Pokémon. It’s been a staple kids and adults lives since it was introduced over 20 years ago. In that time frame, Pokémon has been through a number of changes. Different regions, graphics, the leap into 3D, and even more new Pokémon. Let’s take a leap into the newest addition to the Pokémon game franchise, Sun and Moon, to see how it holds up against the brand name.
In Pokémon Sun & Moon, you are dropped into a new region – the Alola region. Think of it as Pokémon goes to Hawaii . The environments are gorgeous, especially for a 3DS game. From palm trees, to beach houses, and surf boards. You will definitely get the feeling that you are in a tropical paradise. With a new region comes new Pokémon. This time in addition to new Pokémon, you get “regional variants” that have adapted to this climates of this region. None is more impressive than the regional variants of Exeggutor and Marowak in my opinion. These regional variants are a great way to give a throwback to longtime fans while still keeping it fresh for newer players as well. I do feel like there should have been even more new Pokémon introduced in addition the ones they added. It seemed after getting into the game I wasn’t running into new Pokémon as much – it didn’t feel as spread out as previous games.
The start of your adventure can seem like it takes forever to get anywhere. After a few tutorials, that may seem to take a little bit longer than normal to seasoned players, the game expands out at a decent pace. There are totally optional areas that you can explore, which gives a break to the linearity of the game. The new Team Skull is a little bit different from any other team organization you have encountered in previous titles. They are almost a little over the top. Regardless, it’s basically the same story as has been told before with a few different twists of why they are doing it.
Previous titles lacked any real depth when it came to customization of your character. Game Freak takes this game to the next level when it comes to customization. While I admit that I hate paying for the haircuts without first seeing a preview, the clothes customization options are numerous. Nearly every city you come to will have new options of hats, shirts, pants, shoes, and accessories for you make your character unique. While it’s possible you may run into people online who look fairly similar to yours, the chances are probably smaller than greater that they will exactly duplicate your look.
The battle system has made significant changes making it more accessible to new players. One instance of this is once you defeat a particular Pokémon, when you battle it again you will be able to see what moves are effective and which are not from your party Pokémon. While many seem to think this dumbs down the game, I think it’s a step forward to making it more accessible to younger players who may not be able to memorize the entire type-chart match-ups that veterans as myself may have done from playing Pokémon for so long.
While the last generation of games introduced Mega Evolution, Sun & Moon introduced a new powerful attack called Z-Moves. These moves are obtained by beating the Island Trials and completing certain quests that will earn you a Z-Crystal. These Z-Crystals are grouped by type and by specific Pokémon. For example, there is a Pikanium Z crystal that you can receive that is exclusive to Pikachu and its Volt Tackle move. However, Pikachu can also hold, for instance, Electrium Z that will power up any Electric-type move. The catch is, as with every other game, you can only hold one item. So you have to strategize how you want your Pokémon set up.
One of the biggest changes that I loved is the absences of HMs (Hidden Moves). In previous games, players had to teach their Pokémon certain HMs in order to proceed through certain points in the game. Thus tying up one of the move slots for the Pokémon – which I absolutely hated. Sun and Moon introduces the “Poke Ride” concept, where players can summon certain Pokémon to surf, ride, and fly across Alola. These aren’t all available from the start, you do have to do certain actions to unlock them – mostly progressing the storyline. The great thing is that it doesn’t have any effect on what moves your Pokémon learn for battle.
Another great thing they implemented is that you don’t have to push a button several times to not learn a move. This was one of the most annoying things from the previous generation of games. I get that they wanted to ensure that you were absolutely positive you didn’t want to learn the move. Still, it was absolute overkill. It’s now just a push of the button and you don’t learn the move and keep on your adventure with little hassle. What if you accidentally hit no and you wanted to learn the move? Later in the game you can trade your Heart Scales to a person and they will let you re-learn any move that you may have missed or deleted by accident. This was a great fix on something that was so infuriating but was so simple to fix.
Overall, Pokémon Sun and Moon takes a great leap forward in some new, simple innovations. Small enhancements to the battle system and the little things they fixed take this generation a step forward. However, the small catalog of new Pokémon and a very short end game compared to previous entries could leave some fans wanting more. It keeps close to the formula, while making its own identity. It’s a great addition to the Pokémon franchise, but it could have been exceptional addition.
Final Score: 8.5 / 10