“Pokemon Sun and Moon” are the seventh main entries in the now twenty-year-old series. (Photo courtesy of Nintendo)
Nostalgia is a beast more mysterious than a Pokemon itself, but “Pokemon Sun and Moon” brings more to the table than a yearning for simpler days spent playing “Pokemon Yellow” on a Pikachu Gameboy. “Pokemon Sun and Moon” is a celebration of this beloved franchise’s twentieth anniversary and provides a fresh, new take on the classic formula of battling, catching and trading. This game takes the player on a tropical getaway to the island region of Alola, where the player has moved from Kanto with her mother, and is met with a cast of colorful characters, cute and intimidating Pokémon, and even an intriguing plot, something rarer than a legendary Pokemon for the franchise. With a new-found emphasis on story, roleplaying, and the swapping out and outright replacement of old mechanics, “Pokemon Sun and Moon” offers something to both new and veteran players.
In Alola, the most dramatic change in the Pokemon formula is the replacement of the usual eight gym battles with the Island Challenge, in which the player must travel from island to island and take on the Trial Captains and their challenges, culminating in a battle with a Totem Pokemon; an extremely powerful Pokemon that can summon aid from other wild Pokemon. Upon defeating the Totem Pokemon, the player receives a certain type of Z-Crystal, which allows the player to power up their Pokemon’s moves. Once the player has defeated all the Trial Captains on the island, they can take on the Kahuna, the most powerful trainer on the island. And after defeating said Captain, the player can proceed to the next island. Each trial captain has their own gimmick, rather than a battle; their challenge is usually a memorable event, such as a scavenger hunt or a goofy mini-game. At the same time, the trial sometimes can begin almost randomly, keeping the player constantly alert and looking forward to the next trial. This keeps the game from becoming monotonous. However, this is not all Alola offers.
One of the most welcome changes has been the removal of the HM, or Hidden Machines, from the games, which were permanent moves required to proceed in the story, get hidden items and more. “Sun and Moon” replace the clunky HMs with PokeRide, a ride system in which the player can call several different Pokemon to aid them in either smashing through rocks, surfing around large bodies of water, and even riding along craggy rocks. The PokeRide system is not only convenient, but fun, as you can see your player riding around on said Pokemon in the field. Another feature that is welcomed back in Alola is character customization, a mechanic sorely missed from Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. This feature has been expanded upon and improved, adding more clothes and hair options than ever, and makeup choices as well. This game also tries to engage new and returning player of the franchise, by making battling easier to understand than ever, by adding prompts to different moves after an encountering the Pokemon once, and allowing for even newbie Pokemon players to pick up the game at any time.
Also, Alola reaches back to Pokemon’s roots and revitalizes old Generation one Pokemon, changing their typing and design for a new Alolan form, from goofy long-necked Exeggutor to cool, icy Vulpix. These changes in these classic Pokemon are contributed to evolution and the need for Pokemon to survive in different climates. Not only this, but the environments of each island allow for a lot of diversity in the landscapes the trainer explores, from rocky mountainous passes to deep tropical forests to a pitch black sandy beach. The environment surprisingly allows the player to become immersed in this new, yet familiar experience, and engages the player from the first minute.
Though this game is practically a love song to longtime fans and is an engaging experience overall, the game still has its few downfalls. The beginning of the game is dialogue and story heavy, practically holding the player’s hand for quite some time. Not to mention throughout the game, the player’s path is always dictated and there are few exceptions to that. Though having obstacles blocking the player from proceeding until fulfilling a certain task is common in every Pokemon game, the restrictions are noticeable more than ever, most likely due to the fact this game is more story driven and immersive than any other Pokemon game before. Another notable problem is the lag during the Totem Pokemon battles, as well as during double battles is painstakingly noticeable. However, after overcoming these two relatively small problems, “Pokemon Sun and Moon” is a breath of fresh air in the franchise, shaking up the classic formula and adding new and exciting features to the game, whilst removing long outdated ones.