We arrived at Friday and the fifth of five new expansions I planned to mention this week, Pokemon Sun & Moon.
You might take issue with that sentence at the top of the post. First, I only mentioned the Minecraft update in passing on Monday and, second, Pokemon Sun & Moon are new games and not an expansion.
Well, I did mention the Minecraft update, along with the addition of llamas, and it depends on how you look at the Pokemon series of games.
On one hand, over the 20 year lifetime of the Pokemon series there have been seven distinct generations made up of twenty different titles, and whenever you buy a new one you start out from scratch. There is no character continuity as in an MMORPG, where an expansion changes the world and its mechanics, but leaves your characters in place. They are classic buy-to-play, forget when you’re done console titles.
On the other hand, you can make the argument, as I have in the past, that the Pokemon series has literally been the same damn game remade twenty times over with only minor updates along the way. As I noted in my post about playing the Virtual Console version of Pokemon Blue, the game sprang into existence pretty much fully formed and the originals were completely familiar to somebody like me who only started playing Pokemon during the Pokemon Diamond & Pearl era.
Basically, each successive generation can be said to be an expansion, bringing with them changes to mechanics, new zones, new story lines, and new NPCs along with updates to graphics and supported platforms. The catch has been that a pwipe between each release.
Anyway, that is more food for thought than a point a view I will fight to defend. I would rather just go and play the game. And the game should be arriving on my doorstep today.
I am actually pretty interested to play the new title, enough that I went and played the demo earlier this week.
While Pokemon Sun & Moon brings some of the expected updates to the table… a new region, a new set of Pokemon, a new story line, and a new nefarious organization in the form of Team Skull… there are actually some other updates that are unexpected in the continuum of the franchise’s 20 year history.
Probably the biggest change is the end of Hidden Machines, or HMs, those Pokemon moves that you need to saddle your team with in order to be able to navigate the world. Replacing surf, cut, rock smash, strength, fly, and the rest is an ability to call upon Pokemon that can do those moves for you, but which need not be in your party. Given that HMs also prevented you from transferring Pokemon to other games… the HMs change up a bit each generation… this is actually a pretty big deal and an alteration of a mechanic that has been in place since day one.
Then there is a big quality of life change. When in battle now, your moves will indicate how effective they will be against your opponent. One of the reasons I played the demo was that I wanted to see how they were going to implement this. No longer will you have to memorize the move vs. type chart, it will say on the move itself whether it is normal, super effective, or not very effective. Or mostly it will, if the demo is an example of how things will work, as the indicators were missing occasionally as I played through.
That change actually sounds like Game Freak might have taken a peek at how Blizzard did pet battles in World of Warcraft. The effectiveness indicator has been a thing in WoW pet battles since day one as simple green up arrows and red down arrows for super effective and not very effective.
And also something that sounds a bit like WoW pet battles, wild Pokemon can now call for assistance, so you may end up facing multiple Pokemon when walking through the ever present tall grass.
On the possibly disturbing side of the change coin, Pokemon Sun & Moon also does away with gym battles. Again, another part of the foundation of any Pokemon game up until now has been the need to defeat the gym leader in every big town… eight in all generally, though I seem to recall that number being doubled in one game… as you move through the region where the game is set. How many gym badges you have has been a measure of progress through the game.
Instead there will be trials on each island, and each trial will be different, or so I have read. Can that replace the traditional gym system we’ve grown to love, with gym mazes often being an art themselves? We shall see.
And then there is the region itself. As with past games, the new region, Alola, is based off of a real world location. In this case, it is the Hawiian islands.
That part is actually fine. However, the tradition is to change up things in the region to make it different from the real world. So in Alola they don’t say, “Aloha!” as a greeting, they say, “Alola!” which is going to grate on me… a lot… until I train my brain just to substitute in the word, “Aloha.” That might just be a problem for me though. I have family in Hawaii and have spent a good chunk of time there.
There are other, more standard new items. There is the inevitable new battle mode, the Battle Royal. There are new Global Link options, new ways to connect and battle your friends over the internet, a new type of attack in the form of Z-moves, and the usual enormous set of side tasks and end game things to do outside of the main story line.
Of course, these are all things I have yet to actually experience, save for the demo, which was brief. (Though playing the demo gets you a special Pokemon, as does ordering early, as noted here.) All of that comes after the first big decision, choosing the starter Pokemon.
None of them thrill me, having seen their final evolutions.
So I will go with the safe bet, Litten, the fire Pokemon. Fire always works well, water is generally okay, and grass is often hard mode.
Anyway, my weekend gaming plans are set. Amazon should have my copy to me some time today.