February 26, 1996 marks the debut of one of the most popular video game franchises ever made. The simplicity of a young 10-year-old child traveling across the region to catch em’ all and be the very best; Having the power to defeat the evil and nefarious Team Rocket, and learning what it really means to be a Pokemon master captivated children of all ages.
Exactly 10 years from Pokemon’s creation, Gamefreak announced the latest addition to its series: Pokemon Sun and Moon. These games were promised to be the newest, best, and most innovative of the franchise and Game Freak hasn’t disappointed their audience in the slightest.
Pokemon Sun and Moon was released on November 18, 2016. The game is a love letter to both long time fans and an accessible entry to the franchise for new fans alike. The player is thrust into a world akin to the islands of Hawaii, called Alola. Professor KuKui, the Pokemon expert of Alola, is researching the existence of Ultra beasts, powerful pokemon who appear from wormholes that randomly pop up throughout Alola.
It’s up to the player to discover the secrets surrounding not only the Ultra Beasts but to also complete the island trials and help the islanders form a pokemon league of their own.
Pokemon Sun and Moon’s story is simple, to say the least. Even the supposed twist ending comes as no surprise to young players. Though the story is simple it’s still charming, however the hand holding at the beginning of the game is not.
Seventy-nine new Pokemon were added to the game, which for Gamefreak was a relatively small amount of new creatures to catch; but they were all visually appealing.
To make up for the lack of new creatures, Gamefreak also added Alola forms for many of the original 151 pokemon. These Alola forms give older pokemon a way to fit into Alola and makes them look like they really belong in the region. The new Pokemon and Alola forms give life to the region that we haven’t seen before. Alola feels like a real place where pokemon and humans coexist happily, this is something any long time fan of the series has been craving for years. There’s nothing like taking a nap at moms house and being woken up by her adorable pet Meowth or riding on the back of a Tauros .
The battle mechanics in Pokemon Sun and Moon have been changed though these changes do nothing for the narrative or the game itself. The mega evolutions of generation six have been pushed out of the spotlight in favor of Z moves. Z moves can be obtained by finding Z crystals and equipping the crystals to your pokemon. A Z move is a special type of move that comprises both the powers of a pokemon and its trainer to unleash an attack of the added strength of pokemon and trainer. These moves however are rather useless and just feel like a cheap addition to the gameplay. Every time a Z move is activated there is a cute animation of pokemon and trainer transferring energy through dance to one another, this gets old quickly. Watching a five to ten second cut scene every time you want to use a Z move is both repetitive and boring.
The old gyms of games past has now been replaced with a trial system. An island challenge might be anything from spotting the differences in a dancing group of Marowak, or finding the ingredients to a meal. Some are humorous and others are not but almost all are interesting and shake up the franchise. Upon completing a trial you will then be confronted by a powerful totem pokemon. Fighting a Totem pokemon is the equivalent to fighting a gym battle in previous games. Totem pokemon also have a ally pokemon that you must also defeat. These are interesting battles that require the player to learn the nuances and strategy not only in normal battles but double battles as well.
Character customization goes a long way in getting any player immersed in the game play experience. The amount of clothing options in Sun and Moon are impressive including anything from athletic wear to dressing like a diva ready to strut the strip. Finally after years of fans begging, Gamefreak now allows you to take off your hat and show off your beautiful luxurious hair. While the amount of customization is welcome the glassy stare your avatar will assume for the entirety of the game can range from being comical to downright chilling. It seems out of place considering that all the other characters have faces that emote a wide range of emotions.
Pokemon Sun and Moon reminds players what it means to be a child and have wonder in the world around them. There’s nothing more awe inspiring than exploring a new region and immersing yourself in the Pokemon universe. The game changes things just enough to refresh the franchise without isolating older fans. Despite the franchise being two decades old it continues to keep childhood wonder alive.