Are Pokémon Sun and Moon Good Additions to the Team?

The Pokémon franchise started very modestly, with a small team working on what would go on to become an infamously glitchy pair of games. Nonetheless, Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue became hugely popular, capturing the imagination of millions of people around the world. Now the series is on its seventh generation of games and still has a huge fan base that waits eagerly for the next expansion to the Pokémon world. Unfortunately, while there have been many fantastic new features added each game, certain aspects of the franchise have stagnated over the years and have only become more obvious as flaws with each subsequent game failing to fix them.

Since its inception in the early 90s, Pokémon has grown a lot from its original concept of a game about catching bugs. Over the years, the battling system has been fleshed out massively; type effectiveness was reshuffled after the first games and three new types have been added, along with tonnes of new moves. There was also the physical/special split, which meant that a move being considered either physical or special was dependant on the move itself, not its type. These changes add a lot for both casual and hardcore players; the main story and fun battles with friends become more enjoyable when there’s a bit more to think about and if there’s one thing that hardcore gamers love, it’s a complex battle system.

The world has also been expanded over the last 20 years. With the number of Pokémon now at 802 and counting, the amount of diversity among these creatures makes the world feel so much more alive. To add to this, newer games have developed much richer stories that expand the lore and combat some of the issues in the Pokémon world. The plot of Diamond, Pearl and Platinum provided us with a creation story for the universe that the series takes place in, while Black and White gave us the debate of whether it’s ethical to make Pokémon fight. All this goes a long way to expanding upon the world that was first introduced back in 1996.

However, while some things change, others stay the same and Pokémon is no exception. While the stories of later games added more interesting elements, each one kept the basic structure of fighting eight gym leaders and then the Elite Four. While this provides a nice sense of progression it became more and more detached from the main story as the series went on, until battling the gyms felt like a nuisance that interfered with the plot.

On the subject of nuisances, a game mechanic utilising special moves called HMs massively hindered enjoyment of the previous games. HMs are moves that can be used outside of battle to affect things in the environment; for example, ‘Strength’ is used to move boulders and ‘Fly’ allows you to quick travel. While some of these moves were good in battle, most were not and they can only be removed by a specific character somewhere in the game. These moves are either required to progress or provide a basic mechanic to streamline gameplay; this forces people to waste places in their Pokémon’s move set in order to complete the game.

Now we get to Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon and it’s clear from the second you start up the game that they are doing something different. The moment you fire it up, the game skips right past the title screen straight into a video call with the professor, then into an action packed cutscene with a new character running away with a mysterious Pokémon. The game is already demonstrating how it takes a more direct approach to its storytelling, treating the plot as less of an afterthought. This continues throughout the story; there are many mysteries and intriguing plot points that make the narrative of this game considerably more immersive than any other entry to date.

To add to this, gyms are missing from the new region of Alola, and in their place is the Island Challenge; these are a set of trials that require you to do something other than battling to succeed, providing a much-needed breath of fresh air. Thankfully, HMs are also nowhere to be found. Instead, we have Ride Pokémon; these are Pokémon that are not in your party and can be called upon at any time to fill out their specific function. This allows you the freedom to choose exactly what Pokémon to have in your team; you no longer have to worry about needing to use ‘Cut’ before the next opportunity to switch Pokémon.

Sun and Moon also manage to provide a fantastic sense of immersion by presenting the world in a more realistic way. The art style has changed from previous instalments and, although it retains its cartoony look, human characters are more realistically proportioned. This makes it easier to get lost in the world we find ourselves in and we can become more connected to our Pokémon as well.

Since the release of Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon, many people have chosen them as their new favourite Pokémon games, and it’s easy to see why. With a more immersive world and fleshed out story than ever before, combined with many welcome changes to the Pokémon formula, these games set themselves apart from the rest of the series. Sun and Moon bring a lot to the team and not just for the Pokémon connoisseur.

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