I’m not sure what that title really means, but there it is.
So, yes, there are a pair of new titles in the line of core Pokemon RPG games, Pokemon Sun & Moon. They came out back on the 18th and my daughter and I got our copies from Amazon that day and immediately started playing.
Now Playing at Our House
I let my daughter have first pick and she went with Moon, so I got Sun. She was into the game right away, picking Litten as her starter. As I sat down on the couch with her to start myself off, I announced that I, too, was going to choose Litten, the fire Pokemon always being the safest choice.
The usual grass, fire, and water starter Pokemon
She objected strongly to this, pointing out that the house tradition was that we never, ever choose the same starter Pokemon. I had to admit that this had been the case, which explains why I have never had the fire Pokemon as my starter, since that is always her choice.
Once again I was left with the choice of water or grass and, as I have generally done, I went with water. Rowlet is cute and all, but grass always seems to be the weak option on the list as I recall from that time I chose Bulbasaur as my starter. You choose grass and the Ponytas start coming out of the woodwork.
So I started off with Popplio, an escapee from an Italian circus act and the water starter.
As a starter he is cute enough, but the tradition for Pokemon starters is that they get strange as they evolve. So he starts as a cute seal, then goes a bit further down the circus act.
Ongoing circus act
And the final evolutions for all three defy the cuteness they all started with.
An anime co-player, Thundercats, and Trump’s anime wife
I think the final Litten evolution is the best looking of the group, though it still loses all the cuteness factor. And so I have taken to hitting the B button every time Popplio, whom I named “The Popo,” starts to evolve. I am far enough along with him in the game now that he should be in his final evolution, but I still have little Popplio with me. I’ll have to evolve him at some point, you usually don’t get your best moves unless you evolve, but for now I’ll keep him cute. I think I did the same thing with Piplup back in the day.
I was also quick to get a fire Pokemon into my party, having been denied one as a starter. Fortunately Growlithes are easy enough to find early on. And I also put the Munchlax, a download for those who purchase the game in the first couple months, into my party as well, starting off in the world with the following lineup:
- Popplio – water
- Growlithe – fire
- Munchlax – normal
- Drowzee – psychic
- Ghastly – ghost
- Magnemite – electric
So far that has given me a team that has somebody strong against whoever I am facing.
As for the game itself, I am enjoying it. My daughter seems especially into it and actually finished the main story line last night. (There is still plenty of end-game content to go for her though.)
I saw a review of the game that described it as being very good for people new to the series, and I would have to agree. The game guides you carefully to start off and does a good job of keeping you on track. (Though, if you’re an old hand, the start can seem a bit slow.)
Your rival doesn’t even get the starter Pokemon yours is weak to anymore. On choosing Popplio, I found that Hau, who fills the traditional rival role, though he isn’t as into the rivalry as some past players of that part, took Litten. Water puts out fire. It was actually planning for my rival that got me to add a Growlithe to my party as soon as I caught one. I didn’t need him for that, though having a strong fire Pokemon in your party is never a bad thing.
And the game does its best to keep you supplied with various necessities as you start out and you get the experience share item early on, which favors lower level Pokemon, so keeps your party all around the same level.
There are also a whole host of quality of life improvements that showed up with Pokemon Sun & Moon. Aywren has a post covering much of that.
If I had to pick one of the improvements, it would be the changes to storage management which, once I saw them, I wondered why they hadn’t done this already. The whole storage system was still working about the same way it did back on the original GameBoy. With Pokemon Sun & Moon it looks like Game Freak finally discovered drag and drop was an option with the 3DS touch screen. I just hope this isn’t one of those features they do for one game and then don’t carry it forward to the next one.
Of course, there are some things that annoy me. None of these are rage inducing game breakers, but rather little reminders that the world is not perfect.
Of course, there is the call for assistance that wild Pokemon get. That seemed like a good idea when I first heard about it. I even mentioned it as something I was looking forward to. However, when you’re in a battle in the wild and you just want to capture that one Pokemon and they keep calling for help… and getting it… what was once an easy battle becomes this epic struggle to no great benefit. I think it is probably good for the trial battles, where you fight one main opponent, but the battle is drawn out by the assistance, because those are supposed to be tough fights. Fighting some wee Pokemon in the tall grass on your way somewhere shouldn’t be.
And speaking of things that I only expect in big fights, when did every trainer on the side of the road get handed a full restore? Game Freak sought to extend those battles as well I guess, as if you knock their Pokemon down into the red, they’ll pop a potion and be full health again.
My daughter was a bit disappointed to find that the Pokemon Daycare of past games is now just for breeding. It used to be a tradition to leave a couple Pokemon there while we moved on through the game, only to come back later and find them leveled up a bit. Not a huge loss, but a change.
I’m also finding Team Skull to not be much of a force for evil in the world, acting more as comic relief. Nice rhymes, but no threat. But I am only about half way through the story, so maybe I haven’t gotten to their prime point yet. Or maybe they are just a distraction from some other villains.
I’ve also found it awkward that the D-pad is no longer used for movement by default. Yes, like the old Pokemon storage methods, the movement via the D-pad is something rooted in the ancient GameBoy history of the game The analog Circle Pad, now your movement control, is just above the D-Pad has not only worked for movement over the 3DS era, but is arguably better for movement. (It is also quieter. My 3DS D-pad has an audible click to it.) However, after getting out of a battle or a transaction, my thumb still falls naturally onto the D-pad and I spend a second or two wondering what is thwarting me from moving. I’ll get used to it eventually, but for now my thumb just lands on the D-pad first almost every time.
But probably my biggest gripe and/or concern is about performance. I have one of the original model 3DS XL units, as does my daughter, and the game gets noticeably laggy at points when there is a lot going on in the game or when it does a close up on a 3D rendered character. (Such a close up lags and lingers long enough for you too see how crude the texture over polygon looks up close.) And load times seem to drag on much more so than they did with Pokemon X & Y or Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire.
The game is still playable. In fact, most of the time there is no performance issue at all. But when it happens, I see it. It makes me wonder if this game, or future titles in the series, really need the updated version of the 3DS with the 804 MHz quad core processor that the new models have rather than the 268 MHz dual core processors of the original models. Or maybe Game Freak just bit off more than they should have with some of the 3D stuff.
Anyway, we continue playing at our house. While I haven’t been as diligent as my daughter… I have been moving at a slower pace, trying to fill up the Pokedex as much as possible as well as playing a lot of Minecraft… I am still going. I finished the final challenge on the second island and just arrived on the Aether Foundation’s artificial island.
That white platform in the middle of the islands
I will carry on from there tonight.