Today was a special day for Pokemon fans. The Sun and Moon demo released and gave us all a taste of the adventure we’ll be able to properly jump into come November.
Having spent some time with the demo, I’m mostly excited for what to expect, but regarding particular aspects, I’m a little less impressed. What struck me was how much time has gone into the production value of this latest Pokemon adventure. The cutscenes almost feel like they were pulled from the anime, and the sound design is a huge step up from past adventures. Pikachu’s “Pika” sounded pitch perfect, the distant cries of Pokemon felt like they came from a particular direction, and the orchestral score was as wonderful as ever, just with a tropical vibe.
Everything really comes together during the battles which feel just as good as ever, but it’s the Z-moves that stole the show. These super powerful moves take center stage when activated and have their own unique, badass animation before dealing serious damage to the Pokemon on the receiving end. Totem Pokemon look to mix things up when it comes to battling, too, with their own buffs and unique abilities, such as summoning in additional wild Pokemon to fight by their side. It’s a neat way to make the island’s Trials feel more significant than just any other battle.
On the other hand, my concerns lie in two particular areas. First up is Team Skull. The new gang of antagonists is definitely a change from the tried and tested formula that we’ve seen almost every other Team follow in previous Pokemon, but I’m still unsure whether it’s a good one. The Grunts come across way too ‘gangsta’ waving their hands around and saying things like “we’re well hard” to the point it’s kind of cringeworthy. I appreciate these games have got to be relatable for youngsters too, but from what I experienced, they came across a little too much like comic relief and less like a serious criminal threat.
Speaking of threats, it was difficult to get a read on whether or not battles were going to have any challenge to them in the demo as the Ash-Greninja you’re given literally one-hit-KOs anything that stands in its way. While I can let this slide with it being a demo, one feature I did notice looks like it may make battling a little too easy. After delivering a blow to the enemy Pokemon, whether it was not very or super effective, the game then marked this next to each move. It’s a neat way of showing newcomers the ropes, especially with the huge number of different move types, but it almost feels as if it could eliminate any kind of challenge from battles. Hopefully, this is a feature that was only present in the demo, or perhaps could just be turned off in the full release.
Ultimately, the Sun and Moon demo was just a tiny sample of what to expect when the full games release in November. Yet, from what I played it definitely feels like more Pokemon in an exotic region, but… it felt different and I’m not entirely sure whether that’s in a positive or negative way. The overall design and production value certainly shows a pride in the series and are a noticeable step forward, but Team Skull is the exact opposite of the antagonists players wanted to see. It’s certainly a strange direction for the series, but it’s too soon and too short of a demo to tell exactly how this will all pan out in the full releases.