In its latest trailer, the publisher has revealed a twist on the age-old formula. The same species of Pokémon can exist in two completely different versions, called Alola forms, that represent “the different microclimates in the Alola region”, the part of the Pokémon world where the two new games are set. In practice, they represent the first inklings of evolution in the Pokémon universe, as specific Pokémon adapt to the climates in which they live.
Among the Pokémon revealed in Monday’s trailer were new forms of Vulpix and Ninetails, the fire-foxes from the original games, and Sandshrew and Sandslash, the … armadillo moles? The Alolan forms of the four Pokémon have changed to better suit “the harsh environment of the snow mountains” in which they now live. Vulpix and Ninetails are now Ice and Ice/Fairy respectively, as opposed to the Fire types of the originals, while Sandshrew and Sandslash are Ice/Steel instead of their original Ground types.
The biggest change is reserved for Exeggutor, the weird squat egg/palm tree hybrid which is a combined Grass/Psychic type in the original games. In Alola, “strong sunlight pours down all year round”, and Exeggutor thrives, growing to 35 feet tall and swapping its Psychic subtype for a Dragon.
Also one of its heads moves to its tail, “and can take on opponents to the rear that can’t be reached by the main heads’ attacks”. Which seems like a pretty bum deal.
It is probably not a coincidence that the change affects five Pokémon all hailing from the original trio of Pokémon games, Red, Blue and Green. As the number of Pokémon has ballooned to over 700, the franchise has seen diminishing returns with each new introduction: while the success of Pokémon Go reveals that the fan connection with the original 150 Pokémon is as strong as it ever was, the number of people who can tell a Pancham from a Swirlix is much smaller.
So expanding the Pokémon pool by offering new spins on old favourites could work to get players excited about the new games. It already seems to be working: the fan reaction to the Alola forms is some of the most positive since Pokémon Sun and Moon were first announced.
• This article was amended on 3 August 2016. An earlier version said this will be the first time ever that the same species of Pokemon can exist in two completely different forms. This has been corrected.
This article was written by Alex Hern, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 2nd August 2016 13.52 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010