Over Pokémon Go? This Hawai‘i-Based Game Will Revive Your Pokémon Addiction

The latest Pokémon game takes place in a fictionalized version of Hawai‘i. Here are a few of our favorite references to local culture.
Pokemon Go Alola Islands
Photos: Courtesy of The Pokémon Company


Everyone remembers the Pokémon Go craze from last July that had people glued to their phones, trying to “catch ’em all”—even if it meant accidentally wandering into traffic, into a protected heiau or off a 50-foot cliff. But did you know there’s another recent Pokémon game, one set in a virtual Hawaiian Islands?


SEE ALSO: Afterthoughts: Save Me, Pokémon GO


When the latest installment of the Pokémon franchise, Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon, came out for the Nintendo 3DS handheld console this past November, we heard it took place in a fictionalized version of Hawai‘i called “Alola.” What we didn’t realize was just how much of the game was modelled after not only the Hawaiian Islands, but local culture, too. It’s interesting to see the places we visit and the things we do (like the shaka or eating malassadas) get translated in virtual form. Here are some of our favorite finds:


Characters in the game speaking pidgin.

“Ho! Howzit,” a rival Pokémon trainer calls out to your character early in the game. Excuse me?


As you explore the towns in the game, you’ll hear characters drop pidgin phrases here and there. Terms like “tūtū,” “chicken skin,” “You like scrap?” and other classics make their way into Alola citizen’s vocabulary.


One of the new Pokémon is literally a lei.

Pokemon Go ComfeyAppropriately named “Comfey,” this Pokémon is technically just a head with a long blue tail, but it collects flowers and strings them up on its tail. According to the official Pokémon wiki, the flowers can be thrown at enemies. The lei emits a pleasant fragrance in the form of an oil it releases, to soothe or even heal.


Armed with a cute orange face and light green eyes, Comfey’s inclusion is definitely a nod to Hawaiian lei, but it doesn’t seem as though the game designers really went out of their way to conceptualize a unique creature for Hawai‘i. Keep in mind that another of the new Pokémon is literally a key-chain ring. Another one’s an actual trash bag. So, you know.


Malassadas are still the bomb.

Pokemon Go malassadas

You can enjoy the fried Portuguese pastries in game at special malassada shops through the Alola Islands, just like in real life. You’re encouraged to feed them to your creatures to boost their “Affection,” an in-game attribute that boosts dodging ability. Which is ironic, because in real life, if you eat too many malassadas, you knock out pretty easily.


But a weird thing about malassadas in Pokémon: the flavors. You’ll find no plain, cinnamon or cream-filled ones here. Instead, they’re sorted by types such as sour or bitter or dry. We’ll stick to Leonard’s.


The geography in the game is like ours, only shrunk way down.

Pokemon Go Hawaii

Instead of the eight Hawaiian Islands, Sun & Moon gamers get four: replicas of Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Maui and Hawai‘i Island, named Poni, Akala, Melemele and Ula‘ula Island, respectively. Across the islands, everything from land masses to neighborhoods are mimicked where possible.


In the game, O‘ahu is Melemele Island (melemele is the Hawaiian word for yellow, O‘ahu’s official color). Kāneʻohe Bay becomes Kala‘e Bay, Diamond Head becomes Ten Carat Hill (diamonds, carats, get it?) and so on.


Hau‘oli City is the game’s version of Honolulu, featuring a shopping center, a hair salon, a tourist bureau, a city hall, a police station and a pier. The city is divided into three areas: Beachfront (Waikīkī), the adjacent Shopping District (Ala Moana Center) and the Marina (Ward Village and Kewalo Basin).


There’s construction at the top of the mountain on its “big” Island, too.

On Ula‘ula Island (the game’s equivalent of Hawai‘i Island), twin mountains Mount Hokulani and Mount Lanakila are inspired by Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, complete with a matching “Hokulani Observatory” instead of the Mauna Loa Observatory. On Mount Lanakila, there’s snow at the top.


Here’s the description of Mount Lanakila from the game: “The roughest and coldest mountain in the Alola region. A large-scale construction project has been taken up here.” Looks like they’re building something here, too—not a controversial $1.4 billion 30-meter telescope, but an epic fighting arena.


If these trends keep up, who knows where Pokémon will show up next. Maybe there will be a sequel on Hawai‘i’s unofficial ninth island—Pokémon: Vegas.