Game Review – Pokemon Sun & Moon

Hallelujah, praise Helix; we have a fantastic Pokemon game.

I know that may sound cynical, but I’m not knocking against previous Pokemon games. X and Y were fantastic in what they did for the series. Gold and Silver were worthy sequels to the immortal Red and Blue. Even Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire were amazing remakes, and most fans are hoping they’ll make more like those. When I say Sun & Moon are fantastic, all I mean is that Game Freak has raised the bar significantly. Pokemon will never be the same again.

My team: Tony, Zeus, Aqua, Alola Kong, NickiMinaj, and Pikachu
My team: Tony, Zeus, Aqua, Alola Kong, NickiMinaj, and Pikachu

Mechanics

From a gameplay perspective the best thing about Pokemon Sun & Moon is how convenient everything has become. Gone are the days when you needed to navigate through menu after menu to get what you want. Instead, items, EVs, IVs, switching out items, Pokemon order, and everything else can be done with usually just one or two buttons, and although this might sound trivial/lazy, I can assure you it’s a big difference in a 40+ hour game. More playing and less going through menus is always a good thing. HMs are gone now too, replaced by Pokemon rides, which is basically an Alolan service that summons Pokemon to you in order to bypass terrain. Now we don’t need an HM slave nor do we have to juggle around our movesets.

SOS chaining is a fantastic addition to the battling system. What happens is that wild Pokemon have a chance of calling for help, and they’ll keep doing it as long as they have one hit point. The success rate at which they can summon backup is in your control. The more Pokemon they summon, the more likely that Pokemon will have good IVs and even be shiny. IVs and shininess are the most sought after traits for Pokemon hunters, and in designing and implementing SOS chaining, Game Freak has demonstrated their wisdom and knowledge of the Pokemon fan base. While SOS chaining is far from automatically handing players their perfect Pokemon army, it’s an efficient system that allows players to hunt shinies, get good IVs, and do EV training all at once. Any luck factor is eliminated because the nature of SOS chaining places everything within the player’s control. In short, SOS chaining is a great addition to the Pokemon games, and is the sole reason why I am now a converted shiny hunter.

Story

There’s not much to expect when it comes to Nintendo and story. Only recently have they started consistently giving Mario someone else to rescue, and the places they take Link are usually hit or miss. With Pokemon the plot usually involves Team <X> trying to take over the world or capture all Pokemon for nefarious purposes. There have been politically charged plot points in the past, most notably the ethics of how we treat animals in Black & White and environmentalism in Ruby & Sapphire.

With Sun & Moon the story takes a step back and basks in the fact that it’s a video game. The story is about a woman being possessed by a jellyfish, but let’s set that aside for a sec. What is most impressive is that the new world, Alola, has been introduced convincingly as an up-and-coming scene for Pokemon, both in the sense of Pokemon living in nature and the setup of a Pokemon league. The regional variants make sense, as it can only be expected that different parts of the world would feature different strains of Pokemon. All in all, the world is compact and immersive, as every plot detail appears to have been crafted carefully in order for the player to experience Alola as a brand new yet familiar setting within the world of Pokemon.

alola
Alola!

Gotta Catch Em All

I was never really into Pokemon when I was younger. The show was enough for me, and I hated RPGs when I was a kid. Too impatient.

My first Pokemon game was actually Diamond, and I bought it on a whim. I have to admit that it was pretty fun, going around building a team and fighting the gyms and eventually becoming champion. It’s understandable why the series has remained popular; the games within the core series have always strongly replicated the feeling of going on a journey and growing along the way, and that’s perhaps the most potent experience any video game can give.

The greatest thing about gen VII is that Pokemon Sun & Moon is actually challenging. It’s a common theme for most players to be stuck at a certain trial. I myself had to buy a TM for 50,000 pokedollars in order to beat the fire trial, which is great! For the majority of Pokemon’s lifespan, any obstacle was usually overcome by grinding and executing an attack with high base damage, but now you actually have to strategize and consider every advantage, including status effects and weather, unless of course you enjoy grinding, but that takes a lot of time and would suck up the fun for the rest of the game. The element of difficulty only adds to the sense of accomplishment, and a challenging Pokemon was due ten years ago.

With Sun & Moon the spirit of adventure lives on, and this time old favourites return and new Pokemon have captured our hearts (Mimikyu <3). This is an excellent adventure with memorable characters and an intriguing plot (despite giant jellyfish mommy). One small complaint is that there aren’t really any new Dark Pokemon (and when are we actually gonna get a Dark gym?!), though the number of Pokemon that can use dark attacks seems out of proportion. Other than that, it’s exciting seeing all the new Pokemon and characters, and with the ease in which the Pokedex can be filled, there’s never been a better time to catch them all.

In Conclusion…

Get it! Whether you’re a Pokemon vet or a newbie, Pokemon Sun & Moon has something for you. Everything has been tweaked to makes things faster, easier, and more accessible. Nintendo often gets knocked on for lacking innovation and reusing tired franchises (which is complete BS), but this game is an old dog who has learned new tricks, and it’s a welcome and refreshing change. Reminiscent of Red & Blue without pandering, Pokemon Sun & Moon effectively recreates what it’s like to take on a challenging journey.

This has been a gamobo review. Thanks for reading.

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