Sunny skies. Beautiful beaches. Shirtless professors.
To be honest, I was worried about this Pokémon game when it was first announced. I was so in love with Pokémon as a kid, getting lost in its adventures and seemingly limitless joy. I was worried that Pokémon would go down the road of so many other franchises of my youth, which kept coming out with more versions of itself without any real innovation, quickly becoming stale. I’m lookin’ at you, Land Before Time. I didn’t have the same love for the Pokémon games after about Ruby and Sapphire because of how much of the same it was. Fast forward to this latest Pokémon adventure and MAN – they changed up their formula and reignited the fire in my heart.
Pokémon Sun and Moon takes the best of the previous Pokémon games and turns them into a refreshing and new journey. The game takes place in Alola, a Hawaii inspired tropical paradise, with beautiful people, fearsome Pokémon, and highly advanced science programs. Everything in Sun and Moon has been revamped, from the Alola versions of old favorites, to a redesigned island challenge (what was the gym system of prior games). Included is an engaging main storyline that is way more pronounced than earlier games, where a mysterious girl and her unique Pokémon cross your path and join you on your quests around the islands.
Sun and Moon has some great high points.
As someone who has played nearly all of the earlier Pokémon games, I really, really appreciated how they were able to combine the earlier Pokémon and the newer Pokémon. Adding in the Alola exclusive looks on certain Pokémon was also genius, and every time I saw a Pokémon I recognized in its Alola form was an exciting moment. I can’t say enough how much I loved this idea and the execution, seriously genius. The new Pokémon introduced are also pretty sweet, with some really strange choices from their designers (looking at you Mr.Swolebug). Going back to what I said earlier as well, they were able to break the same repetitive mold that all the previous Pokémon games used – starter town, forest, gym, cave, gym, need an HM to go here, etc. You’ve got your island adventure ahead of you with plot built for a straight-to-DVD Pokémon movie in all its glory. Sun and Moon’s storyline is certainly different (with some real WTF moments), but it is a new experience that branches away from older games.
Thankfully, Sun and Moon has done away with a number of frustrating mechanics from earlier games, with the biggest one being that you no longer have to teach your Pokémon HMs. In previous games it was ALWAYS a pain to have to teach your Pokémon a move that you were never gonna use in an actual battle, especially since you couldn’t overwrite it. I can’t tell you how many throw away Pokémon I taught flash and cut to throughout the ages, sad Pokémon that lived in the box until I needed to go through a cave or cut down a tree. In Sun and Moon, you now have ride Pokémon, or Pokémon you’re able to summon on a whim, who do special tasks for you like fly you around, help search for hidden items, or charge through boulders. These ride Pokémon take the need for teaching your team HMs away, since they are available at any time, regardless of who you are carrying in your party.
They also have included some of the best bits of their more recent Pokémon game additions, like being able to personalize your character (by buying clothes and getting haircuts), pet and hand feed your Pokémon, and its slew of different multiplayer possibilities. One of my favorite newer features is still Wonder Trade, where you essentially blindly trade one of your Pokémon to someone in the world, receiving a Pokémon that, nine times out of ten, is a piece of shit. It’s like a very low stakes gambling mini game, and sometimes it pays off in a big way.
The graphics of the game are impressively crisp and look great on the 3DS (even though the game does not play in 3D- missed opportunity). The only real issue I found was in 2v2 battles with the frame rate sometimes dropping a bit. Otherwise, the animations are very smooth, and there is nothing like having the tactile pleasure of petting your Pokémon and having it realistically react. Seriously, the actual animation and emotes of each Pokémon are clever and well built (try high five-ing Alolan Mewoth sometime).
With a few exceptions in the middle, Sun and Moon was able to keep my attention and want me to come back to playing and taking care of my poke-family. It’s definitely my favorite newer-gen Pokémon game, with many bells and whistles to keep you entertained (especially if not-so-subtle sexual tension is your aesthetic). Pokémon Sun and Moon combines all the high points of the Pokémon series into a coming-of-age journey that is sure to entertain.