In the Pokémon universe, trainers are often met with the challenge of selecting between two companion titles that are alike yet different in some ways. Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon, designed for the Nintendo 3DS, are no exception. Both games unfold in the tropical Alola region, feature almost identical storylines, and introduce a variety of common creatures and characters. But as is customary for the series, they also have unique aspects. These are designed so that people playing the game have a reason for trading and discovery.
This in-depth guide is made to highlight the essential similarities and differences between Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon. These include things like Island Trials and Captains, exclusive Pokémon, Island Hakunas, key characters, and more. Whether you’re deciding which game to pick up or simply want to grasp their individual features, this guide aims to provide with an answer.
Both Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon are seventh-generation titles launched for the Nintendo 3DS in 2016. Their core mechanics, which include capturing and training Pokémon to engage in battles across the Alola region, a place heavily influenced by Hawaii, are essentially the same. New features like Alolan forms of existing Pokémon and Z-Moves, powerful one-off abilities, are standard in both versions.
The plots are very similar in each of the versions of the game, presenting the same essential storyline. There are, however, some differences too, which we’ll get to soon. Nevertheless, this shouldn’t dissuade playing either version of the game, as both will include a great narrative that dives as deep into the lore of the game.
Trials and Captains
Contrary to traditional gyms from other Pokémon games, both games introduce Island Trials led by Trial Captains and Kahunas, who serve a similar role to gym leaders. Each island in the Alola region has its own set of Trials, Captains, and Kahunas, all of which remain fairly consistent between Pokémon Sun and Moon. There are differences, though. The following Captains are the same in both, though.
|Island Challenge||Trial Captain||Type|
|Melemele Island, Hau’oli City||Ilima||Normal|
|Akala Island, Konikoni City||Lana||Water|
|Ula’ula Island, Pokémon League||Sophocles||Electric|
|Ula’ula Island, Pokémon League||Acerola||Ghost|
|Poni Island, Seafolk Village||Mina||Fairy|
Kahunas are the highest tier individuals of each island, the chiefs. The leaders of the four separate islands are chosen as the representatives of the Islands by the guardian deities of Alola. Each of these Island Kahunas is the same in both versions of the game.
Main Story Characters
The critical characters that appear in the narrative of both games are largely the same. The games introduce characters like the founder of Alola’s Pokémon League, Professor Kukui, the protagonist’s friend Lillie, and others. Here are some of the core characters that one is expected to come across in both Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon.
|Professor Kukui||Pokémon professor|
|Lillie||Friend and companion|
|Gladion||Team Skull Enforcer|
|Lusamine||Aether Foundation President|
Both titles also share noteworthy gameplay features that enhance the gaming experience.
|Z-Moves||Ultra-powerful moves in battle|
|Rotom Dex||A talking Pokédex that gives advice|
|Poke Pelago||Mini-games for training Pokémon|
|Alolan Forms||Regional variants of existing Pokémon|
Though they share much, Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon are not mirror images of each other. Version-exclusive content encourages player interaction and trading, providing varied experiences while remaining closely knit in the same core gameplay and story. While the story is largely the same, there are parts of the game that make each distinct in this respect, too.
Some of the cutscenes have been chosen to deliver a slightly different impact. This includes a part of the game where the developers have altered the Ultra Beast appearances in each of the titles.
Time of Day
However, the most significant difference in terms of narrative is the day and night variation. The games are designed to present two different times of day, which is fairly evident also from their names. Each of the games is tied to the internal clock of the Nintendo 3DS. When one is playing Pokémon Sun the game presents itself at the same time as the player. This isn’t the case for Pokémon Moon, where the time in Alola is not the same as the player but 12 hours ahead in time.
This 12-hour difference in time is essential to the theme of the game but doesn’t require the player to play at any certain time. If the time of day is important to your gaming experience, then this might help you choose either title. It’s unlikely that many will choose their version based on the aesthetics, though. However, the daytime will also affect the Pokémon you’ll encounter. That is why one might prefer one over the other in terms of daytime.
As with each double release in the series, this one too comes with differences in Pokémon that are encountered and catchable. In addition, the special Totem Pokémon are also slightly different. The Sun version focuses on creatures that prefer daylight with brighter colors while the Moon version delivers darker tones and creatures that resemble bats and other creatures of the night.
The most obvious change from Sun to Moon in terms of the Pokémon is legendaries. The legendary Pokémon are different in the games, with one exclusive for each. This is also evident from the box art of each game. Sun has Solgaleo, the Steel/Psychic legendary exclusive. Moon features Lunala, a Psychic/Ghost type legendary, which is exclusive to this version of the game. In terms of Pokémon types, Sun has more Dragon and Fairy exclusives while Moon includes more Psychic, Dark, and Rock.
Totem Pokémon are an important feature of the game. They are essentially supercharged versions of Pokémon that are battled at the end of each Trial. Trials on the other hand are what replace Gym Battles in this iteration of the game. Depending on the version you’ll encounter different Totem Pokémon, like Melemele Island’s Verdant Cavern you’ll battle either Gumshoos in Pokémon Sun or Alolan Raticate in Pokémon Moon.
Exclusive Pokémon in Pokémon Sun
|Lycanroc Midday Form||Rock|
Exclusive Pokémon in Pokémon Moon
|Lycanroc Midnight Form||Rock|
Trials and Captains
While most of the game’s Island Trials and Captains are the same, there are slight differences too. In Akala Island, the two have different Trial Captains that are located in different locations within the island. Both also have distinct types and Pokémon, as you would expect.
|Island Challenge||Trial Captain||Type||Exclusivity|
|Akala Island, Paniola Town, Royal Avenue||Kiawe||Fire||Sun|
|Akala Island, Lush Jungle||Mallow||Grass||Moon|
Pros and Cons
No game is clearly superior as it primarily hinges on player preference. One might prefer specific exclusive elements like unique Pokémon and time settings. While some have argued that by the numbers Pokémon Sun might have the better Pokémon, for many it’s more important to choose a game that fits better for what you are looking for. This might include thematic and type considerations in addition to specific exclusive Pokémon.