Thursday, September 8, 2016

Drowning in Sun and Moon Hype

Why does all early artwork make it seem
like box legends will face off at some point?
Many don't even show up in the same game.
The past couple of months have been a whirlwind in regards to Pokémon. There have been event downloads every month for Pokémon's 20th anniversary, Pokémon GO was released, and Pokémon Sun and Moon info has been coming in waves. It has been tough to keep up and get my thoughts on paper (er... online) before the next wave hits. I have enjoyed Pokémon GO, and it looks to be a stable in my gaming schedule now, which suddenly involves a lot of time outside. Given my profession as a paleontologist, I can now work and play almost at the same time. Not too shabby. However, Pokémon Sun and Moon look to be the gaming experience that Pokémon GO can never hope to be, and vice versa. It's nice that I'll have two games (I'm getting Moon) that fit two different aspects of my lifestyle. That's leads to the next topic, what do I think of Sun and Moon so far? Don't read further if you are worried about spoilers.

A trailer came out today that recaps a lot of what we've seen over the past few months and most trainers are pretty up on what is to come. That being said, I'm not going to retrace old ground. I'll just give my take on these different aspects and what I hope to see.

  1. The Legendaries: So far we've gotten the cover art legends Solgaleo and Lunala as well Tapu Koko (a trio legend?) and Magearna (mythical). Design wise, I don't think any are far off base from what we have come to expect from legends. However, Solgaleo and Lunala having renamed versions of older abilities is a little sad. Solgaleo's Full Metal Body is just Clear Body and Lunala's Shadow Shield is just Multiscale. Oh well, at least Tapu Koko and Magearna get cool new abilities. Tapu Koko's Electric Surge activates Electric Terrain and Magearna's Soul-Heart boosts it's Special Attack when a pokémon on the field is KO'd. I hope to see more "Tapu" pokémon with other terrain based abilities. I felt terrains weren't well tapped in XYORAS, so it'd be nice to see them get something to make them more viable.
  2. Brand New Pokémon: Like the new legendaries, this is a given. You can't have a new generation without new pokémon. So far, most are on point, but I haven't seen many that I know I will HAVE to have (see all released ones here on Serebii). I'm intrigued most by those that seem to have good lore or interesting play mechanics. The standouts are: Wimpod, for having a built in switch mechanic with its Wimp Out ability; Wishiwashi, for its form changing Schooling ability; and Type; Null for its overall weirdness and interesting lore as being a synthetic pokémon for countering legendaries
  3. Alolan Pokémon:
    Alolan Marowak is Ghost/Fire rather than
    the standard Ground. It also seems smaller
    and perhaps faster.
    I could have included this in the previous section, but I'm more stoked on these than I am the brand new pokémon overall... so it definitely needed its own section. In Alola, pokémon have adapted to the various habitats differently and have different appearances, types, and abilities than they have elsewhere. Like Megas in XYORAS, I think this will add an air of freshness to older pokémon. Of course, the nostalgia of seeing Red, Blue, and Yellow pokémon getting new formes may be part of it, but the science of it really intrigues me, personally. In the real world, this is very similar to how varieties and speciation actually occurs. It also means that in future regions could have regional variants too. That means there are already 721 existing pokémon that could be expanded on by adding regional formes, Megas, etc rather than always having to release brand new pokémon every game.
  4. Island Trials: It seems that Alola does not follow the traditional 8 Gym/Elite 4 scheme.
    Instead, each Island has a Trial Leader that sends you on a quest. The player completes the quest, battles a Totem (or Boss) pokémon, then has to battle the Island's Kahuna (or leader).
    Having Totem Pokémon guarding areas or causing problems that the player must solve creates situations like this... which is much more intimidating that some guy standing in a room just waiting for you to battle them.
    This is a very different system than every other main pokémon game, but I think it is time for something new. As much as I like Pokémon games, they are very formulaic. It's nice to see the formula getting jostled. I find the Totem pokémon interesting as well. In previous games pokémon are very passive. Sure they jump you for battles, but outside of that and the occasional attack from legendaries, they don't really interact with the world itself. Occasionally a pokémon may be standing around in the overworld, but now we have pokémon that guard areas and must be defeated to move on. They also have special buffs, call for support, all of the sorts of things you would expect of a boss. 
  5. Z-Moves: To be clear, I am not jazzed on Z-moves. I don't care for the name and I don't care for super moves in general. I was really excited for Megas when they were announced, but that was for a similar reason as Alola formes: refreshing older pokémon. Z-moves don't bring that sort of air to the games. That being said, they seem better handled than super moves in other games. You can only use one per match and only if you have the right crystals on yourself and your pokémon. I'm interested to learn how these work in relation to regular moves. Do they have a base power/accuracy or are they just OHKO moves? Why do some appear to just be linked to types while others are linked to certain species (ex: Snorium Z can only be used by Snorlax)? The plus side of these is that Pulverizing Pancake, Snorlax's Z-move, exists. It is the best new move I've seen introduced for Sun and Moon and you can see it in action here.
There's even more that Pokémon Sun and Moon have brought to the table. Battle Royal, a four player battle system, the Rotom PokéDex, a Pokémon Snap-esque mechanic, non-Chibi sprites in the overworld, etc. Regardless of some of my reservations, these games look to be some of the best pokémon games ever made.