Game Review: Pokemon Sun and Moon

Pokemon is really the only game that I go out of my way to buy on time. The only real reason for that is because it is a game that my wife and I mutually love playing together, and it’s hard to find a game that my wife likes because her tastes fall anywhere between Lego games and Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (with a bunch of gaps in between filled with games she doesn’t like).

So we decided right off the bat that I was getting Sun, and she was getting Moon, and then we pre-ordered them to arrive as soon as possible. I guess I can’t say that I’ve finished the game yet, but I’ve beaten the Elite Four, so I have more than I need to know about the story…

Pokemon games are good at doing one thing and one thing only: monster catching/training/fighting. After close to a thousand Pokemon being created, they really have quite the variety to choose from, and for the most part, the number of diverse areas with its own Pokemon are satisfying enough to not get bored catching them.

And I caught and trained a lot of them thanks to them bringing back the EXP share that gives experience to everyone, which most people use to get through the game more quickly, but I used to have fifteen strong Pokemon in my roster instead of 6. Without the EXP share introduced in X and Y, the amount of hours you would need to train that many Pokemon would make you want to give up on the game entirely.

And that’s why I thought it was invented into the first place: to encourage people to train more Pokemon than ever.

They also have some great tidbits that helped me out during battle; they have a helpful guide to which attacks of yours are effective and not effective against Pokemon you’ve fought before, and they have charts you can open up to keep track of any stat changes that may have happened during battle.

Personally, I used the effective-attack cheat sheet more than the stat change one, because I’m purely an offensive battler. But I’ve seen those basement-dwelling nerds play in Pokemon tournaments before, and they write down stat changes on pieces of paper like they’re playing Dungeons and Dragons, so I know some people will find it useful.

And in all honesty, most of the new Pokemon are really cool. I ended up treating my Lycanroc as my starter Pokemon because I regretfully chose the Fire starter, and his speed is absolutely abysmal. But the vast majority of Pokemon that I trained in this game all came from the “Alola region” with only a few exceptions like Gyrados and Magnezone.

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Now as for the older Pokemon that they Alola-tized like dark Meowth, dark Rattata, rock/lightning Geodude, etc., I thought these were all cool ideas that ultimately had me lose interest after a while. Raticate with fat-cheeks looks stupid, dark Persian looks like they just stuck a fat Meowth head on a Persian body, and Golem looks like a cartoon train-robber. And none of them had the stats to justify me continuing to train them after they looked disappointingly stupid.

And how Digletts and Dugtrios having hair now justifies them being ground AND steel is beyond me.

It’s safe to say that The Pokemon Company is planning on getting rid of Mega Evolutions, because they’re completely gone in this game, and you can’t trade any Pokemon Directly from X, Y, Alpha Sapphire or Omega Ruby, so there’s no way to transfer mega stones.

This really isn’t that big of a deal, because the overpowering of certain Pokemon never brought any relevant changes to gameplay. However, I don’t understand why they decided to replace that with Z-powers… which is basically a Mega Evolution, but for one turn.

The Z-powers in this game are so frivolous and uninteresting, and I may have used them seriously about 7 times throughout the game, and half of them were against the Elite Four,  the only real challenge in the game (in the shallowest definition of “challenge” one could conjure up). Typically, I found that unless you’re using a Z-Power move that was super effective anyway, they rarely ever improved the outcome of a battle in a significant way. You just get a Pokemon that goes Super Saiyan for one move, and they’ll never do it again until the next battle.

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I want to talk about this garbage device real quick, because that Rotom-Pokedex was by far the second most annoying thing in the entire game. When they first introduced a Pokedex that they shoved a Pokemon inside, I thought “Wow Pokemon, that’s really dark. I’m gonna force this thing to live in my device for all of eternity as my slave.”

… and then the Pokedex started talking, and I started wishing that instead of enslaving the thing, I could bludgeon it in the mouth with a blasted pickaxe. This thing never shuts up and never provides any sort of useful commentary. There was one point where it began its pointless commentary with the word “Zoinks!” and I started mentally cringing. As far as I know, there is no way to turn the bugger off, and the only time that I used it is when I zoned out from reading the putrid story and forgot what I was supposed to do next.

And speaking of the story… well, it’s the same as every other game. You’re a blank slate protagonist (now complete with different skin tones so that nine-year-olds and man-children can project themselves onto them even MORE easily!) and you’re given a few friends that are dumb and useless. One of them is your rival, and he is always easily beatable. You get a Pokedex by some professor, go around completing fight challenges, fight bad guys, discover that Pokemon is all about love, and then defeat the Elite Four…

It’s obvious that Pokemon is made for children because the dialogue in this game is so eye-roll worthy, forced, expository, and filled with countless cringe-fests. The stories in Pokemon are so sanitized, unchallenging, and uninteresting, that I often skipped through the dialogue and was able to get to the next part of the story without any sort of context.

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Pokemon REALLY outdid themselves with the bad guys this time… Team Skull is not only the most obnoxious thing I found in this game, but they are also the least narratively compelling villains in the history of Pokemon.

Imagine a bunch of 14-year-old white boys that listened to too much rap music and decided to start a gang of slang-dribbling thunder-pantses that were so incompetent that it’s a shock that they haven’t disbanded yet due to boredom. That’s Team Skull. Whenever they talk or fight, they throw out these hand motions like they’re throwing gang signs and it was the epitome of vomit-inducing cringe.

Holy crap I hated Team Skull so much. What’s worse is that they really only come across as slight annoyances. They never have a true plan of conquest like Team Rocket, and they never have a true vision like Team Magma/Aqua. Don’t get me wrong, there is not a single bad guy in ANY of the Pokemon games that are challenging, but this may be the first team that I can think of where Nintendo decided they weren’t even going to put in the narrative effort to give them some sort of purpose.

(This is a spoiler, but do you guys even care?) Now, of course, you find out later that the real bad guys are the Aether foundation, but it’s so confusing because half of the Aether foundation never does anything bad and actually helps you when you’re trying to take down their leader. It was absolutely confusing, and they never provide an explanation for why the team is so disjointed.

And the leading lady of Team Aether has the truly menacing plan of world conquest and subjugation and– no I’m just kidding, she wants to go through a wormhole and live with evil Pokemon… and stopping her or not stopping her would have zero effect on the actual universe.

Look, I understand that the story is only created to loosely string together this video game, and what everyone is really here for are the Pokemon battles and catching, but that doesn’t mean that I can ignore these bad elements.

Speaking of story, I do find it humorous that they occasionally asked if I wanted to do something that was required of me to continue the story, as if I had a choice. I decided I was going to be as contrarian as I could be, so every time they asked if I wanted to do something, I would tell them no…

And every single time, they either said, “Don’t be silly, we know you meant yes.” or they would just keep asking me over and over again until I said yes. This makes me wonder why Pokemon decided to be so insulting to my intelligence by pretending that I really had a choice to further the story. Why not just never ask me to do anything and just make me do it? It’s the same thing either way.

The soundtrack for this game was unexceptional. There’s some nicely made tunes for some fights, but nearly every Pokemon game I’ve played before this had more memorable music.

Also, because this game is Hawaii themed, they have some tunes that try to sound Hawaiian, and they consistently made my ears bleed… (If you want great Hawaiian-sounding music, go buy the Moana soundtrack).

Also, the Elite Four consists of three people you’ve already fought before (but stronger), and some girl who likes golfing. Neat.

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I wanted to kill myself during the scenes after the Elite Four, where everyone is celebrating your supposed “difficult” journey to becoming Alola’s first champion. It was just a montage of all the people on the island laughing at trite occurrences with almost no context. And they try to cash in on all of these emotional payoffs, but they forget that no one in this story has enough character traits to feel real, and the kid you play as has one facial expression and one facial expression only. All the people on this island may as well be praising a robot.

I also like how everyone told me, “You are the champion because you looooooove Pokemon sooooooo much. Loving Pokemon is the meaning of life!” And all I could think was, “No… I selectively trained the ones that were useful and benched all the ones I deemed useless.” In the game’s opinion, I’m basically the bad guy, but they’re praising me as if love wins Pokemon battles. I’ve got an idea, how about you love a level 5 Pidgey all the way up to the Elite Four without any training and tell me how that works out, idiots.

So basically, Pokemon Sun and Moon are going to give you what you want: Pokemon catching and battles in a map that’s just a reshuffling of the other games. In that, Sun and Moon have accomplished what they intended to do. But any good favor they had in doing something right, they butchered up in all the stupidity that they refuse to ever fix.

Stop with the new fight gimmicks, stop with the stupid ways to evolve Pokemon, and improve your damn story, Nintendo. The Pokemon stories are so derivative and pointless, that I often play Pokemon before I go to bed, because it requires so little brain power that it puts me to sleep.

Should you buy Pokemon Sun and Moon? If you’re already in love with Pokemon, sure. It’s fun. But if Pokemon has never impressed you, these will not be the games that will win you over. They kept my interest, but that’s not hard for a game to do. Objectively, I really can’t grade this anything but below average, and I’m giving this game a 4 out of 10.

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