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The launch of a new Pokémon game is always an exciting event for those eager to get lost in a fantasy land full of super-powered monsters ranging from the cute and cuddly to towering titans. Sun and Moon are excellent additions to the Pokémon universe, and the Alola region is packed with things to do and sights to see.
Whether your primary goal is blasting through the Island Challenge or being the first of your friends to fill the Pokédex, here are just a few tips and tricks to get the most out of your Alolan excursion.
1) Catch everything
Although the series’ motto has always been “Gotta Catch ‘Em All”, this is a real advantage in Sun and Moon. The Rotom Pokédex is actually a character this time around, and it will offer input on how far you’ve progressed in your collection. Each of Alola’s four islands has their own unique page in the Pokédex, but they share several of the same species. Catching as much as possible on your first visit to a new area will lessen the work you have to do later on when you aim to finish the catalog. Likewise, as you move forward, certain trainers will pay to see a specific Pokémon that you may or may not have already captured. Being proactive in filling the Pokédex will net you a wealth of benefits from other characters in the game.
2) Know your version
Sun or Moon? The choice means a lot more than the legendary Pokémon appearing on the cover art. The two games are set on different ends of the day/night cycle, with Sun starting off in real-time and Moon at whatever time it happens to be 12 hours later. Outside of the environments looking different thanks to the time of day, this time disparity affects how certain Pokémon will appear or evolve. Sun and Moon feature a few different Totem Pokémon as well, and certain species can’t be obtained in either game without trading.
While the story will keep you jumping from island to island as you complete the Trial challenges, it is never a bad idea to double back to an area you already visited after obtaining some new tricks. Ride Pokémon open up plenty of exploration opens, hidden in dark caves or massive rock obstacles. You can crush your way to these secrets or race across the open sea and find optional objectives you may have completely missed otherwise. This allows you to collect rare Pokémon and better items to prepare for the challenges ahead.
4) Use Pokémon Refresh
At a first glance, you might think the cute minigame allowing you to massage and feed your Pokémon between battles is only a fun distraction for kids. But as time goes on, you’ll come to recognize the necessity of taking a break to grow the bond between trainer and beast. Poké-Beans keep your team well fed and happy, but taking the time to clean your Pokémon off and develop their friendship can lead to bonuses in battle. Members of your team might dodge moves, use extra powerful attacks and level up faster thanks to the time you spend with them in Pokémon Refresh. Another handy feature will let you heal the status condition of one team member after a battle thanks to a “Care” prompt on screen.
5) Meet your neighbors
You should talk to everyone you see in Pokémon Sun and Moon, and not just for the humorous Easter eggs and references. Some characters will offer advice on where to go next, how to find a rare Pokémon, or compliment you on your journey. But even better, the friendliest people in Alola will present you with new moves, special Poké Balls, and even want to trade with you. You should make it a priority to enter every building in each town, and get to know the people of Alola. Not only does it make the world feel vibrant and lived in, but it might yield some handy benefits. When you’re running along the beaches of these tropical islands and see a trainer standing far off in the distance, it will more than likely be worth your time to run over and introduce yourself.
6) Make special visits
Although they’re announced with little fanfare, you have the opportunity to visit a few unique locations over the course of your journey. The menu on the bottom screen will let you travel to the Poké-Pelgao, a place where you can grow Poké-Beans, and the Festival Plaza, where you can host shops and other visitors. You can court wild Pokémon to join your team by growing enough beans on the Pelago’s islands and complete minigames that will grant rare items. Likewise, in the Festival Plaza, you can purchase power-ups for your team, depending on how many visitors you have. It is important to consistently check back on both of these locations, as some of their offerings depend on the day you visit.
7) Claim free gifts
To commemorate the game’s launch, a number of special events are taking place to distribute certain Pokémon. Anyone who launches Pokémon Sun or Moon before Jan. 11 will be eligible to download a Munchlax that comes with a one-of-a-kind Z Crystal to be used once it evolves into Snorlax. Additionally, Magearna, a mythical Pokémon, will be made available for the very first time for players at some point later this year. Physical QR codes for the legendary creature will be released, and can be scanned into your Pokédex in Sun and Moon. The final special Pokémon to claim is Ash-Greninja, which can be transferred over from the free E-Shop demo of Sun and Moon, available right now.
AJ Moser is a Brooklyn-based reporter who focuses on video games, movies, and internet culture. His work has appeared in Paste Magazine, Game Informer, and Big Spaceship.