Pokémon Sun and Moon have been out for a couple days now, and I think I’m ready to give the internet some early thoughts. I’ve only played about 7 hours of Moon and beaten the first island’s trials, but I’m still picking up what this game is putting down.
I’ll break my review down into a few sections: The world, the Pokémon, the island challenge, and other new features!
Alola is the breath of fresh air of Pokémon regions. It is a tropical world based off of Hawaii and is similarly made up of several islands. Previous regions have all been large landmasses with the occasional island, so Alola mixes that pattern up. The architecture and various island features make the Hawaiian inspiration obvious with the palm trees, wooden structures, tribal details, totem decor, and vibrant color schemes.
Additionally, the proportions in Alola–of both the world and the characters–are much more realistic. The chibi-style animation of characters is completely gone, and the camera angles have a more cinematic feel to them. Bye-bye, 24/7 top-down view!
All that said, Alola still very much feels like a Pokémon region. There are remote towns, big cities, numbered routes, tall grass, Pokémon Centers, caves… you get the picture. Alola is beautiful but doesn’t do anything to revolutionize Pokémon regions.
Obviously the Pokémon are a huge focal point of, ya know, Pokémon games, so Nintendo put a lot of thought into what creatures would populate the world of Alola. So far I’ve ran into several Gen 1 Pokés, some as their new Alolan variations, and quite a few new Gen 7 ones. Speaking of, the Alolan variations were such a good idea. Promotion to the guy who thought of that one, please!
Gen 7 Pokémon have mildly impressed me so far. For my starter, I ended up going with Rowlet, the Grass/ Flying-type owl, who I’ve enjoyed having on my team. However, his lack of speed is a bummer (shouldn’t an owl be fast?!), and his moves haven’t really blown me away yet. My favorite wild Pokémon I’ve caught has been Cutiefly, a little yellow Bug/ Fairy-type with some great moves. She doesn’t look like much, but she’s been a great battle asset. Other new Pokémon I’ve seen online look pretty awesome, and I can’t wait to find more of them!
The Island Challenge
The island challenge, arguably the biggest new feature to hit Pokémon Sun and Moon, has replaced the classic Pokémon gym battle system. In previous games, you traveled across the region beating the Pokémon in eight gyms before challenging the Elite Four. In Alola, however, you have to complete trials on each island before battling the island’s kahuna, who is basically a gym leader. The kahuna has a team based on a certain type and, instead of giving you a gym badge, presents you with a Z-Crystal when you beat them. These crystals can be held by Pokémon to supercharge certain types of moves, a different type for each crystal.
I think most people can agree that we were over gym battles. These trials take place all over the islands and require you to reach different kinds of goals instead of simply battling a bunch of trainers. It’s new and refreshing but won’t throw you off and make you rethink Pokémon.
Fun New Features
What really makes Pokémon Sun and Moon for me are the new smaller features Nintendo has added. I’ll briefly cover the ones I’ve been exposed to.
While the battle system is basically the same, you can now physically see the effects of stat-altering moves on all Pokémon. Just click on a Poké’s icon on the bottom screen, and you’ll see all its stats. Up-arrows show when a stat has been increased during battle, and down-arrows show when a stat has been decreased. This really helps you keep up with where everyone’s stats are. Also in battle, you can now see what moves will be effective (or not so effective) against an enemy if you’ve seen that Pokémon in battle before. Much more convenient than having to pull that type advantage chart out every other battle.
Wild Pokémon can now call for help during battles, which can make things more difficult and interesting. This is a much better alternative to the horde battles X and Y threw at you.
Pokémon Refresh is a tweaked version of the care-and-feed mini game Pokémon Aime from X and Y. Using Refresh makes your Pokémon more affectionate toward you, which increases their battle strength. You also sometimes have the option to “care” for your Poké here after battle, where you clean them and cure any status conditions, like paralysis, without using healing items. Much obliged.
Another thing we can all agree to be thankful for: No. More. HMs. In previous games, you had to teach certain HMs like Cut and Surf to your Pokémon in order to access new areas. But most of the time, you didn’t like the move in battle or even the Pokémon you taught it to. In SuMo, you can use Ride Pokémon to get around to new areas once you’ve befriended them. Then, you can dismiss them when you’re done riding them. No need to keep useless Pokémon with useless moves on your team anymore!
I really like Pokémon Sun and Moon. They’re great additions to the mainline Pokémon series that bring in new features, tweak existing ones, and toss old ones right out the window. I’m thankful for everything SuMo is doing, but like I’ve said, it’s nothing revolutionary. The game feels fresh, but it’s not doing anything to make me super stoked about where Pokémon is going. I mean, the Zelda series is going completely open-world soon, which changes a lot of what we’ve always known Zelda games to be. Maybe the rest of the game will change my mind, but I think Pokémon needs to head in more innovative direction in order to keep players engaged and excited. And I would definitely be excited to see it head in an open-world direction…
Here’s a Let’s Play video on my YouTube channel!