Pokémon fans around the world are eager for the release of the popular video game’s seventh generation: Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon! This new chapter rides the comet tail of the suddenly popular Pokémon GO and a brilliant year-long marketing campaign for the franchise’s 20th anniversary, setting this generation up to potentially reverse the descent that Pokémon handheld game sales have suffered over the last two decades.
With improved game mechanics, upgraded animation, tons of novel features, and a menagerie of new Pokémon, this generation is sure to please fans who are ready for a more complex gaming experience. But Pokémon Sun and Moon are also catching the attention of the franchise’s queer fans, who have been eager for overt LGBTQ representation in the series.
Alas, the games have only recently introduced the ability to choose your playable character’s skin tone beyond the previous pale default, so it may take another 20 years before GameFreak confirms an openly gay gym leader or a lesbian relationship between the Pokémon Champion and a trans Pokémon professor. But in the meantime, we’ll settle for some fabulous attractions that may appeal to queer fans and gaymers everywhere!
Not-so-subtly named for the Hawaiian greeting “Aloha,” Pokémon Sun and Moon will take place in a tropical archipelago called the Alola Region. This allusion to the Rainbow State—a popular honeymoon destination for queer and straight newlyweds alike—is an exciting prospect for adventurers eager to go island-hopping.
Players will be guided along their journeys by this generation’s new Pokémon expert: Professor Kukui. GameFreak certainly learned from the success of creating the debonair Professor Sycamore in the last generation’s Pokémon X and Y game, and have crafted Kukui to appeal to thirsty man-loving fans. A bare chest, a rainbow hat, capri sweatpants, and a doctorate, this dish is serving some serious heat. (We’re just hoping that wedding ring on his finger means he and Sycamore got engaged in Pokémon grad school.)
Sun and Moon have also introduced a brand new concept to excite longtime fans: Alolan Forms. These are redesigns of several Pokémon from the very first generation, harkening back to the Kanto Region (which is inspired by Japan). The working theory is that several Gen One creatures migrated to these Alola islands and adapted over generations to their new environments. How is that interesting to gaymers? Well, we now have a rainbow-hued Muk, a flaming butch Marowak, a shake-and-go-wig-adorned Dugtrio, a sassy dark-type Meowth, and a fairy-type Ninetales who rules over Alola as an empress of all that is femme—a fempress, if you will.
These Alolan Form Pokémon will join the never-before-seen Pokémon of the region, including a fish that looks like a drag queen, a dainty fairy honeybee, a pearl-bejeweled mermaid, and a dreadlocked Mohawk mullet-wearing Clydesdale who looks like a tough lesbian postal worker.
Generation Seven will also give us a common sense approach to transportation in this new region. While previous incarnations of Pokémon games have relied on roller skates and bikes to get around, or depended on the player’s Pokémon to learn a special Hidden Machine move like Fly or Dive—moves that aren’t battle-favored and become a total nuisance—Sun and Moon offer Poké Ride. All you cowboys/cowgirls/genderqueer ranchers will enjoy the ability to smash through rocks while riding a charging Tauros, or summoning a Sharpedo to jet-ski between islands, or flying on a Charizard to explore Alola’s skies.
Who’s standing in your way while you set out on your journey? The organized crime gang Team Skull. It’s too bad the coolest, queerest characters are villains—including the punked out Gladion and inked, wrist-cuff-wearing Plumeria—but it’s fun to see GameFreak branching into street fashion this year.
Lastly, Alola includes a strange phenomenon in the Pokémon universe: Ultra Beasts. These unknown creatures are not described as actual Pokémon and seem to relate more to specific human characters in the narrative rather than legendary creatures you would encounter for the game. But Ultra Beasts may be catchable in Poké Balls as any other Pokémon would be, and thus might be bred or allowed into competitive battles like regular Pokémon. We’ll see once the games are released!
Here’s where you have the chance to prove your prowess. Historically, the game franchise has included a Pokémon League, requiring players to defeat eight different gym leaders within the designated region before competing against the Elite Four trainers, resulting in a finale battle with the Pokémon Champion of the realm. But Alola will instead include Island Trials rather than Pokémon gyms, allowing players to prove themselves to each island’s Trial Captain (including androgynous, pink-haired, as-of-yet-ungendered Captain Ilima) and earn their way to victory through puzzles and quests rather than just battles. This grants a more holistic challenge to the game and appeals to those fans who don’t fully favor the concept of forcing their pets to cockfight until one of them faints.
But if you ARE a duel-hungry sadist who enjoys enslaving animals who fight on your behalf, you’ll love the newest concept to Pokémon battles: Z-Moves! Similar to Mega Evolution, which was introduced a few years ago in Generation Six, Z-Moves give your Pokémon a supercharged power-up for battles. But unlike Mega Evolutions which modify your Pokémon’s appearance, base stats, ability, and even type, Z-Moves seem to simply act as a one-time ultimate weapon in a single battle, giving players an ace up their sleeve to wipe out an opposing Pokémon’s HP. It appears that Pokémon of the same type will all share the same Z-Move, with the exception of a few unique Pokémon who will get special moves all to themselves, including Pikachu, Snorlax, and the new mythical “Tapu” Island Guardians.
Finally, Pokémon Sun and Moon have introduced a brand new battle structure that is sure to destroy more friendships than Monopoly. While previous battles have been limited to Singles (one Pokémon vs. another Pokémon), Doubles (two on two), Triples (three on three), or Rotation battles (a rotating team of three vs. another rotating team of three), we will get to experience an every-player-for-themself melee with Battle Royal! In an arena of four different trainers, each player will simultaneously face three opponents, hoping to come out on top. Allegiances will be formed, promises will be broken, and heads will roll. But this could prove to be an excellent battle method against a CP if you’ve got three trustworthy friends online who can team up with you.
The Pokémon franchise has challenged itself with developing new features for every generation, keeping fans interested along the way with concepts like secret bases, pageants, stat training, and mini-games. Sun and Moon seem to be off to a great start with new concepts to allow fans to bond with their partners even more!
Pokémon Refresh, a follow-up to Gen Six’s Pokémon-Amie, lets players interface directly with their Pokémon. But it seems it won’t just be a place to feed and play with your team as Pokémon-Amie was—you will be able to clean them, heal them of status conditions like Burns and Paralysis, and style them too!
We will also be introduced to the Poké Pelago, another common sense move from GameFreak. Rather than storing your Pokémon as data in a digital “box” on a computer, you’ll be able to “send them to an island” where they can interact with their fellow teammates. Additionally, it seems Poké Pelago allows your Pokémon to feed, forage for special items, and even recruit more Pokémon to your team while you’re busy adventuring.
And while you put your Pokémon to work in the Poké Pelago, you can focus your efforts on the Festival Plaza. This plaza will be a digital space in which players from around the globe can interact, trade, battle, and partner with each other to complete mini-quests for prizes! The childlike interface will appeal to a younger audience of fans, but the ability to collect rare items and develop your perfect team through international trades will appeal to even the most hardcore gaymers.
What’s even better than all of these new features? An expansion of the series’ customization options. As with previous iterations of Pokémon games, Sun and Moon players will be able to choose their character’s gender, skin tone, hair color, and eye color—with four racial options, one more than last generation’s. But the tropical region’s fashion and hairstyle options are also sure to please queens in the fandom. For the first time, players will get the option to NOT wear a hat (groundbreaking), and will be able to dye white garments to create the perfect color palette for their ensembles.
Pokémon Sun and Moon is sure to be a treat for all fans, whether queer or straight. But with all these exciting new queer-appealing features, styles, mechanics, and Pokémon, Generation Seven is poised to be a favorite for the LGBTQ gaming community!