There’s a reason the Pokémon series hasn’t changed all that much since its debut, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s still so popular twenty years later. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Still, the steady march of time has forced Game Freak to shake things up a little. I was sure changing anything about the franchise was a huge mistake, spelling doom of the highest magnitude I could never forgive. If the new Pokémon games have taught me anything, it’s that I should have a lot more faith in Game Freak. The bar has been raised and I had no idea it was even necessary. Now I’m wondering why I was so content to play the same basic game every few years without demanding more. I’ll never speak ill of COD fans again. Probably.
Let’s talk about Sun and Moon‘s changes. Honestly, they aren’t even all that big — it’s just surprising when anything is different in a Pokémon game. First of all you won’t be questing for gym badges; instead, you’re off to defeat the island’s Captains and Kahunas. All you really need to know is that this system is ever so slightly more rewarding because the rewards for progression are actually useful. They’re generally the newly introduced Z crystals which can be held by Pokémon to power up certain moves. You certainly can’t do that with gym badges.
The most important thing is you’re still required to actually battle. It may sound stupid considering the entire game is built around glorified cockfighting, but after Nintendo started showing of the island trials I thought we were going to have to dance and play hide and seek with gyroscopic controls. (Hey — it could have happened.) Thankfully it didn’t, and although there are little mini-games it still comes down to Pokémon battles.
When I saw most of the new Pokémon before launch, I thought the majority of them were garbage. Not literal garbage — we already have Trubbish. Just as with all my other predictions, I was a little to quick to judge. Call me shallow, but my first worry was that they looked lame. This is because I was making decisions on leaked sprites in the dark corners of the internet. Seeing them in-game with context outright stopped most of my complaints immediately. Sure, there’s always going to something stupid like an ice cream Pokémon or a washing machine but they can’t all be amazing when there are so many of them. The important thing is most of them are objectively cool and have their place. Except Alolan Persian. I don’t want to talk about that.
All of these new additions are interesting and bring something new to the game. They all have creative abilities that promote new ways to build teams and new strategies to play around with. Now we just have to wait for the Pokémon Bank to see how crazy things will get. After Generation 6, the competitive Pokémon scene became incredibly popular but the introduction of mega evolutions ensured the meta was frustratingly limited. Nothing illustrated this better than when the entire community lost its collective mind when the 2014 Pokémon World Championship was won by a player using a Pachirisu, a Pokémon not considered to be “tournament worthy” and not included in the 8 or so Pokémon used throughout the entire championship.
Sun and Moon introduces a more interesting and versatile mechanic than the mega evolutions, and tones of potential new elite Pokémon. Not only that but we may even see people approaching matches differently and setting up different strategies. Its hard to predict how a the meta will change but Game Freak has given it the best chance to change for the better.
Another big change is the story; it isn’t just a rehash of the same old thing. Its actually interesting and so are the characters. Sun and Moon feels like a genuine RPG rather than just a new Pokémon game with a host of relatable main characters and more interaction with other important people around the islands. You’ll get to know the Trial Captains and Kahunas rather than them just saying their name and telling you that you wont beat them before battling like gym leaders tend to do. There are actually some twist in the story too, they may be telegraphed pretty clearly but its refreshing to not know every single detail before starting the game. When you do finish the story there’s an epilogue and plenty to do in the post game that will see you revisiting areas and exploring new ones.
All of the trailers looked visually similar to the previous generation so I wasn’t expecting much to change other than the new location and some new Pokémon. Sun and Moon feels like a complete overhaul even though its on the same hardware. It somehow feels more three dimensional, you don’t have control of the camera but its never a problem.
There’s a huge focus on all the new features, but there is still a lot of nostalgia here. This is the 20th anniversary of Pokémon after all, and Pokémon Sun and Moon celebrates by boldly reinventing the wheel. This will go down as a huge success with returning players and it’s easier than ever for newcomers to enjoy after the success of Pokémon Go. Fans are in for a treat, and if you’re new don’t hesitate. There has never been a better time to play Pokémon.
Pokémon Sun and Moon was reviewed using a promotional copy on 3DS, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.