Pokemon Sun and Moon on Nintendo 3DS
The Pokemon series has had one heck of a stellar year already, with its 20th anniversary and Pokemon GO, among other things. Now, the newest entry in the main series of games is here with Sun and Moon, and this iteration changes up Pokemon’s formula in some new and surprising ways. Sun and Moon feel like a natural advancement of the series, streamlining things and creating a more engaging experience. In fact, they’re easily some of the best games we’ve seen from the series to date.
Sun and Moon takes us to a new region called Alola, where the sun burns bright and humans have a close connection with the Pokemon they live side by side with. Along the way you’ll meet some memorable characters, the mischievous Team Skull, and the mysterious Aether Foundation. Sun and Moon still doesn’t have a huge, complex story, but this round’s plot is definitely engaging and tugs at your interest with its undeniable charm and brisk pace.
Don’t expect a deeper Pokemon story with Sun and Moon, however, as it’s still largely grounded in what the series has been doing. Your character serves as nothing more than a blank slate, oftentimes not showing any emotion in cutscenes. The dynamic that you uncover between Team Skull and the Aether Foundation is interesting, but the “villains” of the game still have simple, one-sided objectives in mind. While many of the trainers, like your rival Hau, are fairly interesting in and of themselves, you aren’t going to find a wealth of character development.
For my experience this was fine, as Sun and Moon have such a vibrant world to explore and see, that the main story wasn’t my focus. I was more concerned with seeing the next town, doing the next trial, and exploring Alola. Pokemon truly is your adventure, and Sun and Moon makes it feel like that more than ever before.
In traditional fashion, you’ve just recently moved to the Alola region with you mother. Before long the local Pokemon professor, Kukui, bestows you with a special Pokedex. You then, of course, pick a starter, who also chooses you to be its trainer. From there you set out on your journey across all of the islands of Alola to undertake The Island Challenge. This represents the one of the biggest changes with Sun and Moon, the general structure and idea of Pokemon Gyms.
The Alola region has not yet formed a Pokemon League, so young trainers set out on The Island Challenge to undertake Trials on each island. Each Trial is headed by a Trial Captain, who assigns various objectives, not necessarily all of them focused on battling other trainers. For example, one Trial has you taking pictures of Ghost Pokemon, while another has you spotting the differences in tribal dances.
When you’ve completed the Trial, you have to face down a powerful Totem Pokemon, which is a pumped up giant version of a regular Pokemon. Once you’ve completed each Trial, you’ll then be able to take on the Grand Trial, where you face the Kahuna (Gym Leader) of the island.
These Trials add some interesting variety to your adventure through Alola, breaking up the cycle of battling trainers and wild Pokemon. The heart of the Gym experience is still there — you still face down challenging trainers and a memorable leader filled with personality — but now it is infused with Alola’s unique culture, providing a sense of fun and an element of surprise with each Trial.
Instead of Gym Badges, your reward for completing a Trial is a Z-Crystal. These items are generally themed to specific Pokemon type, and when you give it to one of your monsters you can pull off extravagant special moves once per battle. This adds yet another layer of strategy onto battle, along with the return of select Pokemon’s Mega Evolutions.
Of course, the main draw of a Pokemon game is the selection of capturable creatures, and Sun and Moon certainly don’t disappoint in that regard. There’s a wealth of new Pokemon added to the world specific to the Alola region, and most feel like they fit right in. There’s a definite tropical theme that runs throughout all the designs, and it results in a colorful cast of new monsters. You have new additions like the adorable pink fluffball Stufful, Mimikyu who wears a Pikachu disguise because of its terrifying looks, and a Hawaiian lea called Comfey.
On top of a memorable list of new Pokemon, you have returning creatures from across the series. What Sun and Moon does so well, however, is mix in all of its Pokemon together. Every area you run through is filled with Pokemon both old and new, creating a blend of nostalgic comfort and exciting new captures to learn about.
Some of the first generation Pokemon also return with new Alola forms that change their appearance and function, like the now Ice/Steel type Sandshrew and Sandslash. This provides yet another new aspect to the game, as it’s fun to see how some of the original Pokemon have changed in the tropical climate. Undoubtedly, Sun and Moon has one of the strongest Pokedexes we’ve seen, even if every single Pokemon isn’t available in the game at this moment. Come January 2017, however, the Pokemon Bank will receive an update and become compatible with Sun and Moon, allowing players to transfer in every Pokemon from the series.