Review: Pokémon Moon (3DS)
The wait is over, the next generation of Pokémon is not just upon us, but available with a
click tap of a button (and about R600). It’s the seventh generation of a long line of successful Pokémon games, but is the flame still there or is it running out of steam? One big criticism of the games over the years is the lack of change from the usual formula. Up until now, it looked as if many major changes were made to the game. How does it hold up, and is change good? Let’s see…
Welcome to Alola
A new location, a new Professor, a new rival and a whole lot of new Pokémon awaits you in the four islands of the Alola region. It’s a tropical paradise that’s inspired by Hawaii in more ways than one. Not only does it look the part, but many of its residents, Pokémon and sounds are all in some way influenced by the tropical theme. You start out as a young trainer who recently moved to Alola from Kanto (that’s the region from the Red/Blue/Yellow series of games) with his mother, and are quickly introduced to the locals, including the new professor, Kukui.
You’re quickly thrust into the world of Pokémon training once you’re given your starter Pokémon, including Popplio, Litten or Rowlet (he’s the little one I chose for my playthrough). After that, your main objective, at least until the story picks up, is to complete the seven Island Trials and defeat the four Kahunas. I won’t spoil anymore as the story is quite easy to figure out, but I will say this, Game Freak is trying really hard to ramp up the storytelling in the Pokémon games. Do I think Sun and Moon’s story is stellar? No, but it’s not bad. The main villain isn’t as well thought out as previous villains, but I did enjoy the closeness of the main characters. Unlike X and Y, all the characters felt important in Sun and Moon, so I’ll give them that.
So what’s different this time round?
A lot actually, like, a lot. The first is the complete removal of Gyms and Gym Leaders. They’re essentially replaced by the Island Captains and their trials, and the four main Kahuna. Each of the four islands has a variety of challenges, called the trials. These usually include some silly objective, like defeating certain monsters or collecting items. At the end, you need to fight a Totem Pokémon, which is basically a toughened up regional Pokémon. Once all trials on the island are complete you can challenge the Kahuna, which is the equivalent of a gym leader. I wouldn’t say it’s tougher than the usual gym leaders, but it’s more interactive and gives you a new appreciation for each region.
Another welcomed change is the vanquishing of the Hidden Machines or HMs for short. In the past, these ugly moves were used to halt progress. If you’ve played Pokémon before, you’ll know exactly how frustrating it was to keep an HM slave to cut trees or break rocks. Now you can summon riders which act as HM moves. For example, you can summon a Tauros to break rocks, a Lapras to surf, Charizard to fly and more.
Some might be disappointed that the turn-based combat is still the same, but I highly doubt that it will change in the future. What has changed battle-wise is the new SOS system. Sometimes a weakened wild Pokémon will call for an ally, turning a one-on-one into a two-on-one fight. While it sounds frustrating, chaining these calls can increase your chance of catching a shiny type or getting a Pokémon with perfect IVs. It’s invigorating and can prove quite a challenge if it carries on for long.
One feature that was also missing was the 3D. It seems that the developers couldn’t quite fix the frame rate issue so they abandoned it in this game.
So many new features you’d think the kitchen sink is one of them
Pokémon Sun and Moon is brimming with new ideas, content, and improvements to existing content. For starters, the Pokemonamie system (the Pokemon grooming app thing) is now called Pokémon Refresh. Unlike the previous version, this one is far quicker to use and is quite useful. Refresh allows you to cure status afflictions after battle, such as paralysis and poison. It also improves the bond with your monsters. The next inclusion is the addition the Festival Plaza. This is the online hub of the game. You’ll do all of your online battling and trading here, as well as compete in minor challenges for your plaza. It’s a great time waster and a much better use of the online features.
Another welcomed feature is the Poke Pelago, which is a haven for all the *forgotten* Pokémon sitting in your PC. Think of it as Farmville. You can send your creatures to a variety of mini islands to do various tasks, like grow berries, dig for items or to train. It’s a great use for Pokémon that aren’t in your team. You can even recruit wild Pokémon from time to time.
Z-moves are an unwelcomed distraction
Now for my unwelcomed bits. I might be on the fringe with this, but I don’t quite get the introduction of the Z-moves. It’s very silly and isn’t quite as useful as you’d think. Each generation, other than gen 1, introduces a new gimmick. Gen 2 had day/night cycles; Gen 3 had abilities; Gen 4 had alternate evolutions; Gen 5 had seasons and Gen 6 Mega evolutions. Sun and Moon, however, has Power Ranger attack dance moves. After the initial “OMG, that looked cool” moment wears off, after using a Z-move a few times, I barely used them. It can only be used once in a battle and a Pokémon needs to be holding the required stone for you to perform the move. In a competitive sense, it’s wasteful as the Pokémon could be holding a more useful item.
What did Alola do to Kanto Pokemon!?
Next are the Alolan-Kanto Pokémon. Most of them look stupid. Alolan Dugtrio looks like an ad for shampoo. Grimer and Muk’s colouring is dreadful, Exeggutor is even more ridiculous than normal and Raticate looks extremely bloated. The good news is, some of the designs of the new Pokémon are actually pretty good. The final versions of the starter Pokémon are quite impressive, but I actually really love the other local Pokémon like Salazzle, Tsareena, Araquinid, Ribombee, Lunala and Mareanie. There are some hiccups, though, like Bruxish, Bewear, Yungoos and Charjabug.
It doesn’t include the longest list of new monsters, but does include some of the most inventive. The new legendaries are interesting and the Ultra Beasts are also quite awesome.
In closing, Pokémon Sun and Moon includes many welcome and useful new features. It has a beautiful locale and is brimming with content. It took me over 30 hours to finish the main campaign, and I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of completing my dex. There’s post-game content galore and a total of 801 new Pokémon to catch. No one can say that there isn’t enough to do in this game.