Pokémon Sun and Moon represent the latest in a line of games spanning more than 20 years and what feels like constant iterations of itself. Sun and Moon offer something a little different in terms of the main line Pokémon games, and the change couldn’t come at a better time.
I have been waiting for this installation since it was announced, and so far, it stands up to the hype.
Premise of the game:
The premise of a Pokémon shouldn’t be surprising to anyone in 2016. Starting out in a new region, or country, the player gets an option to choose a partner monster to take on the world. This is where things diverge a bit in Pokémon Sun and Moon.
In previous games, the plot exists only as a barebones premise to give the player a reason to travel through the game’s world collecting monsters and fighting strangers. For the first time, a Pokémon has a real plot. Unlike other regions in the Pokémon world, Alola doesn’t have a gym system. Instead, young trainers travel island to island completing island trials.
Now, this doesn’t fool anyone. The trials are gyms for all intents and purposes. The difference is how the trials are executed. The challenges feel organic and take place in the world. There is always a reason in the narrative for players to take on the trials from what I have seen. In addition to the trials, a pretty kick ass plot unfolds.
Although the plot is better than anything Pokémon has ever had, that is admittedly a pretty low bar. I am still enjoying the plot, but it has awhile to go to be on the same level as long established JRPGs with heavy focuses on story.
Familiar faces, but better:
Pokémon games always have an enemy “team” which makes life difficult for the protagonist. Starting out as a crime mafia, over the years the teams evolved and changed into super organizations intent on destroying the planet.
Sun and Moon get back to basics. Team Skull looks and acts like punk kids thinking they are tougher than they are. While Skull gets a little more serious as the game goes on, their motivation is chiefly to make money off of stealing Pokémon. This is a welcome change, and it makes the world feel more organic than other games in the series where a team wants to literally destroy the world.
Pokémon Sun and Moon might very well be the best games in the series in terms of mechanics. Battling is fluid and players can access move information from the battling screen. Not much has changed in terms of battling. Players take turns attacking each other with moves until only one trainer is left standing. The revolution in mechanics comes from outside of battles.
Hidden Moves, or HMs, are gone. These were the obnoxious moves that you can’t delete from a Pokémon. Most were very poor for combat purposes, but were needed to progress in the game.
HMs have been replaced with rideable Pokémon. If rocks are in the way, you can hop on a Tauros. Lapras can ferry you across water, and Charizard flies you through the sky. These mounts also replace the bike, because you move more quickly riding a Mudsdale than you do on a bike.
After battles, you can bond with the last Pokémon you used in the fight. This is a cute mechanic if you’re petting a Pikachu, but can get a little weird if you’re touching a humanoid Pokémonlike Machoke or Gardevoir.
Audio and graphical design:
Pokémon comes through again with great music. The music is recognizable, but different. Little flares make 20 year old tunes fresh and appealing again.
Graphically, things get a little more touchy, but the games still look better than they have looked since they were originally created. It is still a thrill to watch your Pokémon battle in 3D space, which is a pretty recent addition to the series.