I truly believe that Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon brings some of the most necessary changes to the Pokémon formula. That being said, I am a massive Pokémon fan. I have played every main-series entry and almost every spin-off title. It is my favorite franchise. But yes, I do think that the formula was getting slightly stale and was ready for a change. This is it. This is exactly that change.
Everything that has been shown off so far for the new entries in the series has consistently left me with my jaw on the floor. This new gameplay seems more akin to a typical JRPG. An active map, full character proportions in the over-world, visible trainers in the backgrounds of battles, interaction between the Pokémon and the trainer, side-quests, boss-Pokémon, challenges that “don’t focus on battle” — it all feels so fresh while keeping the core of the franchise intact. Yes you still battle. Yes you still capture Pokémon. Yes you still complete your Pokédex. They’ve just added features that will make the gameplay experience, for lack of a better term, perfect.
Instead of just sitting here and detailing fully each and every new added mechanic, I’ll just pick out the ones I think are the most appealing. Starting with the ability to see the active buffs/debuffs affecting your Pokémon. Yes, I have been playing this series for a really long time. But even with the countless hours under my belt, I still forget what some moves do and just forget what is active and not active. If you’re fighting a particularly annoying Eevee that continuously uses Tail Whip, I’d like to not have to tally up how many stages my defense is lowered. With this new feature you don’t have to. You can easily see what has affected your Pokémon and just how bad it is. On the other side, if you’re using Musharna and want to set up a few Calm Minds to hit hard with your Stored Power, you can now see just how powerful you’ve made your monster. It seems like this should have happened generations ago, but I’m glad we’re seeing it now.
Next up is the over-world map. I mean, this is incredible. Yeah, we slightly saw it with the AreaNav in ORAS or the Marking Map application installed in your Pokétch in DPPt, but this is a full-fledged map. A MAP. Displayed right there on your touch screen. From the slight footage we’ve seen of Pokédex-R (I’m not sure if this is what they’re calling it but it fits and I’m using it), it seems like you can see waypoints, or different areas of interest. This is a game changer in so many different ways.
Pokémon has followed a specific formula for years. Literally since it launched on Game Boy. You start in a town, you receive your starter, you battle tirelessly to challenge the 8 gyms (16 in GSC), defeat the Elite Four, and become Pokémon Champion. Sun and Moon throw all of this out the window. Instead you have the Island Challenge. Seemingly no badges, no gym leaders, nothing familiar to the typical Badge collecting of the previous games. This is incredible. Keeping the core the same, Pokémon has become this hybrid RPG focusing on monster collection first and foremost instead of badge collecting. I couldn’t be more excited. With this new progression, Game Freak has introduced the Totem Pokémon. For all intents and purposes, these are just boss fights. They are able to summon other monsters to fight along side them, they are larger than the other monsters in their specific species, and they are more powerful. Not only that, to even attain audience with these stronger monsters you have to complete a set of challenges that could have nothing to do with battling at all. For the first time since this series launched, it truly feels like an honest-to-god RPG.
The Alolan forms of old Pokémon is a genius move on their part. No, I don’t think its lazy. They have created almost 800 of these monsters. 800 is a lot of variety. Switching up the way you remember Pokémon from different regions is smart. It adds a layer of depth to a game and also adds “new” monsters without getting into the thousands. Yeah, eventually we’ll have over 1000 creatures to capture, trade, and train, but for now this is a great way of providing some changes to the current meta, as well as shaking up the nostalgia factor for fans specifically of older generations. (Specifically, that Fire/Ghost Marowak and that Grass/Dragon Exeggutor are flawless).
Finally, the inclusion of visible player character and adversaries during battles shakes up what could be considered a stale battle formula. After battling for years the same way, two Pokémon pitted against each other (occasionally seeing a trainer hop in to say something like, “Hmm..so you went with that move?”) it does get old. Especially if you have logged thousands of hours over the course of 6 generations. You can see your trainer. You can see your opponent. You can see them giving directions, interacting with you and the battle. You can see the trainers. This instantly gives the battles a more personal feel. Making the trainers visible during your battles instantly makes the connection and bond you share with your little creatures so much more real. I cannot wait to experience battles.
I have had so many different experiences with Pokémon over the years. Recently I am replaying Pokémon Black Version 2, and I’m playing it like its my first time. Exploring every area, talking to every NPC, looking in every trash can. Every time you play you can create a different set of rules to make it fresh, but ultimately it is the same game you’ve already experienced. Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon are going to add things to the franchise that was both necessary and also unexpected. I hope that this will be one of my favorite entries in the recent years, and I hope it will make everyone else as happy as it’s making me.