Pokemon Sun & Moon: Six Months Later
2016 was a huge year for the Pokemon company as they celebrated the franchise's 20th anniversary. Between the monthly legendary Pokemon giveaways and the flash in the pan global phenomenon known as Pokemon Go, interest in Pikachu and his friends was at the highest level it had been in some time. And then came Pokemon Sun and Moon.
I'm not saying that the latest entries in the franchise were bad. The opposite would be closer to the truth as they had me entertained for the most part from start to finish. Like so many other games that have stood the test of time, I can't help but feel the game mechanics have been dumbed down for the lowest common denominator in the general public, and it's not something I'm all that comfortable with.
The previous generation's X & Y were a turning point for me. They were the first games with 3D models but there was also a stark contrast from their predecessors. They too suffered from an over-simplifying and Sun & Moon have simply continued the trend.
My biggest gripe with Pokemon Sun & Moon is the lack of replayability. By making the conscious choice to remove Pokemon Gyms in the game and replace them with a more traditional linear RPG storyline, I believe the developers have done themselves a disservice. After two decades I can't argue that the series didn't need a bit of a shake up, but removing Gyms in Pokemon is like removing guns from Far Cry. It's wrong and just turns it into Skyrim.
It would appear that I'm in the minority when it comes to criticising Sun & Moon after Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima announced 15.44 million units were sold by the end of March. That's more than double Mario Maker 3DS, Kirby: Planet Robobot, Mario Kart 7, and Pokemon X&Y COMBINED in the same time period.
All that being said, I still cherished the opportunity to catch new and never before seen Pokemon. It's a rare thing that only comes along every 3 or 4 years, but it's exciting every single time. I wasn't a huge fan of the Alola Pokemon variations (mainly because it screwed with my living dex), but I can appreciate their place in the game as a nostalgia factor for others.
The Poke Pelago was a good addition to get players checking back frequently, and the removal of HMs was liberating. Unfortunately I couldn't give my character a Panda hat this time around, but the sheer amount of customisation more than makes up for it.
In the six months since release there have been just the two major updates, both being 296 storage blocks in size. The updates only addressed some glitches and bugs in the games that players had found and unfortunately didn't do anything as far as adding content. When a game with the popularity of Pokemon is released, it's going to be 99.999% finished with all content on the cartridge and nary a bug to be seen.
The Pokemon series has come a long way since I received Pokemon Blue for Christmas all those years ago. I can distinctly remember my older cousin helping me catch my first Pokemon (any Caterpie fans out there?), and that's a special memory I will have forever thanks to some Japanese guys I've never met.
Pokemon games are first and foremost for the kids. They've always been formulaic, but when they're streamlined to this extent it strips them of a lot of personality. We're at a point now where the franchise has almost reset itself. With presumably most players up to date on their Pokedex's, thanks largely to the 20th anniversary events, GameFreak now have a clean slate going forward and I'm excited to see what that brings.