It’s good. You should play it. It’s a Pokemon main series game and they’ve been pretty decent with each new addition since coming to the 3DS. The boost in power and interest makes them pretty accessible, fuller versions of Pokemon Colosseum the series has always wanted to be. 3D fights, enjoyable mechanics and enough here that mixes things up to make Sun/Moon worth picking up.
It’s accessible while still being a challenge. Wonderful! But how does it pull it off? Well...
The first thing that comes to mind is that Pokemon, as a series, seems to be desperately trying to grow a personality. In games gone by, things such as stories or characterisation or even dialogue was costly. If you put in a diatribe about man’s inhumanity to man and pokemon alike, you might have to cut out a boss encounter. Give villagers too much to say and you may have to replace an entire town with it as there wasn’t enough on the cartridge. Pokemon lasted as a pretty basic looking RPG for many a generation while stuff like Golden Sun or Megaman Battle Network looked gorgeous in comparison. That pokemon database takes up a lot of space! Modern flash cartridges seem to have an acre of room for all the 3D rendered models and the lush looking environments. It seems there’s room for storytime with Uncle Pokemon.
And you know he has an epic tale to tell! So grab an eevee and listen.
The story told is the one they’ve been telling for years now. Blah blah, you just arrived in town, blah blah, you’re a natural trainer, blah blah, go become a Pokemon Master. The difference is in the flavouring. Not-Hawaii location of the Alola Islands do offer a new lease on life for a tired plotline for your mute-ten year old to run through in the form of The Island Challenge. Instead of battles upon battles, sometimes you have to best a dungeon or photograph ghosts or find then defeat a powerful Totem pokemon. This is neat. While I don’t bemoan the older games too much for their reliance on the gym system, which made each a house where the boss lived while occasionally having a small fetch quest. Usually a fetch quest you need to do in order to face them at all!
Here though, Challenge Captains and Kahunas interact with the world. They ingratiate themselves with the islands, which helps sell their supposed knowledge and skill naturally. Previously, Gym Leaders would have to have special quests and things to prove that they did more than just stand in a big house behind some elaborate set of traps.Challenge Captains and Kahunas are part of the community. They run shops or perform for tourists. They’re active in the world, meaning you’ll likely bump into them as you meander around. It works so much better to make them at least a little intimidating when you have to face them yourself.
Weirdly, not everyone gets rich off of unregulated betting on battles with random strangers. Which seems strange to think about but then again, it’s you, the rando wondering around aimlessly with money to burn, that they sell to.
The other thing about the story is that there’s more characters. Somewhat like Pokemon Black/White you begin the game meeting with your new friends. They’re what replaces the ‘Rival’ of older games as they’ll challenge you to battles regularly like a surprise pop quiz. Hau is the trainer that tries to stack himself against you and he’s not bad. He throws regular challenges at you while also being an all right character. I like him but I also feel like he floats around the story at large without any major impact. He’s appealing enough; a hopeful, enthusiastic son of a Kahuna that likes to stuff his face and battle. Fair enough. He doesn’t get in the way but also does make you want to punch him, unlike Blue or N.
He, and almost all of the game, is overshadowed by the adventures of Lillie, however, Lillie is positioned as something of an anomaly within this world: someone that abstains from Pokemon Battles. I mean, you assume they’re out there somewhere but it does appear to bite her in the arse regularly. I get the motivation of not wanting to see Pokemon hurt but in a world where the wildlife can, and frequently does, attack at random, you’d think she’d figure out that battles likely arose out of a need to protect herself. She’s fine not to want to take part in battles but we’ve seen time and time again that people should have a pokemon for protection at all times! Oak wouldn’t stand for it, Burch presented a lovely example of why you’d need one and Lille of this game gets attacked by a Spearow flock that she is powerless to fight off or flee from.
Then take one of my pokemon and go get him then! I have running around in circles to do until my pokemon are all level 20! Vital, important work here!
In short, she’s kind of an idiot that can never go anywhere unaccompanied. On the plus side, I can report that she’s quite a sweet person. Her care for Pokemon and everyone around her is genuine, making her somewhat endearing. This marvel was created because Pokemon’s writing has improved considerably. For once, they’re attempting jokes and jabs at things. Hau is a doofus but it plays into his character. Lillie is selfless and that plays into her character too. Their defined, distinct and decently memorable. I wouldn’t call them stellar or fascinating but I didn’t mind meeting them.
This writing buff has permeated everything else, teamed with the 3D presentation to make a greater scope than I thought possible before. Pokemon Sun actually attempts to have ideas greater than ‘bad guys find sleeping monster and fail to control it’. I always found the attempted return of Team Rocket fascinating but Sun throws around the idea of Pokemon from other dimensions, Pokemon gangs, loyalty to family members and when you cross the line as a parent into being a child yourself.
I’m not joking.
While I will not say that this entirely works, I will say that it’s pretty out there for what I was expecting but I am so onboard for more. There’s elements that seem neutered or maybe didn’t connect as it should because it’s all still textboxes on a screen but there were clearly places where I was supposed to care but honestly didn’t.
The game is trying though. You can give it that much.
I can identity one major weakness with it’s story: it’s not mine, it’s Lillie’s. Lillie is the one that grows, goes through an arc and learns the magic of Pokemon Battles, if I might spoil that for just one moment. You are the silent protagonist that has a completely different story happening outside of the conflict between Lillie and the Ultra Beasts. Say what you like but older games placed you at the center of the story. You fought Team Rocket when you tangled with them and they declared you an enemy. You fought Team Aqua or Magma and put and end to their accidental damage to the weather they caused. You changed N’s mind and stopped Team Plasma.
But it’s **Lillie **that has the final say that puts the bad guys in their place after she sicks you on them. _Sun _has two stories that meet up then part ways at regular intervals. Do some island challenges, then go fight some story-related goons, then back to the thing you care about because it’s your story. Lillie’s little journey is fine but it feels like something I have little investment in because I don’t get the benefit of advancing there, Lillie does. My reward is being allowed to go back to doing what I want to do; catch pokemon and win challenges. The game will handhold and corral you into their straight path regularly just so that Lille gets her time in the spotlight.
If you could play as Lillie or fight your way through her story, then that would be something. But otherwise, I’m just her powerful trainer friend that she asks to solve her problems for her. And I ain’t that attached to her. A big problem when I’m a character that has no personality at all outside of my clothes.
That deep, unwavering stare forwards as if paralysed in the brain and only capable of that mild, cheery smile. Enjoy that for most of the game.
I love Team Skull though. The jokes and their personality was wonderful. Loved them! Keep them around.
Gameplay wise, it’s mostly the same. There’s a long list of tweaks and changes from previous titles that matter but ultimately don’t bother me so let’s focus on the major changes.
The pokemon here are a good selection of old and new that draws on the Hawaiian tie to spirituality and it’s tropical climate. Ghost pokemon have a real spotlight in this place, making it likely they’ll appear in most teams this time around, even giving a welcome return to Phantump and Gastly, two pokemon I had to go find when I heard they were in the game. I like Toxepex, a poisonous anemone that can withstand a beating, and I like Sandigast, a possessed sandcastle that eats life energy. Yes, that’s a thing.
There are also regional versions of old pokemon, mostly in an attempt to make them a touch more appealing. Mostly, they’ve given dark typing to Raticate, Grimer and Meowth. Which is fine to me. I got a lot of use out of the new Grimer as it’s second typing allowed for more varied and interesting tactics. Dark works decently with Poison, I reckon. The other two are fine but are now fatter in design than before..
Pokemon seems to be trying to make it’s new additions stand out more though. And their method this time round is to make their lives a little more miserable. There’s pokemon that feast on others, there’s pokemon said to possess horrid powers but the breakout star for me is Mimikyu. Not only is this pokemon a wonderful Physical Sweeper, it’s appearance is a point of self-awareness. It’s lonely and jealous of Pikachu’s popularity. As such, it wants some of that attention so dresses as Pikachu to garner some love. Aww...Makes me want to hug it till the horrible phantom inside claws my soul.
You see? Pokemon is trying to grow a personality. Some of it works.
Who’s my little hellspawn? You are! You are! Who sweeped half the opponent’s team?! You did! Good widdle snookums!
Gameplay is also trying to aid in this: Pokemon may now call for help. At first, this sounds fine. More pokemon to fight means bigger payouts and you can always throw out a second pokemon to even things up, right?
No! If a pokemon does this, you’re now outnumbered two to one. You cannot capture anything while the other pokemon is present. You also have a high chance that if you defeat one of the pokemon, the remaining one will attempt to call for further backup. Some pokemon have a high likelihood of receive help, giving the impression of fighting a pack that’s happy to wait in line for it’s turn. A good mechanic in theory but it drags out fights that you don’t want if it happens. It seems to have been implemented to allow for a new way of finding pokemon (Toxepex can only be found through coming to another pokemon’s aid) and to help make the relatively compact islands feel like their encounters have just as much impact as previous games as patches of long grass are often small with a clear path you can use instead. You have to want to go looking for pokemon to find them, usually, rather than having to wade through long grass that had overgrown paths you needed to cross to get somewhere.
If you can’t force more random encounters, then give them the chance to increase in magnitude instead. Doesn’t entirely work.
You must be the most popular Pokemon in the world if they’re still coming whenever you use ‘Call for Family’! Are you royalty or something?!
What I am in full favour for is Z-Moves. These are special moves that act as an alternative to a Mega Evolution. Personally, I think they’re superior. Yes, having a big, nasty pokemon that boosted it’s stats and became more powerful when you needed it is cathartic. However, it’s limited to select pokemon and does nothing but change the pokemon’s capabilities. Z-Moves can be applied to any pokemon and any ability. While some pokemon have unique Z-Moves, all pokemon are capable of using them.
The reason this kicks so much arse is obvious: more powerful move that’s based on the type of z-crystal you give and which move you decide to turn into a decisive finisher. Where this gets interesting is that it can apply to status moves too. Performing Z-Status moves often grants additional effects to the move, such as some moves doubling the effect it has on a pokemon’s stats. Heck, a Z-Move Splash increases that pokemon’s attack by three stages. Not insignificant. So, your choice is now a powerful slam or a tactical edge but you can only choose one per battle. I think this is a lovely idea that means that any pokemon can become worth something, rather than hoping they’ll be given a Mega Evolution.
I like a game that can hand you a new tool to fiddle with and flip what you knew on it’s head.
It helps that they’re all kind of bonkers.
Oh! And there’s this thing where you can pet and feed your pokemon jellybeans. It is adorable. I’m not fully aware of how it benefits you but it’s cute to pet a Genga then feed him his favourite bean to make hearts appear. Bonus points from me.
So, yeah. Get this. It’s a little more self-aware and ambitious than usual. Either they had a change in design team or they wanted to make _Sun _stand above it’s competition, which appears to just be Yokai-Watch right now. If you enjoy pokemon or you enjoy a relaxing and simple RPG, this is worth picking up.
You need to be logged in to comment