Pokemon stays fresh 20 years later.
*The gameplay is done on Pokemon Moon.
After 20 long years, playing a Pokemon game can be quite repetitive. It’s the same journey where player has to defeat Gym Leaders, collect badges, defeat evil organizations and become the regional champion. It’s the same formula with a new coat of paint. Pokemon Sun and Moon understand the frustration, and while the game mainly keeps the same formula of a Pokemon game, it improves on so many elements and making the adventure engaging and new again!
One of the biggest changes in Pokemon Sun and Moon is the lack of Gyms. Instead, the game features Island Challenge where player has to take on various tasks giving from Trail Captains. While some tasks are simple battles, there are others such as scavenger hunts and quizzes as well. These all lead to the player ultimately battle the Totem Pokemon- a special Pokemon trained by the Captains to face off the challengers. Totem Pokemon usually have a boost on specific stats, and can call upon allies to help. Some trails are quite interesting too, as one requires me to collect ingredients so we can cook up a traditional meal to bring out the Totem Pokemon, another one will have me spot the differences between two frames. It’s something similar enough to keep the core gameplay of a Pokemon game while making the experience fresh.
The Island Challenge is also the best way to fully embrace the new region Alola. Based on Hawaii, Alola is the most alive region in Pokemon so far. There are four islands, and each has its own culture and traditions. I never know what to expect in Alola, as one minute I will be in a traditional Japanese town, next I will be in an Old West town. Island Challenge allows me to pay attention to the details in Alola, as I’m no longer auto-piloting my way to become the champion. You never know what’s in store in the next challenge, or when the challenge will start at all.
The game also does a great job introducing the Trail Captains. All the captains have charming personalities that will have you remembering them way after the challenges. This is a big issue in the previous Pokemon games, as characters such as Gym Leaders, Elite Four or even the boss of the evil organizations are starting to blend together and not memorable at all. Now weeks after the play through, I can still remember perfectly who these captains are and what they said.
Instead of giving out badges, the captains give out Z-Crystal for completing the trails- an item that allows Pokemon holding it to perform a super strong ultimate move once per battle. This is an interesting concept that really ups the ante of the game, as your opponent can use Z-Moves whenever they want as well. It’s similar to Mega Evolution in the previous games, but more strategic. I try my best not to use them in battle, as I like the challenges, but they’re really good panic switch in tough battles.
The game mechanics also improves a lot too. The battle interface now shows information on what each move does, and move effectiveness. I’m especially a big fan of the move effectiveness, as I’m still yet to memorized type match-ups since the shake-ups with the introduction of Fairy Type from previous gen. Also, Alola region introduces a lot of new Pokemon with crazy type combinations, so it would be nice to have a friendlier reminder that the Pokemon you’re facing right now is a Fire/Dragon type, so water type moves won’t be so effective anymore, and you have to hit it with its Dragon weakness such as Fairy, since Ice Type is not going to work so well either WHAT THE HECK TURTONATOR!
Pokemon Sun and Moon also replace HM system with Poke Ride- a new feature where player calls upon Pokemon for purposes such as Rock Smash, Fly, Surf and more. This is a great improvements, as it takes away the need to have a Pokemon to remember unnecessary moves just to advance the map further. Don’t worry though, as the game keeps popular HM moves as TMs now, so Pokemon can still use those moves in battle.
Okay, what I’m going to say next is going to receive backlashes I know, but here we go: While I dislike HMs, I actually kind of miss them. Like most players out there, I used to have one Pokemon dedicated for most HM moves, and I’m also glad I don’t have to waste precious Pokemon move-space for HMs anymore. However, the lack of HMs is not the same, and Pokemon games don’t feel like Pokemon games anymore. Also, since we can call upon a Tauros anytime, the game removes bicycle as well, a fundamental of Pokemon games. These all resulting in Pokemon Sun and Moon not feeling the same anymore. Maybe I will like it better if they improve the Poke Ride system in the future? it’s a bit strange we can just call upon a random Pokemon to do our bidding. It would be cool if we can register our own Pokemon in the PC for the Poke Ride, and we can fly on the back of not just Charizard, but an Articuno instead. They would be majestic!
Mentioning improving on the old, Alola introduces Alola Forms of the first generation Pokemon. These are Pokemon that changes their appearance to adopt the ecosystem of the islands. The changes are not just cosmetic however, as they gain new types and abilities. It breaths new life into the already familiarize Pokemon, and makes competitive gameplay more challenging. There’s a time when my opponent is about to send out Ninetails, thinking it’s a Fire Type my instinct is to send out a Water Pokemon. However, Alolan Ninetails is actually Ice Type, thus throwing off my entire strategy.
Pokemon Sun and Moon’s story is really bleak! For the first time I actually felt disturbed playing a Pokemon game. The story still keeps its childish charm overall, but there are many elements here and there I don’t expect to see in a Pokemon game. Maybe it’s because the publishers know most of their fans are 20 years older now, or maybe they just simply want to try new things out. All I know is I’m invested in the story here, and not grinding my way til post-game.
Another way Pokemon Sun and Moon do to improve the experience is better camera angles. This is a concept played in Pokemon X and Y before, but these games have done a much better job moving the angles freely. This allows even the boring part of the game (i.e catching Pokemon tutorial) plenty more interesting. Also, characters are more expressive under the dynamic angels too. And Team Skull! I mean come on, now that’s an evil team I would like to join.
The game also features a lot of great features. The Pokemon Plaza is a place for your online communications such as battle, trading and Wonder Trade. Pokemon Refresh is a great addition that allows you to heal status conditions after battle, and improve your friendship with Pokemon easily. Not to mention there’s a cool new minigame called Poke Pelago where you get to train Pokemon stored in PC, and hatch eggs easily. These little additions are what make doing the same old things in Pokemon Sun and Moon fun again.
Pokemon Sun and Moon are great. The game improves on what we’re used to in the past 20 years, and allows adventure in the Alola region a brand new experience. A small upgrades here and there are helpful, and the game does a wonderful job catering both old and newcomers. My biggest problem is the lack of certain features, and making the game feel not like a Pokemon game. But hey, that might just be me nitpicking, and you should really go visit Alola and find out on your own.