Right. We should talk about this. Probably. I suppose.
The name “Alola region” almost certainly points to Hawai’i; we all know the famous Hawaiian greeting “aloha.” It’s a good fit with past region names – look at “unity” in Unova, or “Kalos” coming from the Greek word for beauty or goodness; “aloha” in the Hawaiian language literally means compassion or peace (in New Zealand we have the cognate “aroha,” the Maori word for love, although it’s not used as a greeting in Maori). The name also emphasises Hawai’i’s multicultural nature, which is a theme that Game Freak is keen on. We like region names with strong positive connotations. Some of the scenery also looks like it points to a vaguely Polynesian aesthetic, with carved stone heads and things. We only see one island in the trailer, but it’s entirely possible that the action will be spread out over several, which would be exciting; we haven’t really had a region with a lot of water since Hoenn, and I’d like to see what new ideas the team might have for playing with an oceanic setting.
And we have starters! Yes, exciting. I’m gonna be honest, I’m not… terribly wild about any of these? But sure, they’re fine. The Grass-type is Rowlet, an owl-like Flying dual-type that flies silently and fights with a combination of vicious kicks and Razor Leaf barrages from its wings. We’ve done owls, we’ve done Hoothoot, but there’s room to play this one differently, because Hoothoot and Noctowl have all these powers related to intellect, rhythm and time, whereas Rowlet looks like it’ll be more focused on owl-as-hunter. It’s also nice to have a Grass-type bird, which is an odd hole in what exists currently (and maybe this will finally kill dead that meme about the Grass starters all being prehistoric animals). We can probably assume reasonably that Rowlet will remain Grass/Flying all through its evolution.
Our Fire-type will be Litten, a striped cat who is aloof and logical but also passionate. So… my first thought was “another cat Pokémon, really?” and just after we’ve had a Fire-type cat, Litleo, too. Of course, we’re looking probably at a tiger cub, based on the stripes, and that again has potential to go in a rather different direction to Pyroar, focusing on tigers as stealthy predators in place of the regal pride of a lion. Not sure how well that fits with the flashy, explosive attacks Fire Pokémon tend to like, but I suppose we’ll see. The black colouring maybe hints that we’re going into Fire/Dark, but then again the Pokédex’s emphasis on Litten’s mental traits suggests that we’re actually looking at another future Fire/Psychic-type.
Finally, the new Water starter is Popplio, an acrobatic performing seal with, apparently, a balloon theme (the Pokédex says it “uses the elasticity of its balloons” in its jumps). So it’s a seal, but potentially way more interesting than Seel (whom I love, but, let’s face it, is literally just a seal). Play and performance are likely to be key themes as this guy evolves, and we can perhaps expect some faintly Mr. Mime-esque clownish elements to the design of the evolved forms. The balloons make me think Water/Flying is a remote possibility, but having a Flying-type among the starters already shuts that down somewhat; the most likely route, I think, is Water/Fairy.
And of course, we also get brief glimpses here of the mascot legendary Pokémon, whose names have yet to be revealed. One is a lion, appropriately enough, given the ancient connotations of the lion as a solar animal, and the other is a kind of… bat… pterosaur… thing, with crescent moon wings. Bats are vaguely appropriate as nocturnal animals, I suppose. Both Pokémon incorporate the appearance of the night sky into their designs, furthering the celestial theme. Nothing terribly unexpected about that so far.
So yeah, this is… this is fine. So far it feels a lot like X and Y, and X and Y were really good, so there’s reason for optimism. Just not seeing anything eye-popping yet, but that’s more or less to be expected at this stage, I think.