Photo by Nintendo
By Stephen Infantolino
It is hard to believe that the Pokémon franchise is now 20 years old. There have been six distinctly different generations that have spanned across every Nintendo portable system since 1995, from Red and Blue on the Gameboy to X and Y on the Nintendo 3DS.
On November 18, “Pokémon Sun” and “Pokémon Moon” was released for the Nintendo 3DS. These new installments act as the franchise’s seventh generation.
In terms of gameplay, Game Freak has kept Sun and Moon pretty close to what Pokémon fans are familiar with. Players can catch over a total of 800Pokémon and use them to battle non-playable characters in the in-game story or with friends locally and online.
In Sun and Moon, players take control of either an 11-year-old boy or girl who just moved to the Alola region, setting out on their quest to conquer all of the island challenges.
Some of the mechanics of both the in-game battle system and the traversing of the overworld have changed in comparison to the previous entries in the franchise. While many items and moves have been changed from Pokémon X and Y, two changes stick out the most when it comes to the game’s battle system.
The first is the player’s battle screen. In the past, players were able to select from a list of four moves. It has been that way since Pokémon Red and Blue. However, in Sun and Moon, players are also able to select what’s known as a Z-Move.
These Z-Moves range from powered up versions of pre-existing Pokémon moves like Tackle to completely new moves like Pulverizing Pancake.
Players gain access to these new moves with the held items known as Z-Crystals. There is a Z-Crystal for every single Pokémon type, as well as others that are for specific Pokémon like Pikachu.
In order to equip a Z-Crystal, the Pokémon must know a single move of the Crystal’s corresponding type. For example, if you want to equip your Bulbasaur with a grass-type Z-Crystal, it needs to know at least one grass-type move.
Z-Moves are replacements for X and Y’s Mega Evolutions, which are still present in Sun and Moon but not in competitive Pokémon play. Similar to Mega Evolutions, players can only use one Z-Move per battle, so it is a matter of choosing wisely.
Another change to the battle system is the addition of the effectiveness of each move on the selection screen. Now when players select a move, as long as you have battled the Pokémon you are facing before, the game will tell you what moves are super effective and which ones will not work at all.
This makes it easier for new players as it gets rid of the need to memorize the type effectiveness chart.
In terms of the overworld, there have been a few changes as well. Unlike past Pokémon games, Sun and Moon have completely gotten rid of the HM system. HMs, also known as Hidden Machines, were field moves that helped the player traverse the overworld. These include moves like Fly and Surf.
Instead, Sun and Moon introduces Pokémon Ride. With the tap of the Y button, players can summon Pokémon into the overworld to help them complete tasks like destroying rocks or surfing across the water. This functions exactly the same as HMs do, but it is more efficient and does not bog down your Pokémon’s move pools with moves that are not so great for battle.
Another change is the scaling of the world itself. In the past, players were roughly the same size as many buildings. In Sun and Moon, that is no longer the case, as buildings actually give off the impression of size, houses feel like they should be multiple stories and cities feel vast and diverse.
Unlike previous games, players no longer collect gym badges. They instead do Island challenges which encompass a variety of tasks. They can be as simple as battling a totem Pokémon, a Pokémon that has buffed stats for the sake of a challenge, or sometimes collecting items.
This departed from a series staple is actually a welcomed one, as the island challenges’ variety kept the game more interesting. It did not feel like the same task was repeating over and over. Each and every island challenge felt fresh and new.
After players complete all of the island challenges and the game’s main story, they are able to challenge the Pokémon League to become Alola’s first Pokémon League champion. This is one of the few story elements kept from past Pokémon installments.
It took me roughly 30 hours to see all of what Pokémon Sun and Moon has to offer in terms of story and post-game content, but do not let that alarm you. You can spend hours battling at the Battle Tree. It is a new post-game location that allows you to battle every significant Pokémon character from the past seven generations.
Ultra Beasts are new legendary Pokémon that play a huge role in Sun and Moon’s main story. Each version of the game has five Ultra Beasts to collect, with each version having two exclusive ones.
Sun and Moon, however, are not perfect games. They do have their share of problems. If you are playing on an older Nintendo 3DS, you will notice that Sun and Moon has a considerable amount of lag and frames drop more frequently during in-game battles. Overall, the game takes much longer to do anything. The video below exemplifies this.
Another problem with Sun and Moon is that they seemed to ditch certain battling scenarios altogether. Hordes, Triple, Rotation and Sky battles were all absent from the main parts of Sun and Moon. While these battles were unpopular, they did help break up the monotony while playing through the game’s story.
Lastly, I would have liked for them to add more new Pokémon. Sun and Moon did get Alolan forms, which are regional variants of Generation 1 Pokémon with different types and designs, but there needed to be completely new Pokémon.
Nintendo’s advertising campaign presented all of the 79 new Pokémon before the game came out. A new trend in the franchise is adding less new Pokémon and focusing on special forms instead.
These last two points regarding new Pokémon and the absence of certain battle scenarios are not inherently bad. It is just something I would have liked to see.
Overall, Pokémon Sun and Moon have a lot to offer, they are amazing games. I had a really hard time putting these games down this past week, and that is saying a lot. I have not been this hooked on a Pokémon game since Ruby and Sapphire.
All of the changes made to the game’s mechanics were refreshing and something the franchise needed after 20 years. Once you look past the small faults, it is sure to be one of the best Pokémon games to date.