Whether you haven’t played Pokemon since you were a kid, haven’t played it at all, or are a PokeVeteran, the latest installment in the main Pokemon series is something you will want to check out. Let’s go over what’s new, the good, and the bad.

 

-What’s New?

Experience Share

If you’ve been out of the Pokemon scene for a while now, you may not know about this very convenient feature. It allows you to share experience with Pokemon even if they don’t take part in the battle. This is very useful for trainers who know what it’s like to experience the gruelling grind for Gyarados as an example. Purists, fear not, as the feature is able to be switched off if you still want that old school challenge. However, for those trying to fill their PokeDex, this feature is a godsend.

Global Trading System & Wonder Trade

The GTS is a feature which allows you to deposit a Pokemon you want to trade into the system while requesting a specific Pokemon in return. It’s a great way to fill your Dex or to get Pokemon which are exclusive to other versions of the game. With Wonder Trade, you can deposit a Pokemon to be immediately traded with someone else, but the catch is that it’s a blind trade. You could put in an Oranguru you searched for an hour to find and get a level 1 Magikarp in return. However, Wonder Trade is also a place where very kind people go to brighten up another player’s day. I once got a Virizion through Wonder Trade. I hope the trainer who sent it to me likes level 1 Charmanders. Hey, at least the Charmander had 5 IVs and didn’t have a disgusting nickname which sometimes, can be too much to ask for. But all in all, both features are very fun to use. Of course, you need an internet connection for both of them.

Festival Plaza

This feature harkens back to the days of Pokemon Black/White 2 when we had a feature called Join Avenue. Festival Plaza is a place accessible from your bottom screen where you can go to special shops that take Festival Coins as currency. You earn coins by interacting with people who visit your plaza (via the internet, friend’s list, or a passer-by). When you earn coins, you increase your Plaza’s ranking and have an opportunity to access new Plaza features and shops. At the shops you can buy Pokeballs of all kinds, feed your Pokemon a meal to increase its level or stats or friendliness, send your Pokemon into a play area to have fun and also discover an item, play the daily lottery, and even dye your clothing and accessories a different color. Festival Plaza is also where you go to access the GTS, Wonder Trade, and Link Trade.

PokePelago

You can get to PokePelago via the bottom screen. You can collect PokeBeans here, which can be fed to Pokemon to increase their friendliness to you in battle (not for evolution, but let’s not get too complicated here) or as currency to build up various islands in PokePelago. Wild Pokemon can visit the main island, Isle Abeens, and some end up wanting to join your team! Isle Aplenny will allow you to grow your own Berries. Isle Evelup is a place where you can drop off your Pokemon to play and increase their level or stats in the meantime (similar to the Daycare in previous games but without the breeding aspect). On Isle Aphun you can send your Pokemon on an adventure in a cave to look for various types of items, and on Isle Avue you can send your Pokemon there to relax and increase their friendliness towards you. This island can also be used to hatch eggs if you don’t feel like lugging them around and hatching them by yourself.

New Ways to Get Around

Gone are the days of HMs! We can all rejoice now that we no longer have to slog to the Pokemon Center every time we want to get out a random Pokemon who can use Surf, Fly, etc, only to have to lug it back to the Pokemon Center to put it away again. Now we have special Pokemon that we can access anytime we press the Y button: Tauros can break boulders, Lapras can surf, Charizard can fly, etc. HM moves are still available of course, but only if you actually want to teach them to your Pokemon for use in battle.

No Gyms! Plus Z Moves and Z Shards

Alola has no gyms in the way we’re used to seeing them. You go on an Island Challenge and battle each island’s Kahuna for a Z Shard (in place of a badge). The Z Shard, when equipped on a Pokemon, will allow them to do the Z form of certain moves, which will power up said move. X/Y had Mega Evolution and Sun/Moon has Z Shards.

-The Good Stuff

Alola Forms

Alola, aside from being a well-designed and generally fun region to play in (it’s really just Hawaii, you know), has different forms of familiar Pokemon. For example, Ghost type Meowth, who also looks different than regular Meowth. The Form differences don’t just affect the Pokemon’s appearance but also their abilities and types. It’s a cool way of putting in new Pokemon designs without creating too many new Pokemon altogether.

PokePelago and Festival Plaza

These are very fun to play around with even though Festival Plaza is a little difficult to customize, as you have to do a lot of socializing and asking visitors about new shops in order to acquire them. PokePelago saves time on level grinding, helps you get rare items, and even hatch eggs pretty easily.

Trainer Customization

A feature that was unavailable in Omega Ruby/ Alpha Sapphire, trainer customization in X/Y was really fun and made the game feel more immersive, giving you a lot more to do as well. When removed from OR/AS, I felt the game was missing a fun feature and it was really disappointing. The addition of the dye houses in Festival Plaza increases customization options which is even more fun to play around with.

Take Photos with the PokeFinder

The photography aspect of the game is quite fun and feels like a throwback to Pokemon Snap. Unfortunately, it’s very underused throughout the game, and I actually missed most of the photo op locations. I think they should have made this feature more prominent but it also makes me wonder if they’re trying it out to test whether Pokemon Snap 2 might be doable on the 3DS or Switch, if people are into the concept. I very certainly hope so!

No More HMs

As mentioned before, getting around and using special moves outside of battle is so much easier now that we don’t need HMs. It makes everything so much easier and also a lot of fun. I love to see my trainer riding around on a Lapras in game.

Clever Writing

The dialogue is cleverly written, fun, funny, and self-aware. They’re not afraid to poke fun at themselves. That said, Pokemon games have never been outstanding for their incredible storytelling – the story has always taken a back seat to the gameplay, and this game is no different. However, I felt the story was pretty unique anyway and it kept me interested in enough.

New Pokemon

There aren’t just new regular Pokemon running around Alola, we also have new Pokemon called “Ultra Beasts” which are important to the game’s central plot. Their designs are pretty cool and they’re definitely something fresh to the series.

-The Bad

Z Shards Compared to Mega Evolutions

This is perhaps a rather subjective issue but I found that using the Z Moves was not nearly as satisfying as using Mega Evolution. With the Z Shards, you are limited to one very powerful move per battle, per Pokemon. With Mega Evolution, the effect lasted as long as your Pokemon was not KO’ed. In a way, it seems like the developers wanted to nerf the power of Mega Evolution with something that could have a few more limitations on it.

Move Effectiveness Display

When you battle against a Pokemon you’ve faced at least once before, your battle screen will display the effectiveness of the move against the opposing Pokemon. While this is rather convenient, it takes a lot of the challenge out of it. Part of the challenge we face in Pokemon is remembering which types of moves are effective against different types of Pokemon. I think this feature was included to make the game easier for kids (some of my friends’ kids have said they don’t play Pokemon because it’s too complicated with all the type matching you have to do). However, I honestly think the biggest audience for Pokemon these days is teenagers and adults, and if they can’t get a handle on which types match up against what, perhaps this series isn’t for them. And I’ll add, I could match up types just fine when I started Pokemon at age 10… Just saying…

No National Dex

This entry may prove a bit divisive and I may be in the minority on this one but this problem really rained on my PokeParade.

To catch them all in Pokemon Sun/Moon, you only have to catch 200 Pokemon. Now, that is more than the original 150 but in X/Y, you had the option of filling your Kalos (regional) Dex AND your National Dex. So if you just wanted to catch the Pokemon available in the game (and by trading with friends between version exclusives), you could simply complete the Kalos Dex and feel accomplished on that front. However, people like me wanted to catch all 700+ (at the time) Pokemon necessary to fill the National Dex, meaning all of the non-event Pokemon in existence at the time. It took me hours upon hours, trade upon trade, eggs upon eggs, but at last I did it, and that was a great feeling of accomplishment. For Sun/Moon, with the absence of the National Dex, I’m certain I’ll be putting a few hundred less hours into the game than I did into X/Y. (Yes, a few less hundred. Don’t look at me like that…)

Limited Online Access

In X/Y, you were able to just constantly be online and monitor your friends’ online statuses on the bottom screen while adventuring. In that case, you could be running around and still receive trade or battle requests. You could also receive O-Powers which could boost your Pokemon’s’ strength, increase experience points, etc. It was a great feature. Unfortunately, the only time you’re online in Sun/Moon is when you are in Festival Plaza. I feel like that removes some of the fun of online connectivity and makes the game generally feel less active, in a sense.

-What’s the Difference?

There aren’t too many differences between Sun and Moon but let’s go over the ones that exist. In Sun, in-game daytime coincides with real life daytime. However, in Moon, in-game daytime is during real life night time. This can actually be kind of convenient, especially if there are lots of things you need to do during in-game daytime and maybe your job isn’t so forgiving of you playing Pokemon at work. Another difference is that some of the “Totem Pokemon,” basically, mini-bosses, are different between games. As usual, your legendary Pokemon will be different depending on your version. In Sun, you’ll receive Solgaleo and in Moon you’ll receive Lunala. Also, there are certain Pokemon you can only get in one version of the game, and you’ll have to trade with a friend in order to get the exclusives. Here’s a chart so you know which exclusives you have and which ones you’ll need to trade for:

Sun:
Vulpix
Passimian
Turtonator
Buzzwole
Kartana
Cranidos
Tirtouga
Cottonee
Rufflet

Moon:
Sandshrew
Oranguru
Drampa
Lunala
Phermosa
Celesteela
Shieldon
Archen
Petilil
Vullaby

Conclusion:

Sun/Moon is a great new entry into the series and is generally very fun to play. It’s especially good for beginners and for people returning to the series. The lack of difficulty and limited online access is a bit of a bummer but it can be overlooked to enjoy the game. For me personally, X/Y is the best Pokémon game out there, so if you’ve been out of the PokeLoop and want to get back in, I absolutely suggest it; especially if you enjoy Sun/Moon.

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