Pokemon Sun and Moon review - dark day or sunny evening?

At its core, Pokemon Sun and Moon is the same as it's always been.

You wander about a fantasy world, catching and collecting monsters. And then these critters can be used in one-on-one battles with other Pokemon fans as you explore the world, take on elite trainers, and try to collect every species in the region.

Still, it must be said that Sun and Moon offer some of the most radical changes yet to the Pokemon formula. Only, most of the alterations have to do with making the game much, much easier to play.


For example - remember how your rival used to pick a starter Pokemon that was strong against your starting critter, meaning he'd always have a leg-up in battle? In Sun and Moon, your rival picks the monster who is weak to your Pokemon, making those fights a breeze.

And while random trainers still ambush you and demand a battle, a new indicator warns you that a trainer wants to fight so you can heal up or even find a way around them if your Pokemon are injured.

Plus, Pokemon Centers litter the map, characters often heal your crew before a big battle, you can cure status effects with a quick bit of grooming, and if you beat a Pokemon once, you'll forever be told which attacks will be most effective against them in future tussles.

Oh, and let me tell you about these new Z-Type moves. Give your Pokemon a compatible Z-Crystal (which you win instead of gym badges) and they'll be able to unleash an obscenely powerful attack, once per fight.

My Terracat essentially drops a nuclear bomb on the enemy, and another Pokemon has a move called Continent Crush. It literally picks up a continent and smashes it into another Pokemon. You just got squished under, like, Africa or something.

Sure, a handful of enemy Pokemon have these moves too. But you could waltz through the entire game killing Pokemon left and right with Z-Type moves - I didn't, but only because the animation to kick these attacks off (which includes a dance) takes so long.


Not all changes are specifically about making the game easier, of course.

You no longer need to faff about with HM moves (the special attacks that Pokemon can use in the overworld to overcome barriers) as you can just teleport in a Tauros to break blocks, or a Charizard to fly you around.

And gyms are gone - but replaced with new Island Trials which offer more interesting challenges than simply churning through a barrage of trainer battles.

In one, you have to find ingredients in a forest. In another, you look for discrepancies in a volcano-top dance. They all end with a fight against a Totem Pokemon: a super-charged monster who sometimes use those devastating Z-Type moves and has the ability to call in lackeys

Beat all the challenges on each island and you'll get to fight the island Kahuna, which is more of a traditional battle.

Uh, Krabby!

The game links all of this stuff together in an overarching story, featuring you, your rival (well, he's more like a friend in this one), the professor, and other characters. The game has a stronger narrative than ever, making the game seem more like a traditional Japanese RPG.

But it does have the effect of feeling like you're being lead by the nose through the entire game, rather than casting off on your own adventure. Wherever you go, your friends will be there to join you. And your talking Pokedex is always gabbing about your next destination.

The game's world is split between different islands which aren't quite as diverse as you might expect. Imagine a normal Pokemon world that's been cut up into four and dragged apart and you get the idea. That also means that some Pokemon will be exclusive to certain islands.

The new Pokemon are generally pretty good. You've got to give Game Freak credit for still being able to come up with interesting critters. The main problem is that most of these monsters will be familiar because Nintendo revealed them all in trailers.

So whether it's a brand new Pokemon, or an old Red and Blue-era Pokemon that has been given a fresh style, you probably won't be surprised because you've already seen it online. And if you haven't: hi, welcome back to the real world. Donald Trump is the president now.

The one that's just a set of keys!

Ultimately, Sun and Moon are games that are bursting with good ideas, welcome changes to the formula, and a lot of charm and style.

But the game's obsession with accessibility will make it almost unbearably simple to anyone who has played a Pokemon game before.

Sure, the real depth and challenge in these games is hidden either beneath the surface - in secret systems like EV training - or in post game content - like legendary monsters and battle leagues. And all of that is in Sun and Moon, and just as compelling.

Though, we haven't had a chance to try the multiplayer yet.

But you'll have to dig deep (and perhaps even play with self-imposed limitations, like those who play Pokemon under Nuzlocke rules) to really get a sense of how smart and sophisticated Pokemon can be. This time around, the base game just never challenges you for more than a minute.

Pokemon Sun and Moon review - dark day or sunny evening?

Pokemon Sun and Moon is another winning adventure with good ideas and oodles of charm, but a focus on making everything easier just robs the game of any real challenge or tension