By Jennifer Doede, photo by Trevor Swann

Pokémon Sun and Moon are refreshing additions to the Pokémon franchise that provide an array of changes to the traditional Pokémon formula that should appease both veterans and newcomers to the series.  In this game generation, the protagonist moves to the Alola region with their mother and chooses to partake in the Island Challenge. The Island Challenge replaces the tradition of collecting eight gym badges from previous instalments, and in its place, the player must complete a set of trials and defeat totem Pokémon in order to become the Island Challenge Champion.

While many veteran players were skeptical of the game developers’ bold decision to change Pokémon gyms to trials, the trials prove to be enjoyable. This new system requires the player to complete various tasks. One task requires the player to photograph mischievous Pokémon lurking around an abandoned supermarket, while another requires the player to take an audio quiz. Once the protagonist has completed all the trials on one of the four islands in the Alola region, they must battle the island’s leader, known as the kahuna.

A feature unique to the Alola region that provides veteran fans of the series with a sense of nostalgia is the introduction of Alolan forms to some first generation Pokémon. These forms have a new appearance that reflects the Hawaiian-inspired theme of the Alola region. In addition, these changes also alter the typing of older Pokémon. For example, Exeggutor in its Alolan form is a grass/dragon type with an extremely long trunk compared to its Kanto form. This is a result of the strong sunlight that pours down on the Alola region all year long.

The implementation of Z-moves is also a new feature exclusive to Sun and Moon. Z-moves allow a Pokémon holding a Z-crystal to unleash a powerful and dazzling move once every battle.

Without a doubt, Sun and Moon presents the most compelling and lengthy narrative in the Pokémon franchise thus far. This story keeps players engaged with the events happening in the campaign and the mysteries surrounding the Alola region, rather than their thoughts instantly jumping to the activities available in the post-game. Team Skull, the villainous organization in Sun and Moon, delivers an abundance of comedic dialogue, silly rhymes, and entertainment that will make players laugh along as they play through the 30-hour campaign. One shortcoming of the campaign is the first few hours of gameplay, which at times can feel like a lengthy tutorial with a plethora of cutscenes that limit the initial exploration of Melemele Island.

Like the Kalos region, the Alola region has apparel shops and hair salons, which allow the player to customize the hairstyle, eye colour, clothing, and accessories of their avatar. Players can also change the style in which they throw their pokéball at the beginning of a battle.

In addition, there are a plethora of new features such as the Rotom Pokédex, Pokémon Refresh, and Festival Plaza for players to spend hours exploring.

Sun and Moon also introduces Battle Royale mode, where four players can battle each other at the same time. But there are instances during gameplay where the frame rate takes a massive hit.

Overall, Pokémon Sun and Moon offer a captivating 30-hour campaign with quirky and lovable characters, witty writing, and new Pokémon to discover.