A Different Kind of Pokémon Experience

Pokémon Moon

 

Tea: Valerian Tea

 

Expect no “Best of 2016” awards any time soon, since I have far too much of that dreaded year 2016 left to make a definite list at this point. One of these titles is Pokémon Moon, the latest entry in the franchise of my childhood. Pokémon games have long been, well I would not say stagnating, but innovating in a very minor degree, it is therefore a welcome and unexpected surprise that Sun and Moon take a surprisingly different approach to the genre of Catching ‘em all. And since I already mentioned that this is one of my favourite series, you can expect a thorough analysis. Let’s take a trip to the far-off islands of Alola.

The first major surprise for any seasoned veteran in this title should be the fairly strong focus on the story rather than the journey. You are a new arrival on the Alolan islands and set out to face the Island Trials, the replacement of Gyms, of which there are only four, but every island has at least one captain so it sort of evens out in terms of challenges. Along the way you meet the mysterious girl Lillie and her little companion who she makes sure is always safely tugged away in her bag. The rival team composed of punky society rejects known as Team Skull is there to do the usual rival-team-thing of stealing Pokémon, but this time with a lot more humour and self-awareness. Additionally, they have one of the best themes of any rival team so far and frankly put, every encounter with them made me laugh, except for one, since that particular bit made me feel quite sad. Events unfold and a larger threat enters the picture and the islands cannot handle it without the help of you, the ever-smiling protagonist. I will leave it at that but you should know that some people will complain about the heavier emphasis on story in this one. Through this, the exploration is somewhat hindered. Arbitrary barriers are put in your way to guide you along a relatively linear path, which really makes you wonder what happens when a normal person needs to pass through some of these… Anyway, it is different but I did not mind. I explore to my heart’s content after the main story anyways, so it did not make a huge difference to me. Just be aware that you will have a lot more story scenes than usual and maybe more that you are comfortable with. On the plus side, you will have a stronger bond with the people you share your journey with. This is only added by the fact that the cast is far more likeable than in previous titles, at least to me. My favourite had to be the professor this time around who you meet surprisingly often and who always made me laugh.

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– Meet yourself and the main cast, Lillie is not as frightening in the game as she seems here. –

The main gameplay of Pokémon remains largely unchanged, of course, but there are some new features and some that replace older ones. The most drastic one – aside from the missing gyms which I already addressed – is the lack of HMs. No more HM-slaves that take up a spot in your party, now you can summon different Pokémon at any time to fulfil certain key roles. Tauros is used to run fast, replacing your bike, and also to smash rocks to replace the HM of the same name. And the same goes for all the other HMs and finding out which Pokémon fulfils which role is exciting. Additionally, it makes traversal a lot more fun, since riding around on Pokémon is something I always wished I could do. It was a very minor portion of X and Y, but was only possible in restricted areas. Now you are free to ride around as you please. Fishing is one of the changes I did not like quite as much. Now there are dedicated little craters (?) – I am not certain what they are – anyway, you can only fish in those. Therefore, your fishing options become extremely limited. The plus side to this is no more tedious fishing-in-every-spot kind of affair. I suppose this is due to the fact that the water is now less dividable into square spaces and looks and feels more organic. I am honestly making it a bigger deal than it actually is. And since we are talking about minor details, you now have to press A to enter buildings. I thought this would be a much bigger problem, but as it turns out, you get into it very quickly. False alarm on my part.

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– Not the biggest fan of Tauros, but I am a big fan of ridding Tauros around with speed. –

Mega Evolutions do not feature in the main story, however, the new Z-Moves do, heavily. Z-Moves are one-time use attacks with immensely high power and require a Z-crystal to be held. They are a visual spectacle to be sure, but can lead to some hilarious moments. When you see a gigantic fireball being shot followed by an atomic bomb-level explosion and then the message that this was not very effective the entire situations seems almost comical. Getting these Z-crystals is one of your main goals, since they are the prizes for island trials. There are also minor new features like the Poké Pelago where you can EV train, gather evolution stones, plant berries, and harvest beans to feed your Pokémon to increase their love for you. Speaking of love, their affection for you can now give you the edge in battle. The higher it is, the higher the chance of them dodging attacks, snapping out of confusion, healing status ailments, and even hanging on with 1 HP. Of course, you can still pet all your favourite Pokémon between battles, but now you can also do so directly after a fight to remove status ailments and save those precious items for other times.

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– Learning the dances for eahc crytsal is also a truly special moment for each one. Especially the dark type one… –

One paramount part of any new Pokémon game are the new Pokémon, obviously. People are complaining that there haven’t been any good designs since generation 1, so me telling you that I liked about 99% of the new ones is not going to do much. I enjoyed almost every generation, except for the Black/White ones, cannot put my finger on why, however, all you need to see is Rowlet and you should know that this generation has some amazing designs. They are keeping with the Hawaiian theme and the new Alolan forms of existing Pokémon should please fans of the old ones as well. Getting some of these Pokémon can be kind of a pain at times, especially one particular offender which has to do with the new SOS mechanic. Pokémon that are running low on health can call for back-up which can lead to very annoying long encounters, but some Pokémon or Pokémon with a hidden ability can only be obtained through this and this can be very tedious. It is a great new idea, but one which could use some tweaking since it can truly bring down some battles if the enemy is lucky enough to continually call for help and you are not able to defeat it immediately or catch it, since you can only throw a pokéball with one enemy on the field.

sunmoonstarters– Rowlet is the one in the middle by the way, though I opted for the water starter like every game and was not disappointed either. –

Visually the new game looks amazing. Gone are the miniaturised versions of people and places. Everything is now its proper size, except some ginormous Pokémon for obvious reasons. The trainers are now even standing behind their Pokémon in battle which is one among countless details that make this game something special. The soundtrack is perfect once again with a traditional Hawaiian vibe finding its way into the soundtrack, but not to an annoying degree. The classic Pokémon tunes are still there and the ones you will hear most often do not wear on your ears (at least at the time of writing this they didn’t).

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– Did I mention that your Pokédex is not a Rotom? Well it is! And it is great. –

This is truly a special game, especially in the Pokémon series. I appreciate the risk-taking on Game Freak’s part and it paid off for the most part. The changes are welcome and fitting for the new setting. While the more story-heavy style may scare some people, the feeling of exploring a world full of wonderful creatures is still there and as great as ever. The plot takes you some surprising places but never reaches ridiculous proportions rather fittingly high stakes for the situation. You will still feel like an accomplished hero by the end. As a quick and last side note, this game probably has the best fight against a champ to this day. The moment alone was a stellar point of reflection of your entire journey. One of the highlights of the game and the series as a whole. I can safely whip out the recommendation to both newcomers and old veterans as so many have done already, but I will add this: Appreciating this game as a game is easy, but as a title in a long running series it shines even brighter.

 

 

Image sources in order of appearance:

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3 thoughts on “A Different Kind of Pokémon Experience

  1. A shame that you have to buy a new console for every second Pokémon game that hits the market.
    That said, I really appreciate the fact that there is more emphasis on the story this time around (at least if the story is well written). However, I wonder whether this takes away from the fun when you play it a second time and have to go through all those story-scenes again.
    In any case, the starters seem adorable enough and I´m absolutely in love with that little owl!
    Pokémon-hype still intact and active!

    Like

    • At least they make good use of the new technical powers they gain with new consoles. It is the fate of consoles in general, a neverending cycle of updating your hardware.
      The writing is as you would expect with this series, but there are some really well written lines with a lot of self awareness.
      YES! Rowlet is the best.

      Like

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