Pokemon Sun & Moon are the seventh generation of Pokemon games. They were announced during the game’s 20th Anniversary, on the 27th February 2016, followed by a November 18th release in America and Japan, and a November 23rd release in Europe. The games mark the series third outing on the Nintendo 3DS, following X & Y and Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire, and take place in the Alola region, which is based heavily on Hawaii. Like previous Pokemon games, you can choose to be either a male or female trainer and, as in X & Y, you can customise their appearance throughout the game. As you would expect from a Pokemon game, you choose a ’starter Pokemon’ from three and this is no different here, with the Grass/Flying type Rowlet, Fire type Litten, and Water-type Popplio. The two games are more or less identical. The only differences being that there are Pokemon which are exclusive to each version, and the clock is set 12 hours ahead in Moon version,while Sun follows your 3DS clock in real-time. This means that Pokemon which are only found during the day or at night, have a higher chance of appearing, depending on which version you buy.
The story of the game sees your character move to the Alola region from Kanto, where they are introduced to the game’s world by Professor Kuikui. In all, there are 81 new Pokemon, bringing the total from 721 to 802, and many of the Kanto Pokemon now have Alolan forms. These are regional variants which not only differ in appearance from their original forms but have different types. Ninetales, for example, is now a Fairy/Ice type. The Pokedex has been overhauled, and takes the form of a Rotom which interacts with the player throughout the game, and provides advice. I found this a helpful feature overall and appreciated the companionship it provided on my journey. New to the game is a QR scanner. This is a feature which uses the 3DS camera and allows the player to scan QR codes to add a Pokemon’s entry to the Pokedex. I really liked the new Pokemon designs overall, especially Rowlet, and didn’t come across any I felt were particularly weak.
The battling system is similar to the previous games so if you’ve played any of them, you’ll know what to expect. Put simply, the game plays like Rock-Paper-Scissors, with some moves being Super Effective against the opposing Pokemon and some being Not Very Effective. The key to winning a battle is choosing Pokemon and moves which are better than your opponent. Being an RPG, there is a lot more than just picking the right moves and as you progress through the game, your
pokemon will gain experience, level up and evolve. Taking care of your Pokemon is a lot easier now, thanks to Pokemon Refresh. This works much like Pokemon Amie in X & Y, and can be accessed after a battle or through the pause menu. This mode has a number of tools such as a brush, comb and hair dryer which can be used to groom your Pokemon after a tough fight, and medicine which can be used to cure status ailments such as Paralysis or Poisoning. Raising a Pokemon’s affection towards you makes it more likely to land critical hits in battle, avoid enemy attacks and even survive a powerful attack instead of fainting. I really enjoyed this feature because it increased my bond with my Pokemon and made me care for them more. Also new are Z-moves. These are type-specific moves which are pulled off by making a Pokemon hold the corresponding Z stone, and selecting it from the move screen. These moves are very powerful and can only be used once per battle. I found these moves satisfying to pull off. The animations for them are very flashy, and wouldn’t look out of place in Dragonball Z. Below is a video demonstrating a move performed with Pikachu, Catastropika.
In past games, the main goal was to battle gym leaders and collect badges. This is different in Sun & Moon and is instead replaced with The Island Challenge. This is a challenge which you undertake throughout the game and involves traveling around the four islands of Alola, participating in different trials. Each trial sees you completing a different task such as gathering items, answering questions, and battling Pokemon. This is followed by a battle against a Totem Pokemon, a more powerful version of a regular Pokemon. Successfully completing these trials earns you a Z-stone which you can then use on your Pokemon. Once you have completed all of the trials on an island, you will then battle the Island Kahuna. I found the trials a welcome change from the gym battles and thought that they added a bit of variety to the gameplay. Another big change that I liked was the removal of HM moves. In past games, you would have to teach your Pokemon special moves such as Surf, and Rock Smash to cross the terrain. This could be an annoyance because the Pokemon can only have four moves at a time, and the HM moves weren’t easily replaceable (you would have to visit a dedicated move deleter). This is instead replaced with Poke Rides. These are Pokemon which you can call on at any time to perform tasks such as flying and moving heavy boulders out of the way. This is a refreshing change which streamlines the game and removes the need to constantly backtrack to take Pokemon out of the PC or keep a dedicated HM Pokemon on your team. Speaking of which, the PC has been changed as well. Now, Pokemon that you catch will be sent to the Poke Pelago, an island resort where they can explore, play, look for items and even find wild Pokemon.
The main thing that struck me on my Sun play through was just how difficult the game was. One of the big complaints about the last few games was that they were too easy but this seems to have been fixed here. Playing through the game, I had plenty of battles where my Pokemon just about held on. There is much more strategy involved in this game and I found that although my Pokemon might be of a type that beats the AI’s Pokemon, their Pokemon could have a powerful move that beats me. The AI also has Z-moves and will not hesitate to use them. It is this unpredictability that makes the game so thrilling to play and it is something which reminded me why I fell in love with the series in the first place. Difficulty-wise, I would put the game up there with some of the fan games that have been made over the years, such as Pokemon Glazed.
Like all Pokemon games, there is multiplayer; both offline and online.You can battle and trade with other players, and you are able to transfer Pokemon from past games via Pokebank, including Kanto Pokemon caught in the EShop releases of Red, Blue & Yellow. New to the multiplayer is the Festival Plaza. This is a personalised space where you can go to find People playing near you, and play mini-games. You can also complete tasks for people which earns you plaza coins, enabling you to buy new stores and rank up. I haven’t gotten too far with this part of the game yet but from what I’ve seen, it looks like a decent game mode overall.
As you can probably tell from my review, I had a blast playing through the game. It recaptured the Generation 1 nostalgia for me and the graphics, along with the animations of the moves, made me feel like I was right there in the TV series. My only complaints are that some pokemon are extremely rare, and some types can only be found towards the end of the game. Despite these niggles, it is an excellent game and a must own for any 3DS owner. It can be bought in Gamestop for €54.99, Argos for €41.99, and in Smyths for €44.99. There is also a free playable demo available on the Nintendo Eshop if you would like to try the game first.