Pokemon Sun & Moon are the newest releases for the Nintendo 3DS in the Pokemon Saga, and with it comes a laundry list of new features, a new world, and a great mix of new and classic Pokemon. From the beginning you can tell this is not going to be the Pokemon you are used to, although you do start off in your house ready to go meet the professor. From there everything begins to change. You begin to learn about Totem Pokemon and z-moves, which we'll get back to in a bit, but at this point I realized I was in for something new.
Probably the biggest or at least most notable change for me was the removal of HM’s and the addition of the Pokemon Rider Pager. Gone are the days of having to keep one or more team members around with nothing but utility moves just to navigate the environment. Now you earn the ability to Ride, Fly, Surf, ect. Through game progression and can call on Pokemon allies whose sole purpose is to use a HM ability to help you around environmental obstacles or quickly move you around the map. This means we can now have a true six man team without worrying about which team member we are going to cripple after the next gym.
HM’s are not the only thing that have met the chopping block this time around. Gyms have been removed and replaced with the Island challenge. The Island Challenge is set up like the gym grind we remember, as there is only one per region and is designed to ensure your team is strong enough to continue progressing. That is where the similarities end. Where we would once have encounters with the gym leaders’ groupies as we weaved our way through to the final fight, we are now met with random encounters with indigenous Pokemon. Unable to capture or run, you are forced to fight. The encounters continue you until you uncover the Totem Pokemon for that island. Totem Pokemon are normally fully evolved or super sized versions of the native Pokemon you just finished battling. They are much more powerful and almost always call in a few allies to help them out.
Once you defeat the totem for the island you are rewarded, with another new feature in the game, the Z crystal for that island. Z crystals are for lack of a better term super moves that can be given to your Pokemon. Each crystal covers either an entire type of Pokemon (ie. Normal, Stone, Ghost, ect..) or it can be for one specific Pokemon. When you hand it to a member of your team you get a new attack on the left side of your screen that when pushed your avatar does a goofy dance and unleashes a power from the crystal. This fires off a single devastating move that pummels your opponent. These moves can only be unleashed once per fight so choose who you use it on wisley and what team member you use to unleash it.
In the world of Pokemon you do not want to make this gesture lightly.
For me the changes in Sun & Moon extremely positive and have given old players like myself something new to get excited about. That is not to say that it is a perfect or the best Pokemon title to be release (Fire Red for Life!). The totem fights are very easy to cheese, the Z moves are a bit repetitive and the Island Challenge is interesting, but underdeveloped. Overall the positives greatly outweigh the negatives, as this feels like a more “grown up” Pokemon when compared to Omega Ruby. There is more of an RPG feel than ever before, the story has plot twists and interesting turns to keep you entertained (Minus team Skull….). This by far has been the most exciting Pokemon venture on a handheld for me in a long time. Although I think this new direction has a ways to go, I really do like where it is headed.