Pokémon Sun and Moon have been out for some time now, and in that time they've become some of Nintendo's fastest-selling games ever. Not only that, but from what I've seen online and out and about in the real world, they've become some of Pokémon's most popular entries to date. What's fueling this love?
People have been praising the newly-introduced "regional variants," which take pre-existing Pokémon and redesign them with new Types, new stats, and a new look to boot; I love those. They've praised the new "Poké Ride" feature, which replaces the intrusive and outdated HM system with Pokémon you can call upon at almost any time to help you traverse the world of Alola; that's phenomenal. They've praised the boneheaded gang of punkass trainers, Team Skull—they might just be the best team Pokémon's ever had. Yes, ever.
Some praise the new Pokémon designs (most of them I could do without), some praise the new "Island Trial" campaign (lots of missed opportunities, but a positive and refreshing change nonetheless), and I've even seen people praise the fact that you can pet your Pokémon in Poké Refresh (though we've had Pokémon petting since 2013).
But easily the best new feature in Sun and Moon is something I've seen little-to-no discussion about online. Stranger still, I've yet to meet anyone in the real world—Pokémon Sun and Moon players included—who knew much about it or its excellence before receiving my impassioned lesson.
So sit down, class, because I'm telling you why Pokémon Sun and Moon's most underrated feature is also its best. Yes, SuMo's best feature is the Poké Pelago.
In concept, Poké Pelago is a series of islands you can access from the pause menu at any time during Pokémon Sun and Moon, and there the Pokémon tucked away in your PC can relax with some fresh air, fresh berries, fresh exercise, and only the freshest of spelunking. But Poké Pelago notably takes four tedious or confusing elements from the Pokémon formula and streamlines them into something easy, accessible, and (mostly) quite elegant.
The first island in the archipelago is called "Isle Abeens," where you can harvest Poké Beans and occasionally recruit a new Pokémon to your team. There's not much going on here, but it's crucial, as the Poké Beans you collect here are then used to build and upgrade the facilities your Pokémon can use. And once everything is fully upgraded, you'll be ready to enjoy the most convenient Pokémon experience yet.
Soon you'll discover "Isle Aplenny," which is the new system by which players can plant and harvest berries. The berry system has seen radical overhauls in nearly every Pokémon game since it was introduced in Gold and Silver, but this is undoubtedly its best incarnation. Much like the Berry Pots from HeartGold and SoulSilver, Isle Aplenty is with you at all times, but now you can plant up to 18 berries, which means you can harvest as many as 108 berries at a given time.
There's a bit less flexibility in that you can only use Poké Beans to speed up berries' growth times, rather than a variety of mulches—but ultimately the mulches were just means to improve berry systems that were far less accessible and thus fundamentally inferior.
You can send Pokémon out for underground excursions on "Isle Aphun," where they'll return in 24 hours with various helpful items for trainers. Depending on various treasure-hunting paths you choose, they can return with helpful in-game items like Shards and Heart Scales, various Evolutionary Stones, or even rare treasures like Nuggets and Pearls which you can sell to shops for easy cash. Together it makes for a wonderful system which vastly improves the tedious or even frustrating nature of hunting down the right Evolutionary Stones to fill out your Pokédex or teach your Pokémon a new move.
But the real splendor of the Poké Pelago comes in with two islands that make raising Pokémon a total breeze.
"Isle Evelup" combines the EXP grind the Pokémon Day Care (now called the Pokémon Nursery) used to provide with a new system to expedite the tedious process competitive Pokémon players know as "EV Training." (To put it simply for those unfamiliar, EV Training is a specialized method of training your Pokémon's individual stats rather than simply their level.) You can deposit up to 18 Pokémon in Isle Evelup at once and decide whether their time is spent increasing individual battle stats, like speed, attack, and HP, or simply leveling up by increasing their EXP.
Finally, "Isle Avue" is a series of hot springs with 18 slots to leave Pokémon, which will increase their friendship (which again is great for evolution), or leave Eggs to heat up until they hatch. Yes, you can hatch Pokémon Eggs right there in the Poké Pelago.
Together it means no more running mindlessly around the overworld for hours on end just to hatch a small handful of Eggs to hatch the perfect competitive Pokémon. No more mindless running to slowly train two Pokémon at once in the Day Care just so you can finally evolve them for their Pokédex entry at Level 54 and never use them again. No more pretending to be friends with that stupid Woobat, either. Just drop them off in the Poké Pelago, set the number of hours you want them to stay, and go about your daily life—the best part is that you can do it all en masse.
Don't even get me started on this freakin' guy in all his big-hatted, Spongebob-turned-human glory.
I bet some smart aleck is raising their hand right now, ready to give me some schtick about how making all these features so easy and accessible cheapens to experience of raising Pokémon. First of all, put your hand down. The class is a metaphor. I can't see you, and you look like a tool when you stare at your computer with your arm like that.
But more importantly, nobody's making you use the Poké Pelago. If you don't want your Pokémon experience cheapened, just don't use these features. You can still raise Pokémon the traditional way, I can fill up 802 Pokédex entries in a slightly-less-psychotic amount of time, and we can still love it all the same.
Of course, Poké Pelago is far from the only underrated feature in Sun and Moon—there's still the improved battle menu, the beautiful region of Alola, the vastly-improved character models, and plenty more. What new improvements have you been enjoying the most? Let's get talking in the comments below!