Pokémon Sun and Moon - 3DS Review

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  • System: Nintendo 3DS
  • Publisher: The Pokémon Company
  • Developer: Game Freak
  • Release Date: November 18, 2016 (NA), November 23, 2016 (EU)
  • Price:$39.99 USD
  • Rating: E
  • Genre: RPG
  • Players: Single Player, Multiplayer Online
  • Official Website: http://www.pokemon-sunmoon.com

Who it Caters to

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Pokémon Sun and Moon’s target audience are fans of the franchise that have been following the game for many years, as well as, older fans that once played the game but stopped doing so at a certain point. An interesting marketing strategy of this game is that it caters to a slightly older audience to what the pokémon games tend to aim for; it features a slightly more difficult content compared to other main games, as well as much better graphis. Sun and Moon attracts young adults to play it with a lot of pokémon options to catch from older generations, including the newly redesigned pokémon (known as Alolan forms) from the original 151.

The Alola region also heavily refers to the Kanto region, the region many players traversed twenty years ago. Interesting enough, the strategy used to lure in older players to re-discover the pokémon world, can be applied to people coming into the game for the first time, especially children, helping them understand the variety of previous pokémon generations. Finally, Pokémon Sun and Moon pleases the hardcore game fans with a revamped region filled with change and modifications, completely breaking the norm of all previous games.

What to Expect

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Expect many familiar faces coupled with a whole lot of surprises. Not only pokémon from previous generations visit the Alola region, but so do trainers from other regions and games such as trainers like Blue, Red, Cynthia and many others. Besides taking a trip down memory lane, Pokémon Sun and Moon also features many surprises, like the disintegration of traditional Pokémon Gyms and badge system, the implementation of unconventional trials, the addition of special powers known and Z moves and the smallest of technical adjustments, but biggest game changer: pokémon mounts. Along with many new options to explore, the game went up a notch in the gameplay duration, assuring that this game has at least 30 hours of playable content (noticeably longer than previous games) before becoming boring and repetitive.

Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon—Train On #01

Story

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The story features the player's life since the first day (or night) of arrival to your new home in Melemele Island, one of the four islands that compose the Alola region. Upon your arrival, you meet the friendly Professor Kukui, who is excited to show you around town, teach you all about Alola and the Kahunas, the chosen island leaders. In Alola, the Kahunas have the responsibility of introducing new trainers to their starter pokémon but only if the pokémon agrees to come with you, unlike previous games.

After a while, you accidentally meet the professor’s enigmatic assistant, Lillie, who seems to be carrying a peculiar pokémon in her bag. Nebby, as Lillie calls the pokémon, has been the target of abuse of a mysterious organization, but Lillie feels that she alone isn't strong enough to protect Nebby and asks you to help her protect that pokémon and find its habitat of origin. Besides the mystery surrounding the peculiar pokémon, you must fight a villainous group composed of rebels known as Team Skull, complete the island trials, defeat the Kahunas, unravel the puzzle behind the pokémon Zygarde, discover the link between the so-called ultra beasts and the company Aether Foundation… all while trying to catch ‘em all!

Gameplay

Graphics

The first thing you notice from Sun and Moon is the huge jump in graphics. From chibi-landia to anatomically correct human sizes… what more can we ask for!? Even the pokémon walking around town are in their actual size. Actually yes, we could ask for more, and that is fewer pixels… even with a full-on three-dimensional world and a popping 3D capable console… the game has no interest in the third dimension or high-end graphics… but hey, compared to previous games, it's going somewhere! Slowly, but steadily.

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New Pokémon

Everybody’s loving that new Alolan Ninetales and questioning the appearance of that fugly Alolan Persian, but what about the 7th generation of pokémon? Well.. things are.. full of mixed feelings. It's one extreme to the other, either cool pokémon designs with trash for stats or good stats that have pokémon designs that look like trash. On the other hand, there was an issue with starter gender rates and pokémon clearly designed “for lols”. We’re sure that some trainers felt shame on using a good pokémon that are completely the wrong genders, like that male Primarina, or trainers that just carry not-so-good pokémon just for shits and giggles, like all the people that named their Gumshoos “Donald Trump”.

Coming across 7th gen. pokémon that actually have good stats and good looks is hard, so at least we have the legendary Tapu family to console us. Want 600 base stat points? Here's a pokémon that looks like glued pocket change, want special attack? Here's a bundle of cables with Naruto’s hair… aesthetically, 7th gen. is not the best Pokémon could have done, but at least they provided more fairy types?

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New Faces

Everyone needs to admit that from the new characters, the grunts from Team Skull are probably one of the coolest. They’re not only extremely stupid but extremely funny; surely most of us didn't really care to battle them, we just wanted to read the lame rap phrases or stupid conversations they were all having. Other outstanding characters could be your rival, Hau, who was always positive and smiling, but the few times he was serious, he kind or seemed to hate you, like when you defeat him in the Elite Four. Finally, we have the “messed up characters” like the ‘totally not emo’ Gladion; Lusamine, the mommy with serious mental issues and finally Nanu, the Kahuna that seems to represent the sarcastic thoughts of the older players.

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Z-Moves

Z-moves are kind of embarrassing at first, but they slowly grow into you. The best thing is that, even for only one turn in a battle, you have a 5th move available for one of your pokémon, so better save it for your second best pokémon, it serves as a good support in double battles for your mega-evolution pokémon. Additionally, it was kind of cool having Z-move crystals instead of badges to display in your menu, but aside some cool or funny animations, they're not as great as they are trying to sell it. The worst part is that it takes up the very much needed, held item slot.. and, just because of that detail, all the z-move fun simply fades away.

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Pokémon Bonding

Petting and feeding your pokémon has been introduced in older games and in Sun and Moon, it comes back under the name of Pokémon Refresh. In the past, interacting with your pokémon gained you some brownie points with it, making some pokémon evolve via happiness and others slightly improve their performance during battle. But, for some reason, the bonding process in Sun and Moon seems more rewarding and personal, as you get to tend your pokémon after battles in a variety of ways. You can clean or brush the dirt off your pokémon after a battle for some extra points in happiness, but the best feature is that you can remove status ailments like paralyze or poison, just by tending to the pokémon yourself after a battle, almost making ailment fixing items obsolete.
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Not only that, but you need to care about growing your own pokémon food in the Poké Pelago and in here, build small recreational areas for your pokémon to play, work or train while they're not in your party. All this adds to the pokémon/trainer relationship and it is strongly reflected in the way you battle, as pokémon can commonly and repeatedly land critical hits, endure 1-hit KOs, avoid attacks, gain more experience, heal their own status ailments and even express how they are feeling during battle, all to show that the love and attention you give them is well repaid.

The Trials | Kahunas and Elite Four

Pokémon Sun and Moon breaks the mold that all pokémon games have been following for twenty years. It has no gyms, no gym leaders and certainly no gym badges. So how do you know you're progressing in the game as a pokémon trainer? Well, now they have - instead of trainers before a gym leader - an island trial that you must fulfill before challenging the Kahuna, the island leader. The fun part of the trials are that they are very interactive, ranging from memorizing dance performances to using your camera to hunt down ghosts, to pokémon quizzes; it's a unique experience as a player.

At the end of the island trial, you need to face a strong local pokémon called totem pokémon, a battle that serves kind of like a mini-boss before challenging the Kahuna to a battle. The Kahunas are basically the new Gym Leaders, you just need to talk to them and beat them easily; the actual twist comes when you encounter them as the Elite Four leaders, where they are much stronger, becoming decent opponents.

The most exciting difference of this Elite Four, compared to those in the previous games, is that you are actually the first champion ever of the region, and due to this, you have to fight Professor Kukui instead. But the fun doesn't stop there. Every time you re-challenge the Elite Four, you get to defend your title as champion (unlike previous games) and you'll have challengers come and try defeat you instead. The best part of this last detail is, every time a new challenger comes to face you, it's someone you've seen before; like main characters, trial leaders and even team skull members with a change of heart.

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From Alola to the World

Alola has a lot of new features to offer to the game, and no, it's not just the noticeable increase of tanned skinned trainers. Alola introduced the use of mounts to the pokémon world, so we no longer need to waste a slot in our parties with that tool pokémon that was always equipped with pure HMs for cut, surf, strength and such. Also, we no longer need to feel obligated to have a flying type in our party or teach our dear flying pokémon the annoying Fly ability.

While traveling the pokémon world is a million times better now thanks to Alola, this is not the only cool thing it offers. Alola pokédex has the ability to merge with the pokémon Rotom, making the pokédex fun and interactive for some, but annoyingly chatty for others. This new rotom-pokédex is equipped with a neat feature that lets you take pictures of pokémon, but not as great as the demo depicted it. They could have done much more with the camera feature… something like Pokémon Snap or those 3DS camera games would have been nice.

Some other new features introduced in Alola were:

  • No need for running shoes or bikes
  • The ability to change the game from day to night at will
  • The integration of wild pokémon cries to the background music of the game
  • The reduction of pokémon encounters while surfing
  • More options for trainer appearance customization
  • New form of pokémon: Ultra Beasts and regional forms
  • New abilities and moves for battle
  • New pokéball: Beast Ball
  • New Pseudo-Legendary pokémon, Kommo-o
  • Cars (although you can't use them)
  • Hyper Training
  • S.O.S for wild pokémon (cry for help)
  • First evolving legendary
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The Extra Goodies

Some of you may already know about the wonders that Festival Plaza holds, with all the mini games, WIFI content, Global Trading System and more, but some extras are unspoken of and are there for you to connect the dots and discover by yourself. One of these is the QR scanner, where you can scan the QR codes that every pokémon has… from another 3DS! (or from the internet… but I bet Game Freak didn't see it coming). So, why scan a lame QR code? It has two benefits: mainly, you get to register pokémon in your pokédex that you still have not encountered in the game, this makes it easier to trade pokémon in the GTS as well as fill your pokédex with information, quickly. The second benefit and main point of the QR scanner are, getting exclusive rare pokémon from other regions, like Chikorita or Emboar, through the use of Island Scan, an exclusive search that only activates once a day after performing 10 QR code scans.

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Old but Gold

When returning players or continuous players start playing Sun and Moon, the first things we notice is that your playable character comes from the Kanto Region, the very first region; yeah, that area where all the pioneer trainers like Blue, Red and Ash came from. Many NPCs talk about the Kanto region due to the necessity of emphasizing the Alola form of some pokémon. Some trainers admit that they are just tourists from other regions, and traveled to Alola to fight and fill your pokédex with pokémon that are unavailable to catch out in the wild in Alola.

Other references to older games come in the form of hidden easter eggs; like the trainer Red having nothing in his speech bubble, or that #96 marked on Reds shirt, referencing to 1996, the debut year of pokémon. Some other old game or anime references we could spot were how the creation of the pokémon Type: Null was inspired by Team Rocket and their creation of Mewtwo and how Pikachu's voice in the game is actually the same voice as Pikachu in the anime and is the only pokémon to have this special cry sound.

Honey's Gameplay Consensus:

Game Freak went all out with the content and design of the game.Sun and Moon is absolutely well suited to be the game title released during the 20th anniversary of the pokémon franchise.

Although the battle system doesn't change much, the experience during battle surely changes thanks to your relationship with the pokémon; being able to land critical hits, cure status effects and evade attacks just because you and your pokémon share a high friendship, certainly makes a huge difference in battles as well as being a heartwarming experience.

Besides pokémon and battles, this game is full of hilarious gags, has interesting player/game interactions and several memorable and lovable characters altogether. Although the game has a pretty round ending, there are many hidden hints that this won't be the last time we hear from the Alola region, so now we just have to sit and wait for the official announcement of either a third extension of the game or second versions of Sun and Moon… or hey, maybe even a spin-off that connects Alola all the way to Kanto? Who knows!

Honey's Pros:

  • Pokémon mounts
  • Game availability in 9 languages
  • Pokémon’s happiness affect battles greatly
  • The norm of gym battles has been changed
  • Interesting adaptation of first generation game to Alola
  • Nice integration of the previous generation pokémon and trainers
  • No need to have available space in party when picking up eggs

Honey's Cons:

  • No 3D content
  • No trainer re-match
  • Call for help is annoying
  • Your rival is not a challenge
  • Mandatory button pressing to open doors
  • No flexibility to fish outside designated areas
  • B button has been disabled for quit when learning moves

Honey's Final Verdict:

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Resuming, Pokémon Sun and Moon feels like a refreshing new game, without neglecting all the features returning fans love about the franchise. In all honest, Sun and Moon has been the best game released since their original debut; almost all the pleas of fans throughout 20 years have been heard and fulfilled in this game. Although the game could easily provide harder content and a more complex plot, the level of innocence and simplicity that the game offers is enough to please hardcore gamers and casual players of all ages.

With the new 4-way battles, all the fairy pokémon added, all the strange pokémon type matchups created as well as the importance of your friendship with the pokémon and the IV modification through hyper training, it is certainly guaranteed that the worldwide Pokémon Championships and Wifi Battles will become more challenging and competitive, for the players that focus on watching, or training for the real battles after endgame.

Yanayme Roman

Illustrator/Editor/
Translator

Author: Yanayme Roman

Yo! I'm yet another anime lover that lives in japan! I also love RPG games! My goal in life is to work in an animation studio! I love drawing anime! Love all related to anime!!

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