Alola! (Hello!) With a month to go before the international release of Pokémon's seventh generation, Nintendo released a wild demo into the tall grass of the 3DS eShop. So, how does Pokémon Sun/Moon look? Graphicswise, it should be no surprise that this is the nicest looking Pokémon title to date, perhaps spurred on a bit by the franchise's major competition. The transition from the old sprite art to full 3D is long since past, and the starting town of the demo feels as detailed and vibrant as ever, not to mention very, very Hawai'ian.
That seems to be the main point of this demo, in fact. In a series with as glacial a pace of change as Pokémon has, there's little need to showcase most game mechanics, and so the scenario needs to shine forth instead. The Sun/Moon demo does its best with one island, a single town, and a cave, and the island spirit is definitely strong in this one. The main character's mom is determined to acculturate as fast as possible, swapping out her Kanto wardrobe for a local muumuu and greeting everyone with a happy "Alola!" Most of the local men and boys have stereotypical flower print shirts, and Kukui the ersatz soi-disant Pokémon Professor could be (and most likely is) a surfer dude. For added atmosphere, the traditional Pokémon Center music has been updated and re-scored for ukulele. On the other hand the local delinquents, Team Skull, are the very portrait of wannabe Japanese hip-hop, down to the body language.
The demo is playable in the usual array of languages, so I had the opportunity to experience the English version. Now, I haven't actually played one of these games in English since 1998 (X/Y got played in French, because Kalos), so I'm none too sure about the current state and standards of the series' English translation, but I'm hoping that this demo represents an earlier, unpolished stage of the localization, rather than the finished product. A lot of it feels stilted or unnaturally phrased, with odd word choices sprinkled about and too many Japanese-styled grammar structures for my liking.
Pokémon Sun/Moon is a game that prioritizes trials and personal challenge over the usual king-of-the-hill sort of gym battles. In the demo, this takes the form of a photography excursion to
Diamondhead Ten Carat Hill to snap pictures of the camera-shy (but belligerent) Jangmo-o and Hakomo-o, the series' first Dragon/Fighting-type. This ends with a fight against a Totem Hakomo-o, an exemplar of its species with boosted stats and the ability to call other pokémon to its aid in battle. It is soon followed by the introduction of the Z-Ring and a demonstration of Pikachu's Z-power attack upon a Team Skull leader.
That's the main bulk of the demo, but there's still more after it. The player gets to play around with a riding Tauros, smashing through boulders with wild abandon, challenging a handful of trainers, and also participating in a "pokémon-catching game" — i.e. running around a fenced-off area with twenty monster balls and a need to enslave. Unfortunately, it's catch and release, so there's little chance of raising any Pikipek, Yangoos, or Rockruff one catches even the single level necessary to evolve them.
For the most part, this demo confirms Sun/Moon as another fine example of its series, which means it's not likely to change anyone's minds either way. There are a few minor improvements, like how the battle menu now indicates if an attack will be effective before it is chosen (if the opponent is registered in the Pokédex), but in the end it's just a teaser for a game that is pretty much exactly as one would expect it to be. So with that, I must say alola (goodbye).