This has been a huge year for Pokémon fans, with the release of Pokémon GO and now Pokémon Sun and Moon, players have plenty of time to spend with their adorable team of pocket monsters. Pokémon Sun and Moon brings a lot of new features that change the formula of the combat, story and customization for the better, but at the same time, takes the player out of the world in the first few hours with tedious tutorials and cutscenes.
→ Reviewed by Dawson Helton and Peter Lopez
Welcome to Alola
Many veterans of the Pokémon series will know that the traditional plot is fairly simple and just consists of fighting gym leaders, defeating the elite four, and taking an occasional detour to stop Team Rocket (or whatever evil organization is trying to steal Pokémon from trainers). Sun and Moon still has gyms, but this time around they are called trials, and focus on completing a variety of different tasks, such as finding items or surviving a dungeon in order to face an all-powerful totem Pokémon< to get a Z Crystal, the equivalent of a gym badge. This time around, the narrative is focused heavily on character development and world building. The presence of characters such as, Professor Kuikui, Lillie, and Hau creates an experience that only rivals the anime. One such moment is when you find out that Professor Kuikui is the famous battle royale champion, the Masked Royal, and Hau is fully convinced that they are different people after trying to prove to him otherwise. The goal of these characters is to find a Pokémon named Nebby, and find their way home while you and Hau travel through Alola to complete your island challenge.
Pokémon Sun and Moon, on the surface, looks like a pretty standard entry to the franchise with turn based combat and catching Pokémon, but underneath that basic exterior is a newly fleshed out combat system that requires strategic thinking and caring for your Pokémon team. A new introduction to the franchise is Z power crystals. These crystals can be compared to a summon in Final Fantasy and can only be used once per battle. Z power crystals can be attached to compatible team members and unlock a super move that has the potential to decimate your enemies. The care system from previous entries return this time around, and is crucial to succeeding in battle. For instance, the more you care for your Pokémon, the more likely they are to dodge attacks or land a critical hit. This system can also be used to heal status conditions at the end of a battle instead of having to use antidotes or other healing items.
Another great feature that has been introduced is Pokémon Pelago. This mobile style island building simulator, while seemingly silly on the surface, is a great way to level up the Pokémon that you have transferred to a box and get Poké beans and other items. This new function also lures in wild Pokémon that help build your roster and increase island development. This new feature replaces Pokemon day care and is a nice feature that cuts down on traveling to a specific location to level up your box Pokémon.
Calling for help
For over 10 years, Pokémon battles via random encounters have been mostly the same experience throughout. Now, in Pokémon Sun and Moon, random battles with wild Pokémon feel fresh, as these creatures may “call for help” should they require assistance. What this means is that your foe and another creature will double-team your solo Pokémon, which at times really turns up the heat. During most of these instances, I found it to be annoying as I wanted to focus on catching the initiated Pokémon, but without fail, the weakened monster would call for help and make a quick battle drag out. In most cases they turned a two minute battle into a seven minute snooze fest. Though the silver lining is obvious, more defeated Pokémon in battle means more earned XP, I could have done without this new feature, and I found myself running away from these encounters.
Sparing your Pokémon
For years, The Pokémon Company has dealt the same hand to trainers through each traditional Pokémon installment. From cutting down trees to flying to different towns, exploring previous regions began to feel old and boring. But now, Sun and Moon spare trainers the monotony, as exploring the new region is done in the most exciting way ever: by utilizing multiple Pokémon for a variety of tasks. The days of sacrificing one Pokémon to bear multiple technical machines are over, as the player is granted access to Pokémon with particular abilities, ready to be used at your leisure. Whether you wish to ride a Charizard to another island or location, or sniffing out items and Pokémon with Stoutland, this new way of traversal adds so much energy and excitement towards expedition, that I found myself traversing up and down islands on Pokémon companions just for fun. I love, adore, and appreciate this new implementation, and this has to be my favorite part of Pokémon Sun and Moon.
Make your own trainer
While Pokémon X and Y did have some customization, Sun and Moon builds on that and creates an expanded version of this particular feature. Players can choose their appearance, right down to eye color and what kind of clothing they to wear. For the first time in this series I felt like my avatar was a fair representation of what I would look like in a Pokémon anime.
My only complaint with this title is that it takes forever to get into and holds the player’s hand for far too long. Throughout the first island, I was forced to sit through tutorials that could have been summed up in a single text box. While I do understand that the creators implemented new concepts and features in order to revitalize the franchise, but utilizing two hours to introduce simple things is somewhat degrading to veteran players. I think this could have been easily resolved with an option to opt out of tutorials. The tutorials continue into the main game as well, and if you’re not careful, you will read the same one multiple times. The best example of this is when you get the ability to ride a Tauros. If you go into the ride menu and select incorrect option, the tutorial will reappear with no way to skip it.
While the first few hours of Sun and Moon were one of the most infuriating things I have ever had to face, this was the Pokémon title I always wanted. There was actual strategy to the combat and it didn’t feel like a game of rock, paper, scissors. It’s nice to see a cast of characters that are as unique as the anime. I feel as though this title is a step in the right direction for the franchise and I hope to see future entries get even better.