Here we are in 2016, 20 years since the release of Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue. Who would’ve thought that what was supposed to be a fad would last this long. With each iteration to the Pokémon franchise come new Pokémon, a new location, and a new adventure. Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon is no exception to that. Here we are taking a refreshing look at the newest iteration to the Pokémon franchise.
7 generations, 20 years, and 27 games later (26 games excluding Japan only Green) later and we all pretty much know how a Pokémon game works. You choose one of three starter Pokémon; grass, fire, or water, and you go about your adventure with your rival(s) to become the Pokémon Champion. Doing so you must first beat 8 Pokémon Gyms that specialize in a specific type, then proceed to conquer the 4 toughest trainers of that region, the Elite 4, only then do you get to challenge the Champion for their throne as the greatest Pokémon Trainer of the land. And take down an evil organization and save the world while you’re at it also.
Pokemon Sun and Pokémon Moon takes that formula and changes it up. Leaving behind the old formula of the 8 Pokémon Gyms, you must take on the 7 Islands Trials, each with their own specific typing, that take place across the 4 islands that make up the Alola region. Each trial is overseen by their individual captains, but instead of battling the captain at the end of the trial, you battle the respective Totem Pokémon for that trial. You may not be battling against a trainer, but don’t take these Totem battles lightly. In the
Alola region, Pokémon will call for aid from their fellow Pokémon, quickly making these battles from a 1v1 to a 2v1. (In previous Pokémon games before, there’s an AI system that control the difficulty of the Pokémon battles in the game. From wild encounters, to basic trainers, to Gym Leaders and Elite 4, to the end-game Pokémon Tower.) In these Totem battles, the Pokémon you’re facing will pull off combos that are usually only seen within the Pokémon Tower or IRL trainer battles. Once you defeat the Totem Pokémon and complete the trial, you will receive a Z-Crystal, which are used in-battle to boost up one of you Pokémon’s moves once, and to signify that you’ve completed the trial, much the same way as Gym Badges in previous games and thus open up the Island further. Once you beat all of the trials on the island, your next battle is against the Island Kahuna, the Grand Trial. The Island Kahunas are the leader of each respective island. Now these battles would be the equivalent of a Gym Leader battle, 1 on 1. Only then do you take the next step and challenge the Elite 4 and become Champion.
The Island Trials and Grand Trials aren’t the only thing changed in the game. 7 generations later, you no longer have to relegate that 6th slot of your team to what the community refers to as the “HM Slave.” Gone are the days of carrying around that Zigzagoon or Bidoof that you’ll never use in battle just to Surf/Waterfall/Strength/Rock Smash your way through obstacles. Gone are those moments when you can’t teach a move to one of your Pokémon because it’ll be removing a move you like and an HM move you taught it situationally. Gone are the days of having to run all the way to the Move Deleter just to remove an HM. HMs are GONE! To replace all that, you get to call in Pokémon to help you. Tauros to destroy boulders, Lapras to surf across the bay, Charizard to fly you around, and more.
Here in the region of Alola!
With the introduction of a new region to explore comes new Pokémon to catch, train, and do battle with! The Alola region introduces the player to 80 brand new Pokémon, bringing the total count to 802 Pokémon! 802 is an extremely intimidating number but fret not. To be found in the Alola region, there are 302 different species to be found across the 4 island in the Alolan Pokedex. Whether you’re looking for only cute Pokémon or cool tough one, there’s a wide selection to fit everyone’s taste! Even the trainers that refuse to use anything after the original 151, you can build an entire team of the old Pokémon you grew up loving. Along with the 80 Pokémon, 18 classic Kantonian Pokémon have received new Alola variation, giving them new typings to match their new environment. And when you find that perfect Pokémon for your team, you can add it right onto your team even if your team is already full. Just pick which Pokémon you want to send back to the box and you’re ready to go.
Here in the Alola region, Pokémon really like helping each other out. So when you’re battling a wild Pokémon, sometime they’ll call for back-up. These are called S.O.S Battles. When the wild Pokémon calls for backup, it might be a Pokémon from the same family, or it might even be a Pokémon that preys on it. OH MY! It’s definitely something to keep you on your toes!
If you ever get lost or want to read up on certain Pokémon, you can always find assistance from your handy, dandy, no… Rotom Pokedex! Unlike Pokedexes of previous generation, there is a live Rotom who reside in your Pokedex. It’s a bit spunky at time, but it’ll help you on your way and remind you of what you need to do if you ever get lost.
The Rotom Pokedex comes with a new feature, it comes with a QR scanner. With it, you can scan various QR codes from other trainers’ Pokedex to add pages of Pokémon you’ve yet to see to your Pokedex. When you scan a code, you’ll get 10 points to your Island Scan. With every 100 points, you can do an Island Scan for special Pokémon that can’t be found any other way. You can store up to 10 scans, and new scans regenerate every two hours.
Not to dwell into the story too much but with a new region, it also brings a new faction of trouble maker, Team Skull. What is their motive? What do they want? Who is YOUR BOY!?
Along the way, you’ll also get involve with the Aether Foundation, an organization of people who take care of injured Pokémon. What is their involvement? You’ll just have to find out yourself.
When you’re not going after the Island Trial or trying to unveil the mystery behind Team Skull and the Aether Foundation, you can try your hand at the newest form of battling, the Battle Royal! The Battle Royal is a free for all 4 Trainer Battle! With three Pokémon each, you fight until one trainer gets all of their Pokémon knocked out then the battle ends. You win by knocking out the most Pokémon, but beware. If other trainers Pokémon are faster, they just might make the knockout blow and steal your point.
Once you get to fly around on Charizard, you can visit the Poke Pelago. It’s a series of island just for your Pokémon. There you can get more beans to feed to your Pokémon, plant more berries, train your Pokémon, or send them on adventure for loot!
If you want to connect to other trainers, visit the Festival Plaza! There you can trade and battle trainers locally or over the internet. While you’re there you can visit a variety of stalls from shops to restaurants to bounce houses. The more you connect the more stalls you can switch in and out to customize the plaza just for you. You can also engage in mini-games to get more Festival Coins, currency for the stalls.
Gone from Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, but back in Sun and Moon is character customizations! This time, you can dress your character however you want with the massive amount of clothing option and combination! Each major town and city will have a boutique where you can buy new clothes and accessory to make you stand out! And while you’re at it, why not take a gander into the salon and get yourself a new do.
Pokémon Amie makes a return in Sun and Moon as Pokémon Refresh! Here you can play with your Pokémon, feed them beans, and even groom them after battles. The newest and best addition to Pokémon Refresh is the ability to give your Pokémon medicine after a battle. If your Pokémon suffer a status ailment after a battle, you can now apply medicine to remove that pesky ailment right away! No more do your Pokémon have to suffer Paralysis or Poison because you ran out of Full Heals mid route.
Pokémon Sun and Pokemon Moon are probably one of the best Pokémon games. The switch to full 3D modeled Pokemon is great. The new Pokémon array from cute and adorable to cool and menacing. There are many changes made that help streamline the game and just changes that are quality of life changes. With how easy Generation 6, XY & Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, was Sun and Moon was breathtakingly refreshing in term of pacing and progression.
Playing through the game battling every trainer in sight with Exp.Share on and minimal grinding, except when I’m trying to find a certain Pokémon, I stayed up to level with the game. Never once did I feel underleveled and needed to grind out several levels on wild Pokémon nor did I feel overleveled as I did in the Gen6 games. The replacement of Pokémon Gyms with the Island Trials and Grand Trials are done really well and engaging. The Totem fights are far more challenging than Gym Leader battles, giving to the nature of its 2v1 S.O.S. style and AI controlling the Pokémon, using combos unseen by game AI in previous games.
Little changes, such as to the UI such to notify the effectiveness of a move to the opposing Pokémon is great for newcomers and returning players alike. Having your Pokeballs set to Y in battle so you don’t have to scroll through your bag to catch a Pokémon. Being able to add a fresh caught Pokémon to your full team without having to make a run to the Pokémon Center. Refreshing your Pokémon to get rid of status ailment. Fantastic little changes!
All in all, the mechanics are absolutely solid as ever.
Story wise, it’s a pretty standard Pokémon story. There’s a region wide conflict and you resolve it along your journey to become champion. Some characters are memorable. Some not so much.
One thing about the game retaining to the story I would have to say is that, there are way too many cutscenes. Especially within the opening first two hours. As much as I would like to explore the islands and go about at my own pace, the game story will push you along its define path, making areas inaccessible until you complete certain leg of the story.
I was able to go from start of the game to “The End” in 30 hours with a few deviations here and there making sure I see everything in a location before moving on.
Slight spoiler below. Highlight to see content.
Post-game content leaves something to be desired. Immediately after the credit, you get the opportunity to catch the Ultra-Beasts and the Tapus (Island Guardians). The last part of Poni Island gets unlocked and you make your way to the Battle Tree, which is this game equivalent of the end game Battle Tower/Maison. After catching the UBs and reaching the Battle Tree, I went back and did the Elite 4 rematch to find that the Elite 4’s Pokémon are also stronger. Something that was missing from the Gen6 games. Beating the Elite 4 again, allows you to defend your throne against different challengers. This being a first in the Pokémon franchise.
All in all, Pokémon Sun and Pokemon Moon are absolutely solid iterations, if not one of the best, in the Pokémon franchise.
Play Time: ~40 hours