Pokémon Sun and Moon are almost here, bringing us the year's biggest release(s) on the 3DS and kicking off a new generation in the iconic franchise. There's plenty of excitement, with pre-order numbers high and plenty of buzz online, so we thought we'd break down some of the most intriguing new features to be found in these games.

As a note, we're aware that some leaks are popping up online from early copies, but here we're sticking to officially announced features.

So, we have already covered the Pokémon themselves, but now it's time to get into the nitty gritty and cover the most important features of Pokémon Sun & Moon.

The Island Trials

The most notable change is the removal of Pokémon Gyms. Rather than battle through gyms, this time you're going through a special Island Trial Challenge. Across all four islands there are 7 trials to enter; these see you tackle various tasks set by the Trial Captains, each focused on a specific type of Pokémon, and you have to complete a task such as collecting spices or defeating Yungoos. At the end of the trial you then have to face a larger Totem Pokémon, which gets a powerful boost in stats. After that, you will have completed the trial and earned a Z Crystal!

There's more, with grand trials against each island's Kahuna, who are even more powerful than the Trial Captains. The Kahunas were chosen by the guardian deity of the island.

This makes progression feel a lot different to how the gyms have been for the past 20 years, making this easily one of the most intriguing things about Pokémon Sun & Moon. While we now know a league is being built in Alola, things still are all change.

Z-Moves

Pokémon X & Y brought Mega Evolutions of Pokémon and, following that, Pokémon Sun & Moon have essentially done the same, but with moves. Above we mentioned Z-Crystals - Z-Moves require the Pokémon to be holding a crystal and then power up a move. There are Z-Moves for each of the 18 types, and their power varies depending on the move the Pokémon knows that is being turned into a Z-Move. This makes things massively unpredictable and makes many previously unviable Pokémon even more usable. Z-Moves can only be used once per battle, however.

To top that off, there are some Pokémon who have unique Z-Moves, such as Snorlax or Alolan Raichu, which will do a lot of damage, or in the case of Eevee will boost its stats.

Team Skull and the Aether Foundation

The bizarre thing about these games is that, despite the amount we know, we actually know very little about the story. We know Team Skull is a gang that want to steal Pokémon, and we know the Aether Foundation created the artificial island in the middle of Alola, with its head Lusamine apparently investigating the Ultra Beasts. Despite this the true extent of what is going on isn't known. This is the big mystery about the game, especially when you have Pokémon like Cosmog being researched by the Aether Foundation.

Many Amenities

The Festival Plaza is a new feature that seems to be heavily based on the Join Avenue from Pokémon Black 2 & White 2. As you interact with other players, locally or online, they will begin to appear in Festival Plaza where they can set up shops or offer a variety of helpful things such as items or Festival Coins. The stores will sell rare items and even power up your Pokémon's Effort Values. This is also where the game's online interactions will take place.

The Poké Pelago is a new feature where you use your Pokémon that are in the box to do a myriad of things such as find items, hunt for wild Pokémon and even train them up. This is accessed from the game's menu at any time.

PokéRide

One of the complaints people often have with playing through Pokémon games is having the requirement of a Pokémon knowing the HMs on the team, limiting their team functionality. This is a thing of the past now. With the Rider Pager, you'll be able to summon one of half a dozen different Pokémon, all with different attributes. Tauros is fast and can break rocks, Stoutland can sniff out hidden items, Mudsdale can walk on rocky terrain, Lapras can surf over water, Sharpedo surfs faster and can break rocks and Charizard can fly to different areas. These can all be called upon at any time and they can even be assigned to the D-Pad for quick access!

Rotom Pokédex and Poké Finder

The Pokédex in this game is ridiculously unique. Rotom is placed in your Pokédex and is able to talk to you and provide a myriad of functions. Not only does it comment on your Pokémon when you capture them, but it serves as a map on the bottom screen, gives you waypoints on where to go, and even more fun has a feature called the Poké Finder.

The Poké Finder is essentially a version of Pokémon Snap. In some areas of the game you will be able to get Rotom out and use the Pokédex as a camera, taking photos of various Pokémon in their natural habitat, and then be able to share the pictures for the world to see.

The Battle Tree

Every game has a battle facility these days, and Pokémon Sun & Moon is no different. Rather than just a rehash of the Battle Tower format, the Battle Tree seems to change it up and, in addition to that, celebrate the 20 years of Pokémon. The Battle Tree has you battle through a myriad of trainers, including Sinnoh Champion Cynthia and the Hoenn trainer, Wally. In addition to defeating them, you can also team up with them in order to progress even further. To top that off, Red & Blue are found at the Battle Tree, willing to be battled. A perfect full circle.

Battle Royal

The Battle Royal is a new battle mode in the game. While Triple & Rotation Battles are now gone, Battle Royal is added. Battle Royal is a 4 player free-for-all where each player sends their Pokémon out into battle and can take on any of the other 3. The battle continues until the first player is fully out of Pokémon and the winner is determined by the amount of Pokémon each player defeated. There's even a Free Battle mode in Battle Spot for Battle Royals so you can play them with random players online!


Overall, there is so much that's new with these games, and there's the feeling that we still don't know everything. Launch is right around the corner, however, so we don't have long to go!

Which features are you most excited about in Pokémon Sun and Moon?