With the release of the latest Pokémon games yesterday, Ultra Sun, I thought I’d have a look back over Pokémon Sun and Moon, released just over a year ago.
The game starts with your character and mother having just moved to the Alola region from Kanto. After this, you’re introduced to the local Professor, Kukui, who explains the basics of the Island Challenge to you – where the main character has to travel around the differing environments of the four islands which make up Alola and take on several challenges in order to gain the right to challenge the Elite Four at the end of the game.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Pokémon game without an evil team being involved, and for all intents and purposes, Team Skull, introduced early on seems to fit this role, being the standard thugs trying to steal Pokémon.
However, there is also the mysterious Aether Foundation, a group which purports to be interested in the saving of Pokémon and healing Pokémon which have been abused… but considering the main character meets up with a girl named Lillie quite early on, who appears to be on the run from the Aether Foundation, all is not as it seems with them.
There is a bit of a plot twist near the climax of the game; however, I personally felt it was foreshadowed far too early on, and there is a bit of plot with regards to the Ultra Wormholes and Ultra Beasts which feels a bit tacked on.
My main gripe with the game however, isn’t the story itself, it’s the length and number of the unskippable cut scenes. For example, it takes a good half hour or so before you’re given your first Pokémon, and there’s no way of skipping the scenes before it. Anytime you enter a new place, before you’re able to head off and explore, there’s usually a cut scene of some description to plod through. After the first Island, the constant scenes did get irritating. There is also a notable moment near the end of the game, after defeating the Elite Four and Champion, where there is about half an hour of cut scenes before you’re given control of the game again, and can save. That also annoyed me.
However, what made it even worse was that even after starting a new game, there was still no way to skip the cut scenes, argh.
For the most part, I felt not much of the OST really stood out. This is a shame, because I usually quite like the Pokémon games’ OSTs. However, there were a couple of standout tracks I felt. All of the Team Skull themes in particular – I really like the sort of gangster feel from their themes, the added vocals in all the Skull tracks and the build up to each fight. I especially think the Team Skull admin battle theme was excellent, with the rather moody sounding violin in it. Oh, and Po Town was fantastic, set the scene so well for that area.
After that, I also quite liked the Aether Foundation Paradise theme, it has that sort of clinical feel to it, but at the same time, something feels off about the music, which I think nicely foreshadows what happens with the Aether Foundation a bit later on in the game.
Other than that, I can’t think of any of the route themes which stood out, and I found nearly all the battle themes to be quite bland, especially the trainer battle and wild Pokémon battle music, which was a shame, as those are the tracks that will be likely heard the most during a play through.
Ah, and the dubious honour for my least favourite track in the game? Hau’s battle theme. Just ugh, far too happy-go-lucky for me.
Ah, I like the graphics in this game. It seems as though the developers stuck with the semi-3D for the graphics, and there was no 3D mode for the game – not that I was bothered by that, considering I don’t switch the 3D on. There was a slight bit of lag I found, especially when going into a trainer battle, playing on an older 3DS, but it didn’t become too annoying.
For the most part though, everything is bright and vibrant, and colourful – and fits the atmosphere for the game so well – that of a group of tropical islands which are a rough expy of Hawaii. However, the brightness of the areas for the most part are what makes other areas so effective – for example, the shock of entering Po Town for the first time and finding out what happened there.
Other little details such as rustling grass, over world Pokémon and such like are also done well. Most of the sprites for the Pokémon are quite detailed and also vibrant colours. Character models in the game are also done quite well, and don’t look too deformed or odd.
I also thought the user interface for the battle menu was nicely done, and didn’t look (or feel) too clunky.
Don’t seem to have many people around my way to use multiplayer with, and never really had the chance to go online with the game.
As per most Pokémon games, any challenge that this game could offer you can simply be overcome by the simple matter of grinding – and it’s argued that the provision of the EXP Share item early on in the game makes grinding far easier and quicker (saying that, I rather like the EXP Share). In the main story, there is very little in the way of challenge, even if you don’t use the EXP Share.
There are parts of the game which are definitely a challenge – for example battles against members of a certain ‘Foundation’ are quite tough, with the members having no set type of Pokémon that they use, and often having well-made teams.
Likewise, if you’re not expecting it, some of the Totem Pokémon fights can also be quite tough, especially with some of the stat boosts they get, and being able to call Ally Pokémon which usually complement them in some way.
There are ways in which the player can create a challenge for themselves in this game, whether that’s through running a Nuzlocke, mono-type or low levelled challenge. Ultimately though, the main story part of this game does not offer much in the way of a challenge. Maybe the game could have included a “hard” mode, similar to how Black and White 2 a couple of years ago did, but I don’t think that would be necessary.
This game has the usual formula which every other Pokémon main series game has, where you have to raise a team of up to six Pokémon, with four moves each and take on the Island Challenge and fight the Elite Four, although you can swap and change your Pokémon as much as you like once you’ve caught them. There was a decent set of new Pokémon and ‘Alola formes’ of various Kanto Pokémon, which gave them new movesets and types, which meant that making a varied team was easy to do. However, personally, I would have liked more Alola formes than just the handful of Kanto Pokémon
However, even at this point, things were slightly different – there were no Gyms in these games! They’ve instead been replaced with the Island Challenge – a set of trials across the four islands that make up the Alola region. These vary from having to track down ingredients for cooking in a jungle, to straight up having to fight a Totem Pokémon after a series of non-Totem fights. Although I felt they did a decent job of changing up the older Gym formula well, I think the trials could have been a bit more involved – for example, rather than having to find three cooking ingredients for the Grass Trial, why not five or more?
I also think a lot of the game was made too easy – sure there were a couple of tougher fights in the game, but I think more could have been done with the rank and file trainer battles – most trainers up to the second Island only have one Pokémon on them – which makes fighting a bit disappointing, and quickly dealt with – I prefer teams which are well-thought out and require a bit of thought in order to defeat.
I like how the EXP system has been retained from Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, where Pokémon receive more EXP from defeating higher-levelled Pokémon, and the amount gained steadily decreases as the Pokémon levels increase.
I really didn’t like the new gimmick introduced in these games, that of the Z-moves (then again, I don’t like Mega Evolution either…). Z-moves are granted to your Pokémon by virtue of them holding a Z-Crystal of a certain type, either won during a trial, given to you as part of the plot, or in the case of some, literally found lying on the floor. Then, provided the Pokémon is holding a Z-Crystal, they then need to have a move of the same type as the crystal, or with some Pokémon, a certain signature move. The Z-Crystal then upgrades the move once only per battle into a super-powered version of that attack. And then that’s it. Although I like how other trainers also use Z-Crystals, I… just didn’t like it. That and the poses your trainer use before unleashing Z-Crystal power are cringey to look at.
The game also introduced the idea of ‘SOS Battles’, wherein which a wild Pokémon is able to call for help during the battle, and summon an ally Pokémon. Similar to the older chaining, as ally Pokémon are defeated, more can be summoned, and chances of them having a Hidden Ability or being shiny also increase. However, I also found occasionally the calling for help mechanic got a bit annoying, especially if all I want to do is quickly speed through a route, as it really does inflate the time spent in battle.
Sun and Moon finally got rid of HMs, and replaced them with Ride Pokemon. The Ride Pokemon can perform certain tasks; Tauros helps you get around faster than running and destroys boulders which are blocking access to certain parts of routes, Charizard can help you fly to any location, Lapras and Sharpedo replace Surfing and also allow you to fish from their backs, amongst others. This was a much needed improvement that frees up space on players’ teams as HM Slaves are no longer needed, nor is it required to give up a move slot for a HM.
However, although an improvement, it still has several issues; for instance, you can no longer fly to any route like in Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, and must fly to a specific location with a Pokécentre. I was also annoyed by the fact that every time you use a Ride Pokémon, you also have to sit through several seconds of an animation of getting onto the Ride Pokémon before having to use it.
The game also introduced the ‘Rotom Dex’, a Pokédex possessed by a Rotom – which although it has a very useful map feature, which also marks out where to go next to advance the storyline, also got on my nerves. Does Rotom have to comment on nearly everything as you go to new places, or catch new Pokémon?
I quite liked the Festival Plaza, and although it was mainly to allow as a gateway to online play, I liked the fact it could be accessed and built up without the need to go online, and still allowed you to access things such as easy EV training of Pokémon and hard to get items. However, after levelling up the Plaza the first few dozen times, it did get a bit annoying hoping that you’d randomly get the shop or facility you wanted, without going online and finding the facility to invite. However, it made for a decent diversion from the actual game.
The Poképelago felt like an expy of the Dreamworld from the 5th gen, and I quite liked it – it allowed you to quickly and easily grow Berries without having to rely on Berry drops from the odd tree dotted about the region, and also allowed for the catching of Pokémon not native to the Alola region. I think more could have been done with it, however.
And overall, that’s how I feel about the game – some aspects were innovative, but not nearly enough, I felt.
Although I can happily replay this game for enforced challenges such as Nuzlocke runs, or Monotype runs, I really think I would struggle simply because of the fact I’d also have to sit through hours of forced cut scenes again.
Replay Value: 7
Although they were decent standalone entries to the main series Pokémon games, with some reasonable attempts to change up the formula after twenty years of much the sameness, I just feel more could have been done with these games.
Written by Karen