- Game Freak
- The Pokémon Company
- Nintendo Distributor South Africa
- Nintendo Distributor South Africa
- Single Player, Multiplayer
- Nintendo 3DS
For most gamers in their twenties, Pokémon brings back a lot of fond memories of collecting and trading with friends, or just forcing yourself to make with people who happened to have a Gameboy. It’s also game series that is difficult to be critical of as they’ve never really changed the formula of the games and as the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. However, for the newest installment of Pokémon Gamefreak have seemingly tossed caution to the wind and tried something new…ish
Pokémon Moon (and Sun) is the first game of the latest Pokémon generation (that’s 7 generations of Pokémon for those of you keeping track) and were released in the year that the Pokémon franchise celebrated its’ 20th anniversary, so needless to say these two games had a ridiculous amount of hype to live up to.
Pokémon Moon starts off with a video call from Professor Kukui, the local expert on Pokémon. I should mention that his thing is to learn about Pokémon by wrestling with them and you should probably let that sink in for a bit. After you’ve chosen your character’s visual preset you’re ready for your adventure, well, after sitting through a cutscene that displays a character you’ve yet to meet, running away from an undisclosed location. After a bit of exposition you’re off to get your first Pokémon and to meet the island Kahuna, which are sort of like gym leaders. On the way to meet the Kahuna you stumble upon a damsel in distress, in fact, the very same damsel that was in the aforementioned cutscene. After you help save her beloved Pokémon, Nebby, from a flock of very angry bird Pokémon – you finally get your chance to pick your starter. The choices this time around are Popplio, the water starter; Litten, the fire starter; and Rowlet, the grass starter. Personally, I thought Rowlet looked the best so I went with it, after all, we’ve been waiting for a decent owl Pokémon for ages. No, the Noctowl line need not apply.
Once you get your starter you’re officially off on your journey, and journey you will. The Alola region is comprised of four islands, within them seven trials that you’ll have to overcome and four Kahunas you’ll have to battle. Trials are one of the new ideas Sun/Moon has brought to the dinner table. Instead of seeking out gym badges you go through different trials, ranging from scavenger hunts to irritating the local Pokémon with your Pokéfinder (If you ever played Pokémon Snap you’ll be familiar with the concept of taking pictures of Pokémon for points.) As for the region itself, Alola has a lot of charm and variation to it and the Hawaiian influence really shows. On one island you could be running through lush jungles (literally) and the next island you’re getting lost in a desert. If you were worried this would be another case of “7.5/10 too much water”, don’t be. You traverse islands via ferry or Pokémon now. Long gone are the days of prolonged sessions on the back of a Wailmer or Lapras, the local boat companies done took their jobs.
There are tons of details scattered around the region that really gives it life, for example, the regional variant Pokémon being found in places that would make sense from an evolutionary standpoint – the exception being the regional variant of Ratatta, that thing is seriously everywhere. One of the other new things introduced are Z-moves, which are basically just normal Pokémon moves on steroids. To use these you need special crystals that correspond with the type of the moves, most of these crystals are given as rewards for completing the trials, some others require a bit of exploring, but that’s never a bad thing, especially when most of the game’s story forces you to take a fairly linear path, but we’ll get to that later.
The plot in Pokémon Moon (and essentially Sun) revolves around a young girl named Lillie and her mystery Pokémon she affectionately nicknamed “Nebby”, and you’ll spend a lot of time helping her out and dealing with the local bad guys, which come in the form of Team Skull, who are so comically inept that even the local populace don’t really regard them as a threat. In fact, a lot of the best dialogue and weirdly profound statements come from these guys. I found them really endearing; they aren’t trying to take over the world, create a new timeline, or commit wanton genocide (looking at you, Lysandre) – they just want to be the baddest guys on the block, but they’re really just a band of scamps and misfits. In contrast to these guys, you get your main rival, Hau, who is blander than his beloved malasadas, seriously, this guy never shuts up about them. All things considered however I quite enjoyed the later stages of the story because it was just weird in the best of ways.
One of the biggest problems Moon (let’s assume this stands for Sun too) has is keeping momentum and being restrictively linear. This is especially pronounced when you’re on the first island and you’re forced to watch a cutscene every time you make the slightest bit of progress, this is made worse by exploration being restricted by tons of barriers – although, to be fair, every generation of Pokémon has had a bit of this. Like the guy in Kanto who had an unquenchable thirst or those pesky Sudowoo in Johto. It just feels more overbearing this time around, at least in my experience.
But if you’re reading a review, it’s generally to see if a game is worth your time. The answer to that question is yes, because it’s an incredibly enjoyable game. Version differences are also a bit different this time, with Sun and Moon having different plot content, which is nice. Don’t get me wrong, it has its issues, apart from what I previously mentioned, the light (but very good) postgame and abhorrent framerates during double battles and some cutscenes. In my opinion those are minor issues for a game that managed to improve on an already working formula.
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