Well it's been about a month since Pokemon Sun & Moon wowed the gaming community with its Hawaiian influenced theme and I've spent a pretty good chunk of my personal time playing it over that month in order to get a good feel for the game. Although, with all of the hype that built up over the month before its release, was it wise to present nearly all of the game's features beforehand? Did the hype kill the game before its launch? Well let's see if the drastic changes that were made to the series formula with these two games were what the series needed in order to stay fresh.
First of all, all of the game's battle mechanics are the same as they've always been: Your and your opponent's pokemon take turns attacking each other until only one is still fit to fight; there is the usual pokemon type match-up system where certain types are weak to or strong against certain other types; and there is the 3 starting pokemon that you have to choose one of being of fire, water, or grass in element. So with all of this formulaic stuff that has been virtually unchanged since the series beginning back in 1996, what makes this one so special? Well let me tell you because it's actually a pretty significant alteration.
Unlike the previous 6 generations of Pokemon games, Sun & Moon do not have gym battles or a Pokemon League. Instead of gym battles, "Island Trials" exist in their place where you must complete a unique task presented to you by a trial captain and then fight a special boss fight with a "Totem Pokemon" which has the ability to permanently boost one or more of its stats before a battle starts and can summon a fixed number of pokemon to help it fight. And if that wasn't enough, after you finish each trial on the island, you then need to fight the island's strongest trainer, called the Kahuna, who was specifically chosen by that island's guardian deity or "Tapu." This provides a much needed change of pace and it keeps it from getting stale too quickly.
Now when a trial captain or Kahuna is defeated, you are presented with a Z-Crystal as a reward for successfully completing the challenge. This is where the game's new battle mechanic is introduced: Z-Moves. These crystals have the ability to greatly boost the ability of the moves that your pokemon has available, assuming the move's type matches the type of the crystal AND for only one time per match. This adds an unusual new kind of strategy to the game that makes it battles much more interesting and more stressful if you don't expect them to happen. I especially like Z-Splash because it makes the original move no longer useless.
In addition to Z-Moves, a new battle style called Battle Royal is introduced where 4 trainers with 3 pokemon each face each other in a no holds barred competition to see who knocks out the most pokemon before one trainer loses all three of their fighters. This is a very interesting inclusion to the series and I would love to see it expanded upon in future installments of the series. While we're at it, another thing from this game that I want to see return in a future installment are the ride pokemon which completely replace HM moves from the previous games. HM moves were moves that you could teach your pokemon that allowed you to better traverse the world map. This was extremely annoying and I'm so glad this game got rid of them.
Now as for the villains this time around, what pokemon game would be complete without an evil crime syndicate for the player to face? Well things feel a bit more realistic this time around as Team Skull isn't your usual villainous affair. All members, with the exception of Guzma, are all trainers that attempted the Island Trials when they were of age, but bailed when it started to overwhelm them. It makes them feel more believable and pitiable this time around. It is a very nice touch overall.
Now the one feature that enjoyed the most about this game was the Poke Pelago. After you get the ability to fly to anywhere you've already been, you can visit this place at any time from the pause menu and I don't think I've ever been this enthralled before by a feature that feels like a mobile game. All of Poke Pelago is based around waiting for various actions to finish and it usually takes around 24-48 hours for anything to get done, but the beauty about it is the multitasking. It streamlines everything that was annoying about the previous generations into this compact waiting game system. While that sounds bad at first, I love it so much because of the ability to train and level up pokemon WHILE THE GAME IS OFF. As someone who rarely has time to play through RPG's any more, this feature was sorely needed.
Now I know I've only touched upon a fraction of the game's content in this article, but if I were to cover absolutely everything this game had to offer, we'd be here all day. I mean, I didn't even touch upon the Alolan form pokemon, Ultra Beasts, or the Aether Foundation, but I think that's best left to be experienced yourself. All in all while it isn't completely perfect, I haven't been into a Pokemon game this much since Pokemon Diamond on the original DS. The music is quite catchy, the graphics are splendid to look at, the battle mechanics and new game modes are top notch, and the story starts to get wonderfully dark toward the end of the third act. I give this game very high praise and I hope this marks the start of a new trend of mixing up the Pokemon formula every once and a while. So until next time, I'll be seeing you.
Edited by OctHarm