November 18th, 2016, marked a very important date on my calendar with the launch of Pokemon Sun and Moon. At first I was skeptical, knowing the drill and unsure if I wanted to invest in the long hours of catching the next generation of Pokemon. Did I want to go through the whole process of collecting all eight badges from snooty gym leaders lecturing me about the importance of my relationship with my Pikachu? Did I want to go out searching for that one uncommon Pokemon located in a Zubat infestation? And did I even want to fight the Elite Four all over again?
Well, when I read up on the premise of Pokemon Sun and Moon, to say the least, I was ready to fork over my credit card!
After the massive popularity of Pokemon Go this past summer coupled with the revamp of the TV show, there seems to be a new generation of trainers in town, and all of them have realized that the phenomenon doesn’t stop at augmented reality mobile games.
Due to massive popularity over the past twenty years, this IP has surpassed sales of arguably the best game of all time Legend of Zelda: Orcarina of Time which sold 7.5 Million copies. Pokemon sees 15 million unit sales on a BAD year and has already sold 10 million units at launch with Pokemon Sun and Moon!
Hours leading up to the launch, complaints were on the raise on reddit as many gamers who had pre-ordered weeks, maybe even months in advance were receiving emails from Amazon to expect shipping delays. According to Amazon, there was a supply and demand issue due to the fact they were been selling units at $10.00 less than retail price.
The ten dollars wasn’t the selling point for me. The Alola region happened to be designed and modeled after the Hawaiian Islands, a place I have visited and love from the bottom of heart. When I saw the map, and the stark resemblance of Melemele island to the real life Oahu, I was over the moon (no pun intended). These four islands would act as our new arena, a new adventure with new opportunities, and new Alola exclusive Pokemon.
At the beginning of the game, you’re an 11 year old kid who moved to the island from Kanto (the original region from red and blue) with your mother. Within minutes you are introduced to Professor Kukui, an optimistic fellow who puts an interesting spin on ‘business casual’ by refusing to wear a shirt under his lab coat. He studies Pokemon move sets and helps the trainer throughout the main tutorial and revised premise of the game.
By ‘revised’ I mean there are no gyms. Yes, you heard me right. This is an interesting take for Nintendo and the Pokemon Company as an ‘old rules don’t apply here’ kind of concept. Integrating an obvious influence from Hawaiian traditional ideologies into the familiarity of the Pokemon series, the game offers a more in depth explanation as to why children go on journeys. This has been an age old question that always seems to be skimmed over game by game. The idea of sending children off on these treks around the world to encounter critters in the wild, to imprison them into balls, and to participate in ‘dog fights’ has not once made an adult character bat an eyelash. Heck, I don’t even think my own mother has, and she knows the all names of the first generation because of me.
So, if we don’t have Gym leaders, who do we have now? They’re called Kahunas, pretty much the leaders of the islands. The first one you meet is Hala, a jolly man who favors fighting type Pokemon. He happens to also give you your starter; Litten, a fire cat, Rowlet, a grass type owl, or Popplio, a sea lion water type. While selecting, Hala will make you go through one of the first island rituals you will encounter.
In Alola region, you don’t choose the Pokemon, the Pokemon chooses you! Now, this is probably some kind of story fluff because what starter WOULDN’T choose you? I ended up with Litten, who is typically indifferent to anything and everything, and he still got in his pokeball.
In terms of a rival, you unfortunately are given Hau, a small impish child who loves to battle. There isn’t a lot that would upset him, even losing a battle to another trainer, even losing a battle to YOU. He’s just there along for the ride when really nobody invited him. In many scenes, I find he prolongs the conversation when all I want to do is fill my Pokedex and fight some other trainers. I almost wished I could trade Hau in for Gary Oak.
The player undergoes a series of island trials that are appointed to you by a captain, a trainer of superior skill that usually specializing with one type of Pokemon. When complete, the captain will unlock special abilities and give you free useful stuff! But before you claim your loot and endure a cut scene about how awesome you are, you must first fight against a totem Pokemon, one that not only has immense power, but also the ability to call on other Pokémon for help.
Fighting multiple Pokemon at once was introduced a few generations back, so this is not entirely a new concept, but an interesting one to say the least. SOS battles happen when facing a Pokemon and reducing it to low health. In times of desperation, it will call upon an ally. Most of the time it’s of the same like, sometimes it’s an evolution, very rarely it’s a completely different Pokemon. In cases like these, I highly suggest fainting the original opponent and catching the ally instead as they usually have a better IV rating or a special ability. You are also unable to use a Pokeball when facing two Pokemon at the same time, so nice try.
In addition to TMs we now have Z-moves, which unlock supreme power in Pokemon once per battle. In fluff terms, the trainer and Pokemon have to have a synchronized bond in order to unleash the power of the Z! Kahunas typically use them, and once defeated will give you theirs as a reward.
As you capture Pokemon, you will start to see some familiar faces along the way. Familiar meaning earlier generation Pokemon…with a twist. Alola has their own versions of fan favorites like Rattata (just kidding), Raichu, Marowak, and Vulplix. Some of which have actually changed their elemental. Every wonder what a white Vulpix would look like? Well, now it’s an ice type. Ever gone and actually read the description or watched that particular episode about Cubone? Spoiler alert! It’s skull belongs to it’s mother, but in Alola, Marowak’s a Ghost type! That probably mean’s it’s back from the dead now…
On happier note, Pokemon Sun and Moon have successfully revamped the series into a new direction. This time around we as trainers feel like we’re one big Pokemon vacation in the best way possible. Nintendo and The Pokemon Company have integrated what we’re familiar with into something we as fans can wholeheartedly accept, which is hard to achieve in a fickle gaming industry where change isn’t so widely agreed upon. If you are choosing your starter for the first time or a veteran trainer who’s been playing since 1996, this generation will not disappoint!
Now, you can become the very best while drinking Pina Coladas! Cheers!