New Battle Interface
As you enter a battle, you’ll notice that the interface on the bottom screen has been rearranged. The ‘Fight’ button is now on the far right, and the Pokémon and Bag options placed to the left and with smaller icons. ‘Run’ remains at the bottom of the touch screen. The Pokémon you’re battling with will also be displayed in sprite form on the bottom screen.
As you select an attack, you can now get information on that attack — the power and accuracy, as well as move description — without switching menus. If you’ve encountered a Pokémon at least once, the interface tells you if the attack is going to be “Super Effective”, “Effective”, “Not Very Effective” or have “No Effect” against that opponent. This particular feature should be particularly useful for newcomers and veterans alike, particularly with over eight hundred Pokémon and their typings to think about. You’ll also be able to see the effectivity of the moves when you go to switch Pokémon out.
When a Pokémon’s stats have been increased or decreased, an icon appears next to that Pokémon’s sprite on the bottom screen. Tapping that icon will show you a summary of all visible status changes a Pokémon has been afflicted with in battle, such as the Attack, Defense, Evasion or Accuracy stats. The various status changes will show for up to six stages one way. This is particularly useful if you’re unable to keep track of stat changes in battles, and should be a boon for those who battle competitively.
Each generation brought to players a wide variety of changes to battles — abilities, double battles, multi battles, triple battles, and a large variety of moves. Battles themselves were largely the same, however. In the sixth-generation Pokémon games, we were introduced to a new battle mechanic called Mega Evolution. Using a special held item, a Pokémon could transform mid-battle in order to become even more powerful than ever. Pokémon Sun and Moon introduce Z-Moves — super-powered moves that can only be used once, but could give a significant advantage in battles.
You’ll be introduced to Z-Moves at an early stage of the game, and what sets them apart from Mega Evolution is that any Pokémon can use them. Once you obtain the Z-Ring, you can attach a Z-Crystal of a particular type to a Pokémon that knows a move of the same type. This allows you to tap into your Z-Ring in battle to transform these moves into Z-Moves.
For instance, if a Pokémon that knows Tackle is holding a Normalium Z (the Normal-type Z-Crystal), that Tackle will be transformed into Breakneck Blitz — a standard Normal-type Z-Move whose power is determined by the original move. Some other Normal-type physical moves will also be transformed into Breakneck Blitz, but status moves such as Growl will be transformed into Z-Growl, which gives its user a defensive stat boost as well as its original effect.
Unlike regular held items, a single Z-Crystal can be attached to more than one Pokémon on your team, so you could give the same Z-Crystal to your entire team — but note that, like how Mega Evolution can only be triggered by one Pokémon once in battle, a Trainer can only use Z-Moves exactly one time in battle.
You’ll have access to Normal-type Z-Moves once you’ve been introduced to the moves, but as you progress through trials, you’ll obtain the Z-Crystals needed to transform moves of other types into Z-Moves.
Wild Ally Pokémon
You’ll find after your first encounter against Totem Pokémon that any Pokémon in the wild can call for help at any point in battle. This doesn’t even waste them a turn — they can call a Pokémon right before the start of a new one. This adds a new dynamic to battling, where you suddenly find yourself in a one-against-two situation.
While this can draw out battles when you simply want to move on — yet don’t want to give the game the satisfaction of selecting the Escape option — it is used fairly well through incentives. You can find stronger Pokémon by ‘chaining’ wild allies. This even allows the chance to encounter some evolved forms and Pokémon with hidden Abilities. For competitive players, this also appears to be the ideal way (outside of Items) for training Effort Values. This comes as a relief as the sixth-generation mechanic, Horde battles, has not resurfaced in Sun and Moon. The feature does, however, make catching Pokémon a bit more of a chore, as you can only throw a Poké Ball when there’s one Pokémon on the field, so you’ll need to faint one of the allies before you can actually catch something.
As you journey through trials in the game, you’ll wind up at Royal Avenue, a small town whose prime attraction is the Battle Royal Dome. The Dome is the place where you’ll encounter your first Battle Royal, which is a battle that is conducted with four Trainers at once. Each Trainer brings in up to three Pokémon for a free-for-all four-way battle. Your aim is to get first place while battling the other Trainers — places are decided by the amount of Pokémon you’ve defeated and how many Pokémon remain in your team. You get a higher score for defeating more Pokémon and having fewer Pokémon faint. The match is ended once any of the Trainers no longer have any Pokémon left, and the placings are then set.
Battle Royals make for potentially faster-paced battles between multiple players, but will require more thought than traditional battles — you’ll want to knock out as many Pokémon as possible while keeping your own from fainting, and if you’re not first place, you’ll have to figure out who to attack, while trying to protect yourself. These battles are a lot easier to lose if you don’t make the right moves. Master them and you’ll find that Battle Royals are a fresh, more engaging format, and a great party game, too.
The new additions to battles are welcome changes to what’s been a traditionally static formula. These changes keep the system fresh, and offer a cleaner presentation with higher value to newer players. Z-Moves are a neat addition in particular, and you’ll be playing around with the myriad of options available through that mechanic.