The entirety of 2016 has seen The Pokémon Company celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Pokémon franchise. Numerous fanfare events, fulfillment of long-requested features, a Pokkén Tournament brawler, and most recently, the crazy epidemic that arrived in the form of Pokémon Go. All of it has led us to a single point, the release of Pokemon Sun and Moon as the new generation installments in the series.
During its lifespan, Pokémon games have only seen subtle changes from developers. That makes sense. Change is seldom appreciated and you never want to disappoint a fan-base that measures in millions across the globe. With Pokémon Sun and Moon, Game Freak breaks this cycle to go far and beyond.
The new games find you, the protagonist, visiting the Alola region, four islands inspired by Hawaii, to once again train and try to catch ’em all. While Pokémon games have never leaned too heavily on storyline plots, Pokémon Sun and Moon actually focuses on a delightful narrative.
Smacked together with regular cut-scenes that may prove tiresome for those wanting to get back into the game, Pokémon Sun and Moon surprises players with a strong narrative that narrows down to a touching finish.
The lush and expansive world introduces several new characters, all of whom remain as companions on your journey to being the best there is. It’s difficult to put any two in a single basket as each character features his/her own distinct and memorable personality.
That doesn’t mean you’ll like all of them. Certain individuals can weigh you down in the long run with their rather annoying traits. However, that’s only the beauty of how Game Freak has characterized Pokémon Sun and Moon.
It’s personally refreshing to see the new games ditch the chibi art-style from Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire. From character models to the environment, everything is scaled up to give a more realistic perspective.
Adding to the fact that the new Pokémon games are visually stunning, fans should strap themselves in for a sense of immersion unlike any previous installment.
The removal of Hidden Machines, or HMs, is another element that sees the developer act on valuable fan feedback. Previously, players had to commit to unneeded Pokémon in order to travel across the world and solve puzzles. That ends now with the introduction of Poké Ride where players can call upon special Pokémon at anytime to help in traveling.
On the subject of HMs forcing players to give up valuable inventory space for unexciting Pokémon, the new games remove any such limitations. Any Pokémon caught can be added to your party even if it’s full. The fight menu and UI have also been optimized in comparison to previous games to allow players to quickly open their bags or learn new moves in an instant.
Another overhauled gameplay aspect comes in the removal of gyms. Instead, players get Island Trials. These are a series of challenges scattered about the region, all of them leading up to a grand battle. Successful completion of these trials result in Z-Crystals instead of badges which are far more valuable as they offer powerful Z-moves for Pokémon to learn.
Not all of these Island Trials are exciting to behold. Anyone gunning for them headfirst is likely to be disappointed as most of them are trivial quests which can be rushed through without any difficulty. It’s hard to say whether they are an excellent fit for traditional gyms.
As such, the only attraction for these trials is in the lucrative reward system that proves useful as the game progresses. Either that or if you’re interested in learning more about the local culture and inhabitants.
Coming to the battling aspect of Pokémon Sun and Moon, let’s talk about the aforementioned new Z-moves. Similar to Mega Evolution from previous installments, Z-moves are some of the most powerful moves you can have your Pokémon learn, and each comes with a unique awesome animation sequence.
They can either turn the tide of battle or send your opponent packing for home early. Each move doesn’t really just excel in terms of devastation. There are other advantages to behold, and is what makes Z-moves a strategical addition to the battling element of the new games.
One might think that Game Freak has lowered the difficulty levels of Pokémon Sun and Moon, courtesy of Z-moves. The truth couldn’t be further from it.
Pokémon Sun and Moon feature tough gameplay scenarios, with the AI surprising you at every turn by utilizing items, tactics, and switching in for counter-attacks. If you begin Pokémon Sun and Moon with the thought of breezing through the battles, you’re in for a rough awakening.
All-in-all, Pokémon Sun and Moon are excellent additions to the series and undoubtedly the best installments to date. The pretty visuals, better narrative, smarter AI, tougher battles; everything culminates to make the new games a memorable experience.