Fall Games Preview 2016: Pokémon Sun and Moon Grant Us a Change in Scenery

Pokémon Sun and Moon will change things up a bit, but so far it looks like all's well under the grand Alolan sun.

Another holiday season is up us! Here's a look at the biggest games of the season as we make our way to the end of 2016. You can find our other previews here.

Pokémon games always drum up a good deal of excitement, but last summer's Pokémon GO phenomenon has done a lot to fuel anticipation for Pokémon Sun and Moon.

That's because Pokémon GO introduced a whole new audience to the wild world of Pokémon, and while some people undoubtedly deleted the app after wondering what the fuss is about, there are certainly new Mareeps in the flock (welcome!).

Pokémon Sun and Moon has also caught a lot of eyeballs because of the hype behind classic Pokémon boasting new "Alolan forms." And as the lovably ridiculous Alolan Exeggutor and Alolan Rattata demonstrate, these tropical Pokémon are no mere palette swaps.

What is it?

Pokémon Sun and Moon are the seventh generation of the mainline Pokémon games. This time you're tasked with catching 'em all in beautiful Alola, an island that emulates Hawaii with its climate, its culture, and even its biodiversity. Pokémon Sun and Moon are getting a worldwide release for the Nintendo 3DS on November 18 – around the time of year most North Americans start dreaming of tropical getaways.

Like Pokémon X and Y and Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, Pokémon Sun and Moon are 3D adventures with fully-animated battles. As a whole, it doesn't seem like Sun and Moon make any wild changes to the basic Pokémon formula: You catch Pokémon, you unleash them on opponents (both live and programmed), and you fill out your PokéDex while you learn more about your surroundings and the people living there. There's even a team of goons that are up to no good. In this instance, Team Skull will presumably stymie your attempts to celebrate love and friendship through Pokémon.

Regardless of the similarities between Pokémon Sun and Moon and its predecessors going back to the very first Red and Blue, this Alolan adventure appears to be changing up its single-player campaign a bit. For one thing, Gyms and Gym leaders are replaced by islands and Trial Captains who expect you to earn your badge by surmounting challenges and tasks.

Is it an annual franchise?

Though it's not uncommon for at least one Pokémon spin-off to come into being every year (Pokémon GO being a perfect example), mainline Pokémon games are a rarer breed. Our last full-fledged Pokémon adventure was 2014's Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire for the Nintendo 3DS, and even those were remakes. We haven't seen an entirely new mainline Pokémon game since 2013's Pokemon X and Y.

Are we excited?

Kat and I are USGamer's Pokémon masters, and I think it's safe to say we're both pretty excited for Pokémon Sun and Moon (feel free to lob a Master Ball at my head if I'm wrong about this one, Kat). Granted, we were both a little apathetic towards the new game at first, but I gradually found myself warming to the game with each new reveal and each new bite of information about Alola. The Alolan forms really spark new life into some of my old favorites. I mean, Alolan Raichu has a surfer's tan, and it uses its own tail as a board. Come on!

I also love the idea of Pokémon Moon being 12 hours ahead of Sun (or vice-versa?). I'm a hopeless nighthawk, so while all you godless worshippers of the Day-Star frolic under Sol's burning eye, I'll be gallivanting in the cool darkness with Lunala. And then I'll probably screw with my 3DS's clock to make sure the night goes on forever, because man, to hell with the sun.

Oh, and finally: Pokémon Sun and Moon lets you take pictures of Pokémon and share them. There you go, Nintendo. A Pokémon Snap follow-up. It took 17 years, but you did it. Applause.

If you'd like to learn more about Pokémon Sun and Moon but you lack the funds and /or grades to get into Pokémon U, why not read some of our articles about the games?

Pokemon Direct Confirms Pokémon Sun and Moon and Invites China to Play
Nintendo's short presentation coveres new Pokémon, old Pokémon, and quietly reaches out to Chinese players. Get ready to make thousands of new friends!

How Exactly are Pokémon Red and Blue and Yellow Going to be Compatible with Sun and Moon?
Game Freak has some interesting technical hurdles to overcome in making Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow compatible with the newly-announced Sun and Moon.

Nintendo Reveals the Adorable Starters for Pokémon Sun and Moon
A fire cat! A clown seal! An owl with a leaf for a bow tie!

Nintendo Reveals New Pokémon Sun and Moon Trailer Plus Additional Plans for E3 2016
The new Legend of Zelda is still Nintendo's main course at E3 2016, but Pokémon, Dragon Quest, and other Nintendo 3DS games are side-dishes.

Pokémon Sun and Moon Battle Royale Has My Attention
But not for the reason you might expect.

Latest Pokemon Sun and Moon Video Reveals New Pokemon, Hyper Training Mode
Make pals with the new Pokémon and ponder if Hyper Training will change the competitive battling scene.

Pokémon Sun and Moon Evolves Gyms, Adds Alola Forms
Trial Captains and challenges replaces the basic Gym system, as Sun and Moon show off more new Pokémon.

Pokémon Sun and Moon Are Set 12 Hours Apart, Feature Chubby Raticate
None of the new features compare to a Raticate living the good life.

The Struggle Between Rattata and Yungoos in Pokémon Sun and Moon is a Neat Bit of World-Building
Alola, Yungoos, and Dark-Type Rattatas: A tale of fragile ecosystems that's based on the real world.

Tagged with Game Freak, Nintendo 3DS, Pokemon, Pokemon Moon, Pokemon Sun, Previews, The Pokemon Company.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Read this next

More Previews

For Honor Preview: A Whole New Sword Game

Jaz plays Ubisoft's upcoming sword fighting game, and talks to creative director Jason Vandenberghe about how it was developed.

Dragon Quest VIII 3DS Preview: New Characters, New Dungeons, New Challenges, Black Sabrecats

Though Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King for the Nintendo 3DS isn't a ground-up overhaul the way Dragon Quest VII 3DS is, there's still tons of new stuff to get excited about.

Will Final Fantasy XV's Big Twist Ruin The Game?

Early details about about FFXV's endgame have emerged, to much consternation.

Final Fantasy XV Travel Diary, Final Day: Stray Thoughts and Observations

There's still plenty to see and do in Duscae, but it's time to close the book on this massive RPG (until November 29).