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Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon are finally here. The hotly-anticipated titles are the first new games in the series since 2013’s X and Y. As the most pre-ordered games in Nintendo’s history, it’s safe to say that Pokémon fever is high as ever.
Sun and Moon break from the series’ traditions enough to set themselves apart, but some of the new features actually end up making the game feel too easy for experienced players. Let’s jump into the games and see if you should take a trip with these titles.
I played about 17 hours of Moon, passed five trials, and defeated two Kahunas to receive eight of the Z-crystals. I also caught around 30 Pokémon and raised several Pokémon to level 35–40.
Story and Basics
Sun and Moon continue the Pokémon tradition of launching two games with slight differences. Of course, there are a handful of monsters that you can only catch in either version, and the legendary Pokémon (on the cover) are different. The trials also differ slightly between games.
Here are the version exclusives from both games!!
Posted cause it's to help y'all decide what version you want & has no spoilers IMO. pic.twitter.com/gvwlw8T4ni
— Kahuna Vishwa (@DecidueyeX) November 10, 2016
Moon is also unique in that its in-game time is the inverse of real time. Playing at 3 PM means it’s 3 AM in-game. Players who are only able to play at night might appreciate the time shift.
The games take place in Alola, a tropical setting similar to Hawaii. Your character has just moved to Alola with his/her mother, and decides to take on the Island Challenge, a tradition in the area.
Instead of gym leaders, Alola’s islands have Captains that put trainers through various trials. One trial has you looking for hidden items to make a stew, while another asks you to watch Pokémon dance twice and spot the difference. Each trial caps off with a battle against a Totem Pokémon.
These huge monsters are beefed-up versions of regular Pokémon. New to Sun and Moon is the ability for wild Pokémon to call in allies, which the Totem monsters do regularly. Essentially, these serve as boss battles, and rely on you mastering type matchups to make quick work of the scary foes.
These are a nice break from the gyms of previous games, but they aren’t vastly different. Some trials simply involve finding and battling a set number of wild Pokémon, while others last for less than five minutes before you hit the Totem battle.
Each time you finish all trials on an island, you battle against its Kahuna before moving to the next one. These one-on-one brawls are reminiscent of gym leader battles from older games.
Every trial you clear awards you a Z-Crystal of a certain move type. When held by a Pokémon, these allow it to use a super-powerful move of that type once per battle. While these moves aren’t that exciting after seeing them a few times, they do demand some strategy in deciding which crystals go to which Pokémon.
The World of Pokémon
Sun and Moon follow the pattern set by the previous games in mixing old and new creatures into the wild. From the start, you aren’t limited to seeing only Pokémon from this generation, which means you can bring some old favorites to your team.
Alola also features alternate versions of classic Pokémon like Ratata and Meowth. Aside from new looks, these Alolan forms also take a different type, so you might need some new strategies against old foes.
Some Pokémon staples were adjusted in Sun and Moon. For instance, you’re no longer required to use HMs (hidden machines) to teach Pokémon moves that help you get progress through the field. Instead, you get a summoning whistle. This lets you call Charizard to return to previous locations (Fly) or Tauros to break through boulders (Rock Smash). Since this means you don’t have to carry around a designated HM Pokémon all the time, it’s a welcome change.
There’s not much of a plot in this generation aside from the Island Challenge. You do have a friend who’s trying to help a Pokémon return to its home, and Team Skull fulfills the bad guy role. Unlike past Pokémon gangs who all wanted to dominate the world, Team Skull seems annoying just for the heck of it.
These goons steal people’s Pokémon and try to cause chaos for no particular reason. What’s more, they are incredibly cringe-inducing whenever they show up. The corny hip-hop theme, along with their “homie” movements and tendency to end every sentence with “yo” makes Skull almost a joke instead of a threat.
While these new features and changes are great, if you’ve played a Pokémon game before, you’ll know mostly what to expect. Sun and Moon still want you to catch all the Pokémon to fill out your Pokedex, battle trainers to raise and evolve your Pokémon, and become the best Trainer ever.
Even though they’re on 3DS, Sun and Moon sadly include little in the way of 3D effects. A small distraction called the Poke Finder, which tasks you with taking pictures of wild Pokémon at specific times, does use 3D. However, these moments are scarce, so you’re better off playing with the 3D slider off to save battery.
Aside from this, the graphics look solid despite the 3DS’s aging hardware. Pokémon battles are fully fleshed out, with backgrounds matching your current area and unique animations for each move. The graphics won’t blow anyone away — some textures look a bit scaly up close, even on a New 3DS XL. For the most part, though, the game is great to look at.
The music is a high point. Alola’s tropical setting brings plenty of catchy tunes. You’ll find everything from remixes of classics, like in Pokémon Centers and trainer battles, to new tunes that play in cities. We wouldn’t be surprised if you found yourself tapping your toe to the music often.
One of the biggest points that stuck out to us during the review was how easy this game is. Pokémon has never been insanely difficult, but has required forward thinking in building your team to adapt to any situations. Sun and Moon, while certainly paving an easier road for beginners, might go a bit overboard.
A highlight of these titles is the new Pokémon Refresh, which lets you feed and pet your team to bond with them. It’s a cool feature, as it’s available at any time, and your team performs better the closer you are with them. However, Refresh includes a medicine ability that can heal any status effect for free. This makes medicines, like Paralyze Heal, almost useless unless you need to use them in a battle.
Every Pokémon game lets you pick a starter Pokémon of Grass, Fire, or Water type. In every other game, no matter what you pick, your rival always picks the one that’s strong against your choice. In Sun and Moon, your rival picks the Pokémon that’s weak against your starter. This makes battling him much less of a threat.
Other small points continue to subtract from the difficulty. Technical Machines (TMs) that teach moves have unlimited uses, instead of just one like previous games. Once you’ve fought a Pokémon, you’re able to see which moves are super effective or not very effective against it instead of learning that for yourself. The Experience Share item gives full XP to the Pokémon you’re battling with and rewards partial XP to your whole team, even if they don’t fight.
Even hours into the game, it can still feel like you’re playing a tutorial. Players constantly give you items, and play stops a lot for explanations and cutscenes. In towns, typically every route except the one you have to take is blocked. Even on short routes between towns, random people will heal your Pokémon so you don’t have to go back to the Pokémon Center. The map provides a marker for your next objective at all times.
Thankfully, the player can adjust most of these for a tougher experience. You can refuse to use the medicine in Refresh, and turn off Experience Share to keep from leveling up too quickly. During our time with the game, we rarely had trouble with a battle, so consider making these changes for a more even experience.
Are Sun and Moon Worth Playing?
From the pre-release hype, we went into Sun and Moon expecting tons of differences from past games. While you certainly shouldn’t fix something that isn’t broken, Sun and Moon don’t start any major revolutions in the Pokémon universe. Aside from the trials (which are decent, but not phenomenal) taking over gym battles, the new Z-crystal moves, and the alternate Pokémon forms, a lot of what’s on offer in these titles is familiar.
However, don’t let this distract from the fact that Sun and Moon are great games. While you won’t find a lot of sidequests, there’s a lot to play with if you want to fill out your Pokedex, raise Pokémon to level 100, and battle online. We enjoyed our time with the game, but it didn’t completely blow us away.
The Verdict — Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon provide a good time, and if you’re a Pokémon fan, you’ll definitely want to pick one up. Just know that the core experience is on the easy side, and don’t expect any earth-shattering changes. If you’re never played a Pokémon game or only know Pokémon Go, these titles provide a great starting point, but they aren’t the best games in the series.
Have you played Pokémon Sun or Moon? What do you think about the game, and what Pokémon are in your team? Share with us in the comments!