Pokémon Sun and Moon have been out for a few months now, and trainers have grown used to the sunny climes of the tropical Alola region. For most Team Skull has been disbanded, the Elite Four are conquered and the mythical Ultra Beasts are long-tamed. The competitive scene is getting into swing, too, with devoted players already pulling off death-defying tricks with the likes of itty-bitty Cosmog and the SOS encounter system being manipulated to harness the reproductive powers of genetically superior Ditto. The Pokémon everyone loves to love.
So revered and documented is the series that leaving a previous generation’s region can feel like moving away from friends and family to start a new life elsewhere. In November we consigned Pokémon X and Y to history, leaving behind the beautiful Kalos. Heavily inspired by France, the first 3DS region boasted stunning landscapes, ranging from quaint towns and coastal cliffs to fairytale forests and blizzard-ravaged mountains, giving the Pokémon world a splendour that could only have been dreamed of in the Game Boy era. But X and Y also stand as the series’ most incomplete chapter: the games are riddled with mysteries and curios, many of which don’t feel like mere Easter eggs but genuine canonical enigmas. With Sun and Moon offering few answers, it’s time to revisit Kalos and see if there’s any closure there after all - or whether these titles simply raised more questions than they answered.
As with every new entry in the series, fans had hoped for a post-credits return to a previous region. This is a nostalgic desire established by the classic Pokémon Gold and Silver versions, which allowed players to revisit Red and Blue’s Kanto. This feature – made possible by the late, great Satoru Iwata – might be a fanciful notion, but the transition between X and Y and Sun and Moon did appear to hint at a generational crossover.
The most notable aspect of this was the presence of Zygarde, a frightening, hidden monster that was originally found in Kalos, but which strangely bore no real significance in terms of lore or competitive play. Pokémon has long since grouped its legendary beasts into trios. It’s a concept that goes back as far as the original games’ Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres, but one that began affecting storylines starting with Ruby and Sapphire’s Groudon, Kyogre and Rayquaza, from whose apocalyptic battle the player would have to save the world. Subsequent generations saw the Creation Trio and the Tao Trio play pivotal roles in the plot. When X and Y’s mascots Xerneas and Yveltal served a similar purpose, history and logic suggested that we’d see a third instalment – Pokémon Z – which would have Zygarde live up to its Pokédex entry and show its “secret power” when Team Flare threw the ecosystem into disarray. When various new forms of the subterranean serpent were revealed in 2015, only a fool would have argued that a Z version wouldn’t appear the following year.
But fools we were. Pokémon Sun and Moon were announced in early 2016 and hype around a Z version dissipated, especially when it was announced that Zygarde’s new alter egos would show up in Alola. This only served to fan the flames of excited speculation that Generations VI and VII would be interconnected. When X and Y’s Sina and Dexio later appeared in the new games, dropping Zygarde hints like it was going out of fashion and even questioning its Alolan appearance, it seemed the legendary was going to have some significance in the story. It didn’t.
All these clues, however, suggest that Zygarde was originally destined for his own starring game, - and, depending on whom you believe, it’s rumoured that this mooted ‘Pokémon Z’ was cancelled in order to produce Sun and Moon in time for the franchise’s 20th anniversary, its features retconned into a sidequest rather than being dropped completely. Zygarde’s new, incomplete forms are almost a functioning allegory for its fractured canon.
There was another element of X and Y with ties to Kalos – the mysterious backpacker, who’d give the player a Strange Souvenir depicting a venerated Pokémon from a far-off region. The item later appeared as a pointless collectable in Alola, and the creature is thought to be one of the Tapu quartet, which each guard one of the region’s islands. He also hinted at a “facility that you wouldn’t believe,” likely in reference to Sun and Moon’s colossal, mysterious Aether Foundation, as well as a Champion that was “really something else.”
What’s curious about this last statement is that Alola didn’t have a Champion at the time, since its Pokémon League is only established as part of Sun and Moon’s story. Is this tantalising traveller a clairvoyant or were developers just too overzealous in dropping clues? Probably the latter, but you can’t blame them for wanting to foreshadow and build hype for the 20-year celebration. Either way, we can consider this myth busted.
Cancellations, production changes, and clue-planting account for much. Nevertheless, several aspects of X and Y remain much more mysterious. Most infamous is the ghost who haunts a building in the otherwise upbeat, lively Lumiose City. Upon first entering the room, the lights will flicker, the music will fade, and a motionless girl will appear behind you before declaring “No, you’re not the one” and vanishing. This unexpected moment sent chills down the spines of players everywhere and sparked fervent discussion and theorising. There’s a long-time tradition of human ghosts appearing in the series, such as the former residents of Sinnoh’s abandoned Old Chateau and the child who lingers around Phoebe’s room in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, but their purpose has simply been a bit of fun for eagle-eyed players. This Lumiose spook has a different vibe altogether.
A girl with the same Hex Maniac character model also appears in the city’s Hotel Richissime, strangely telling you to be quiet so she can hear the elevator. Another one appears in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire’s Mt Pyre, again saying the player isn’t “the one”, possibly a self-referential nod to the X and Y mystery. Given the ghost girl’s intriguing dialogue, notable in-game event and even a dedicated page on the Japanese Pokémon website , she appears to hold more significance than an Easter egg, but her true role remains unknown.
Lumiose holds even more secrets. If you inspect the back of a sign in the otherwise unassuming train station, you’ll find the cryptic message “I’m going to go for help. Wait in the usual place.” A nearby character also asks, “It should be someplace right around here, right?” suggesting that he might be its intended recipient. Meanwhile, Couriway Town’s railway station is purely aesthetic, despite its English and Japanese mottos referencing the fact that it connects Kalos to faraway lands. There’s also a hidden, inspirational message left on a bench by a young Professor Sycamore to his future self. The intrigue surrounding these termini led to speculation that they’d be used to visit another region or a special downloadable area but, unfortunately, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.
Another much-discussed locale in Kalos is Route 14. The area is one of the region’s most striking; an ethereal, dusky trail in which tree branches twist out like beckoning hands – the sort of place you’d expect to find Snow White having a nervous breakdown. Standing in its centre is a scary house, in which an old man – who also appears on the Japanese site – will tell the protagonists a tale about a “horde of faceless men” who appeared in that very room.
“Horde” is an interesting choice of a word, as horde encounters were a feature of X and Y in which you’d take on five Pokémon at the same time. No known horde Pokémon resembled a faceless man, however, which sparked all kinds of theories, some even suggesting that Zygarde’s five spines were the men in question. A 16-feet tall legendary dragon peeking in the window of a house – this is the kind of oddball thinking that Game Freak’s inexplicable story arcs can lead to. I hope they’re proud.
We’ve established by now that X and Y are a little on the strange side – and that’s without discussing the locked power plant, the clue about something hidden in the shadow of the sundial and the nebulous concept of tipping – but Sun and Moon aren’t without their own collection of mysteries. For instance, why do certain Ultra Beasts share physical similarities with characters such as Lillie, Lusamine and Guzma? Despite such resemblances being teased in the pre-release run-up – which sparked talk of Pokémon-human hybrids – it would appear that the people simply model themselves on the creatures and not vice versa. Then there are the inter-dimensional, time-hopping concerns such as a young Wally, whose presence is arguably inconsistent alongside an aged Red and Blue, the returning original protagonists.
These pale in comparison to the oddities that comprise X and Y, though. Maybe the developers have a long-term plan that they’ll announce one day, although it seems less and less likely. Perhaps some ideas were dropped late in development, but their traces not removed in full. Others are probably red herrings or narrative flourishes with no deeper meaning. Is the truth is out there? Who knows but we can at least say au revoir to the beautiful and revolutionary Kalos region knowing that, for the very best, it will forever hold some secrets.