Review: Pokémon Sun and Moon

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Wolfman_J

There were two things I noticed right off when starting Pokémon Moon, one mixed and the other wholly positive. The first was how many more cutscenes the game has. There’s a great emphasis on storytelling in this one, and per the series’ usual struggles in a plot, the dialogue, and more action-heavy sequences sometimes comes across as too excessive (fortunately, this gets mollified greatly after an early game boss fight). The more positive one, though, comes from a realization that the fully 3D environment has made Alola the most unique, defined region in the entire series.

Think about it: this means towns aren’t organized on a 2D grid, routes can swoop and twist like actual roads (one mountain highway looks shockingly normal), and elevation feels far more natural and smooth. It’s all part of work done to make the region feel “real,” or at least more lived in and specific. There’s a real, very positive emphasis on Alola’s culture, history, and people, and details about the world fill every crevice. For example, throughout the “trials,” which replace the gyms of prior games, you learn about how people live with these crazy monsters or precocious deities, and the quest to “be a master” feels less about myopic achievement than a quest for self-discovery within a specific context.

(Side note: for those pining for Genius Sonority’s Pokémon GameCube games, these feel closer to those two games than I expected, and not just from the full 3D. One late game boss theme was reminiscent of the music from Colosseum and XD).

Sun & Moon feels like an evolution of not only X & Y (and the excellent Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire, which pushed the series narratively and visually), but of the franchise as a whole. The loss of gyms and traditional level design seems to have given Game Freak free reign to imagine what a society based around Pocket Monsters might feel like, something closer to the mercurial worlds of Red, Blue, and the early days of the manga Pokémon Adventures. It’s why, even though I’ve issues with some of the minigames and overwritten dialogue and lack of Dark-types, I’m loving this game. I love the new, weird Pokémon, the new forms for some of their original counterparts, the “Poké Pelago” island, the excellent score, but most of all this sense of general excitement and energy and life, all bursting at the seams.

PushDustIn

Pokémon Sun/ Moon is finally out, after months of hype! The new Pokémon’s design are for the most part, great. The new region is beautiful and the minor improvements from the last generation really tie the style together. There is a huge emphasis on story, which X/Y severely lacked. However, Game Freak turned the notch to the extreme, as there is an obnoxious amount of cutscenes and tutorials. Just getting through the tutorials takes at least an hour. Some are painful as they literally show you every single step. Sometimes you will get a tutorial for something that you’ve already been able to do. For example, there’s a tutorial on how to buy from a shop after you’ve been to a couple. While Game Freak has done a lot to include new players, they completely disregarded how experience players would feel playing their game. I don’t need a tutorial on how to catch Pokémon, I know berries go in the berry pocket. Please stop it with the hand holding.

ConnorEatsPants

Pokémon Sun and Moon gave me a somewhat bitter taste leading up to launch. Some of the new designs I disliked, I thought Alolan Forms were a terrible decision, and Ultra Beasts made me see “Genwunner”‘s argument that new Pokémon designs are just ridiculous. That being said, I was always still going to pick up the game.

And boy, am I glad I did.

Pokémon Sun and Moon are my favorite Pokémon games since Heart Gold and Soul Silver. Contrary to popular opinion, I disliked Gen V and found it extremely overrated. X and Y I had a lot of fun with, but I cannot deny that they failed when it came to the main story and gameplay. Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire did a major disservice to one of my favorite video games of all time. (No GBA sounds, getting rid of the difficulty, and no Battle Frontier? Seriously?). So I was skeptical going in. But the games really did surprise me.

The removal of gyms and introduction of the Island Trials was a welcome addition. Do I want to see gyms return in the future? Of course. But I appreciated a bit of a mix up if it’s a one-off thing. The story of these games was truly the first of the series that I really enjoyed. Again, I found Gen V’s story severely overrated and never understood the hype. Sun and Moon manages to get me attached to the supporting characters while keeping the pacing and difficulty in a solid place throughout.

The difficulty was really something I was hoping for in these games and Sun and Moon certainly did not disappoint. The game manages to keep you at a solid level throughout the game so long as you don’t grind. The game is actually balanced around the EXP share this time around as opposed to XY and ORAS, which felt like a tacked on addition that killed any difficulty the games might have had. I ended up really enjoying blacking out at a challenge in Sun and Moon because I’d get a much better sense of accomplishment whenever I’d come back and tackle the challenge with a different approach.

The Pokémon designs in Sun and Moon have managed to really grow on me. Mimikyu has managed to become one of, if not my favorite, Pokémon due to its adorable backstory and desire to be loved. Decidueye, Tapu Koko, Wishiwashi, and even Alolan Raichu have managed to become some of my favorites as well. Speaking of Alolan forms, they have managed to grow on me since pre-launch. Alolan Exeggutor and Dugtrio, while looking ridiculous, are so funny looking that they manage to make me smile every time I see them. While I still feel they could have taken a better approach than “Pokémon are different in the Alolan region”, I like a lot of their designs and they’re welcome additions to my Pokedex. The Ultra Beasts also managed to win my heart over since launch. The fact that they have actual names instead of UB-01 for example definitely rubbed me a much better way. Each one also features such a unique typing or play-style that opens many new doors for competitive battling.

Overall, I really enjoyed Sun and Moon. I’m excited to see what the rumored “Pokémon Stars” can bring to the table after such a solid addition to the Pokémon lineup, and I hope that Game Freak manages to see what went well and what went wrong for future iterations of the franchise.

voyager

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Pokémon Sun

The hype train has arrived (Even in Europe), and with it, the latest version of our favorite grind-fest simulator, and I’m really enjoying it, but like the last time, let’s begin with:

What isn’t effective at all?

The player can’t sit on every chair on the game?! What?! #BringBackSitting… On a serious note, you only can use your fishing rod in specific special places. That was a really bad move, maybe the only real bad move.

What isn’t very effective?

The gameplay is SLOW, especially the battles, in which the attacks even have a lot of starting lag, and the HP bar drops sluggishly. I suppose it has to do with the animations of the battle, but playing without them makes the game look less appealing. So if you have an Old 3DS like me, I suggest you have patience…or just turn off the animations, especially on the Battle Royale.

But despite these minor flaws, there are things that still are effective.

Like the variety of Pokémon of every route. I’m currently playing the game as a Nuzlocke Run with my brother (he has Moon), and one of the basic rules is that you have to catch the first Pokémon you fight in every route (well, in my case, I can skip the first if I already have it) and the selection of monsters is fantastic, with Pokémon with varied types on each route, and that gave me a somewhat balanced team from the get go. Also, now almost every Pokémon has a more diverse moveset, and learn more strong moves at low levels, making the curve of difficulty smoother, not relying on scratch and growl for every low-level Pokémon, like in the good old times.   

Also, some stuff is really super effective.

I’m sure that Gyms will come back in the future, but the trials are a refreshing take on the challenge of becoming a Pokémon Master. I’m enjoying them, despite some valuable losses to my Nuzlocke team #NeverForget

Also, the end of the HM’s (and the Bike). This change will last. The implementation could have been better, but the idea of using other Pokémon to go around the world without having to “waste space” on HMs was a clever move (Sadly I won’t be able to use Surf on my team now… As my Nuzlocke challenges include the rule of not using TMs)

On the other hand, being able put a newly caught Pokémon directly in your team and send another one to the PC is a fantastic idea. It also gives you the chance to peek at their moves and stats on the run. It works for a Nuzlocke challenge.  

The presentation of the game is also fantastic, the UI, the music, the animations of ALL the 802 Pokémon when you play with them, but this is not a surprise because this is a subject that Game Freak has managed successfully since the very beginning of the Pokémon Series.

And finally, The Critical Hits!

The characters. They are the best part of the game. Not only their designs are appealing, but their personalities are enjoyable, and their dialogues are charming. I’m really fond of the Skull grunts, with their over exaggerated rapper-ish moves and their funny lines. Also, shouts out to the Spanish Localization team, you did a good work with this one.

Closing feelings.

So, yeah, n0 spoilers on my part. If you have the game, I hope you are enjoying it, and if you are thinking of buying it, go for it, Pokémon Sun and Moon are a step in the right direction for Pokémon after the last 2 generations. And If the rumors are True, I can’t wait to watch the series reach the Stars. And if you are willing to play it as a Blind Nuzlocke, Grind! It will save your team!


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I haven’t spent as much time with Pokémon Sun as I would have liked as it launched in my region several days later than the rest of the world. However Pokémon Sun (and Moon) has wildly exceeded my expectations thus far. The mechanical improvements to movement, and graphical improvements are particular highlights.

Of course, I have to mention the new Pokémon designs. Which could be the best since the first gen’. Some of the newbies like my new little owl friend, Rowlet stand up as being among my all-time favorites. Meanwhile the Alolan versions of old reliables such as Meowth and Exeggutor have reinvigorated some of the Pokémon who are now approximately two decades old.

The Alolan region is drastically different from anything else we’ve seen thus-far in the Pokémon, a welcome change that has brought some of the coolest environments to traverse.

My only real criticism at this point is in its overly lengthy tutorial. Pokemon tutorials seem to be getting longer with each progression by my count. They can easily be trimmed down (optionally) for longtime players.

I can’t wait to sink what will be hundreds into this game!

Have you played Pokemon’s 7th Generation yet? Let us know in the comments!

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