3:45 pm EST, November 22, 2016

‘Pokémon Sun / Moon’ review: A stellar ride through Alola

The Pokémon series has held strong over its 20-year history, with Pokémon Sun and Moon further improving the franchise.

Every once in a while, Game Freak treats hardcore fans to a new generation of creatures in a colorful new region. With Sun and Moon, The Pokémon Company has created their most vibrant, interesting, and heart-pounding adventure yet.

I had a concern that the Alola region would feel cramped from settings like four individual islands and the retirement of the tried and true Gym challenge. However, my lowered expectations for this seventh generation of ‘mons took a 180 when I was pleasantly challenged with each of the Totem Pokémon battles.

‘Pokémon Sun / Moon’ review

The most welcome development in the Pokémon series present in Sun and Moon is the built-in ability to create the level of difficulty you want. Beginners are treated to new Z-Moves, giving players an easy option for a one-hit K.O. However, turning off EXP share and not using Z-Moves proved to be a challenging and intriguing journey.

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Arguably the biggest improvement in this two decade old series is the complete removal of HM moves. Ride Pokémon take the place of HM functions, allowing players to soar the tropical skies on Charizard, or surf the warm ocean on Lapras.

While nearly all is sunny in the Hawaii-based region, there is one glaring issue in this game: the concentration on the “original 151.” As noted by half of the Ride Pokémon and all of the Alolan variants, the first generation of Pokémon has far exceeded the level of being catered to. True, it can be argued that the Alola region is geographically near Kanto, much like Johto. However, as a hardcore fan, it can be difficult to understand why Generations 2 through 6 are given much less screen time, if any at all.

I can understand the world building decision in using so much of Generation 1. The first Generation was built very well, but it now feels like more of a crutch for the series to heavily rely on, making it more difficult to invest in the newer creatures. Also, with Pokémon Go giving rise to the sudden resurgence of casual Pokémon fans, it makes sense that Nintendo would cater to that fervent and financially powerful fanbase.

The pacing in Pokémon Sun and Moon is impeccable. From the evolution of the
refreshingly mature plot, to the constant barrage of fun and challenging battles, the Pokémon series has never felt more well-polished.

The soundtrack incorporates live voice, a note somewhat foreign to the Pokémon series. The vocal tracks add beautiful flares of Hawaiian culture to the games, along with new Pokémon and NPCs that feel realistic to the tropical region.

The mini games in the Pokémon series have slowly improved to the level of “tolerable.” Pokémon Snap makes a return when players use their adorable-as-all-heck Rotom Pokédex to take pictures of Pokémon in the wild. Pokémon Amie returns under the guise of Pokémon Refresh, giving trainers the ability to heal status conditions and create a loving bond by petting their digital creatures.

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The Pokémon Festival arena allows for both trading and battling locally and online, along with side mini games to help players obtain a friendlier ‘mon, or even hard to get items. While wireless communication has never been Nintendo’s forte, Sun and Moon barely skate by with a somewhat usable UI, and faster communication than previous generations.

When the 40-plus hour adventure comes to an end, longtime series fans are treated to a fun postgame, featuring fan favorite characters from previous generations. While it would be a spoiler to reveal who shows up, what we can say is that the interwoven story of all generations past comes back in a great way.

With impressive visuals for 3DS standards, and an overworld built to tantalize exploration, Pokémon Sun and Moon are top notch RPG games. If you’re a longtime fan, you’ll be treated with more Generation 1 creatures and variants than this reviewer cared for. However, the tight pace and epic tale make for a Pokémon game that fans of all walks of Poké-knowledge won’t want to miss.

‘Pokémon Sun / Moon’ grade: 9.5/10

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