Alola! Musings on the Plot and Features of Pokemon Sun and Moon
As a Pokemon fan since the days of Red, Blue, and Yellow, of course I picked up the newest installment. I joked about going to France a couple years ago and this time I'm going to Hawaii. (The region in X and Y is based on France, Sun and Moon's is based on Hawaii.) Sun and Moon promised an overhaul of the Pokemon formula, with no gyms and a handful of new features. These are my thoughts, but be warned that this article contains major spoilers.
The Island Challenge
As I said before, there are no Pokemon gyms or gym leaders this time around. Instead we have the island challenge. Each of the four islands has a "kahuna," a powerful trainer chosen by the island's guardian deity. Defeat the kahuna in a Pokemon battle, and you are allowed to move on to the next island. But first you have to pass the island "trials," set up by a "captain." Trials involve more than just Pokemon battling, and each one is different, but they all require the defeating of a "totem" Pokemon. Once you've cleared all the island trials you can face the kahuna.
This was a refreshing change, when I heard there would be no gyms I admit I was skeptical, but I ended up really enjoying the island challenge.
Another thing that was removed and replaced: HMs. Previous Pokemon games had HMs (hidden machines) that you had to use to pass obstacles, travel on water, and return instantly to a town you've already visited. You needed to use an HM on a Pokemon and get the proper gym badge to proceed. For example, sometimes a path would be blocked by breakable rocks, so you would need a Pokemon with the HM move rock smash in your party and the proper gym badge. If you then took the rock smash Pokemon out of your party, you couldn't go past those rocks again. I'm sure I'm not the only one who often got annoyed when I had to go back and get a certain Pokemon while exploring because an HM move was required...
I am so glad this was replaced with poke ride. Gone are the days of making sure you had every HM move covered in your team at all times, now you can summon a Pokemon like the Tauros in the above image to help you at the touch of a button. Everything formerly covered by HMs is now covered by poke ride.
If you haven't finished your island challenge yet, I suggest you turn back now. I'm going to be discussing the plot, which in my opinion is stronger than the plot of most Pokemon games.
Hau and Lillie
You meet these two very early on. Hau is the grandson of one of the kahunas, Lillie apprentices under the resident Pokemon professor, Kukui. The former fills the "rival" role, but unlike his predecessors, he actually picks the starter Pokemon that is weak to yours.
Lillie, on the other hand, doesn't train Pokemon at all. She has a mysterious little Pokemon that she calls Nebby, but it doesn't battle. She's very protective of it and says she doesn't like seeing Pokemon get hurt in battles.
Every Pokemon game has a villainous "team" or two. This time it's Team Skull, which, fun fact, was also used as a name for a team in one of the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games. Many of the villain teams throughout the series have had some sort of goal in mind, Team Magma wanted to expand the landmass and Team Aqua wanted to expand the sea for example. But Team Skull doesn't appear to have any goal except causing trouble. They talk like gangsters from the ghetto and call the slums home. Their leader, a man named Guzma, started the team because he was bitter from not being chosen as a captain or kahuna. He was apparently friends with Professor Kukui long ago.
It's nothing new for the villain teams to have amusing antics, but Team Skull actually breaks the fourth wall at one point! Two female grunts get into a bit of an argument because one of them is wearing the other's shirt. When the suggestion to write their names on the shirts is made, the response is: "What's the point? Our names are both Grunt!" Fourth wall breaking is a bit of a hit and miss, sometimes it's hilarious and sometimes it's annoying, but since this is the only instance of it in the game as far as I know I'll say it's hilarious. Team Skull is kind of unique when it comes to evil teams in Pokemon, but not overly fantastic or memorable.
You meet this guy on the second island, where he will battle you with a Pokemon that he calls Null. Team Skull grunts show up, and you learn that he associates with them, but they say that even though the boss likes him, he will never really belong in the team. He's a bit of an emo or goth type, saying things like "Come on, Null, let's go drown our sorrows in the crowd."
The Aether Foundation
The Aether Foundation runs a research lab on their own private island. You get to tour this island called the Aether Paradise at one point in the story, and learn about their goals and work. They're about Pokemon conservation and rescue. Their president is a woman named Lusamine, who is much older than she looks. She often sends her staff out to the main islands to invite trainers on the island challenge to come tour the Aether Paradise.
My opinion on the Aether Foundation? If I ignore the plot stuff that I'm going to explain next, they seem bland and boring. Pokemon rescuing scientists, yeah that's great, so are some of the people in a lot of other games in the series. They need the plot to make them memorable.
Putting it all together
The Aether Foundation, before a certain turn of events, appears to be enemies with Team Skull. Their president is one of the kindest, sweetest ladies you've met. Or is she? Stuff happens and she's revealed to actually be working with Team Skull, among other things that don't fit the description of kind and sweet. Her kids made a run for it two years ago...their names? Gladion and Lillie.
So...now we know three of the people we met on our journey are an estranged family. Two siblings on the run from a psychotic and possibly abusive mother. But anyone can see that there's something missing from this: a father. Who is he? I immediately began to theorize. I thought the game never explored that. It did, and turns out the theory I came up with was wrong.
My theory was based on one of the Aether Foundation scientists saying that Lusamine liked Guzma of Team Skull because of his power, skill, and probably because he was a bit not right in the head like her. So I pictured a one night stand that resulted in a set of twins that looked nothing like their father, so there was no way Guzma would know they're his if he's away on the main islands for years afterward. And he's probably a lot younger than her, so that's a good reason for her to keep that a secret. Scandal! Intrigue! Maybe too mature for a Pokemon game? I don't know, but it does sound possible.
I was a bit disappointed when my awesome scandalous theory was debunked. Turns out the father is actually a scientist who got sucked into a wormhole during an experiment. We know him as Mohn, the guy who runs the poke pelago feature. I have to accept it, but I still like my original theory. Two kids, born with no father in sight and a mother who's becoming more and more chaotic every day, decide they're not going to fall into that obvious trap and become good strong people.
What are your thoughts? Tell me in the comments!