Pokemon Sun & Moon – Completely different, but exactly the same

I love Pokemon. Always have. I remember as a kid relentlessly pestering the parents for a Gameboy with Pokemon Red. It eventually worked and since then I’ve been hooked. Since then I’ve awaited each new adventure eagerly and playing them through until there is nothing left to do. Now at the age of 26, nothing has changed. So when Sun & Moon was announced earlier this year I still had the same feeling of excitement and many questions to ask. Where will the game take place? What will the new little monsters be like? What will the story entail? Having just finished the game, these are my thoughts:

Pokemon Sun & Moon takes place in the region of Alola. Straight away you can spot that this is a different format. Instead of having to move from one town to another, this map is made up of 4 islands which have, at first, very little details to go on. The game starts in the usual way. Are you a boy or girl? Which one of these 3 Pokemon do you want to start with, Littlen, Rowlett or Popplio? Right, off you go on your adventure. Straight away the Hawaiian theme hits you. The trees, the shirts, even the music has that kind of Hula feel to it. The colours are vibrant, as are the sounds and sooner than you realise your into your first battle. The mechanics are the same, turn based combat until you or your opponent runs out of health, no changes there. But its an aspect that doesn’t need changing, its a winning formula that’s been in place for 20 years and its effective. The human/Pokemon interaction is at large too. There’s Pokemon everywhere as part of the world and they link together well. The potential for the game is growing.

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The three starters. They actually impressed me

The characters are the usual kind of crew too. Yourself, a Professor named after a tree and some mates who are on the adventure with you. These guys are one of the biggest plus points in the game for me, not so much about their personalities but character growth. Never in a Pokemon game have certain characters had such depth in their stories including their past lives. To start with it all seems very normal, but as the game goes on we learn so much more about these people, where they have come from and how they got into the position they are in now. By the end of the game you wouldn’t recognise at least 3 of them for such a development in their character. I like that in games and it gets a massive green tick for me as part of this game. Another plus is Gen 1 Pokemon in this world. Yep that’s not a typo. For all the excitement a fresh line up of Pokemon can give, I really like what Nintendo did with the old favourites (even including Rattata). Most of these guys are back but they have an Alola form. This is because they have come over to the different climate and conditions of the Alola region so therefore change appearance (apparently). Oh and most of them also change type too. That Normal type Rattata of yours? Nope that’s a Dark type now. Want a fire breathing Vulpix? Well you cant, it now fires Ice beams. That said, some Gen 1 Pokemon are their original selves but seeing the classics in a different form is interesting and more challenging. Whereas you’d know what type one was and how to defeat it, now you have to change your thinking in order to master these effects. Just think about that Vulpix I mentioned. Already this version of Pokemon is turning into a corker.

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These guys look familiar?

The feel of the game is fantastic, you really do get drawn into the Alola vibe. The beaches, the sea, the cries of nearby Pokemon as you trundle through a route to the next town. But even then it doesn’t seen out of place to come across a town who thinks they’re in Westworld with its saloons and cowboy boots (apologies if you’ve never seen Westworld before). There’s forests, and mountains, and volcanoes which again adds to the expansive nature of this new world. There’s a bit of something for everybody. And barring the odd bit of questionable dialogue from the townsfolk, it feels like a nice place to be in. Different themed towns and routes surrounded by huge buildings, even more Hawaiian trees or cliff faces and waterfalls makes this, probably, the best looking Pokemon game yet. And whilst I’m on the positives, wait until you see the Ride Pager. This is effectively your HM list with all the trimmings. Gone are those Hidden Machines; now you call in a Pokemon to do the job for you. For example, Rock Smash is now done by a Tauros that comes and goes whenever you please. Very handy not to have moves taken up by Fly or Strength. This game cant do wrong can it?

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Alola’s  4 islands

When you eventually get released from all the talking, learning how to catch Pokemon for the 900th time and the wondering what your Dads excuse was this time, you can get going. First things first, wheres the nearest gym? I’m scouting the map which is rather conveniently placed on my bottom screen, but inconveniently keeps talking to me (more on that in a sec) and I cant find one. Wheres the gym? Then you get told that there isn’t any. Not a single one. Instead in Alola you complete trials to earn Z crystals, which are basically this games version of mega evolution. One super powerful move to be used when you get into trouble. The trials themselves are all different. They can be battling or finding items or other weird and wonderful ideas and eventually you fight a totem Pokemon; effectively a gym leader with one pocket monster. Its a nice idea but to me they seemed too short and simple and I was constantly comparing each crystal to a gym badge and the achievement I feel when I win one. The crystals just seemed like they were being handed out like sweets.

Then there’s your Pokedex. Your stupid, annoying Pokedex. Someone, namely the Professor, had this amazing idea that a Rotom should live inside it. Now I’m open to new ideas, but I don’t think I’m a fan of this one. He was always piping up and telling me where to go and taking what felt like 3 days to register a new Pokemon. Of course I had to go where he said because I couldn’t explore these new islands. There’s always conveniently a Pokemon in the way or construction works blocking the route, and yes I know this happens in every Pokemon game ever but in a game that’s so much bigger and basically all in one area like on an island, I might want to wander off a bit. Going from town to town is also linear but there’s so much more to explore here that you could miss something first time around. It just seemed to bother me more in this game than any other. At first I thought it was because I am older, but I happily went through a game of Pokemon X a few months back and it was still a thrill.

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This Guy…

Then there’s the story itself. Again like the characters, it does develop strongly and as far as story telling in Pokemon goes, it does very well. But towards the end it didn’t seem to have the explosiveness of what we’re used to. To me it seemed a bit daft (like most Pokemon games to be fair) and Id sort of lost interest by that point, so I didn’t really care what happened. There are a few bombshells dropped as you go on but I didn’t feel like the full potential had been explored. Maybe one of those reasons was the difficulty. I found this game a bit too simple and again whilst wanting just to get on with it I found myself constantly trying to shake off the game’s hand that had been holding onto mine since I chose my preferred language. Again maybe its just me, and whilst I can see the usefulness in being told what moves are super effective against a particular opponent for a newer player, for the hardened Pokemon trainer it might seem like some of the challenge has been lost, especially when there’s so many new monsters to catch and different type combinations to learn.

Like I said, I love Pokemon. A franchise that grips you for nearly 20 years of your life is a big part of it and it does keep delivering. Pokemon Sun & Moon definitely has delivered and is a worthy addition to the series we adore. But for me it isn’t the strongest. After about 10 hours I was starting to feel like something is missing. I didn’t explore towns for too long because, well there isn’t a lot to explore. And again whilst the story was good, it didn’t draw me in that much. It seemed it was too slow to start and them wham, you’re hit with everything. Of course, I wanted to know how things would pan out but by the time it had got to that point, I didn’t feel satisfied with my experience of Alola. Z crystals didn’t seen a great addition either. I wish they’d expanded on mega evolution rather than introduce something new. As satisfying as it is using a Z move they just seem a bit pointless; useful if you’re in a spot of bother but otherwise you probably wouldn’t use them. Simple things to the regular player such as exploring large cities or the simple thrill of a gym challenge are missed. That achievement of getting through several trainers and a challenge or two then coming out of it with a badge to show for it is a core Pokemon element. That poor bloke who stands in gyms believing you’re the best thing since sliced bread has been missed. I wonder what his Alola form would be? Maybe he’s stick thin.

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I miss this guy…

I spend 31 of my pounds on Pokemon Moon and I don’t regret it. I just wish I felt more fulfilled with the game. To me it just seems like something is missing and that’s disappointing for a series of games that I always have such high hopes for. I will continue to get Pokemon games and boy do I want a Diamond/Pearl remake, but this one fells like its missed the mark a bit. That said I would still give Pokemon Sun & Moon a solid 8/10 and recommend it to any DS gamer, new to Pokemon or not.

 

I thank you for sticking with me and for reading my review. Please respect my opinions; they are exactly that, my opinions. I am interested to hear other peoples on these games too, so please leave a comment or 3. I’m also on Twitter @jaymess24 so follow me if you wish. Thank you and good night.

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