Pokemon Sun was recently released on the Nintendo 3DS on November 18, 2016 worldwide (except for Europe which was five days later, sorry Imitanis) so that everyone could enjoy. Being the seventh generation of Pokemon, it is no surprise that developers would want to keep things fresh, and Pokemon Sun definitely accomplishes this task through a fantastic tropical setting, alterations to core mechanics from previous games, and hilariously goofy regional variants. While this all may sound scary at first, let this review slowly numb the senses of fear and wash them away like the tropical tide.
First, it is time to briefly touch upon the plot of Pokemon Sun, no matter how minimal it may be. Of course, most players do not care that much about the plot of a “Pokemon” game, as long as it involves an evil team that the player must defeat on their journey to be the best around, most people are satisfied. While the plot in Pokemon Sun is not as “complex” as Pokemon Black or its sequel, it is certainly a step up from the barebones story in Pokemon X. The main premise of the game is that the player is a child who just moved to the Alola region from the Kanto region, and has decided to take on the various island challenges Alola has to offer, which is not unlike taking on the standard gyms that previous games have offered. Through the player’s expeditions they cross the paths of the nefarious Team Skull who steal Pokemon and sell them for cash, but offer some pleasant comic relief as they do not take themselves too seriously like Team Galactic or Team Plasma from previous games. This journey culminates in the discovery of a whole different dimension which contains Ultra Beasts (more on that shortly) and the capture of a legendary Pokemon to make everything better. Oh, and of course it would not be a “Pokemon” game if it did not end with the player becoming the newest Pokemon champion.
Now onto visuals, the biggest gripe to be had with Pokemon Sun is the inconvenient slowdown prominent on original Nintendo 3DS systems, which makes the New Nintendo 3DS seem more and more like a sound purchase. While there are few New Nintendo 3DS exclusive titles, it seems that as the years pass it will just be strongly recommended that one buys a New Nintendo 3DS to avoid these slowdown issues (and thankfully there have been reasonable deals on the handhelds recently). This slowdown usually comes into play in battles with more than two Pokemon and while it in no way makes the game unplayable, it is obviously not welcomed but instead seen as an unfortunate compromise. It is also worth mentioning that Pokemon Sun does not support 3D during Pokemon battles either, which makes sense given the original 3DS can barely do that without slowdown (almost as if 3D was an unnecessary gimmick from the start). Aside from slowdown and 3D, the game itself does look quite nice and it is evident how far the 3DS has come when comparing the visuals from Pokemon X to Pokemon Sun.
Audibly, Pokemon Sun is pleasant enough, there is no song that is particularly captivating aside from Team Skull Leader Guzma’s theme which seems to be the most popular track right now. Pokemon cries sound odd enough, the tropical influence is prominent but not overpowering to the point where it just feels like the player is just vacationing and is not actually playing a “Pokemon” game. All in all, it is just nice, no complaints to really be had as far as music and sound effects goes.
Now for what the bulk of the review is going to be about: changes to the core of the long-running “Pokemon” franchise and whether or not they benefitted the games. One of the very first things that should be brought up is the removal of the standard Pokemon gym. Rather than the player going to a gym to receive a badge, they instead accomplish different tasks that involve defeating Pokemon only to take on the final Totem Pokemon. Unlike a regular high-level Pokemon, Totem Pokemon often raise their stats immediately as the battle starts, making them a formidable foe even if the opposing team has super effective moves. At no point throughout the game was there a feeling of loss in terms of Pokemon gyms, as it felt relatively the same but in a more streamlined fashion. A series of Pokemon that correspond to the trial’s element are fought, then there is a sort of “boss battle” using the player’s Pokemon, and they emerge with a reward. However, each island also offers a Kahuna who is effectively a gym leader but one that resides over the entire island rather than a specific city. Kahunas and trials reward the player with Z-crystals, which enable certain types of Pokemon to perform over the top moves that are powerful, but do not cross the line of being overpowered (depending on who one may ask). This seems to be done in lieu of Mega Evolution along with regional variants, as it still can only happen once per battle and corresponds to a bracelet worn by the player. Regional variants, such as Alolan Meowth and Alolan Exeggcutor are goofy as can be, but admittedly polarizing depending on the type of Pokemon fan one encounters. At least for now, it seems as if regional variants are being given a warmer welcome than Mega Evolutions as they seem to be designed with the intentions of being on the silly side and do not make a huge difference to battles where as Mega Evolved Pokemon could sometimes look ridiculous and become too powerful. At most, there are some Pokemon with regional variants that change their type, but this does not make them more powerful than the average Pokemon placed against them.
Along with the addition of regional variants, however, Pokemon Sun also adds a new type of Pokemon known as Ultra Beasts who are said to live in another dimension. Through the course of actions certain characters take through the games, these Ultra Beasts leak into the dimension of the player and must be captured in order to maintain a sense of safety among the people of Alola, but this is actually cast aside as post-game content. This is not a bad thing though, as there are only seven confirmed Ultra Beasts (one of the Legendaries found appears to be a Ultra Beast but is not confirmed as one in the game), and they act as psuedo-legendaries because while there are multiple of them there also appears to be a limit of catchable Ultra Beasts in-game and they can not be bred. The Ultra Beast designs are undoubtedly different than the average Pokemon designs explaining their label and inter-dimensional properties, and the new ones featured in Pokemon Sun are pretty nice for the most part. Pokemon like Rockruff and Mimikyu are welcome additions to the Pokedex (which in Pokemon Sun is “haunted” by a Rotom which reminds players of where to go next) while others are not thrilled with the sandcastle Pokemon known as Palossand which gives flashbacks to the keychain Pokemon, Klefki. In total though, Pokemon Sun is a very nice addition to the “Pokemon” franchise and offers a vacation from the standard mechanics of a Pokemon game. If someone found themselves enjoying Pokemon games only recently with titles such as Pokemon X, or if they have been playing since the original Pokemon Red, Pokemon Sun offers a unique and exciting experience for all and is highly recommended to veterans and newcomers alike.