Pokémon Sun and Moon are reinventions of the 20-year-old series’ formula. They switch gears in a number of ways, but none more welcome than the addition of several major shortcuts that lifelong players may not have even realized they’d been wanting. Some of these have been well-advertised, but others may come as a pleasant surprise to Pokémon veterans picking up the Nintendo 3DS games.
Right off the bat: This is the single best addition to the series. Poké Ride cuts down on the amount of useless Pokémon and moves trainers have to carry on their person at any given time, and that’s a wonderful thing.
In order to fly or surf somewhere, or clear a path blocked off by heavy boulders, players always had to waste one of a Pokémon’s move slots with the corresponding attack. Some of these attacks, called Hidden Machines, were worthwhile, but since none of them could be removed without a visit to the Move Deleter’s house, they often were more trouble than they were worth. With the Hidden Machines that served no purpose but to solve a puzzle or two, players often assigned them to a terrible Pokémon they wouldn’t otherwise use, which meant their party had a necessary weak link.
Poké Ride undoes all of this. Players receive a special Pokémon equipped with one special move, whether it be Surf or Rock Smash, that they can call at will to help them clear their path. They also function as a decent extra way to travel around for kicks — in fact, trainers will often ride their galloping Mudsdale around Alola instead of biking, which is yet another change from older games. There’s no bike needed here, just a series of Pokémon that follow you always, ready to pitch in at a moment’s notice.
The new Pokédex
The Pokédex has been overhauled for Sun and Moon, as it always is for each new generation. The changes are seemingly minor when it comes to functionality: It still catalogues every Pokémon you’ve ever seen, this time in a much prettier fashion than ever before. Also, it’s an actual Pokémon this time around. A talking Rotom, the tiny top-like electric-type, inhabits your pocket Pokémon computer.
The best addition included with the "Rotom-dex" exists because it’s a sentient being. It lives on your bottom screen at all times, displaying a live map of the area. The Rotom’s tiny face serves as a marker to keep track of your position at all times. Sped through the text and have no idea where you’re supposed to head next? Tap its face and it will give you a helpful reminder.
Getting lost was never a huge deal in the old games, but Sun and Moon are linear enough that this is a change that matters.
The Type Effectiveness Indicator
There’s a way to play Pokémon casually, and there’s a way to play competitively. No matter how you approach the game, though, you’ll need to know which types work well against which. That information is now readily accessible at all times, eliminating the need to memorize or dig up guides to keep track of all the different type match-ups.
This little feature appears alongside a Pokémon’s moves in the battle menu automatically. When facing an opponent in the wild or in a higher stakes fight, the effectiveness of a Pokémon’s attack appears by the move’s name. That means trainers probably won’t accidentally use an attack that has no effect on an opponent, unless they’re feeling really masochistic.
Maybe this diminishes the challenge a little bit for some folks, but only in the sense that it cuts down on the amount of time needed for translating a required and basic part of the game. It’s a really solid improvement, all things considered.
Other tiny shortcuts in battles
These are really small changes, technically, but we totally dig them. In battle, there’s now a shortcut on the touchscreen’s menu that lets you grab a Poké Ball of your choosing by just tapping the Y button. It’s a great way to find a ball without rummaging through your inventory during those stressful wild Pokémon encounters.
After you catch a Pokémon, several options appear — and one of them is to add it to your party immediately. Previously, Pokémon were sent to the PC box for storage by default, unless there was an open space in your party. This saves you a trip to the Pokémon Center if you want to swap out your new monster for an old one.
Status effects are now visible
A well-rounded Pokémon has both offensive and defensive moves. That means that they’re likely to have attacks that deal damage, but they’ll also be hitting enemies with status effects too. In earlier games, there was no way to account for stat changes, like how many times your Pokémon or a foe’s attack stat had been upgraded. Now, a sprite of each Pokémon appears on the battle menu throughout the fight. Tapping either Pokémon shows its current stats, including whether they’re paralyzed, how their attack, defense and other skills are affected, and detailing their species-based abilities.
This is great news for the competitive player, but it’s also good to keep track of for anyone who spends a lot of time in battle. That pretty much means everyone, especially since Sun and Moon’s battle system is so good.
It’s no surprise that Sun and Moon are the most refined versions of the series’ formula to date. We are fully embracing these changes, no matter how small.