It’s goodbye gyms and hello to being carried around in Machamp’s arms and….. Poke Beans?!
Pokemon Sun and Moon launched themselves into the loving arms of Nintendo fans everywhere in November 2016. A month down the line, I consider myself pretty well versed with the Alola region. So let’s jump in and go through some reasons why I think Sun/Moon is the best iteration of the Pokemon franchise.
I don’t wish to be too melodramatic here, but the introduction of ‘Ride Pokemon’ made a monumental difference to my experience with the game. In previous installments I was constantly frustrated by having to clog up my team’s moves with TMs for Surf, Cut, Rock Smash etc. In Pokemon Sun/Moon, you are very quickly introduced to the feature of ‘Ride Pokemon’ in which you are able to, you guessed it, ride on Pokemon that give you the functionality of TMs, i.e. Lapras allows you to traverse the seven seas (or make that singular sea, Alola isn’t that big!), Charizard flies you around the region and Machamp will carry you around using Shove to push large boulders out of your path. This feature allowed me to have far more control over the moves I wanted to teach my Pokemon, and also it looks pretty awesome being whisked away on the back of a ferocious looking Charizard!
Trials brought in a huge switch up to what we’ve grown to expect from the Pokemon franchise. The standard structure of 8 gyms, followed by Victory Road and the Pokemon League, was pleasingly absent in Alola, replaced instead by a system of trials and grand trials. These consist of a range of unique tasks, such as finding ingredients to make a tasty recipe, peppered with battles with wild Pokemon and a final battle with a much trickier totem Pokemon. I came into the game stubbornly saying “But I like gyms!” and I can happily say now that I was wrong to be so set in my ways. In previous games, gyms lent themselves to a game that was heavily signposted, but in Alola I found myself stumbling into trials without time to stop by the Pokemon Centre to buy 10 potions, and do you know what? I loved it.
Sun/Moon is undoubtedly the prettiest game in the franchise. For the first time I was completely sucked in to the lush surroundings, and every winding cliff path or ancient ruin explored was a joy to behold. There are bigger visual improvements to this game than just the graphics, however. The menus are much slicker for a start, whilst little touches like the footprints on the “run” button, and the PokeBall on the “Pokemon” button make it all feel a more intuitive experience. The game’s camera has also received a nice little upgrade, with a variety of shifting angles helping you to see the lush environments in a new light.
Sun/Moon beautifully streamlines the process of organising your party. Each time you catch a new Pokemon you are given a range of choices: want to put them straight into your party? Well now you can, without the customary arduous trek to a Pokemon Centre. That’s not all though, you can also choose who you want to swap out or just relegate them straight to a box, the choice really is yours. This may seem inconsequential to some, but boy, was I glad to not have to use a PC each time I caught a cool new Pokemon!
Undoubtedly one of the coolest new features allows you to care for your Pokemon, almost Tamagotchi style. I’ve heard mixed opinions on this feature, but I personally loved it. Feeding my Pokemon PokéBeans and healing them from their status ailments after a battle (without wasting items such as Paralyze Heals) was a cute little addition to the game. More importantly, increasing your Pokemon’s affection for you has unexpected benefits during battle. The first time I got the message that “Popplio toughed it out so you wouldn’t be sad!” was just one of many pleasantly surprising moments I had on my journey.