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By Kallie Plagge
Update: Pokemon Sun & Moon has been nominated for's năm 2016 Game of the Year.


Like re-reading a favorite book in an unfamiliar place, Pokemon Sun & Moon combine a lot of my favorite things about Pokemon into an adventure that reminded me why I fell in love with this RPG series in the first place without simply repeating what came before. With equal attention given to lớn roleplaying (my first obsession) & battle (my more recent interest), Sun & Moon both honor the 20-year legacy of Pokemon và improve upon it in a number of ways, making for a surprising and engaging tropical adventure that is as much about the journey as it is the destination.

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Arguably the biggest & most important change in Pokemon Sun and Moon is the Island Challenge in its new setting, Alola. Instead of taking on a series of gyms as we’ve done many times before, you embark on a variety of battles and non-combat challenges, such as scavenger hunts and quizzes, that culminate in a fight against a stronger foe. One trial sent me on a hunt for ingredients so we could attract a local Pokemon with a traditional meal, while another involved memorizing luau-esque dances atop a volcano. It’s similar enough khổng lồ previous Pokemon games to lớn avoid alienating veterans but also an inventive take on the formula that fits with and plays off of the island setting beautifully.

Bringing the challenges out into the world, rather than keeping each step toward becoming a champion segmented in its own gym, helped Alola feel more lượt thích a place where things happen instead of an overworld map. It also kept the Island Challenge from becoming mindless — I couldn’t autopilot my way through it like I could with a lot of X and Y, for example. I didn’t always know when or where a trial would start or what exactly would happen when I got there, and that kept me on my toes, frequently fine-tuning my team và trying out a lot more Pokemon than I usually do during an initial run. The themed minigames also kept each trial surprising until I reached the final fight.

The Island Challenge is a welcome change from traditional, run-of-the-mill gyms.

The trials are a good way to lớn get to know the charming captains that run them & learn about the history and traditions of Alola — even on the first island, I’d heard bits và pieces about the elusive “guardian Deity” Pokemon and come to lớn understand the trials’ purpose in the local legends surrounding them. After two trials, I was as fully invested in the new region as I was with my familiar quest to become the champion.

The reward for completing a trial is a Z-Crystal, an công trình which allows the Pokemon holding it lớn attack with an extra-strong ultimate move once per battle. It’s Alola’s take on Mega Evolutions, descongthuong.neted to showroom something to lớn the familiar set of battle, & I have yet to lớn see past its novelty. I didn’t really need lớn use these Z-Moves during my Island Challenge (though part of that was wanting a bit more flexibility with difficulty, which Pokemon has always been good at granting by making these things optional). They’re kind of cool to lớn have as a panic button in a tough battle, so I’m interested to lớn see if they’ll be allowed in official competitive matches and how they might shake things up.

A Whole New World

Alola is the most inspired region in Pokemon so far, và that made exploring it fun & rewarding. Instead of just looking for items or places lớn grind, I was taught khổng lồ expect the unexpected. Alola is based on Hawaii, & from the smaller, quieter island you call home to another with a luxurious resort và a volcano, each of the four main islands has its own feel. I definitely didn’t think I’d find myself in an Old West-style ranch town, for example, and was delighted as I walked through it. It doesn’t feel out of place, though, since it’s where the new horse Pokemon, Mudsdale, is kept for riders looking to traverse rocky trails — which I’d need later on.

Alola is the most inspired region in Pokemon so far.

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Among the surprises, there are a lot of details in Alola that nail the tropical theme and fit well. The Alola forms of first-generation Pokemon, like the more colorful Grimer và the infamously tall Exeggutor, for example, are smart changes that are in sync with the ecology of the islands. They also work well with the strong roster of new Pokemon that features interesting type combinations with some pretty good stat spread options, và I’m excited khổng lồ see how they work their way into the competitive scene. I’ve happily added quite a few khổng lồ my team, lượt thích Charjabug, a tankier take on the electric/bug typing previously belonging only lớn the more fragile Joltik và Galvantula. The music, too, is island-inspired (and, in some cases, based on other Pokemon regions) và reimagines a lot of the original music, including the battle theme, quite well. Places, people, and Pokemon that connect even in subtle ways make Sun & Moon more engaging.

Victory Road lớn Hana

The 30-plus-hour story of the Sun and Moon adventure also contributes to lớn that vibrant world-building. It’s the first Pokemon trò chơi in a while that kept me focused on the journey & discovery, rather than setting my sights on the post-game và grinding until I reached it. That’s not to say that the plot is compelling on its own — it’s a fine story for a Pokemon game, but it’s plagued by awkward dialogue on the part of Team Skull and some predictable events. There are times when it pokes fun at itself for its sillier parts, & I appreciated that even when I wasn’t as excited about a scene.
But there’s a general mystery to lớn Alola that serves as a carrot drawing you forward, and as a result those story pitfalls take a back seat to let Alola and its inhabitants speak for themselves. Even the slower scenes are made better with vastly improved camera work — learning about how Pokemon battles work for the thousandth time is less boring when the conversation looks almost lượt thích an anime rather than static frames, & the characters are more expressive than in any previous game. And almost everything from the new Alola forms of first-generation Pokemon (like Marowak, which went from ground-type lớn a fire-ghost wielding a flaming bone club) khổng lồ the Island Challenge in general is different enough from what I’m used to lớn as a lifelong player, in that they feel lượt thích fresh discoveries.

What’s Old Is New Again

Sun and Moon are also approachable for new or rusty players thanks to lớn a streamlined battle interface. The move-selection screen now has way more detail at a glance, including information about what the moves bởi vì if you forget. Move effectiveness is also displayed, which means it’s a lot easier to lớn battle effectively without having the type matchups memorized. It’s a good way khổng lồ learn the nuances of battle, và it’s not cluttered or obtrusive if you vì know your way around the type chart. For me, it was especially helpful in quickly learning the strengths & weaknesses of new Alola Pokemon — và they grew on me faster, too.

The new interface is one of quite a few upgrades that add up khổng lồ a great improvement. The bloated HM system has been replaced with Poke Ride, which opens up Alola to exploration early on. It’s a seriously important change that frees up your buổi tiệc nhỏ for the interesting new Pokemon (my favorite being the ghost/fairy Mimikyu, who dresses up in a Pikachu costume because it’s lonely and wants friends), và there’s a much wider variety of Pokemon available at the start than in previous generations, too. Having access to ghost-type Pokemon right away made the early team-building process a lot more fun than in the days of being surrounded by rodents, bugs, & birds for three routes.

Upgrades both big & a bit smaller add up khổng lồ a great improvement.

There are even small upgrades to more recent additions lớn Pokemon, and though they’re less noticeable, they’re welcome. Pokemon Refresh is a slightly altered version of X and Y’s Pokemon Amie that serves more of a tangible purpose in healing status conditions after battle. Trading with and battling real-life players is similar to lớn the previous generation, complete with one of my favorite features, Wonder Trade, but with a festival-themed site as the base of operations and a variety of thắng lợi rewards for engaging in multiplayer. There’s also a cool new minigame-style feature called Poke Pelago in which you tăng cấp a series of small personal islands, one of which makes the tedium of hatching eggs easier (finally) while another works like Super Training. As an avid Pokemon player, the littlest additions did a lot lớn make doing the things that are still the same in Sun and Moon better this time around.


After trăng tròn years of slow but steady evolution, Pokemon gets a bit of a reinvention in Sun and Moon. An engrossing and rich new region makes the Alola journey — along with all the changes Sun & Moon make khổng lồ the existing formula — enjoyable throughout the main adventure, & small interface & variety of upgrades along the way make a few of the things that stayed the same feel better than before.