By JENSEN LIM LEONG
Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon are the start of the 7th generation Pokémon games. With an additional 80 Pokémon added to the series, the grand total has now been increased to 801. Both have become Nintendo’s biggest pre-ordered games of all time, and at the time of this writing, they have sold 3.7 million units in North America alone according to Polygon. No doubt some of the success was helped by the huge Pokémon Go craze this past summer, but Pokémon Go is made by Niantic while Sun and Moon are made by Gamefreak. It is apparent that Pokémon has reached the levels of popularity it once had when it first came out in 1996. Instead of cards, anime and the classic Gameboy games, the country was swept over with augmented reality and a new 3DS game.
Pokémon has never made any great leaps in storytelling, but they did add changes to the basic formula of picking a starter, receiving a Pokedex, facing Gym leaders and becoming region champion. Sun and Moon include some substantial differences; for example, past games have the player stopping an evil team from taking over the world or doing something on a massive scale, which seems a little ridiculous for a 10 or 11-year-old kid to solve. Now, the new group is Team Skull, a bunch of hoodlums who just want some respect and who are considered a public nuisance instead of a massive terror organization. They also have more of a personality, with the members constantly dancing while talking to you. Later, they team up with the Aether Foundation, a group dedicated to preserving Pokémon, but the Aether Foundation has the ulterior motive of fusing them with new Pokémon called Ultra Beasts which, according to Bulbapedia, are “extradimensional Pokémon originating from Ultra Space.” The story
starts strong at first, but the plot line meanders all over the game as it progresses. I honestly cannot name all the characters because quite a few of them are forgettable, primarily due to this game having the biggest cast of all time. However, a good portion of them do have more memorable charm compared to previous games.
With every new generation of the series, a new set of Pokémon is added to the game. The designs of these Pokémon are some of the best in the franchise. Standouts like Rockruff and Komala look adorably “kawaii,” like something in a petting zoo if they could be animals in real life. The starter Pokémon, Rowlet, Litten and Popplio each look great with their own appeal. Alolan forms offer new takes on old classics that do not feel better or worse; however, they fit the Hawaiian look of the Alola region very well.
The core mechanics of Sun and Moon are no different from any past game; it is still a turn-based roleplaying game where the player levels up and catches small animals. Instead of the horde battles (when 5 low level Pokémon face the player at once) in Generation 6, the game adds new battles in free-for-all and S.O.S. battles. S.O.S. battles allow for wild Pokémon to call for an extra ally to team up on the player. Although the thought is new, it is extremely annoying when catching a certain Pokémon. The game will not allow the player to throw a Pokéball when there are two Pokémon on the opposing side. This seems like a small issue, but wild Pokémon can keep on calling more Pokémon for assistance, so the player can end up in a loop. Free-for-all battles allow for a 4-way battle where everyone fights for themselves. I have yet to truly test this feature out.
Instead of facing Gyms, the player now must contend with island challenges. Even though it is easier than the previous Gym system, there is still a challenge with a special stat boost to specific Totem Pokémon. Totem Pokémon are specially trained by trail captains, are not found in the wild and receive stat boosts. Totem Pokémon are also guaranteed their first S.O.S. Pokémon. So, if one is not prepared, special healing and status strategies can cause the player trouble. When the player becomes the champion in this game, they reign supreme and do not share their title with others. In past games, the champion is set and they face the player every time like it’s their first time. However, in this game, the player becomes the champion when they win. Every time the player challenges the Elite Four, a new challenger faces them at the end. This improvement adds a bit more replayability to the game. There is also a new battle mechanic called Z-Moves. Each Pokémon type (grass, water, fire and others) gets its own special move. These are power boosted moves that can be used once per battle, and even though they are cool at first, the animation for the move is long and feels tedious after a while.
Other new features include Pokémon Pelago, which allows the player to grow berries and train Pokémon without battling and Pokémon Festival, a nice new way to interact with other players. Pokémon Refresh has been improved to remove status conditions from Pokémon after battle. One of the features I am glad they removed was the old HM (hidden move) system. The HM system created specific moves that Pokémon could use outside of battle to cross water areas or remove large obstacles. Although this sounds like it brought some realism to the game, the system removed one of the Pokémon’s four move slots and it could not be forgotten by normal means. The new system introduces Pokémon Rides, which allow
players to call Ride Pokémon to do the exact same thing HM moves did, except this time the Pokémon can be seen doing the action. In the past, if a Pokémon used Rock Smash, the Pokémon would flash by and a rock would shatter – now, the Pokémon can be seen crushing the rock.
To longtime Pokémon fans, I have noticed Gamefreak trying to reboot the franchise for the past few iterations. The 5th generation games, Black and White, were formatted exactly like the 1st generation games with 150 original Pokémon with no access to past Pokémon, but many of these 150 Pokémon were homages to the first game and fell flat when compared to the first game. The 6th generation games, X and Y, were more successful by including past Pokémon, but did not offer anything new besides a nice 3D look. X and Y also lacked content. To put that into perspective, it took around seven hours for me to complete X and Y while Sun and Moon’s post-game alone took me 10 hours, and the main game took around 30. Sun and Moon offers new improved mechanics, new well-designed Pokémon and content that lasted for days.
Nick Mattair (Jr.) said, “It’s awesome. I feel it’s the best mainline game since Platinum [a 4th generation game] just looking at the quality of life fixes alone. I love the addition of Z-Moves and Alolan forms. Overall, I would give Sun and Moon a 9/10, and I can’t wait for Stars [the next game].”
I have played the Pokémon games for almost 10 years. After playing video games for so long, I will probably not stop until the day I physically cannot play them. There is a charm to Pokémon that no other game can match. Even though there are games that are very well developed and popular and transport you to a another world, it is not a world you want to be in since the game setting is nothing but filled with dystopia. However, for Pokémon, the world of fantastic creatures is really a world of friends. The Pokemon are inviting and some are even cute to enough to warrant feelings of wanting them as pets. Even other RPGs with their own character creators lack Pokémon’s appeal because in games like Dragon Quest, Dragon Ball Xenoverse and even Destiny, the player’s character says nothing while the side characters try to develop each other’s personalities. Although the same thing occurs in Pokémon, you feel more invested because you train the Pokémon and you’ve taken the time to nickname, care and grow beside them. Your character does not need to say anything in Pokémon because you know how you feel about each of these Pokémon. Pokémon can’t say much more than their name or a cry when fainting, but I think human imagination can be seen when players are forced to imagine the Pokémon’s reaction to fainting, winning or being used as cannon fodder. Pokémon is probably the most personal game of all time, and that is why it connects with so many. Pokémon Sun and Moon are no different for me. They are the first games to capture the magic of the original games, and even though they do have some animation and story issues, the first games also had similar issues. Pokémon Sun and Moon showcases the pure magic of Pokémon that has enchanted audiences and will continue to for many years to come.