Pokemon Sun and Moon Review
DISCLAIMER: This review contains very mild spoilers about Pokemon Sun and Moon. Consider yourself warned!
I feel like I need to start off this review by saying this: I love Pokemon. I’ve grown up playing Pokemon my entire life; some of my most fond memories as a child involve playing Pokemon games with friends and family. That being said, since it is apparent that I love the franchise already, I will be critiquing Pokemon Sun and Moon for the changes they made to the series as a whole. Every single Pokemon game has added new things to the series, and Pokemon Sun and Moon are definitely no different.
I’m going to start off by talking about the most important thing in any Pokemon game: Pokemon. The Alolan Pokedex adds 81 new Pokemon to the fray, making it the second smallest generation behind Pokemon X and Y, which added only 72 new Pokemon. Of the 81 new Pokemon, a whopping 17 of them are Legendaries. For the most part, the new additions to the Pokedex are great. Many of Alola’s Pokemon are based on actual wildlife in Hawaii, which gives the Pokemon a truly tropical feel and compliments the game environment well.
As with every generation, however, there are a few flops. Ever since the 1st gen, there have been plenty of Pokemon that are based on real life animals and objects. Pokemon Sun and Moon, however, seems to rely heavily on Hawaiian wildlife and icons without adding anything unique to the Pokemon themselves. Rockruff, for example, is probably the plainest looking Pokemon to ever exist. Sandygast is a spooky sandcastle. All of these Pokemon still have charm and personality, they just don’t have an impressively creative design.
There are plenty of Pokemon on the other end of the spectrum too. For example, Incineroar is a cat on steroids. The Ultra Beasts (known as UBs) are the epitome of over the top Pokemon. You may be wondering, “What are Ultra Beasts?” Well, Ultra Beasts are insanely exotic Pokemon that appeared from another universe. Just look at Buzzwole. That guy has WAY too many muscles.
The Alolan forms of existing Pokemon were also a fantastic new addition. I wrote an article earlier this week where I stated that the release of Pokemon GO has brought feelings of nostalgia back to long-time fans of the series. The Alolan forms give 1st Gen fans, like myself, a new way to experience their favorite Pokemon… And I love it.
Even though some Pokemon are too plain, and some are buff mosquitos, the vast majority of the Pokemon in Pokemon Sun and Moon are fantastic. My number one complaint about the additions to the Pokedex is that there wasn’t enough new Pokemon; the great new additions truly left me wanting more.
GRAPHICAL CHANGES AND SCENERY
Since the game’s graphics directly affect how we perceive the scenery, I decided to lump the two together into one category. As far as the scenery goes, Alola is absolutely beautiful. I’ve visited the state of Hawaii several times before and I can confirm that Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon accurately capture the tropical feel of the Hawaiian islands. The positive music synergizes well with the lush color palette, and the overall feel of the game is very relaxed.
The graphics are a nice upgrade from Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Battles are much more in depth; trainers can be seen behind their Pokemon, backgrounds are very detailed and correlate well with the landscape in which Pokemon are encountered in, and every Pokemon has very detailed individual battle animations.
The graphical update to the battles is also one of Pokemon Sun and Moon’s biggest downfalls. I was playing on a newer released model of a regular 3DS XL and noticed very significant frame rate drops during any type of battle that had more than two Pokemon on screen. I understand that the new 3DS would be able to process the updated graphics just fine, but most people are still using the original models. Sometimes the frame rate drops were so bad that it caused very noticeable lag in my input commands. Again, this problem only occurred during more complex fights and wasn’t always an issue, and it won’t affect everyone.
Pokemon Sun and Moon turned the existing Pokemon formula on its head. Long-term staples to the series like Pokemon gyms and HM’s are now a thing of the past, taking a fresh approach which makes everything more exciting.
Instead of competing in gyms, players are now tasked with completing several “island trials.” Like the challenges presented in Pokemon gyms, these trials are almost all very simple puzzles that are designed to be able to be completed by young children. Once you complete the maze, or the fetch quest, you have to face a menacing Totem Pokemon. Some of these Totem fights are actually very difficult, providing a greater challenge and introducing players to strong Pokemon for the first time. Every Totem battle is hyped up through effective and creative cutscenes, making the battles that much more enjoyable.
Remember how annoying it is to use HM’s? You had to have a Pokemon with you who is capable of using the exact HM you need, and it essentially just ends up costing you one of the precious 6 spaces in your party. Well, thanks to Pokemon Sun and Moon, those days are no more! Now you get to call “Ride Pokemon” to your aid at any time, which are specially designed to help you pass obstacles such as large boulders and bodies of water. Tauros uses a headbutt that functions like rock smash. Lapras is the equivalent of surf. Charizard is the equivalent of fly. And that’s just the start! The best part- YOU GET TO ACTUALLY RIDE ON ALL OF THESE BAD BOYS. Ride Pokemon just might be my favorite change in the new titles, and you even get a brand new costume specifically for when you’re riding them. It’s great!
Like every game, Pokemon Sun and Moon has a very structured and linear gameplay feel to it. However, it’s much different than previous games in the franchise. The contrasting and diverse landscape of every island makes it feel like the game isn’t linear. There are so many different little trails and loops that you’ll find yourself navigating through the four islands in a very unstructured way. Furthermore, Pokemon Sun and Moon throws side quests at you that require you to purposefully backtrack or explore optional areas (of which there are quite a few). The game itself may be very structured but there are many different routes you can take, which really helps eliminate the monotonous trap that other Pokemon games fall into.
I’m fairly new to competitive Pokemon but am quite pleased with the change of pace presented in Pokemon Sun and Moon. The meta-game in both XY and ORAS was centered around mega-evolutions. In order to have an even slightly competitively viable team composition, you had to make a team structure around a Pokemon with a megastone. However the introduction of Z-moves, insanely powerful moves that can be used once per battle, have changed this structure entirely. While the long-term effects of Z-moves on the competitive scene are still unknown, competitive players now have an additional element to consider and structure their team around.
All things considered, Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon are fantastic new additions to the franchise. They dare to challenge the franchise as we know it by eliminating gyms and HMs, and give players a beautiful new environment to explore. Add in the great new Pokemon, the Z-moves and, most importantly, an enjoyable gaming experience, and it’s definitely a great title. It’s far from perfect though: the drops in framerate can be a little frustrating, and the relatively small Alolan exclusive Pokedex will leave you wanting more. Luckily these are simply small blots on an otherwise great title. The story and characters all exhibit an endearing charm, adding to the gameplay experience. As per usual, The Pokemon Company has outdone themselves by creating a fantastic game that will push Pokemon into an exciting new generation. As a longtime player, I look forward to exploring Alola even further in order to catch every single last Pokemon it has to offer.