One of the issues with popular series is figuring out how to change things, without ruining what makes them special. Often times this results in companies making minor changes and in the case of Pokemon, it was expanding the basic concept. For years we’ve seen the idea and depth of Pokemon expand well beyond its humble beginnings, but the core game has remained the same. Pokemon X and Y challenged some of these ideas, but it was still largely the same. With the release of Pokemon Sun and Moon, these concepts are further tested, but will this pay off or will it destroy what makes Pokemon special?
Since the beginning Pokemon has followed the concept so closely that the stories, while different, have a lot of the same beats. You’re young and just starting your adventure, you get your starter and learn you need to challenge gym leaders to prove your worth, leading up to a final confrontation with the elite four. Along the way there is usually a bumbling somewhat criminal group that plays some role in the story, which you inadvertently stop on your quest to find legendary pokemon, become the best or just through random chance. Pokemon Sun and Moon doesn’t offer a lot of changes, but it offers a different, arguably better, story experience.
On paper all the core concepts remain intact. You still have a rival, there is a criminal group, the story leads to a final confrontation with the elite four and you need to defeat specific trainers to prove your worth. The changes come in how Pokemon Sun and Moon approaches these concepts.
Instead of a competitive rivalry, filled with feelings of being the best, it’s instead portrayed as a fun competition to measure ones advancement. Gym leaders have been replaced with trials, which are not entirely different, but offer you more challenges to overcome, reflecting how Pokemon has evolved over the years. But the best change comes in the form of how the story is told.
The story is comprised of two storylines. One where you complete trials to become the best trainer and another where you help Lillie and her Cosmog, Nebby. For most of the game Lillie’s story takes priority and ultimately steers the story. Through this story you meet a legendary pokemon, defeat the antagonist and uncover most of the islands secrets, but after the climatic final showdown the story continues. Much to the credit of Pokemon Sun and Moon, the story is as much about you becoming the best trainer as defeating the antagonist and keeping the island safe, which is why the decision to introduce the elite four following the stories climax is so nice. Even the way it is integrated is the perfect cap to Lillie’s story and introduction to the final arc.
Besides changing the basic story, Pokemon Sun and Moon offers lot of welcome changes. Arguably the best change is the removal of the hidden machine (HM) system. Instead of having to obtain, give and then rely on party members to open up paths and transverse obstacles, the new transportation system simplifies the process.
Throughout the game you’ll gain the ability to ride various Pokemon. In addition to replacing the outdated bike, these Pokemon have the ability to interact and change things around you. Tauros can change to break rocks, Machamp can move heavy objects, Charizard lets you fly to places you’ve already visited, with Lapris offering swim and a couple others. The nice thing is that you no longer need a dedicated pokemon to do these things, plus you always have access to their skills. There will never be a time when you found something to cut, but the only pokemon that can use it is in the bank.
Making full use of the 3DS’ additional power, the combat system sees a number of improvements. Keeping in line with previous titles, the combat system is far more engaging by offering attack animations, special effects and other details. You can also fight multiple pokemon at once, offering a greater challenge. Pokemon types are also the most diverse they’ve ever been, offering more options and greater depth. For those who can’t keep up with all the types, rules and elements, once you’ve fought a pokemon once it will tell you which moves are effective, super effective, not very effective and no effect, but these aren’t the only improvements to the combat system.
Now certain pokemon have innate abilities that alter the way you play and approach a situation. For instance Magnemite has sturdy, allowing it to withstand a powerful attack with 1 hp. This makes him ideal for a last stand or to make sure you get a hit. Other pokemon have different skills ranging from status aliments to swapping out after they’ve lost a certain amount of health. These mechanics offer various advantages and disadvantages, making it something you should definitely pay attention to.
Pokemon Sun and Moon might not reinvent the wheel, but it certainly improves the experiences. The story is engaging, with a couple of twists and turns, making it one of the most enjoyable in the series. The changes to the combat system add even more depth, with the removal of HMs being a long time coming. Combine this with nice visuals, tons of customization, various online mechanics, new places to visit and new takes on old friends and you have a must have Pokemon experience.
[Editor’s Note: Pokemon Sun and Moon was reviewed on 3DS platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]Pokemon Sun and Moon Review,