Friday, February 17, 2017

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Pokemon Sun and Moon"

Okay, so...first and foremost, because I just have to get this out of the way. I don’t have to wear a stupid hat anymore!

...yes, that is something to celebrate. Shut your damn mou-anyway, Pokemon Sun and Moon. Yay!

Nintendo taking another stab at that wildly and hilariously successful franchise that has managed to stay relevant for over two decades with very little change. It’s really surprising, in all honesty. For a series that’s all about evolution (or, transformation to be more scientifically accurate concerning a fictional universe where clumps of garbage are apparently sentient - has anyone acknowledged that Pokemon is kind of weird yet?), the series hasn’t really changed much beyond the core concept of “find monsters, train monsters, fight monsters”. Of course, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since Nintendo and Game Freak have shown that they really know how to change things up just enough to keep things from getting stale.

...nine times out of ten, anyway. Hoenn still has way too much water.

To begin at the beginning, however, the player character is unceremoniously dropped off in the land of Alola, where the player character’s mother has just moved them to...because of course, that’s how every game since Generation Three has had to start. Sure to face stigma as the whitest child in the totally not Hawaii-esque setting, I was instead completely unprepared for a shirtless hobo to break into my house and claim he was my cousin...I was also completely unprepared for one of the longest tutorial sequences ever.

Here’s a free tip on one of those ways to shake things up: let us have an option to skip the tutorial. Veterans of the game don’t need to be told for the seventh time how to catch a Pokemon, I’m pretty much babies born since 1996 have it coded into their DNA by this point. Just please, Game Freak, give us an option to skip it and just give us cliff notes on the brand new flavor adjustments that aren’t going to amount to anything outside of this generation.

One of those flavors is the riding Pokemon, which I do like. A nice evolution of riding in X and Y that you can do almost anywhere with various effects depending on the Pokemon used, though the double-edged sword of this cool, unique thing is that it takes up part of the slack left by the lack of Hidden Machines in Sun and Moon. Though the presence of them and a few different items like the Bicycle is missed, it’s an interesting change and it fits the setting where Alola is more about the connections between people and Pokemon than ever before...and with a series where that’s one of the major themes, that’s saying something.

But getting back to the plot, I am faced with a hobo that is apparently not only a relative of mine, but is also the local Professor. Thus, I am sent with my starter out to take on the Pokemon Lea-errr, to do my Island Challenge. There are no Gyms, Gym Leaders, or even a Pokemon Champion to battle this time around. Alola seems to be a bit behind the times in terms of having a working Pokemon League. And so we bounce around the islands and defeat the “Kahunas” to earn the right to eventually climb the steps of Mount Selaya and bring Spock back from the dea...wait a minute...hang on. Somebody switched this out with my Search for Spock script...

...anyway. In the end, you’ll climb the big mountain and fight the champion. That is, after completing the Island Challenge which, in an interesting twist in that it doesn’t simply mean battling a single trainer for a mark of approval, but rather battling them and then having to take on the Guardian Beast of one of the four islands. What should seem like needless busywork is, admittedly, something that does work to keep the game from following the same stale formula page for page. So, points for something a little different there.

You also pick up Z-Moves, which are essentially the move version of Mega Evolutions. There’s one for each specific Type and then several for all sorts of different Pokemon and this will turn into an analysis more than it will a review, so I’ll just say this: like Mega Evolutions in the previous generation, they can only be used once per battle. If you put your strategy together right, then you’ll only need to use it that one time. Something different, yes, but not too different.

And, again, highlighting that there is no real strategy to Pokemon. It’s elemental rock paper scissors. Find a Pokemon that has a type strength to whatever you’re fighting, bash its brains out, repeat as necessary, there’s really nothing to it.

There’s also really nothing to Team Skull. They’re just...kind of there. They lack the avarice-laden agenda of Team Rocket or the meglomaniacal, world-destroying plots of Team Flare. They’re just...around. And they’re really, really bad comic relief villains. Honestly, these are the guys who make Dastardly and Muttley look like effective pigeon stoppers…

...did I really just make a Dastardly and Muttley reference in 2017?

The point to all this ranting being simply this that Sun and Moon is a welcome change for the franchise. I can’t really criticize it anymore than I can the earlier entries in the series. It’s par for the course for Pokemon in that it does enough of the old, but has brought a different flavor and tries something new in order to keep it from drying up. For a series that’s managed to remain afloat for twenty years on that principal, that is pretty admirable.

Oh, and the Alola forms...yeah, they’re weird.

And yes, that is all I have to say about that.

Also, the rival being uber-friendly is almost weird. I miss Gary Oak. Or, as I like to call him, “Buttface”.

Pokemon Sun and Moon is available from Nintendo and GameFreak for Nintendo 3DS.

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