Pokémon 20th Anniversary Special: Sun and Moon

Alola, Pokémon fans! The new, much-anticipated main series games are here, and they had some very high expectations to meet.

With many, many pre-release trailers showing off new features and ‘mons for months before release, we’ve had a long time to get excited, as well as some fears that we had been shown too much too soon, leaving the actual games feeling a little lacklustre and providing nothing new to discover and explore.

Let me reassure anyone who has yet to start their Alola journey that these fears are not warranted; the new games are visually stunning, packed with interesting new features and twists on previous games, and are the most compelling, story-driven main series titles to date.

To give a quick overview, Sun and Moon are the first titles in the seventh generation of Pokémon games, taking place in a creative interpretation of Hawaii, but with influences from many other places to spice up your travels. You begin your first day in the region having moved from Kanto with your mother, and quickly meet new friends and set off to explore.

“It’s a refreshing shake-up.”

Some noticeable changes have been made compared to previous games, mainly the lack of the gym challenges which are now replaced by ‘island trials’. Quite what this entails, I shall leave for you to find out, but it’s a refreshing shake-up, not simply because we have new challenges but also to see developers change the formula like this.

Further alterations include changes to the UI to make it easier to find your way in the overworld with a slightly crude but effective lower screen map. Keeping track of the flow of battle with type effectiveness of your moves is now shown directly, as well as the option to see a summary of stat changes.

Returning features are now also better integrated, such as X and Y’s ‘Pokémon Amie’ which now takes the form of ‘Pokémon Refresh’. It provides a chance to interact a little with your team and boost affection in order to gain helpful effects in battle, achieved through feeding them and petting them, as well as taking care of status conditions and general cleanliness after battles.

Overall it’s apparent that the changes made for these games make not only basic gameplay easier and more entertaining for newcomers or younger gamers in general, but also make the slightly more advanced aspects required for more competitive gameplay a little more accessible.

“Sun and Moon strive to invest more in characters and storytelling than any Pokémon games you have played before”

It is, however, the feel of the games which impresses me the most, as once you start your journey you can expect to meet a whole colourful cast and with any luck be truly drawn into some of their stories. There is no doubt that Sun and Moon strive to invest more in characters and storytelling than any Pokémon games you have played before, perhaps excluding the Mystery Dungeon series (but we’re sticking to main-series games for comparison).

“It manages to keep you on a clear and well-told story path without making it feel [too] linear”

Gone are the more two-dimensional caricatures of previous titles, and while it’s not quite ‘The Last of Us’, for a game about finding, catching, and raising fantasy creatures, there is surprising depth and character right from the main story arc to the fragments of NPCs’ lives you encounter along the way.

Players are still given the freedom to explore, but that journey is far more frequently interspersed with little moments, cut scenes, hidden gems calling back to previous games, and generally quite successful world-building. It manages to keep you on a clear and well-told story path without making it feel as linear as many games that are considered to be story-based.

Pokémon knew that for its 20th anniversary year, they would have to make their main-series release truly special. The care which has gone into this game seems to shine the whole way through, ensuring provision for new and old fans of the series, and developing a beautiful world to keep exploring well after the main plot finishes.


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