Video Game Review: Pokemon Sun/Moon
(Might be slight spoilers)
Pokemon celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. It made me come to the realization that I’ve known Pokemon my entire life. It’s crazy, really. It felt like yesterday that I was sitting in front of the TV watching the Pokemon anime as a kid. I never really played Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow until Fire Red came out, and I still didn’t exactly play that one much too, but I would sit next to my brother and watch him play it.
My first Pokemon game was Gold and I’ve noticed just how far the main series Pokemon games have come. Here we are now to the lovely and warm region of Alola as Gen 7.
Once I saw the concept art of Pokemon S/M, I had a strong feeling that it was going to be based around a tropical part of the world. Once it was revealed that the region was named Alola, of course everyone’s minds went straight to Hawaii and I was completely ecstatic. Seeing as how the past Pokemon games were finally being based on places outside of Japan, like New York and France, I was desperately hoping for a region based on a tropical place. A region based on Hawaii was perfect. Well, not completely perfect because we still don’t have a dolphin Pokemon. Dropped the ball there, Game Freak. :’)
Pokemon Sun/Moon starts off with you speaking to this region’s professor, Professor Kukui, through a web cam. You go through the usual intro like you always do, then you pick what gender and what character model you want. After you finish that, you’re treated to an intense cutscene and the game’s title appears, and you finally start the game.
In my personal opinion, Pokemon Sun/Moon is probably the most different Pokemon we’ve gotten (so far). We have the same formula, such as going on a journey to catch Pokemon, which Pokemon is known for. But the task of visiting each gym and collecting badges has instead changed into taking on Alola’s traditional island challenge. Pokemon Sun/Moon gave us the opportunity to really immerse ourselves into the world they created. The story keeps you on edge, filled with an array of colorful characters. And of course, their changes to some of the game mechanics also helps to make your journey through the Alola region a smooth one. There’s so much to talk about, so I’ll try my best to not make this review a jumbled mess.
The Alola Region
Like mentioned above, the Alola region is based off of Hawaii. Just like how people in Hawaii say “aloha”, people in Alola say “alola”. Just from the first moment you play the game you can feel the calm and relaxed atmosphere. The Alola region is filled with culture and its own traditions and, such as the island challenge. Alola follows its own ways and is much more old-fashioned than the other regions. While the region is a modern tourist destination, it also stays close to its roots with the Tapu and their shrines. It’s said multiple times that the Alolan people are the closest with Pokemon than any other region, and it shows through what you see in the game like seeing Pokemon running around or hanging around their owner. It feels natural.
The game does wonders with its worldbuilding.
I don’t know what they were thinking back in Game Freak, but this gen is notorious for having the most bizarre and gruesome Pokemon entries in the Pokedex we’ve ever had. Does it have to do with the fact that Rotom, a ghost Pokemon, is the Pokedex? I don’t know, but that could be a reason. We’ve gotten entries before of Pokemon eating other Pokemon, but they really made the details more specific. Some entries are just plain weird, or really funny, and they’re not like any we’ve had before. But it really gave us an idea what life is like in the wild for Pokemon and we come to understand it much better, like how documentaries teach us about the circle of life and whatnot. The Rotomdex isn’t different from a regular Pokedex other than the fact that an actual Pokemon is in the Pokedex talking to you. Sometimes Rotom will give you hints to your next destination, it’ll give its opinions of certain situations you go through, or it’ll say some snarky comments at you and they’re hilarious. I always found myself reading whatever Rotom had to say and found myself smiling or even laughing and for once I could actually say that I got attached to my Pokedex. The Pokedex this time also got some aesthetic changes, where when you catch a Pokemon you get a portrait of them and can immediately see if they evolve or not. When you have the whole evolution line, the back of the screen glows red showing your completion. To me, it made for a satisfying moment that I’m still trying my hardest to complete the Alolan Pokedex. Game Freak, keep the Rotomdex!
For this region, the team we face this time is Team Skull. They’re the baddest of the bad…at least, that’s what they think. In all honesty, they’re a simple street gang that’s out trying to steal Pokemon. They dress in all black with skulls adorned on their bodies, and when they speak with you, they make sure their presence is known by flapping their arms around like wannabe rappers. Unlike other the other villainous teams in the Pokemon games, Team Skull is a complete joke. Literally no one in the game is afraid of them, instead they’re just seen as a nuisance and ignored. Their dialogue is the funniest in the game and they rap and rhyme most of the time that you can’t help reading their lines out loud. They’re my favorite team in terms of enjoyment, amusement, their design, and their music! I like rap/hip-hop so I was basking in the Grunt theme, Plumeria’s theme, and Guzma’s.
Plumeria unfortunately was the least important character. You would battle her a few times but she didn’t make much of an impact unlike other team admins. But…Guzma. YA BOI Guzma, I really like him. He’s kind of a deep character when you find some things out about him later on postgame, but he was just a joy to encounter in the game. And to battle! He’s actually pretty tough and his Golisopod is a demon.
When it comes to the story, I won’t say too much because I would spoil it. Pokemon Sun/Moon’s story has to be the darkest, or at least one of the darkest stories Pokemon has made. There were twists and I admit some weren’t surprising considering some of the scenes and hints we got throughout the game, but there were times that I was legitimately creeped out and surprised. Another new thing this Pokemon game did was include many cutscenes. I’ve seen people complain about them because the scenes are long but I love them. They are a little tedious in the beginning because of all the tutorials, but later on the scenes are part of telling the story, and they also give us moments to learn about some characters. Up until now Black/White’s story was my favorite, but now I’m not sure anymore. They’re both tied to when it comes to story.
Also, there’s a lot to do in the post game!
Again, can’t say too much or else I’ll spoil. What I like about the new formula in this game is that there are a lot less characters. Before we would have the eight gym leaders, but after the battle with them, we never got to know just who they were except for what type they used and just their general personality. We never created a bond for gym leaders, but in Black/White they actually managed to do that for us once. The trials gave us time to interact with the trial captains and know just who they are, and in some cases we could even barge into their home life and battle them. This is the same with the kahunas as there are only four, and they all made some sort of impact to the overall story and post-game story. I can’t say anything about the villainous characters, but they were written really well.
But, I can say that I love Lillie. She’s…an absolute angel. I get so angry when I see people call Lillie a weak character and I couldn’t disagree more. I find her a very strong character and she had a fantastic growth that I just felt so proud of her! I love her! She’s became one of my favorite Pokemon characters next to N (do you see a pattern here?). But I also really love Hau and Gladion and I just want to take these three children and just hug them really tight. I also hate that people hate on Hau because there’s nothing to hate about this kid. He’s just a kid with an enthusiasm that’s contagious, who supports you and also battles you along the way, and he’s so kind that it’s hard to hate him. I know people don’t like him because he’s not a true “rival” (tho I disagree), but I just think that’s a silly reason. Hau also has some growth for himself and he’s just so likeable. In general, the story does extremely well with its characters.
I’m going to keep it short and say that Sun/Moon is the best-looking Pokemon game that we’ve ever gotten. It helps that Alola is beautiful itself, but the game’s scenic shots made it so nice. Unlike X/Y we have full character models and thankfully the walking grid is gone so we can actually move around any way we want. Facial expressions, body language, and different camera shots are used a lot in the cutscenes and they’re done so well that they add to the story. Unfortunately our trainer character is stuck with the default :) face so some scenes look a little silly.
Now modes were added such as Poke Pelago. It’s a place where the Pokemon in our PC boxes visit islands, and each are different. At first I didn’t really care for it, but after I learned more about it and developed more islands, it actually became pretty useful and fun. Also, I’m happy knowing that the Pokes in my PC box aren’t bored and sad.
The Festival Plaza is a new feature where you can play little games with people around the world in order to get points and use them to purchase items in the shops you have there. When you increase the rank of your plaza, you can add different shops. You can interact with all kinds of people and request battles and trades with certain people if they allow it. This is also where you can also do the online services like trading and battling, which is what I mostly do. But the plaza is also where you can dye your clothes, which is another thing I do a lot.
We have Battle Royal, which I don’t think it’s too big a deal. I actually like playing Battle Royal more against people online than in the actual Arena. It’s a fun mode and it’s a nice change in the way of battling, but I found it didn’t change too much, and if you want you can just completely ignore it and nothing about the game will change.
Character customization continues again this generation. Again we can choose which character model of which skin color we want, though I’ll be picky and say from the start that I wish we had more choices. Of course this is just me. I don’t necessarily make my trainer look like myself, though I try, so I try to pick the model with my skin color. Though I was stuck between the second and third models because I’m neither of those, but a combo of those. But I picked the third model because playing the game with brown skin is awesome, and I’m sort of tanned. I just wish we had maybe one more lighter tan option.
As for the rest, again we can change our hairstyle. One gripe I have about the styles is that we have no idea how they look, and the only way we can find out is paying and then checking the result. And if we don’t like it? Gotta spend more money again. The hairstyles we have, at least for the females, I liked and I also liked the colors. Though again I wish we had more options with hair color. Just gives us all the colors! You unlock more colors and hairstyles after you beat the game, but giving us the option of knowing how they look before we buy the haircut and color would be nice.
A new feature added is contact lenses and lipstick for females. This was welcome and I had fun picking which eye color and lip color to use to make my trainer more cute. Of course, the way to see a lipstick/eye color is to go into the dressing room, pick one, then have your trainer walk out. If you don’t like it, then you have to repeat all this and it actually takes awhile. Like with the hairstyles, I would like it if you could just switch around with the eye and lip colors instead of having to pick and wait.
As for clothes, thankfully you don’t need to reach a certain level of “style” to purchase any. Matching with the region, most of the clothes choices are tank tops, shorts, and skirts. But the options are a little dull with the colors, with the same colors in every store. Having the same tank/shorts combo can get pretty boring after awhile, but you can try your best to pick a good outfit. Also, you don’t have to wear a hat. You can wear hair accessories too, which is a plus.
One HUGE change in this game are the fact that there are NO HMs. That’s right, none. Because we have Ride Pokemon. We can surf with a Lapras or Sharpedo, break rocks with Tauros, and fly anywhere we want with a Charizard. Usual HM moves from before are now TMs or moves that some Pokemon can learn naturally. I was surprised to see my Pikipek learn Rock Smash on its own. No longer will you have to pick a Pokemon to become your slave and have them learn dumb HM moves, only to put them away when you no longer need them. It’s a wonderful change and I hope they do this again because HMs suck. Also, it’s fun to see your 11 year old trainer ride on the back of a Tauros smashing rocks. A big positive!
And lastly, another feature added was the Poke Finder. Really, this was probably the most underwhelming add-in. You don’t really do anything with the Poke Finder other than just take pictures for fun. The pictures don’t really add to anything and they’re not important, and if you want, you don’t have to take pictures at all. Sure it’s another way to fall in love with Alola’s scenery, but the low frames while taking pictures and the only 3D in the game looking a little iffy, it’s okay to skip it if you want.
Speaking of low frames, if you have the older 3DS, there’s going to be a lot of lagging. When you play double battles, play against the Totem Pokemon, or worse when you play a Battle Royal, expect a low framerate and a lot of lagging. I have the New 3DS XL and I still have problems with the lag and framerates but not as much as people with the older models, so that’s a problem.
If you couldn’t tell, I love this game. I love it to death. My older brother stopped playing Pokemon games after Diamond because he got tired of the same gameplay the games had. I managed to persuade him about Sun/Moon but was surprised to know how into it he got from just the trailers. Visiting him on Christmas today, I found out he finished the game and that he loved it, and what he specifically loved was that this game took things from the old and added a new twist to it to make it original, and he was all for it. He had lots of fun with the game and I was glad. Game Freak did a wonderful job changing its style a little bit, but not too much. It was the perfect amount of change that made Pokemon veterans happy, while also still remaining open to newcomers and people that haven’t played the games in awhile. Seeing how happy I was with the game, and seeing how happy my brother was with it too made me realize that Game Freak did good.
If I haven’t made it obvious enough, I love Pokemon Sun/Moon and people really need to play it. It has a wonderful story and characters are full of heart. The game is engaging and fun and even though I’ve finished the game and (I think) did all the post game stuff, I’m still playing it and having fun. Just…play this game! Get it! It’s great! Alola!