Pokémon Sun and Moon: Early Impressions

Saturdays are normally my day to post Mario Maker levels, but let’s be honest: No one’s playing Mario Maker this weekend. Instead, we’re all playing one of the two most-anticipated games of the year, Pokémon Sun or Pokémon Moon.

Based on the rampant hype and glowing reviews floating around the Internet, you’d think these games were the greatest thing since sliced bread and/or Joey Logano, with the ability to cure cancer, balance the budget, and give you laundry a nice, fresh scent. There’s no way the games can live up to their incredible billing, but are they are least fun to play?

Here’s my TL;DR view this far:

  • Is Pokémon Moon (I only bought one version) a great Pokémon game? Yes.
  • Is Pokémon Moon a great game, period? Yes.
  • Is Pokémon Moon going to become my favorite Pokémon game? The jury’s still out there. (Pearl was pretty awesome, after all.)
  • Is Pokémon Moon a threat to replace Super Mario RPG as my all-favorite game? Absolutely not.

Here are my thoughts so far:

  • Despite all the changes to the usual Pokémon formula (no gyms, no HMs, etc.), it’s still a Pokémon game at heart: You catch creatures, you train creatures, you exploit creatures to become the baddest dude on the block. Putting together a top line of six Pokémon and turning them into efficient weapons of pain has always been the main appeal of these games for me, and Pokémon Moon checks all of the boxes here. I’m also digging the designs of the new Pokémon thus far, with the starters being an obvious highlight.
  • One of my favorites things about Pokémon Moon is the way Pokémon Refresh is worked into the battle setup. It makes your virtual monsters seem a bit more real: Pokémon can get dirty, wet, or matted during battle, and you get a chance to clean them up and give them a little TLC. It helps you develop a real bond with your Pokémon, which makes Refresh’s ending cutscene of stuffing the Pokémon back into its ball a little jarring. Overall, it’s definitely a step up from X and Y’s Pokémon Amie feature.
  • Pokémon games are not known for their difficulty, but it feels like Nintendo and company turned the heat up a few notches for this game.  Your opponent’s levels ratchet up in a hurry, and you’ll be fighting Lv. 10 Pokémon by the start of Route 2! (I’ve also heard that Z-Moves are mostly 1-hit KOs, so you may not want to jump into a Nuzlocke challenge right off the bat.)
  • The Festival Plaza is…well, it’s just kind of there so far. I imagine I’ll find more of a use for it later, when my Pokémon are a bit stronger (Pro Tip: Avoid the online battles if your team is below Level 50; there are already people with full, strong teams floating around).
  • The story got a lot of plaudits for its depth and breadth, but I haven’t really seen a difference between this game and prior Pokémon stories yet. The characters are a highlight, though, especially Prof. Fukui and his assistant Fluttershy Lillie. (Seriously, Lillie’s even got a mischievous Pokémon filling Angel Bunny’s role. They totally stole Lillie’s character from My Little Pony.)
  • There’s been a lot of discussion about how Pokémon Sun and Moon push the 3DS to its limit, and how non-new 3DSes see a lot of slowdown in busier battles (double battles, totem battles, etc.). I’ve seen a little of this on my 3DS XL so far, but I’ve discovered a few other technical tidbits that no one seems to be discussing:
    • The Good: Despite my initial worries about battery life, I managed to get about 5 1/2 hours out of a single charge on my XL. It’s a respectable number, but I’m still a little nervous about how it’ll hold up during my cross-country holiday travel.
    • The Bad: As much as I’d love to spam Miiverse with little witticisms  and discoveries…apparently the 3DS XL is unable to open Miiverse and Pokémon Moon at the same time, effectively barring me from posting in the Sun/Moon community. Oh well, I suppose that’s what Twitter is for anyway…

I’m not quite ready to give Pokémon Moon a formal review score yet, but overall I’m finding this to a fun game like the other Pokémon titles I’ve beaten. It seems that the more things change, the more things stay the same, and when it comes to Pokémon, that’s not a bad thing.