This looks kinda embarrassing.

This functions almost exactly the same as mega evolutions. You require an item called the Z-Ring and Z-crystals of a certain type. If a Pokémon holds a Z crystal of a type matching the one in the Z-Ring, it can use a Z-move of that type. What should be noted is that the official description doesn’t state that a Pokémon has to be a certain type to use the corresponding Z-move, but that it has to learn a move of the corresponding type.

Unless it’s a mix-up in the wording, this could mean you could surprise an opponent by having a fire-type capable of using a grass or water-type Z-move.

hypertrain

Ah, the reason we all play Pokémon. Charts.

Competitive play might see some changes too, due to the fact that you can now organize your own competitions online and the introduction of Hyper Training. For the first time in the series you can directly change a Pokémon’s Individual Values, which determine a Pokémon’s stats and are essentially Pokémon genes. Up until now, getting good IVs on a Pokémon depended on a combination of clever breeding and luck.

How Hyper Training actually works is currently unclear, though we do know that it requires you to raise a Pokémon to level 100 and the training requires bottle caps.

…This must be A Hawaiian thing we’re just not familiar with, or Pokémon exists in the same universe as the Fallout series. Are we going to have to kill raiders for bottlecaps?

We don’t know if bottle caps will be easy to get, but we do know that getting a Pokémon to level 100 is a lot of work. We honestly wonder if breeding and relying on luck might not be quicker.

Now in the most recent trailer, we were introduced to Alola’s resident villainous team, Team Skull. Evil teams appearing in a Pokémon game is about as inevitable as the tides, so nobody was exactly surprised to see them.

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We don’t have a lot of news about their motivation yet, as the official website describes them as thieves or hooligans with no clear ambitions. Their rap/gang aesthetic does set them apart a bit, though. The music that plays during encounters with them reflects this and it’s sort of a first for music like this in a Pokémon game.

We were introduced to the people running the show, namely the admin, Plumeria and the boss, Guzma. Plumeria is described as something of a big sister to the grunts of Team Skull, and Guzma mentions that he could “never become a captain.” This probably refers to the trial captains introduced in Sun and Moon.

It’ll be interesting to see what Team Skull wants and how the legendary Pokémon play into it.

Finally, we get to the thing that has us sort of concerned. As many people have pointed out, we still haven’t seen any Gym Leaders in the trailers and now we know why.

They don’t exist.

The trailer mentions something about the Island Challenge, Trial Captains overseeing this challenge and people called the Kahunas who can be challenged once a trial has been cleared. Clearing the trials involves battling Totem Pokémon, which are Pokémon who gain a stat boost at the start of the fight and can call allies to help them.

Trial Totem Pokémon

Does this mean we, as trainers, can act as allies to our Pokémon and kick the enemy’s support in the face?

With little information to go on, we don’t want to say we hate this concept…but boy, are we not excited about it!

Let’s talk positives for a moment.

This is sort of what we wanted. In an earlier article, we mentioned how we hoped that the story of Sun and Moon would be a little different and let us do something other than beating Gyms for the sake of beating gyms. Well, this is certainly different.

It’s a good way to make the region stand out. This has never been done before and the concept of Totem Pokémon implies an interesting level of unity with nature, which would seem to fit the region.

It could add a lot of character to the games…but let’s look at what has us worried.

When we said we wanted to do more than beat gyms, we should probably have clarified that we did still want to freaking battle! Sure, you still battle the Totem Pokémon, but that’s just a beefed-up random encounter from the looks of it.

The official description is very clear that an island trial does not have to be a battle, which probably means that we shouldn’t expect them to be. That leaves only the Kahunas as guaranteed gym leader-like battles.

This is a pretty radical departure from the structure of 8 gym leaders and the Elite 4. Even if we assume that you do battle the trial captains, that puts us at 8 gym leader-like battles and there’s been no mention of an Alola equivalent of the Elite 4. We see Hala is one the Kahunas in the trailer and he only has 3 Pokémon, so it’s safe to say that the Kahunas are no Elite 4 substitute.

Trial Kahuna

You also have to consider that this battle apparently happens immediately after you clear a trial.

As mentioned, we did want change, so why are we bitching about this? Two reasons.

The first is the concept of battle-less trials and Totem Pokémon. Right out of the gate, the idea of trials without a battle is a poor one. We play Pokémon because we want to battle. Why take that away? This and the Totem Pokémon don’t seem like concepts that belong in the main series, but in a spin-off game.

Trial Captains

Really. dude? If the trials are seriously nothing but this, we are going to be pissed.

Our second reason is that…what is there to aspire to now? Apparently the challenge is some sort of self-improvement ritual and that’s a decent goal of course, but it lacks that feeling of challenge presented by the gyms and Elite 4.

A region’s champion was someone to admire, their strength something to aspire to and the gym leaders and Elite 4 were the roadblocks in your way. Roadblocks with their own motivations and personalities, whom you could come to love or hate along the way.

Well, we asked for a change and we got one. So we’ll try to keep an open mind. We might be unsure about some things, but the games still look amazing and we can’t wait to travel to the world of Pokémon once more.

What do you think of these features? Could we finally be free of TMs? Are the trials going to suck or could it be a good alternative to Gyms and the Elite 4? Let us know in the comments below!

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