I downloaded the Pokémon Sun/Moon Special Demo Version for free (yay, free stuff) today and played through it during an exercise bike session. The demo itself was obviously very limited, but what it promised looked very good.
The demo sees your player character, Sun, arrive in Alola from Kanto. You meet a local kid, Hau, who is all ready to show you around when two Team Skull grunts turn up! You take one and Hau takes one, and once your Greninja has kicked some skeletal behind they run off for their sister. Then you are shown to the Pokécentre, which in addition to the Pokémart now has a coffee shop. The coffee shop was inaccessible in the demo (with the person at the counter coming close to breaking the fourth wall by saying “the owner will be back in about a month”), but I’m assuming it will serve some stat-boosting products. Yet why would you be drinking COFFEE in a place stated by several NPCs to be extremely hot?
After this, you are introduced to Professor Kukui. He invites you to Ten-Carat Hill for a traditional coming-of-age trial, and you can either go right away or have a better look around the city of Hau’oli’s shopping district. I did the latter, knowing well that all the shops were closed, but engaging in some backyard battles (the people really need to cut their grass) and checking out the marina. Then I went to the Hill to become a man. My trial involved snapping photos of two Jangmo-o and two Hakamo-o, one of which was the local totem. The totem fought you in an “SOS Battle” in which it summoned a Rockruff to help it. This was an interesting challenge, but I don’t think trials have the “meat” to replace the traditional gym system. The core series has little time for gimmicks I feel, believing that those added in Gold and Silver were largely enough. Plus, we already had an entire game where the objective was to take photos of Pokémon. Surely Game Freak can come up with some more original ideas.
Finally, the grunts’ sister from earlier took you on, sending out her Golbat. I’ll use this paragraph to describe the mechanics seen in this battle and in battle. Your Pikachu, loaned from Kukui, can use its “Z-Move”, a move of great power. Being that Golbat is already a Flying type, it seems a bit wasteful to use Gigavolt Havoc instead of Thundershock, and I’m hoping oversights like this don’t carry into the main game. A new feature to the battle menu is a small legend under the moves that says whether it will be super effective or not very effective against the opposing Pokémon. While helpful for new players and casuals, I find it unnecessary with my over 15 years of experience. I know that an Electric move is super effective against a Flying type. I don’t need it pointing out.
The graphics were not too improved from X/Y/ORAS, characters still being detailed sprites. However, and this is a big however, it featured a full-3D environment for the first time. This is a massive leap up and one, particularly after we can see what Go can do, which is needed in my opinion. Pokémon cannot continue being top-down for the rest of the franchise’s run. It looks dated and is quite restrictive. One drawback to the new style was that in the city, there are entrances at both sides of the road. It is impossible to turn the camera facing towards the entrance, making things a bit awkward.
So to sum up- it had its good and bad parts. The trials, while an interesting idea, seem a bit too weak to be the core of the game. This was just a short trial to get to grips with the mechanism, but if the actual trials are that short and devoid of action, I will not be happy. The gimmicks are getting a bit tiresome- the Z-Moves are almost the exact same concept as the Digimon-esque Mega Evolutions of the previous generation- and the change of setting is doing little to offset that.