Finally, the long wait of many Pokemon trainers across the globe is over! Nope, it’s not the update for Pokemon GO; it’s Pokemon Sun and Moon, as it has hit the shelves just a week ago. The seventh installment of the long-running creature-versus-creature RPG franchise has breathed new life into the series by shaking up the decade-old tried and tested (and arguably tired) formula, which had made every follow-up since Gen I feel more like an update with a change of setting instead of a fresh and completely different game altogether.
Pokemon Sun and Moon, however, does not completely depart from the essence that makes the Pokemon games what it is. There are still, of course, the eponymous creatures that are captured and then pitted against one another in the familiar turn-based rock-paper-scissors RPG battle format.
But other than keeping the Pokemon battle mechanics as it is – because you don’t fix what’s not broke – the game changes everything else and adds a lot of new elements.
Alola Of Things To See
The game will have trainers journeying across the new region, Alola, which is heavily inspired by Hawaiian geography, culture, and aesthetics. And unlike previous games whose locations are filled with fast-paced cities and trainers out to challenge you at every turn, Alola, true to its chill island vibe, is a much friendlier place, as NPCs, even those who battle you, are willing to lend players a hand, or at least tell them something uplifting. Even the trial leaders and kahunas (stand-ins for gym leaders) are friendlier, as they interact with players also as guides and not just as hurdles to overcome.
In true Pokemon fashion, trainers will be traveling across the world map to prove themselves worthy as Pokemon trainers, and eventually champions. But unlike before, trainers will now be taking on island trials instead of gyms. Instead of running a series of matches in a confined place, island trials require players to finish a particular task and defeat the Totem Pokemon of the trial leader who issued it. After finishing all the trials in an island, players will then have to take on that island’s kahuna in order to move on to the next. Defeating all four kahunas will then allow players to challenge the Pokemon League and ultimately become the Pokemon champion.
Other than completing the island trials and becoming a champion, players will also be bumping into not one, but two organizations: Team Skull, which is the region’s version of the staple Pokemon-stealing crime group, and the Aether Foundation, a team of scientists dedicated to studying Pokemon and Ultra Beasts. Originally hinted as interdimensional creatures that threaten to destroy the world, they were later on confirmed to belong to the same kingdom as the main catch (pun intended) of the franchise, as they are also catchable and be able to engage in Pokemon battles.
As for Alola’s main attractions, the Pokemon, there are over 79 of them that the game introduces to the franchise. And aside from the new species of Pokemon (including the Ultra Beasts), Sun and Moon also introduces Alola forms, regionally exclusive variants of certain Pokemon. These Pokemon, despite being of the same species as certain Pokemon, have a completely different look and typing. A good of example of this would be the Sandshrew Alola form, which is Ice-Steel type, unlike the regular Sandshrew that has been Ground-type since Gen I. There are over 10 Pokemon evolutionary lines that have an Alola form, all of which are Gen I Pokemon.
Z-Crystals And The XY Connection/Disconnection
And following the trend that started in Pokemon XY, the game will also be featuring Pokemon-held items that help trainers turn the tide of battle. While XY introduced Mega Stones and Mega Evolution, Sun and Moon will be introducing Z-crystal and Z-moves. A Pokemon that’s holding a Z-stone, which is obtained by completing a trial, can perform a powerful attack called a Z-move. A Z-move, however, can only be used once per battle, so players have to be know the right time to use them. In addition, it’s also important to know which Z-crystal should a Pokemon hold, as there are Z-crystal that correspond to a particular move typing, and Z-crystal that give specific Pokemon their signature Z-move.
On the other hand, for trainers who like Mega Evolution, fret not, as there will still be Mega Evolution, but it’s not going to be the main focus, and no new Mega Evolutions have been added. And while this particular feature from XY has been retained, another one was not: Super Training. While there are many alternatives ways trainers can EV train, the removal of said feature does make the particular Pokemon-raising endeavor a bit harder. Other than that, the game leaves everything else intact, and even improves on it, like the Pokemon Amie that has become Grooming, which not only lets trainers feed and pet their Pokemon like in its XY counterpart, but also clean it up after battle, which cures your Pokemon of status conditions. And as you regularly feed, pet, play, and clean your Pokemon, they will become closer to you, which in turn makes them able to land more critical hits, do more evasions, and endure supposedly attacks that will KO them.
Alola, Children, Beginners, Everyone
Other than all the things Pokemon Sun and Moon include, change, and remove, there is the one thing the game brings back: lightheartedness. Because even though the games were still aimed at children, the easy and childlike feel of the game started to diminish, as more mature themes were introduced, the competitive scene was given more importance, and the metagame was made to be more complex in order to satisfy the aging original Pokemon audience. And while the series remained relatively accessible, less and less help was offered to the players with each installment. Thankfully, Sun and Moon was out to do a readjustment.
The new game manages to make the child-and-beginner-friendliness of the franchise return – while making sure that it doesn’t get too childish and remains enjoyable to once Poke-kids who have grown up. While the handheld game does a considerable amount of handholding, to the point that some veterans feel like they’re being babied, but it does so in order to make first-timers feel welcome. A good example of this would be the fact that the game now displays the effectiveness of moves on a particular Pokemon that the trainer has encountered before. While some trainers think this is a step back, others think it serves as essential trainer wheels for budding Pokemon trainers, considering that memorizing the weaknesses and resistances of typings take a lot of time.
As for the story, it’s not at the level of depth as Pokemon Black/White and XY. This, however, is deliberate, given the fact that Sun and Moon is meant to bring the franchise back to its for-kids-of-all-ages roots. To be fair, however, it’s not insipid even though it’s meant to appeal to children. Rather, it’s more akin to a Disney animated movie: made of smooth, vibrant, and beautiful visuals, filled with joy, has a few serious moments but doesn’t bog the overall happy theme down, and rich with lessons. And nobody’s too old for a Disney movie.
But regardless of age, experience with the franchise, and opinion on the storyline, there is something trainers will definitely agree on: the game still has so much to offer after the credits have rolled. In the endgame, players can collect Ultra Beasts; catch legendary Pokemon; raise EVs and IVs of their Pokemon through EV training, Poke-Pelago, and Hyper Training; challenge famous champions from other regions –Red, Blue, and Cynthia, just to add nostalgia and name a few – in the Battle Tree; and interact with other trainers in Festival Island. Goes to show that there is so much life in Alola.
All in all, Pokemon Sun and Moon takes many big steps back to the right direction and returns the franchise to its roots, making the game enjoyable to trainers of all ages and levels of expertise. And even though it made a few missteps by omitting a few features the previous games have done right, they’re barely noticeable in the new and beautiful Pokemon world that not only heavily improves on the previous one, but also recaptures the heart and soul of the monster-catching craze.