As a loyal fan of the Pokémon games all the way back to Pokémon Red and Blue, Sun and Moon’s release was always going to be for me one of those must have, day-one release titles. After months of teasers, hours of speculative YouTube videos, and minutes of wait time at the midnight release I managed to get my hands on a copy of Moon. Finally, it was time to see if all of the apparent changes made to the tried and true formula of Pokémon would work within the seventh generation’s release.
It’s made apparent, early on in the game, that Pokémon Sun and Moon is a story based release with lots of narrative in the lead up to choosing your starter Pokémon. This was a welcome surprise, as the main stories in Pokémon games of late, had been lacking in depth. Once you begin you hit the ground running; having saved the mysterious Pokémon Cosmog, befriended Lillie, met Professor Kukui and attained your starter, you’re then encouraged to explore Melemel Island and attempt your first trial. A whole lot is packed into the first few hours and none of it feels forced. While dialogue feels a little text heavy at points, selecting the fastest text option fixes this minor irk of mine.
Given that I picked Moon as my first play through game I was treated to a serene evening view of Alola and Melemele Island. Its vibrant tropical foliage was refreshing to the eye and the quaint moonlit towns were fun to explore as I made my way around. It’s clear that the game developers have really put in the effort to make Alola a beautiful region. The transition from are exploration into the battle screens flow wonderfully and the back ground of the arena is also well detailed for an immersive battle. If I had to fault one area in this aspect it was when characters were given close up scenes, their resolutions were clearly more pixelated and brought me out of the game ever so slightly from time to time.
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting your team of 6 Pokémon, players meet most type tropes on Melemele Island; but it’s worth mentioning that you should explore all areas of each island to catch certain kinds of Pokémon. Your Rotom Pokédex is your best tool for locating when and where your desired Pokémon is found, and take note that one of the new mechanics in Alola, which allows Pokémon to call upon its friends is the only way to catch certain Pokémon – but you will be rewarded for your planning and patience. It’s worth mentioning that the new batch of 80 Pokémon found in Sun and Moon are rather well balanced in typing and that no one specific type gets an overabundance. Alolan variations are also a refreshing take on some your favourite Kanto Pokémon, with my favourite being the Fairy-Ice type Pokémon Ninetails.
With the removal of certain Pokémon staples such as HM’s, bike riding, and Gym leaders one could easily say this is a risky move for the series, which has always rested on familiarity to draw in its old players and allow new players to insert themselves into the series with little difficulty, however the risk has payed off big time. HM’s were always a nuisance in the way they always took a space on a players move set and if you wished to remove them you needed to see the memory challenged move-deleter. But with rideable Pokémon such as Tauros, Sharpedo, and Charizard HM’s (and bikes for that matter) are a thing of the past – and players couldn’t be happier. As for the removal of gyms leaders; well I believe the trials are a welcome change to the classic “8 Gym Leader” trope and have enriched both game play and character development with Captains and Kahunas getting more screen time, granting players the chance to connect to the game in a new way.
“Z-Moves are your ace in the hole if you find yourself backed into a corner and need that final attack to land and steal victory.”
Pokémon battles, themselves, have also been given a revamp with Z-Moves, and a more accessible screen tile to utilise. Those who are unfamiliar with the battle mechanics, weaknesses, buffs and debuffs, will find this appealing as moves are labelled with their effectiveness on opponents and even have a little info tab to remind you what some of their affects will be. You’ll also be able to assess the stats of your Pokémon if there have been any changes made during battle. Z-Moves are a nifty new mechanic that, while not as exciting as Mega Evolution in my opinion, still have merit as a strategic ace in the hole if you find yourself backed into a corner and need that final attack to land and steal victory.
Connectivity in between players in Pokémon has always been very important and while it has made leaps and bounds with applications such as “wonder trade”, o-powers, and friend safari, I felt like the new application, Festival Plaza, takes a step back and makes things a little more difficult to connect with players already on your friend list and encourages players to be more bold and add unknown players from all over the world. That’s not to say it’s a failure, but personally I preferred X and Y’s simplicity and ease of use to connect. Festival Plaza does achieve connecting people with its selection of mini games, interesting item stalls, and training arena’s, and has me visiting every day to gain points to increase the variety of stall options.
Pokémon Amie has returned in a more simplified variation which allows trainers to take on a more active role in bringing up their Pokémon. Upon completion of a battle you’ll sometimes be granted the opportunity to groom or cure the status condition of your partner with a number of utensils provided. These will serve, much in the same way, to increase affection of your Pokémon granting benefits such as stronger attacks, raised evasion, and holding onto a single HP when an attack would normally have KO’ed your team member. This was a welcome edit as it actually increased my affection for my Pokémon as their condition was brought to the forefront of my mind after battles more often.
Pokédex Analysis Complete!
Pokémon Sun and Moon has been an overall successful release for Nintendo that has taken a number of its past criticisms and applied them to create a polished and well-rounded game that I can’t put down. Its pros far outstrip its cons, with only the purest of Pokémon fans really able to pick it apart. I am certainly looking forward to completing the remainder of Moon, and completing my Pokédex and exploring every possible inch of the wondrous Alola. I recommend those who’ve been looking at giving Pokémon a proper go, Sun and Moon is your game, and for those who have been with Pokémon since the start I’m sure you’re loving just as much as I am.