I need sleep. After 46 hours of training, battling, trading, and talking (sooooo much talking), I have finally finished Pokémon Sun. I need a lot of sleep. Pokémon has been a passion of mine (yes, I said passion) since Red and Blue got their North American release in 1997, when I was 7 years old. Since that day, I have collected cards and toys, beaten every game, and logged countless hours throwing Pokéballs at sprites in the hopes of catching them all. I had a whole collection of cards burned by a spiteful ex-girlfriend only to piece that collection back together over the years. I lost my Blue Version with a complete Pokédex but never lost hope. I am a Pokémon nerd. That’s why, when Pokémon Sun and Moon were announced, I was one of the first to pre-order the steel book on Amazon and I have enjoyed almost every second since.
I’ll start by saying that this iteration of Pokemon games jam-packed with a ton of content into a little cartridge. Tired of training? Go to Poke Pelego. Tired of that? Go to Festival Plaza. Tired of Festival Plaza? Hit up Wonder Trade or the Battle Café. There are countless options this time around aside from the story line. You also have some very pleasant landscapes to accompany you on your travels through the Alola Region. Gamefreak has also made some huge changed to the core foundation of the series with the removal things like HMs and Gym Leaders but I’ll get to that in a minute. First let me set the scene.
I’m the Captain Now
You’re the new kid in Alola, a new region made up of 4 islands, coming all the way from Kanto, the land of Ash Ketchum. You meet Professor Kukui and your rival and softie, Hau. You get your starter Pokémon (#TeamRowlet) and you are set on your way to defeat trials, captains, and Kahunas. This is the first major departure for the series: Alola does not have conventional Gym Leaders. Instead, each island has one or more trials that you must complete. Trials are minor tasks that might be rewarded with a Z-Crystal, which I will get to later. You then get the opportunity to challenge the Trial Captain. These are like mini Gym Leaders who can also award you a Z-Crystal and let you progress through the story. Then, once the trials and captains are taken care of, you face the Kahuna, the leader of the island who’s also kind of like a gym leader but less challenging. He will also give you a Z-Crystal. Here is where things change a little more.
Crystal Powers Activate!
Z-Crystals give you the chance to use a special move once per battle as long as the Pokémon holding it has a move that matches the crystal. If you give Electrium Z to a Pikachu that knows electric moves, it can use a move called Gigavolt Havoc. These attacks do much more damage than a normal move and are specific to each attack type and crystal. They don’t take up a move slot so you are free to train how you please, and even more so than in previous games thanks to the next huge change: HMs have been removed.
Yes, you heard me right. HMs, or Hidden Machines, were moves that let you do things like surf, fly, move big rocks, or cut down trees. In Sun and Moon you are given an item called a Ride Pager to call partner Pokémon to carry out these functions. You get a Charizard to fly and a Lapras to swim, plus many more Pokémon to carry out other tasks. These Pokémon cannot be used in battle but they leave room for you to teach your monsters moves that matter instead of having to waste a slot on something like Flash. This got me excited because I love being able to have a solid team all the way through the game. In previous versions, I had to use one monster as HM fodder and bank him because he would be useless in battle. Then when I needed him, I’d have to go all the way to the closest Pokémon Center and deposit a useful Pokémon, pull out my HM guy, finish the task, then deposit him to get out the one that actually matters. This took a ton of time, so thank you Gamefreak for finding a way around that. But good changes are almost always countered by new annoyances. While Sun and Moon was nearly the perfect game Pokémon fans had been awaiting, it had a couple noticeable disappointments.
A New Challenge Awaits
I’ll preface this by saying when it comes to Pokémon games, I’m a completionist. I love a nice, full Pokédex. This current gen made me at times want to unplug my Majora’s Mask 3DS and throw it all the way to Japan… and that’s a very long way away. Spawn rates this time around are dismal. For example, Mimikyu is one of the creative new Ghost Pokémon. Creepy ghost, dresses in a poorly drawn Pikachu costume, what’s not to like? Oh wait! The hour I had to run around an abandoned supermarket to find it! There are sections I gave up on completing because I would spend 45 minutes or so waiting to run into a certain Pokémon and it just wouldn’t happen.
When I did finally get a low spawn rate monster to appear, it could be a super bitch to catch. Beldum was a level 21 when I ran into him. Rad, I didn’t have a Steel Psychic type and I was super pumped to get one. I got him down to what looked like 5 HP and he called a friend – that’s a new thing wild Pokémon can do now, call in other Pokémon to create a 2-on-1 advantage for the enemy. I dispatched the help and went back to my target. And he killed himself. He ran out of all usable moves, broke out of every ball I threw (47 Ultra Balls), and struggled himself to death. Post-game, I have caught legendary Pokemon more easily than I have caught some of the rare spawns. But hey, I did get a shiny Mudbray without trying about 6 hours into the game, so there’s that I guess.
Day and night cycles also reappear and have a purpose. Certain Pokémon will now spawn more or less frequently depending on the time of day. There are also evolution lines that depend solely on whether you level up during the day or at night, and not just Umbreon and Espeon. This is pretty cool; I like this. There are also Alolan forms of old Pokémon. For example, Vulpix makes a return but is now Ice type and looks like it is made of snow. It’s a pretty neat way to bring old Pokémon back while changing them up a little bit.
But Wait, There’s More!
Like the previous few games, Sun and Moon have some extra side content that you can do if you want to break away from the main game for a minute. Poké Pelego is a new feature that you can use to get items or help your Pokémon train. It uses one of the new currencies (called PokéBeans) to develop several islands in your Pelego, each with a different purpose. There is an island to harvest more beans, one to train your monsters, another to grow and harvest berries, and a couple more with some neat features to help you in the main game. There is also the Festival Plaza.
Festival Plaza lets you interact with other players around you in real life or through the internet to perform tasks and earn coins, which can be spent on items to use in the main game. You can also quickly trade through the Plaza – gone are the days of going to a Pokémon Center to trade or battle with a friend. Earn enough coins and your plaza will be upgraded, allowing you access to more shops to get new unique and rare items. You also get the opportunity to take part in global missions where trainers from around the world work together to complete a common goal and reap the rewards.
Pokémon Amie has been replaced by a feature called Pokémon Refresh, which is basically the same thing but it can also be used directly after battle. What’s unique this time is that you can clear status conditions like Poison and Burn by taking care of your partner right after the battle ends. This saves items and also raises your friendship level with the Pokémon on your team, which can be super useful when training a ‘mon that evolves when its friendship maxes out.
It Wants To Be The Very Best
Aside from the few missteps – and I don’t even know if you can call them missteps – Pokémon Sun and Moon are incredibly well orchestrated, beautifully designed, and thoughtfully planned. My wife has told me there is too much talking in the game, but I love story so I really don’t mind the dialogue. Yes, the game overall is more challenging, but isn’t that the point? Shouldn’t games strive to make you work harder at beating them with each iteration?
There is quite a bit of extra content after the main story and you always have to take that extra time to complete the Pokédex or hunt for that shiny that you have been hoping for, so you won’t be left trying to find things to do. Even though the game is not perfect, Pokémon Sun (and Moon) cements itself as a more than deserving entry in the long line of games that make up the historic franchise. Now if you’ll excuse me, my DS is fully charged and I have work to do!
- New Ride Pager System
- Fresh Soundtrack
- Very Easy to Navigate
- New Trial and Captain System
- Frustrating Spawn and Capture Rates