Pokemon Sun & Moon beginners guide:
Pokemon Sun & Pokemon Moon are here at last. These games are special for a number of reasons – they’re changing up the Pokemon formula but are also hugely respectful to Pokemon’s impressively huge lineage – they are, after all, releasing in the series’ 20th anniversary year.
We’ve reviewed the game, but for those of you already convinced about buying it… where should you begin? Despite its family-friendly exterior Pokemon Sun & Moon are proper Japanese RPGs deep down, full of nuanced gameplay and battle systems that are all driven by numbers, stats and dice rolls. Here we’ll lay out some of the basic things you absolutely need to know before you head off on your Alola Island Challenge.
Pick your starter Pokemon wisely – but also don’t stress too much
It’s always very early on that Pokemon games hand you your first major RPG-like choice in the form of what Pokemon you choose to be your starter. There’s the fire-type kitten Litten, portly owl Rowlett and Popplio, a little sea lion who we think has had some unfair stick online. All three of them are pretty decent, though the three all differ in slightly different ways.
You can read more about the material differences between the three different starters on our dedicated page all about that very topic. If you’re keeping things light, however, know this: Litten eventually becomes a physical powerhouse, Popplio’s final form is focused on special moves, while Rowlet ends up as more of an all-rounder. All three are very viable.
Because all three are viable, this is a key part of our advice: don’t sweat it too much. There’s hundreds of Pokemon to catch in Alola, and that means if you end up not liking the way your choice pans out that Pokemon can easily be replaced, or you can always trade with another player via online. Think before making your choice and maybe read up in detail, but don’t let it paralyse you for hours – it’ll all be okay.
Level up your team evenly and with the right strategy
Your Pokemon team is meant to be six Pokemon strong, and so early on in the game we strongly advise you begin catching Pokemon, even weaker ones, to help fill out your team. Think about Pokemon types and try to have a team that can stand up to and dish out damage onto a lot of different enemy types effectively.
Early on in the game you’ll be rewarded the EXP Share, an item that means all six Pokemon on your team get a small share of EXP from every fight even if they don’t participate. We advise you keep this turned on. If you want a particular Pokemon to gain more EXP, consider starting the battle with that weaker Pokemon then swapping it out right away – they’ll get bonus EXP as if they participated in the fight proper.
Be sure to fight all trainers you find in the world, and if you decide you need to grind and do so against wild Pokemon be careful to do so with Pokemon as the right level – don’t waste your time on weaklings.
Bump up the text speed to save yourself some time
Pokemon is of course a kid and family-friendly game, but if there’s one major complaint it’s easy to make about the game it’s that it can be really rather slow. Very slow, in fact.
One of the first things anyone playing Sun & Moon should do is head to the options menu (press X, then hit options) to change the text speed. Set it to fast. You really won’t regret it.
If that isn’t fast enough for you, you might also consider turning the battle animations off – but if you do that you will miss out on all sorts of cool-looking attack animations – though if you’ve already seen them a thousand times this too will save you quite a bit of time.
Pick your moves wisely, and don’t ignore the non-offensive options
Each Pokemon you catch can have a maximum of four moves and have the option to learn a great many moves beyond that. You can only ever have four at once, however, so you’re going to be faced with difficult decisions.
Not every move that unlocks at a high level is going to be good for your specific build or situation, so be careful when learning moves. Pay attention to their attack and accuracy values, as well as other effects they can have.
Also important: while it’s tempting to focus on offence, don’t sleep on the moves that have defensive properties. Moves that can guard you from attack, buff you or debuff your enemy are deceptively powerful, even if they don’t dish out damage – use them.
Be a kindly Pokemon Trainer with Refresh, Beans and Malasada
As well as all their battle stats Pokemon have three other key statistics behind-the-scenes that are easy to forget about: Affection, Fullness and Enjoyment.
These stats have a fairly significant impact on the single-player mode of Pokemon Sun & Moon – Pokemon who are more affectionate to you will actually be able to do things like endure killing blows more easily in battle, and certain Pokemon only evolve if they’re happy.
Don’t neglect these features! Pokemon that become a staple of your team should be spoilt. Use the Pokemon Refresh option on the menu to play with and groom them, plus feed them Poke Beans or Malasada, the latter of which is always available from dedicated cafes in each town in Alola.
Want some rare Pokemon? Use the QR Code Scanner
Once it unlocks a little way into the game, the QR Code Scanner button on the second page of your main menu in-game is actually deceptively useful – it’ll let you catch rare Pokemon.
Each QR code you scan (and this can be any code from anywhere) will offer you Pokedex data on where in the world of Alola you can catch a certain Pokemon. This is pretty useful in itself, but the twist is that this system can also be used to catch Pokemon that otherwise aren’t naturally found in Alola.
We’ve got an entire page dedicated to some QR codes to scan, so be sure to check that out.
Every ten codes you scan you’ll be able to do a full island scan – doing this spawns a rare Pokemon for one hour only for you to try to catch. You only get ten scans a day, so be sure to do them and catch some rare classics from other Pokemon regions.
Don’t ignore the Festival Plaza – spend some time there
The Festival Plaza button is one of those options that’s easy to miss. By the time the game opens it up for you, you’re already invested in your island challenge journey and might be loath to interrupt it for some multiplayer shenanigans. You should, however.
The Festival Plaza isn’t all multiplayer for a start – there’s online activity you don’t need local players to do and even some stuff you can do all on your own. Hanging out and playing in the plaza rewards you Festival Coins that can be traded for items that’ll help you in your main quest. There’s even a lottery to enter.
Use the Festival Plaza and return every now and then for a breather from your quest – it’ll be worth it even if you’re not planning to get too deep into multiplayer.
Do some backtracking and explore often – you’ll be rewarded
If you’re not careful it’d be very easy indeed to mistake Pokemon Sun & Moon as a linear experience. Perhaps in order to remain as family-friendly as possible the game is very good about making sure you know exactly where to go next, with the game even dropping a handy objective marker on the map on the second screen now.
You should explore, however. There’s hidden stuff and optional areas absolutely everywhere in this game, and many of these areas contain new trainers to fight to help you level up and new Pokemon to catch that you can use to diversify your team. It’s vital stuff.
Often optional areas will be gated off from you when you first pass them because there’ll be some object you can’t yet get past. A rock you can’t smash, a boulder you can’t push, water you can’t swim over. As you progress through the game you’ll get your hands on more Ride Pager Pokemon rides, and when you do these are what will let you get into these optional areas going right back to the very first area of the games. Don’t be afraid to explore, and doubly so don’t be afraid to backtrack!