Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Review #355: Pokemon Sun

 Two step forwards, one step back, as per usual.
 It's amazing how even when Pokemon changes, it doesn't really change. What I mean to say is that Pokemon Sun is yet another Pokemon game that improves on the previous game... yet removes a few features that really did wonders for the franchise. While GameFreak excuses it as 'wanting each game to have its own personality/features', in the end, no Pokemon game will ever be completely superior to a previous game, at least when they belong to the same platform.

 Y'know the drill, you, an 11 year old kid, moves to a new region, Alola in this case, and must defeat the 8 Gym Leaders and then tackle the Elite Four.... except not, not this time. Gyms and Gym Leaders are gone, instead you must traverse the four islands that make up Alola and clear the Pokemon Captain's Trials as well as the 4 Kahunas, and then tackle the Elite four. To be honest, the Captain's Trials are pretty much Gyms, except that instead of clearing simple puzzles, fighting trainers and then the Gym Leader, you must now clear simple puzzles, fight a few random Pokemon and then fight a powered-up Pokemon. Basically, same old, same old but under a new coat of paint. I will grant it that the Trials are a decent change of pace, but Gyms were much more entertaining, and I'd rather have them back, that said, I won't hold this little experiment against them, since The Pokemon Company finally tried something slightly different. The rest of the game is pretty much the same, explore towns, battle in turn-based combat, collect all the different Pokemon, yadda yadda.
 The game looks drop-dead gorgeous. The new Alolan region is a breath of fresh air thanks to its tropical theme as well as the huge amount of variety present in the different towns and areas. It's a beautiful game the whole way through. Pokemon battles have also received a few graphical tweaks, with better special effects and I think they increased the color saturation a bit, which is a good thing. That said, battles run kinda janky on the old 3DS models. Frame drops are common, and fights featuring more than two Pokemon will lag considerably, it will even take a few seconds to process your move selection... It can get pretty ugly on 2 vs 2 battles. An option to turn off the Trainers on the battle arenas could've done wonders for these issues.

 Now, let's get into the brilliant new additions to the formula. Firstly, one of my chief complaints, you can now check the typing of any Pokemon you've already fought while in battle, and it will also tell you how effective your moves will be. Fantastic. And now the biggie, HMs are finally gone, now replaced by rideable Pokemon that can be called at any time and don't require you to have a Pokemon on your party with the required abilities. Sadly, Soaring is gone, which was one of the funnest parts about Omega Ruby, what's more, the Map is a bit of a pain to understand, which makes using Charizad to 'fly' to other areas a bit of a hassle. I've never had trouble understanding previous games' maps, but this one is hideous to look at and zooming in is anything but useful.
 Customization is back! Hell yeah! AND YOU CAN FINALLY TAKE OFF THAT UGLY HAT!!... but it's a bit limited. First and foremost, colors are divided between versions, Sun gets the Yellow, Red and Oranges while Moon gets Blues, Purples, Greens etc. You can dye a few clothing items in the Online Hub(more on this later) though, but it's an unnecessary annoyance. Clothing options are also severely lacking when compared with X and Y, for instance, there's no long sleeves or long pants for the Boy character. Seriously? There aren't many different styles besides shorts, tank tops and short-sleeved shirts. Disappointing. There's a few more hairdos and hair colors, but you can's see how they look, so you have to pay and then look at the result, once again, disappointing. So yeah, two step forwards, one step back: You can take off the hat, but there's little variety in clothes.

 Super Training has been removed, substituted by PokePelagos. In PokePelagos you can leave Pokemon to raise their Evs, levels and even gather items. It's... It's a decent substitute to Super Training, but I didn't really care too much for either. But the biggest blunder is that you can't look at your EVs anymore. Although you can tap Y in the stats menu to get the EV spread, it's not as precise as the gauge that you'd get on the DexNav. And that useful feature that let you know if you were missing Pokemon from an area added in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire? Gone, because Gamefreak just doesn't want us having nice things..
 Now let's get into the mediocre new additions, starting with the Z-Moves. Actually, let's start with MegaEvolutions, it seems like Nintendo gave up on them, which kinda sucks since I grew fond of the feature. You do get the Mega Ring after clearing the Story Mode, but they didn't add new MegaEvolutions, and they've been banned from Official Tournaments, Basically, Nintendo doesn't want you using MegaEvolutions. In their stead we get Z-Moves, a super powerful move that can only be done by a single Pokemon and only a single time in a battle. It's... dull. There's a Z-Move per type, albeit a Pokemon can only be equipped with only ONE type of Z-stone(Each Z stone has unlimited uses, so you could have an entire team sporting the Z-Fire move), as well as a few exclusive Z-Moves for a select few, namely the starter Pokemon and Pikachu, because even though he is a poor choice for any team, the game's Mascot needs to one-up the rest of the 'mons. Z-Moves look powerful, in contrast to the ridiculous poses your character adopts when using them, but I'd much rather have more MegaEvolutions.

 And now let's get into what they broke: The online features. X/Y and Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire got online right by making it a menu you could access at any time by tapping the lower screen. It worked well, it was fast, it was efficient. Now you are forced to go into this 'Festival Plaza' hub town before accessing any online feature. It feels so... unnecessary, why tweak what previous games had gotten right so well? Hub Towns acting as menus never, ever work. At least the GTS and Wonder Trade work exactly like they used to, even if you've got to go through extra steps to use them.
 And now, let's get into what the got wrong. The first thing I need to mention is the slow pace, this is easily the most cinematic Pokemon game yet, so your adventure will be interrupted by superfluous chatter and needless exposition all the time. The game's beginning is particularly bad about it, it takes a loooong while before you are actually let to your own devices, and even longer before you can finally start fighting Pokemon in the while. And once again, the capturing tutorial is mandatory. Are they serious? Who hasn't played Pokemon yet? And in that case, why not ASK me if I want to suffer it? Like, goddamn, Nintendo. This 'everyone is an idiot/everyone is a new player' philosophy permeates the entire experience. You'll be reminded of where to go every time you get a new objective or turn on the game, as well as having markers on the map(The latter one isn't a bad thing by its own, but as a part of a whole...), and your Pokemon will be healed up pretty frequently by various NPCs, so it's pretty hard to feel danger at any time. Now, I don't mind easy games, and it's true that Pokemon's main demographic are children, but, BUT, at least let me play the game instead of forcing me through vapid dialogue so frequently.

 Then we have SOS Battles, substituting Horde Battles. Certain Pokemon may randomly call for aid during battle, so a 1 on 1 could turn into a 1 on 2. I think that on paper this sounded like a good idea, but in theory, these are boring. The 'asking for help' animation/cut-scene takes a while, and keep in mind that the game starts slowing-down once a third pokemon enters the fray. And you can't try to capture a Pokemon while there's two of them for whatever reason. Now then, imagine you are trying to capture a Ditto, and it keeps constantly calling for aid from other Pokemon. You waste a turn killing the new fighter, then you have to sit through the 'asking for help' animation, and then a new monster appears, rinse and repeat. You've no idea just how boring these can get. Oh, and we've over 800 monsters already, yet it seemed like the first three island were populated by the same Pokemon, there's a depressing lack of variety in Pokemon species at first, and it doesn't help that there's a few Pokemon that may only appear as back up, so good luck wasting turns until they are called for. The cherry on top being that it seems like the newest Pokemon are the hardest to come by!
 After clearing the game you'll have access to a few new sidequests, like capturing the elusive Ultra Beasts, an option to turn night into day and vice-versa and the Battle Tree where you can find a few returning faces and do battle with them. Honestly, it's a bit lacking when compared to previous games, even the amount of Legendary Pokemon available for you to capture is paltry. If you're not into competitive fighting, this might be the most disappointing post game since Red/Blue. And to add insult to injury, X and Y had the best leveling with the Battle Chateu. ORAS gave you the Island, which wasn't as good but reseted every day. Sun and Moon have... Pokepelagos. And there's also a facility in the FEstival Plaza that levels up your mons. Leveling up your mons is a bit slower this way, and not as fun as battling your way through levels, which was mighty disappointing. Bring back the Chateau please. At least the Island! Just give us normal trainers we can rematch for XP!

 In short, Pokemon Sun is your typical Pokemon game. There's some fantastic new features, there's some horrible new features, they kept some great things and they got rid of some great things as well. When it's all said and done, Pokemon Sun is the best Pokemon game available on the 3DS, but it's far from the best it could've been,
 8.0 out of 10

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