Pokemon Sun and Moon
The Pokemon Company
The Pokemon game series has been running strong for 20 years and during this time, it has evolved dramatically in gameplay, aesthetics, and overall quality. And now we get Pokemon Sun and Moon. Since the very first trailers, it was clear that Nintendo and Game Freak were aiming very high with their new game, hoping to satisfy fans and truly make a worthy entry to celebrate the series ’20th birthday.
During your adventure in the new region of Alola, you’ll get to meet a roster of varying characters which, unlike previous games in the series, actually display a range of unique personalities. In the game’s story you’ll encounter Hau, a local friend, who is optimistic, energetic and has a great appetite; Lillie, a shy, bashful girl with a mysterious past and an even more mysterious Pokemon; a Pokemon Professor that doesn’t know how to knock; and a cynical Police Officer which constantly mocks all the other characters. The local villains, Team Skull, also have their own style. The team members are a little bit goofy, and will tease each other and even the player, occasionally breaking the fourth wall, and will bursting in to a rap song from time to time. They are the kind of villains that I’d love to see in future games in the series. Those of you who are looking for a meaningful plot and intimidating antagonists, will also get their share of these kind of characters throughout the dramatic story.
There are plenty of new Pokemon in Sun and Moon, starting from the starter Pokemon you’ve probably already seen in the many screenshots and videos release prior to the game’s launch. All three have useful secondary types, which make them very effective for the entire length of the story. It’s important to mention that unlike previous games, the new Pokemon in this game seem to all to be very unique and useful in their own way, and not a single species feels overlooked, rushed, or useless. For example, we have Mimikyu, a ghost/fairy Pokemon that wants to be like Pikachu and dresses up to look like it; Lycanrock, a rock type wolf Pokemon that has a different form for Sun or Moon, kind of like a werewolf; Bewear, a large Pokemon that looks like a bear in a different bear costume, and many many more. There’s even a new Pokemon that bears a suspicious resemblance to the new elected president of the United States, Donald Drumpf.
In addition to the many new Pokemon, familiar ones have received a sort of makeover thanks to something that’s called an Alola regional variant. A number of Pokemon from the original games, Red and Blue, appear throughout the game after having adapted to the tropic climate of Alola, which greatly differs from the climate of previous games’ regions. These new regional variants include Exeggutor, a palm tree Pokemon from the earlier games which has adapted to look like a coconut tree with dragon characteristics, and Marowak, which was a ground Pokemon wielding a bone club in the previous games, but in Alola appears as a fire acrobat. This addition gives a new way to enjoy old Pokemon, and brings a warm feeling of nostalgia to veteran players like myself.
Pokemon Sun and Moon incorporates an immense number of new features, which are revealed to you bit by bit along the game. One of the more game-changing one is called Z-Moves. Throughout your adventure you will collect “Z-Crystals” that enable your Pokemon to perform an enhanced attack once per battle. This isn’t another game-breaking mechanic like the previous generation’s Mega Evolution mechanic, but rather a new game tactic which helps getting out of tight spots, and the game has plenty of those. Sun and Moon is probably one of the most difficult games in the series, alongside Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 in their “Hard Mode”. Speaking of difficulty, the game features a different sort of challenge than the series’ usual Pokemon Gyms, with the Island Challenges. These Island Challenges feature unique missions, mini-games, and puzzles which offer a refreshing experience that matches the region’s tighter connection with nature, without taking away from the usual battles. At the end of each Island Challenge you will always get to face a Totem Pokemon in battle, which offers a worthy boss battle.
Sun and Moon finally gets rid of the Hidden Machines items. In previous games, the player had to collect Hidden Machines (HM for short) in order to teach their Pokemon certain moves, such as surfing, pushing boulders and flying, which allowed the player to traverse the environment. The main problem with those move is that they weren’t changeable or transferable, so you had to make sure you always have one Pokemon that can do each so you won’t get stuck. The new game has found a solution to this problem – the player receives a pager which allows them to summon a Pokemon to break rocks, carry them across water or fly them someplace. That way, players can no longer find themselves deep inside a cave, only to discover that they can’t move forward because they forgot to bring a Pokemon that can swim.
Moving along the game, you’ll get to visit Poke Pelago – a place in which you can utilize the Pokemon that are not travelling with you in order to collect items and berries, train, and even befriend and catch Pokemon for you. This “automation” is great for when you want to focus on the main story, and want to cut down on the level and item grinding. In fact, with the Experience Share item you receive early on in the game, and the amount of trainer battles in the different areas of the game, I only found myself stopping to grind in order to level up a Pokemon, and that was only because in a later part of the game I decided to begin training some low-leveled Pokemon I liked. Aside from that, this game is probably the first in the series which is almost completely free of grinding, which is a great improvement.
The last new feature is the Festival Plaza, which serves as the multiplayer hub and can be accessed from any point in the game. In the Plaza, which bears a similarity to Join Avenue from Black 2 and White 2, you can trade and battle online, use the Global Trading System (or GTS) and take part in various mini-games, some of which can be played with other players, in exchange for Festival Coins. You can later trade these Coins for various some prizes and items. The different options here are great, and it’s fun to take a short break from the intense story for a quick trade with a random person from across the globe, but the whole interface and system felt very unintuitive to me.
While previous games allowed you to travel while connected to the internet, occasionally receiving a trade or battle invitation from other players, the new system requires you to stop what you’re doing in reconnect to the Festival Plaza each time you want to play online. This made playing with my friends bothersome and confusing, even when these friends were already in my game. While this does not make the multiplayer functionalities bad, I still felt like Sun and Moon has taken a step back from a great system that worked well in previous entries. The game’s multiplayer experience is actually one of the best there is on the 3DS, especially considering the huge community of players around the world, so the fact that it’s less approachable than in previous games is absurd.
From the very first moments of the game I felt immersed in the game’s unique atmosphere. The game opens with a series of tense, cinematic cutscenes, the like of which was never seen before in a Pokemon game. Visually, there’s a dramatic improvement, which makes the previous games feel obsolete. The new region, Alola, is blessed with amazing views, ranging from cliffs to cities to forests, and many more. We can also see visual improvements during Pokemon battles, which now have shadows, better models, and high quality effects. you can even see the Pokemon trainers themselves standing behind your Pokemon, which makes the experience even more immersive. No longer did I feel like watching the battle through a window, but instead – now that my personalized avatar is standing behind my Pokemon, cheering her on – I really felt like part of the game.
Alola doesn’t only look good, but it sounds good as well. The sound effects are crisp, and the music is catchy across the board, from the tribal theme music, to Team Skull’s battle music. I really liked the slight difference in the music which plays when a regular Pokemon evolves compared to when a Pokemon with a regional variant evolves.
It’s clear to see that a great deal of thought was spent behind every aspect of Pokemon Sun and Moon, be it the design, lore, and even the competitive scene. With an overwhelming amount of fun new features, a wide range of post-game content, and a great story to bind it all together, Pokemon Sun and Moon is an engaging title which offers a huge leap forward from the previous games, and has something to offer for every player, be it returning or new.