WASDuk Review: Pokemon Sun & Moon

The mere mention of Pokemon hits almost every gamer somewhere in the nostalgia sack. Whether it’s a good or bad memory is another case since every game is essentially the same. But each gamer, regardless, seems to have a deep affinity for select creatures from Nintendo’s Pocket Monster roster, which now numbers well over 500. The end result is that these Pokemon games constantly establish a new generation of younger Pokemon Trainers as well as allow older generations to play through and catch ’em all. Some love it, some hate it. And the compromise of simply admitting that Pokemon is the simplest J-RPG break one can take from far more involving, better games like Fallout 4 is a gray area more need to admit.

So while I’m wearing my Gengar hoodie, let’s look over the good and the bad of Pokemon: Sun and Moon. We won’t be able to capture every little detail of the latest assurance that GBA won’t be discontinued, but since I just played through the game in a very slow, involved method, we’ll outline the major positives and negatives.

The Pokemon Sun & Moon Roster

Players begin by choosing a starter Pokemon. Owlet seems to be the most popular of these and its final form is a Grass/Ghost type immune to normal type movesets. Litten, who will evolve into a hulking cat beast complete with a fire belt and studded leather wrist bands, begins as a cute little Fire type. Popplio is a seal, its final form the most regal looking mermaid of the bunch, and is a mix of Water and the newer Fairy type class. Whatever your choice or preference, this should be your main fighter.

The odd dual types that each starter evolves into also carries over to the new forms of generation 1 Pokemon that return. Dugtrio now has a full set of blonde hair in its Alola (Pokemon for Hawaii) form. Muk is now rainbow-colored and both Muk and Dugtrio are suddenly dual Poison/Dark and Ground/Dark types, respectively. Sandshrew is now a blue colored pure Ice type and these little changes are quite fun to figure out. When Sandshrew used to challenge Trainers, a simple grass or water attack would one hit ko (OHKO) it. This is no longer the case. In addition, the previously dominant Psychic and Dragon types now have much more Dark type rivals that are immune to Psychic moves and a lot of formerly normal type Pokemon, like Granbull and Clefairy, are members of the Fairy type and immune to Dragon type attacks.

Overall, the roster changes may seem cheap in the everything-old-is-new-again vein, but the type alterations are mysterious enough to provide more challenging battles. The easiest solution to get through the game is to make your starter a one man wrecking crew with solid support. And route 1 in the game will provide nearly every type in the game including the superior Munchlax, who can be evolved into the hulking Snorlax with multiple options for movesets. Litten and Munchlax can become so strong and dominant that you don’t really need to catch anything else. But your Pokemon team has 6 roster spots so you will. The huge roster is both varied and simple enough that it’s a plus for the game. The roster allows players to play in whatever style they like: limited or involved.

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The Pokemon GTS

If players don’t stop to catch every single Pokemon, then you can get through the game in about 2 days. The Alola region is divided into 4 islands that don’t believe in Gym Leaders. Instead, there are simple tasks like collecting berries, side missions like finding certain species of Pokemon, and what’s called Island Trials. These Island Trials replace Gym Leaders but they’re the same thing. One Island Trial will require players to beat a team of Rock types, another Trial pits you against Normal/Dark types. So a rose by any other name is a Gym Leader.

These Island Trials are also undermined by the fact that each Pokemon Center contains an eager trader who will gladly provide you with a Pokemon designed to annihilate the given Island Trial in front of you. One can trade for a Poliwrath (a Water/Fighting type) prior to the Rock type challenge, and this pattern of offerings will continue and allow players to, again, only catch a select few Pokemon before finishing the game. The other, and in our opinion, better route is to participate in the Pokemon Global Trade System (GTS) once you catch a Ditto on the second island.

After catching a Ditto, trainers can immediately breed their starter and offer it for far more valuable Pokemon on the GTS. We ended up trading a level 1 Litten for a level 100 Dewgong. Of course the Dewgong wouldn’t obey all of our commands because we hadn’t completed enough trials but it was so advanced that it could lose turns and still wipe out most everything in one hit. This path is open to you and the GTS can be both rewarding and damning. It’s rewarding in that traded Pokemon level up twice as fast as your caught Pokemon. This is also true for Pokemon you trade inside Pokemon Centers with in-game characters. But it also makes carefully choosing a starter pretty silly. The starter levels up twice as slow as traded Pokemon and being able to breed anything with a Ditto allowed us to trade for all 3 Sun/Moon starters in less than one day of game play. GTS makes the game amazingly even more easy. Despite this, it also allows older fans to collect generation 1 Pokemon or to collect specific bad ass Pokemon, like Scizor and Gengar. The final perk is that trading cuts down on grinding to level Pokemon, if players don’t enjoy that sort of practice.

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The Play Through

Paths between towns and Pokemon Centers have been shortened. Gym Leaders have been replaced. There are more side missions, no HM’s, and a more varied mix of different Pokemon generations to catch and trade for. Yes, this is an upgrade and slightly alters the game play. Is this a plus though?

Well, as always, yes and no. Players can play through everything to little or no satisfaction very quickly. You’ll beat the Elite 4 and then do it again, or you can play online Battles or go to the Battle Tower. This “after play” is a much better option than Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire had to offer. On the other hand, you don’t ever need to finish the game. One can simply set up shop on the second island and breed Pokemon to trade and catch them all and more by never actually catching them all.

Pokemon remains the easiest, typical J-RPG in existence. It’s turn based, each character can only know 4 moves, and if players get interested and go online, then it seems that only a select few Pokemon are worthy of using in competitive battles. Websites like Smogon provide full outlines on exactly how to raise, level, and breed useful Pokemon. These websites also scold players for using lesser Pokemon that may not be as sturdy as a Mega Bulbasaur or who don’t have an ideal ability and nature. And all generations of hardcore fans now seem reliant on such feedback and guides. It really makes having fun in Pokemon rather difficult, but Pokemon Sun and Moon does deserve credit for allowing players to play however they want and possibly make her or his own fun. If you want to Battle and transfer over your older level 100 Pokemon from previous games, you can. If you want to breed and sucker everyone seeking a Magikarp out of their superior Pokemon trade options, you can.

Pokemon is exactly meh.

There’s over 500 creatures with descriptions to read through yet only some are worth leveling up. The game play has been altered based on user complaints but it’s just semantics that largely kinda change things. However, if you do feel the need to catch them all, then take a break and play through this ultimately simplistic, turn based J-RPG. Darksiders, Fallout, and Elder Scrolls are just too hard and adult for some gamers all the time.

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