Weekly Gaming: Pokemon Moon (3DS)

Deary me has it been a while since I started playing Pokemon Moon. Having preordered the game last November, I proceeded to play the game straight for 20 hours, loving every moment of it. But for some reason, I fell off the Pokemon bandwagon and never actually got around to completing it – until now that is.

First up, you already know how Pokemon games go: As a 10 year old boy or girl, you proceed to meet the new professor of the place you’ve moved to, attaining your first pokemon, making you a newly qualified trainer. You make your way to the first gym, and proceed to take on the gym owner to gain a badge.

Except!

Not so this time round. The start’s the same in that you gain a starter pokemon, but everything from there changes. Gone are the gym’s from every other game in the series, which are instead replaced by trials across each of the 4 hawaiian islands. Once each trial has successfully been completed on a given island, you’re then able to take on that island’s “Kahuna” – the island protector so to speak. Whilst this has the same kind of layout as previous games, it changes immensely when actually partaking in the trails themselves.

You see, each trial will not only have you doing certain puzzles or taking on certain pokemon, but each trial will also conclude with a battle against a huge pokemon – one that’s stronger and bigger than the rest of it’s kind. For example, one of the first you take on within a cave ends with a battle against a Raticate; a simple enough battle you would think. Except, the battle ended up taking quite a while, not only because the Raticate was stronger than average, but also because it was able to summon other pokemon to fight at it’s side.

These trials were certainly a great mix-up to the age old pokemon formula, and even gave me quite a few challenges I didn’t think I’d be able to get out of alive thanks to the way it’s mixed things up.

The new trials aren’t the only way Pokemon has been mixed up. Now you can also ride Pokemon themselves on the overworld, allowing them to get you around a lot faster than running traditionally would. Getting around faster isn’t their only use though, as different pokemon’s abilities enable you to find new secret locations on the world map, giving you better TM’s or even better equipment.

Another fantastic new addition to the series is the Z ultra moves; moves so powerful they can kill most pokemon in one hit. Z moves can be given to any pokemon you have in your party as long as they’re holding a Z stone which matches the elemental type of one of their moves. Once activated, a brilliant cutscene of their attack unfolds, usually causing the opposing pokemon to faint. These powerful moves can only be used once per battle, so should you be taking on a team of opponents, it’s best not to use the move asap.

Aside from the new gameplay changes, there’s the age old tradition of New Pokemon adorning the land. These new pokemon range from trivial items in the environment like a ghost sandcastle pokemon, all the way up to new legendary’s that control the sun and moon. My favourite addition in all of this was the brand new “alolan” variants of some of the original 150 pokemon. These variants now only changed their features, like Raichu looking browner for example, but also changed their types. Exeggutor for example goes from being a grass type in previous games, to suddenly becoming a dragon type, able to learn amazing new moves like Hyper beam in the process. It’s a weird touch, but actually changes up the game quite a bit, making you excited to find/discover new pokemon and old.

Story-wise, the game is much the same as previous entries in the series. The biggest change is in the fact for the first time in Pokemon’s history, the main game has cutscenes. Yep, it’s strange at first, but you soon start to love the fact that it’s not all staticky talking characters anymore, with amazingly animated scenes lighting up your 3DS with all manners of joy. If anything, this addition makes the story all the more interesting, giving Pokemon a whole new layer to work with in producing new stories for people of all ages.

Additionally, Pokemon Moon had me surprised at the amount of mini-games available on the pause screen and how fun they were to keep coming back to. One of them, a bean collecting island, allowed you to place down berries to attract Pokemon, all whilst picking berries and planting them. I was surprised at how much fun I actually had with this mini-game, even going so far as to keep returning every now and then. This definitely contributed to my 30 hour play time total, but I felt it was worth it, especially when you can use the berries to make your pokemon love you, giving you extra headroom in fights when pokemon successfully dodge attacks for your love.

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So all in all, I’m bloody glad I came back to Pokemon Moon. It’s formula may be similar to those games that came before it, but I cannot help but feel it’s a fantastic addition to the series, and sets up brand new precedent’s for future Pokemon titles, especially with the region variances in play. Should you own a 3DS (or 2DS!), you owe it to yourself to own Pokemon Moon – it’s guaranteed to give you dozens of hours of pleasure, and keep you coming back for more time and time again.

5/5

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