NWR's staff heads back to Alola at another look at the latest entries in the Pokémon series.
The seventh generation of Pokémon games have been out for a few months, and to say they’ve been enormously popular would be an understatement. Both Alex and Daan gave the games positive reviews upon their release. Daan enjoyed the experiments Game Freak tinkered with as far as the traditional RPG Pokémon formula went, while Alex admired the game’s trials and setting. Three more of NWR’s faithful have their thoughts on Alola -- do they agree, or do they have a different opinion?
Bryan Rose, Reviews Editor: Pokémon Sun and Moon are a fantastic entry in the mainline Pokémon series. It offers new challenges, tougher gameplay, a more streamlined experience and enough side quests and Pokémon collecting that keeps the series fresh in its seventh incarnation.
What I loved about Sun and Moon the most was that they took genuine steps in making this feel like a completely new experience. Instead of just refining what made Red/Green/Blue great like in other sequels that we’ve seen, Sun and Moon offer a completely different experience, ridding itself of gym leader battles in favor of new island challenges that add a new element to gameplay. It’s nice not knowing what you’re getting into in a mainline Pokémon title for once - it was pretty exciting doing each challenge and figuring out what to do next.
This doesn’t mean that Sun/Moon doesn't have its downfalls. Much like X and Y, you have a bunch of friends that hold your hand throughout the game and tell you what to do. This becomes redundant, especially in later parts of the game where you feel like you’re chained to your friends so much it makes the game feel linear in terms of scope. Plus, the smaller islands in the later parts of the game don’t help that feeling much, either. But despite the negatives, I had a very positive experience with Sun and Moon. It’s a breath of fresh air in a series that was long overdue for one.
Matt West, Associate Editor: Pokémon Sun and Moon are the most streamlined games in the series to date, and I mean that in ways that are both good and bad. Pokémon has never been more accessible than it is in these two entries; the various quality of life improvements and the wonderful presentation of the Alola region are delightful for veterans and newcomers alike. For example, HMs are gone, and in their place are Pokémon you can summon with the simple press of a button that do most of the HM grunt work. No longer do trainers have to agonize about using a move slot for a pointless HM move, or assign a party slot to a HM-only Pokémon. It’s an overdue addition that’s just one example of how Sun and Moon make the series more accessible than ever before. Displaying move effectiveness on opposing Pokémon during battles, assigning Pokeballs to the “Y” button rather than ruffling through menu screens to find them, and a UI that is the series’ easiest to navigate all make finding, battling, and catching Pokémon a joy.
Unfortunately, the streamlining didn’t stop there. Sun and Moon are by far the series’ most linear games, especially the first couple of islands, in which you are repeatedly forced down one path (which reminded me of Final Fantasy XIII’s linear hallways) until you reach the next cut scene. There were several instances, even halfway through the game, where I felt as if I still hadn’t been set free to truly explore Alola like I was at a similar point in previous games. Because of this linearity, Alola feels like the smallest region in the series, despite being on more powerful hardware than games like Red and Blue.
I also personally didn’t care much for the trials replacing the gym battles, and felt that most of them were pointless fetch quests or a waste of time. Z-Moves, likewise, are a less interesting substitute for Mega Evolutions, and too often they felt like a “win button” in some of the game’s tougher battles.
Those criticisms aside, Sun and Moon are still rock solid Pokémon games, even if they don’t represent the best the series has to offer in many regards. The various quality of life improvements, mixed with what I consider to be the best new Pokémon designs in at least a decade, combined to make Sun and Moon an enjoyable journey, and a good send off for the series on 3DS.
Neal Ronaghan, Director: Since being totally consumed by Pokémon Red and Blue as a youth, I’ve receded to being a more casual fan of the series. I’ll check in with every mainline entry, maybe dabble in a spinoff or two all the while never getting wrapped up in the metagame or competition. Most of what I craved in new Pokémon games was freshness, whether it’s new creatures, new narrative twists, new worlds, or new adventures. Pokémon Sun and Moon delivers on nearly everything I wanted in a brand new Pokémon game by changing up the formula just enough to make this adventure feel less rote and formulaic.
Now, Sun and Moon is still very linear, and if you break it down, the new Trials are kind of like Gyms with a new hat on, but the specifics don’t matter as much to me in this case. I didn’t really know where the story would take me next. I didn’t know what the hook of the next Trial would be or what new Totem Pokémon I’d face. The only way this new style backfired on me is that I got caught off-guard by how quickly the ending came, but considering that was after more than 20 hours of delirious fun, that’s not a major issue. It just means I want the rumor of a Switch version to be real and add new stuff.
Pokémon Sun and Moon has become the definitive Pokémon game for me. It carries with it memories of the past but forges ahead with bold new ideas for the present and future. It’s my favorite in the series since Heart Gold/Soul Silver at a minimum, and potentially my favorite Pokémon game ever made at a maximum. Just right now, I’m considering buying the other version so I can romp through this world again (now with my Red/Blue Pokémon courtesy of Pokémon Bank). This game freaking rules.