The latest instalment of the Pokémon franchise on the Nintendo 3DS family had its debut on the 23rd of November 2016 in the UK, and I had completed the main storyline after a week. Despite my seemingly-rushed play though, I thoroughly enjoyed the story, new features and mechanics that Sun and Moon offered the players.
Sun and Moon builds upon the tried and tested Pokémon formula – you receive your starter Pokémon, are tasked with completing the Pokédex (an encyclopaedia containing information on Pokémon you have caught), and asked to defeat the Elite Four and Champion of the Pokémon League. However, this time around there is a twist – instead of battling Gym Leaders to collect the eight badges needed to challenge the Elite Four, you must complete the Island Trials that take place on each of the Alola Region’s four islands and defeat the Kahuna of each island in order to gain access to the Elite Four.
If all these errands seem a little daunting at first, it’s nothing to worry about as the game gently guides the player through them, by giving players a nudge here and there. The new RotomDex (a Pokédex haunted by the plasma Pokémon Rotom) gives the players markers on its map for where they need to go and provides some hints, and a few NPCs will offer tutorials on the basics, like how to catch a Pokémon in battle and how the Pokémon Centre services work. Even newcomers to the series will soon pick up strategies and tricks, as well as build upon the tips given to create their own team of pocket monsters, which ties into the game’s skill mechanic (as the further you advance the more thought must be put into how you attack enemy Pokémon).
The new games contain an array of new features, from being able to summon Pokémon to navigate the vast region using Pokémon Ride, to the mysterious Ultra Beasts (newly discovered creatures similar to Pokémon). One new feature I particularly like is the updated battle HUD and menus, which allow players to see stat changes, ability effects and move type matchups (despite playing the Pokémon series for ten years, even I forget whether Bug-type moves are effective against Dark-types sometimes). Another is the Poké Pelego feature – Pokémon stored in PC boxes can visit these mini islands to play, help grow berries, find treasure and even relax in hot springs – and the Pokémon Refresh is an updated version of Pokémon Amie from X and Y, allowing players to pamper and pet their Pokémon, which I found allows people to have deeper connections with their Pokémon and is rather cute. The different characters the player meets each add their own spin to the story, and the new Pokémon (and Alolan forms of first generation Pokémon) are a great mix of both charming and wacky – just take a look at Alolan Exeggutor to see what I mean.
As always, some features have remained the same since the very first games (Pokémon Blue, Red and Yellow versions), such as the battling and trading dynamics – players are required to trade Pokémon with other players in order to complete their Pokédex, and can battle with each other to prove which of them is truly a Pokémon Master. Nowadays, this is done through wireless communication through the 3DS system (as opposed to link cables used by early Nintendo handhelds). Backwards-compatibility has also remained in place like previous Pokémon games, through the use of the Pokémon Bank app (Available through the Nintendo eShop for £4.49/year), which lets players move their Pokémon collected in earlier Pokémon games to Sun and Moon, as well as increase the amount of Pokémon a player can store outside of the PC boxes in-game.
Despite the many great innovations included within the game, there are a few points which could have been improved upon – namely that the lack of option to have rematches with NPCs outside of the Pokémon League and the Battle Tree leaves players strapped for cash a few clothes shopping trips later. The removal of triple and rotation battle formats was also a slight disappointment, as they allowed players to create unique strategies with more Pokémon on the playing field (however, since many other new features were included it is likely this was left out due to memory limitations or increased lag). As with every main series Pokémon game, there are glitches and bugs which can affect gameplay, although the main anomalies seem to be a few visual glitches (and a bug that involves transferring missing from the Virtual Console games to Sun and Moon, which alters the data regarding other Pokémon transferred). Changing the story progression – altering the Pokémon Gyms to Island Trials – was a very bold move that works well, but in addition to removing other staples of the series (e.g. swapping bike riding for Pokémon-wrangling) the result provides a serious change to the chemical makeup of these games compared to their predecessors. Hard-core and long-time fans of the series may be put off by these changes, but newcomers to the world of pocket monsters won’t be seriously affected.
Overall, Pokémon Sun and Moon has been a brilliant addition to the franchise as a whole, providing many new experiences and opportunities for players old and new. The games have a lot of replay value and exciting twists in the tale, not to mention that the sheer amount of activities, mini games and side quests included gives players a lot of bang for their Sawsbuck at around £30-£40. For taking a risk with the story progression and bringing new features and memorable Pokémon to the table, I would award the games a 9/10.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo 3DS code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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