Pokemon Sun and Moon Review

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Game Title: Pokemon Sun / Pokemon Moon
Developer: Game Freak, The Pokemon Company
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Type: 3DS
Download: 24,457 Blocks
NA Availability: Retail | Digital Download
EU Availability: Retail | Digital Download

Pokemon games are always about a journey and adventure, and it’s been a journey with me since I was a little boy. Pokemon: Red Version was my first handheld game back on the big brick Game Boy, which I still own and use to this day. Throughout the various generations of Pokemon, I have come and gone but I’ve always come back and loved the experiences the games have shown.

Some things change and certain games of the series catch my eye and some don’t. Generations 1-3 I loved. Generation 4 I didn’t really care for, and Generation 5 I never played outside of the Gen 2 remakes. Pokemon’s popularity in this generation sparked with Gen 6, which I did play, but certainly wasn’t my favorite. I played about half of Pokemon Y before I got bored with it, though I did enjoy playing Alpha Sapphire.

Then we come to Generation 7 and I’ve found my love for Pokemon rekindled. I’ve spent a lot of time with Moon and it’s time for me to post my review and thoughts, although I’m still neck-deep in post-game content. So, here’s my review of Pokemon Sun and Moon!

Story

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The plot of Sun and Moon takes place not far from home of the first games. Relatively close to the Kanto Region is a group of islands known as the Alola Region. You and your mother recently moved from Kanto to Alola and you are eager to explore your new home. In your first day, you meet the nearby professor and get put into the Island Challenge program, where young trainers travel the islands, taking on difficult trials and taking on the Kahunas of each island in their journey to become a Champion of the region.

The story of Sun and Moon I like because it has a JRPG—like story that Pokemon hasn’t had before. Among the focus is the background of the islands, a likable scene with the local Team Skull troublemakers, and the Legendary Pokemon of the region being thrown into the story in a pretty smart way that fans of other JRPGs will feel right at home with.

I liked the story because I got attached to the characters. I felt the rush of each emotional scene and the bittersweet ending left a tear in my eye. Pokemon has never made that sort of emotional connection with me before, and seeing the credits roll was like seeing a favorite anime’s last episode. It’s a good journey, but you’re sad that it’s over.

Gameplay

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Like previous games of the series, Pokemon Sun and Moon are monster-catching turn-based RPGs. That part of the core gameplay remains mostly unchanged, although a significant amount of the journey is different from all previous games of the series.

There are a lot of changes, but the most significant of those changes are the Island Challenges and the Z-Move system. Island Challenges basically replace Gyms with Trials that you undergo as you explore each island. Every island has Captains that put you through Trials, leading up to a boss fight to prove your worth during that Trial. The big change here is the fact that each trial is different and you’re not just fighting battles over and over until the main boss of the trial shows up. One Trial may have you hunting down and taking pictures of Pokemon while another may have you viewing dances and finding differences to point out.

Once each trial is complete, you receive a Z-Crystal for a specific move type. This is the big addition to combat. In Sun and Moon, you have Ultimate Attacks that can only be used once per turn called Z-Moves. Any Pokemon can use a Z-Crystal but they must have a move of the same type of the Z-Crystal to be able to use it and what kind of move it is changes the move. Some of the Crystals are Pokemon-specific as well. Fans of Mega Evolution shouldn’t fret, as you gain access to that once you hit post-game so they didn’t remove it.

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The best thing about the trials is that you don’t always know when you’re undergoing a trial. On the first island, you head straight to where it takes place and you start the trial. On the other islands, though, the trials are kind of just thrown into the story. One moment, you think you’re helping with some side-quest and the trial appears out of nowhere, as if it’s just a part of the quest-line. This is very surprising, but also adds a sense of comfort as you go through the game.

Of course, there are dozens of other additions as well. HM’s have been replaced by permanent Ride Pokemon you can call at any time, TM’s can be used over and over without disappearing, there’s a Critical Catch system that randomly will give you an easy catch for Wild Pokemon, Alola variations of classic Kanto Pokemon, and there’s the QR Scan feature that lets you scan QR Codes of Pokemon from other player’s Pokedex to help you find that Pokemon for yourself. The latter also allows you to do a daily Island Scan, enabling rare Pokemon to appear on the island for a certain amount of time, like previous Starters such as Charmander or Tododile.

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Now let’s talk about difficulty. Pokemon has always been a more casual experience, but it is in no way easy. Wild Encounters and even some Trainers may prove to be simple as you progress, but when it counts, the difficulty comes through. Some of the Trial Bosses gave me a run for my money, and the final battles of the main story nearly made me chuck my 2DS across the room. I barely scraped through those final battles, even with a large amount of preparation.

In your journey through the islands, you should expect to spend around 30-35 hours between the start until you reach the end of the game and see the credits roll. Once you do that, you get post-game content in the form of the Battle Tower area only available in post-game, cameo trainer fights against some familiar faces for series fans, hunting down story-based legendaries, and a few other things you can work on. There’s a lot to do here.

Controls

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Controlling the game is pretty simple. You use the Circle Pad to move around and can hold the B button to run. The A button confirms and talks to NPCs, X pulls up your menus, and Y pulls up the Ride Menu to use a Pokemon for riding or navigating Terrain previous games required HM moves for.

The touchscreen is used pretty heavily as well. While not required, you can navigate menus with the touchscreen as well as all of the extra mini-games in the menu, like playing and caring for Pokemon to increase their affinity and affection (for evolutions like Espeon, Umbreon, and Sylveon) among other new additions to the mini-game list.

Presentation

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Visually, they did an excellent job of overhauling the 3D from XYORAS to Sun and Moon. Yes, there are still jagged edges on the models, but they look a lot more detailed and smoother here. They’ve even taken out the circle shadows under battle renders and given each and every Pokemon accurate shadows both for their body and movement. It’s pretty impressive how far they are pushing their handheld unit.

That comes at a price, though. Pokemon Sun and Moon don’t run that well in more technical battles. One on One battles run fine, but if you are doing 2vs2 battles or any of the “Boss” battles for the trials, expect to see some frame drops. Some battles the drops are minor, but in others they are pretty significant. Whenever a Pokemon or Boss calls in additional Pokemon for help, just note that the more renders on screen, the worse the frame rate will get.

Your model of 3DS will definitely help here. If you’re running an older unit or a 2DS, frame drops come in almost every 2vs2 battle. On the New 3DS, there’s still a good bit of lag, but not as much of it. Either way, though, Nintendo pushed the 3DS with Sun and Moon, and it certainly doesn’t play as well as one would hope.

 

Summary

Pokemon Sun and Moon are a breath of fresh air for Pokemon fans, bringing in a ton of new features and a different way to play the games. Although the more technical battles lag on 3DS, new and old, the emotional story, countless additions and changes, and the upcoming promise of Pokemon Bank support make these games a must-buy for any fan of the series.

9/10

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