When I saw the first few screen shots of Pokémon Sun & Moon, I wasn’t particularly excited. Though I wouldn’t say that Pokémon X & Y were bad games, I felt that for me the enthusiasm for Pokémon may be fading – after all, they all generally follow the same structure and I thought that perhaps having played so many, the formula was just something I’d played too many times to enjoy quite as much any more.
I put off playing Sun & Moon for a while, but eventually decided to get it anyway. And you know what? I was pretty pleased with it. I felt that it was quite a significant upgrade over its predecessor and full of lots of fresh and new ideas.
Every Pokémon game leading up to this one has had you catching and training Pokémon to defeat eight Pokémon Gyms to collect badges and then proceed to challenge the Elite Four to become a Pokémon Champion. In Sun & Moon, for the first time, there are no Pokémon Gyms and, instead, you must undergo various trials and defeating a boss. These trails provide some nice variety and I always enjoyed the boss battles at the end of them – they were quite different to what I was used to from the series.
The trials are actually an aspect of the setting, which is something else I’d like to talk about. This game is set in the Alola region of the Pokémon World, which is their version of Hawaii. Instead of one big world, the game is broken up into a chain of smaller islands – I didn’t think that I would like this, but actually I loved it, because each one was such a lovely place to explore. With the calming music playing, you really feel like you’re in a tropical paradise. I found it quite relaxing to run about doing small tasks, simply because they’re created such a nice atmosphere. I’d go so far as to call it the most beautiful Pokémon region I’ve seen so far – golden sands, splashing waves, seaside towns, oh my!
The story is pretty fantastic as well. As always, there’s an evil team who are causing trouble for you as you try to make your way onwards with your quest, but the team in this one (Team Skull) are used in a very interesting way. Instead of a group of radicals trying to change the world, Team Skull are just a bunch of stupid thugs, making them quite comical, but their function in the story is pretty clever. It’s hard to say much, but I’d describe the story as a thrilling sci-fi adventure. The only thing I will say against it, is that there is an awful lot of dialogue, which of course all comes in the form of text boxes – it didn’t bother me too much, but I know some people who were definitely annoyed by it.
As always, there was a whole bunch of new Pokémon introduced. My favourite of these was probably Mimikyu – a ghostly Pikachu doll who’s jealous of Pikachu’s popularity. I had a Mimikyu in my main team I loved it so much. While I always choose the Water Type starter Pokémon (which this time gives you a chain of lovely seal Pokémon) the Fire Type starter eventually becomes the muscular wrestling cat, Incineroar, who has become pretty popular (thanks, in part, to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate). There are also some really cool and mysterious new Pokémon called Ultra Beasts, which left quite an impression on me, but I can’t really talk about them without spoiling anything. Finally, there are now Alolan forms of several Generation 1 Pokémon, giving them cool new redesigns, my favourite being Dugtrio, who now has three heads of glorious golden hair.
Another new feature is the addition of Z Moves, which are special, super powerful moves which can only be used once per battle and are accompanied with a very fancy battle animation. I kind of liked these and they certainly got me out of the odd scrape, but I didn’t think their inclusion was that interesting. They also seem to have come in place of Mega Evolutions, which were oddly absent from the game, despite being introduced in the previous one.
Still, I do think this is a step in the right direction for the series as my interesting in it was certainly refreshed. It could have been another simple game following the same formula we’d seen so many times before, which would have been fine for newcomers, but boring for fans, but I feel they made something fresh and I’m glad of it. I hope that they will be able to continue this trend in future.