Recent Pokémon games have given us an opportunity to play with our Pokémon as pets. We aren’t always sending them out to fight our battles. Sometimes, we’d even get to play minigames with them. Pokémon Sun and Moon are no different. Once again, we get a chance to see the softer side of our companions. The difference is here, every interaction feels like it has a more practical implementation. This time, playing with Pokémon isn’t about getting to see them do something cute. It’s about doing so to make your own journey a little better.
It all begins with Pokémon Refresh, a feature available shortly after you set off on your Alolan adventure. This is Pokémon Sun and Moon’s version of Pokémon-Amie. Instead of getting to see Pokémon all cozy and cute, it’s a maintenance issue. Right away, it’s introduced as a practical measure. I like to think of its primary function as keeping you from wasting recovery items outside of battle. Whenever you take part in a fight that would inflict a status ailment that would hang around after the fight, you can immediately hop in to cure it. The afflicted Pokemon’s icon will be orange, to show it’s in need, with poison and paralysis quickly cured with a few rubs of a medication soaked cotton swab.
This isn’t to say the other Pokémon Refresh caretaking actions aren’t equally beneficial. The main means of raising affection is via feeding your Pokémon Poke Beans, petting, and cleaning them. Characters will only be messy after a fight, with the comb being the most used implement to keep them neat and tidy. The quickest means I’ve seen of winning a Pokémon’s love is through rainbow Poké Beans. When I first caught Mimicute the Mimikyu, it only took two pets and a single rainbow Poké Bean to get three of her five hearts filled. This means people who want characters like Sylveon or maxed out affection can have that happen rather quickly and easily for their favorite folks.
Fortunately, acquiring those Poké Beans is incredibly easy. They’re giving them away. The coffee shop at each Pokémon Center will give you some after you get something to drink, as well as reward you with Rare Candies for reaching certain Poké Bean feeding plateaus. This is very much appreciated, what with Rockruff and Fomantis evolutions only happening during certain times of the day. You’ll also get them automatically each day after Charizard is registered as a ride Pokémon and Poké Pelago is open.
Pokémon Sun and Moon’s Poké Pelago is a real-time minigame, much like Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 2: Sisters Generation’s Stella’s Dungeon or Dragon Age: Inquisition’s war table. You begin with Isle Abeens, which grants you a set number of Poké Beans each day and an opportunity to recruit a visiting wild Pokémon. The amount increases based if you’re able to further develop it after collecting a certain number of Pokémon and Poke Beans. The more Pokémon and Poké Beans you collect, the more islands will be available, with Isle Aphun letting you send Pokémon into caves to find items like colored shards or elemental stones and Isle Aplenty letting you plant and grow berries.
It’s certainly a more relaxed sort of minigame. You succeed without really having to do anything. Pokémon on Isle Aphun and Isle Aplenty will automatically complete tasks without being fed Poké Beans. Offering some just makes them do things a little faster. It’s only Isle Abeens where placing beans makes a difference, as it gives you a chance of luring in wild Pokémon. You can see their natures and further convince them to stay by leaving more Poké Beans for them to eat. Which is nice. I found I was always busy with other Pokémon Sun activities, so knowing I’d get additional helpful rewards without working for them was a nice bonus. Especially when Isle Aphun offered stones for evolutions.
I’ve mentioned before that Pokémon Sun and Moon feel like games where Pokémon take on greater importance. Sure, your journey and the fate of the Alola region matter too. But it’s undeniably an entry where the creatures you collecting are the ones that matter most. We’re in their world. Which means that the gameplay systems are going to revolve around them whenever possible. Pokémon Refresh and Poké Pelago both give you chances to care for them and work with them, with an added bonus of happening to get something good for yourself out of the deal.
Pokémon Sun and Moon is now on the Nintendo 3DS in Japan and North America. It will arrive in Europe on November 23, 2016.