Alola, trainers!: Pokémon Sun and Moon

 

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Pokémon Sun and Moon Demo
Release date: October 18, 2016

After what can only be described as a tumultuous relationship with Pokémon Go and the sudden arrival of Ditto in the app, Pokémon Sun and Moon is finally here. Scroll down if you want to skip my thoughts on the demo and go straight to the main game review.

Initially I decided against downloading the demo as I wanted to do a completely blind playthrough as I have with previous titles, but I was swayed by the promises of awesome stuff that could be transferred to the full game. One of these things was the Ash-Greninja from the anime, which until now I had not seen or even heard of. I can’t say I’ve been keeping up with the anime as of late, but I personally like Greninja as I grew to really love mine in Pokémon X.

Overall, I have to say I was underwhelmed by the demo. New Pokémon always make me feel quite bitter and put off because I am a “Gen 1er”, but I’ve enjoyed the last few games despite this. I’m going to try and not judge them too harshly, but from the small selection that I’ve seen so far I’m not quite sold on them yet. I was also a little sceptical of the touch screen interface as it doesn’t look as good as the previous ones. I may just be nitpicking but it was a good set up, so I don’t see why the need was there for a drastic change in the aesthetics. What I did like about the changes were the small notes to say if certain moves would be effective or not against certain opponents in battle, which is great because it got really confusing after new types of Pokémon were added, such as Fairy and Dragon. At least it did for me, and I found this feature helpful.

Knowing that Game Freak had opted to not include Pokémon Gyms made me worried. Instead they have introduced a new system called the Island Challenge, in which the player must go through trials to progress on each of the four islands of the Alola Region. The Trial Captains act very much like Gym Leaders and are the ones who present the trials to you. The player will also battle against Totem Pokémon, which are a stronger version of Pokémon that have been encountered and can even call upon other Pokémon to aid it in battle. During the demo, you battle against a Totem Hakamo-o, which wasn’t particularly difficult but it’s a demo. I didn’t expect them to raise the difficulty level to that of Dark Souls or anything.

The changes were very different to what we’ve seen before, but I wasn’t going to let it dissuade me from purchasing the full game. The reception of the Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire demo was lukewarm, and that game turned out fantastic. Game Freak know what they’re doing, and we can trust them to produce something wonderful.

 

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Pokémon Sun and Moon
Release dates: November 18, 2016 (Japan, North America and Australia), November 23rd, 2016 (Europe)

Minor spoiler warnings

I decided to buy Pokémon Sun because, in my opinion, the sun lion (Solgaleo) looked cooler than the moon bat (Lunala). I did notice this during the demo, but the movement feels much more fluid and less clunky than in previous titles. There are even great looking cutscenes now, which are so smooth in comparison to what we’ve had before, which shows how much of a massive improvement there has been. The environments look diverse, and I love the fact that my character isn’t a tiny sprite/chibi anymore. The chibi look was cute, but I’m enjoying the more in proportion avatar as I roam around Alola.

I went with Litten as my starter, because look at that face. It’s adorable and I couldn’t say no to it. Though now, it has already become a Torracat and it looks like it’s going through its smug teenage years. The inclusion of several Gen 1 Pokémon has made me exceedingly happy, as at the start I was wondering why you would move from Kanto to Alola, because let’s be honest, Kanto is the best. So far, I’m liking the Alolan versions of some of these familiar faces. I’ve only seen Rattata, Grimer and Meowth’s Alolan counterparts as of yet, so I’m looking forward to encountering the others.

The new and improved Pokémon Amie that was introduced in X&Y is now called Pokémon Refresh, and is much more interactive than before. Instead of simply petting, feeding and playing with your Pokémon, you are now able to help them recover after battles. Whether this means you can cure status conditions such as paralysis and burns, and to clean them up if they get dirty during battle. It’s completely optional of course, but it’s a nice little way to feel like you’re bonding with your Pokémon. And, most importantly, it’s absolutely adorable.

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I am finding that I’m ignoring several of the new Pokémon in favour of ones that I am more familiar with, but I am attempting to catch every creature that I come across. As of where I am now, I have a caught each and every wild Pokémon that I’ve seen. I still get that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I watch the Poké Ball wiggle. It lingers for a second too long after the third shake and I’m sat there hoping it doesn’t escape. I love that these games still gets me this excited and nervous.

I’ve noticed that several of the NPCs are holding smartphones, and it looks like their screens have a pixelated version of Pokémon Go on them. I wonder if they had as many server issues as we did. I have also, since playing the demo, made my peace with the interface both during and out of battles. It works well with all of the added features in these games and now I’m not having to scroll through several menus to get to where I need to be. It’s easy to use, self explanatory and you get going pretty quickly.

Some of the best changes are to do with convenience. I am so thankful that Poké Marts are now within the same building as the Pokémon Centres. It’s so much easier to flit between the two of them now without the added hassle of having to run to two different buildings that were not always very close to one another. Also, the change that is making life a lot easier on me is that when your party is full and you catch another Pokémon, you have the option of whether you want to switch out a member of your party to replace it with your new Pokémon, or to send it directly to your box. In previous titles, the new Pokémon would be sent directly to your PC in the Pokémon Centre and it would be frustrating. Sometimes I would be so far away from a Pokémon Centre but I wouldn’t be able to use my newest Pokémon without either backtracking or powering onwards with the risk of missing things. At least now, I can rearrange my team on the go if I so please.

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Now onto the part that was worrying me – the new Island Challenges. Going into the first of the trials, I can say I definitely got some Legend of Zelda vibes from it. I felt like I had just walked into Kokiri Forest or the Great Deku Tree, which was actually quite nice. I’ve got a lot of love for Ocarina of Time, so this made me feel somewhat more determined and comfortable when going into the trial. As the demo had explained, the most challenging part of the trial would be to face off with the Totem Pokémon at the end.

I did really enjoy the first trial. It was slightly repetitive but then the rude interruption occurs to spice things up a bit, and as ridiculous as Team Skull are, I do have to admit that I like them. This is a welcome change from the usual Pokémon Gym format, and I like that Game Freak have decided to try something different. The entrance of the Totem Pokémon was brilliant, and I don’t know if it was intended to be funny but I laughed. I did experience a drop in frame rate during the Totem battle, which was disappointing but a minor problem in the grand scheme of things that will hopefully be fixed. It was as easy as the demo, but I’ve no doubt that they will get harder down the line and I’m looking forward to how the trials progress from this point onwards.

The only thing so far that I can consider to be a negative aspect of this game as of right now is the Festival Plaza, which is very similar to the Mii Plaza that comes with your 2DS or 3DS system. It’s a nice idea, but it is confusing and the only reason I went into it was because I misclicked it while looking for Pokémon Refresh. After a bit of searching and digging, my friend and I managed to list one another as VIP guests in each other’s Plazas, trade with one another and even battled. (A/N: If you’re reading this – you got owned, son). Trading is something that I’ve always enjoyed in Pokémon, but I was never overly keen on battling as I hate to lose. This could be the game that makes me venture out of my comfort zone. Watch out, trainers, I’m coming for you… maybe.

I have to say, I’ve been playing this game for apparently ten hours now (admittedly, I did eat and write this review in between) and I’m loving it. The story feels very different, while also remaining true to the previous Pokémon games, and the new gameplay mechanics are great. I honestly cannot wait to see what else this game has in store.

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