Pokémon has been around for 20 years. With any franchise that lasts long, it can be difficult to make worthwhile improvements to the formula. In the past, the series has made some good changes, and some, less so. But with the 20th anniversary, Game Freak pulled out the stops. They made an entry in the series so great, that it has, in my opinion, surpassed the other games this year. Here’s why Pokémon Sun is my Game of the Year.
Ride Pokémon: No More HMs!
First, let’s get through the best addition for the long-time players: No more HMs! In past Pokémon games, in order to progress through certain obstacles, HMs needed to be found. Once found, these moves needed to be taught to a Pokémon in order to be used in the field. This meant that the Pokémon would need to forget a valuable move in order to progress with the game.
With Sun and Moon, this is no longer the case. As the player progresses, they obtain Ride Pokémon. These Pokémon are not part of the player’s party, and are purely used to progress through obstacles. Speaking as a long-time player of Pokémon, this is a major improvement.
Poké Pelago: Easy Access to Valuable Utilities
Wanted to fill your Pokédex, but didn’t want to grind Pokémon you didn’t want to use just for evolutions? Do you like using berries, but hated going to specific locations and doing upkeep to get them? You ever needed to bond with a Pokémon, or hatch eggs quickly? Or maybe you just want some items. I’ll tell you what; there is a feature in Sun and Moon that does all of that. Welcome to the Poké Pelago.
Yes, many struggles that players of the series have dealt with were addressed with this new feature. It will take some progress in the game to unlock, but once unlocked, the game becomes much more fluid. Set Pokémon to train in levels or individual stats. You have a easy to access area to harvest and pick all the berries you want. You can send Pokémon to get items, get them to love you…you can even occasionally get free Pokémon! And best of all, these features can all be accessed anytime from the pause screen!
Goodbye Gyms, Hello Island Trials!
Another tied and true formula for Pokémon was having players challenge Pokémon Gyms and their leaders to get badges. Game Freak didn’t shy away from changing old traditions for this installment. Instead of having players challenge gyms, they would instead perform mostly unique trials within the game’s four islands. These trials range from observation tests, collection of items, and so on. At the end of each trial, the player would challenge a strong Totem Pokémon to finish. These Pokémon were not only stronger than the usual variant, but they planned elaborate strategies, and called the perfect Pokémon for help! Having such different milestones and challenges made for such a breath of fresh air for seasoned players like myself.
Z-Moves: One-Time Boost Or Attack
With this new installment, we see the introduction of Z-Moves. As long as the Pokémon is holding a Z-Crystal corresponding to the type of move they want to use, that Pokémon can perform a Z-Move. These moves are most commonly used as powerful attacks, but they can also be used to perform boosts that are stronger than the standard. There is one catch: these moves can only be used but once per battle, meaning the players must make it count. What’s more, certain Pokémon such as Pikachu and Eevee have exclusive Z-Moves all to themselves!
For those that played the Pokémon games of the last generation, the previous standout mechanic of Mega Evolution has not gone away. However, this feature is not available to players until they have finished the main story, as to not overshadow the implementation of the Z-Moves. But once the player has completed the game, they can use both mechanics to the fullest to really spice up battles!
There’s a Great Plot, Too
The plot of Pokémon Sun and Moon both honors the traditions of the franchise, while doing plenty to change up things for the long-time vets. The local criminals of the region, Team Skull, are unlike any of the past teams. Their manner of speech, the motivations of the leaders…they all do more for the plot than previous villainous teams ever have.
Legendary Pokémon in the game range from the Island Guardians, Celestials Beings, and most notably, the Ultra Beasts. The Ultra Beasts are unlike any previous Legendary, in terms of design, origin, and even motivation. Players can look forward to seeing these Pokémon both during the main story, as well as after.
I would be absolutely remiss if I were not to speak at least a little about the cast. Pokémon Sun and Moon have the best cast of supporting characters the series has seen. Villains with actual depth, heroes with hidden agendas, rivals and friends who go through major character developments…the series has come a long way from just faces that you battle and never see again.
I wish I could share my absolute favorite part of the game’s plot, but I would be doing a major disservice spoiling such an integral and memorable part of the climax. All I can say, is that it heavily revolves around the Pokémon that appear on the cover of the respective games, and if you’re like me, it will give you a closer connection to a Legendary Pokémon than you have ever had before.
A Game Worthy Of 20 Years
In conclusion, I am very happy to report that the 20th Anniversary of Pokémon was honored with this game. I covered the major improvements and features of the game, but truth be told, there is so much more to the game that would make anyone fall in love with it. Pokémon has been a series that I have played since I was a child, and to see the latest entry touch me in such a way that it outdoes every other game in 2016 for me, means a great deal to me. Whether you have played the series since the beginning, took an extended break, or never even played at all, this is one game that you won’t want to miss. Happy Battling, Gamers.