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Review

Pokemon Sun and Moon Review

  • First Released Nov 18, 2016
    released
  • Reviewed Nov 18, 2016
  • 3DS
  • 3DS

It's only a Pokemon moon.

Pokemon Sun and Moon, the latest iteration in the 20-year-old monster-battling franchise, provides some of the biggest and most welcome changes to the series yet. While the story is disappointing, the core catch-'em-all gameplay shows how the simple concept of "capture Pokemon, level up Pokemon, and beat the crap out of other people's Pokemon" has endured for two decades.

In my review in progress, I detailed how changes to the game's mechanics create a more streamlined, approachable, and fun experience compared to previous iterations. Sun and Moon removes most of the need for memorizing Pokemon types and mentally tracking the paper-scissors-rock matchups that define the game's combat. Traversing the world is more manageable thanks to a detailed map on the 3DS' bottom screen. And abilities like Fly, Surf, and Rock Smash have been replaced entirely with a new Pokemon Pager system. Now when you come upon an obstacle in the game world, you can summon the Pokemon you need to keep going (provided you've unlocked that ability on your pager).

Sun and Moon is a triumph for the series on both a gameplay and visual level. The beautiful Hawaii-inspired Alola setting pops with color and little details. Trainers you fight hang out in the background of the battle, and even the way they throw their Pokeballs before a battle accentuates their personalities--from the casual side toss of a standoffish scientist to the overhand baseball throw of an energetic grade school kid. And you're no longer on quite the same linear quest of finding and fighting eight gym leaders with a stop-off near the end to catch a legendary Pokemon and save the world. This time, you're a newcomer to an island paradise with various trials you have to overcome, four Kahuna trainers to fight...and a brief interlude to catch a legendary Pokemon and save the world.

The trials take the place of previous games' gyms, with tasks such as gathering ingredients for a Pokemon-luring recipe rather than just battles against other trainers. Then each trial culminates in a battle against a powered-up Pokemon called a Totem Pokemon. As a reward for completing the trials, you earn Z-crystals, which unlock super-powered Z-move abilities for each Pokemon type. But as exciting as that sounds, the crystals ultimately feel like an unnecessary addition. Much like the Trials themselves, they become less involved further into the game--eventually becoming a series of battles against individual Pokemon. And the rewards feel a lot less special when later characters just give you crystals or you find the gems scattered around the world. And while the Z-move animations are impressive the first couple times, going through the same long sequence every time you use one of the abilities gets tiresome. Even with battle animations turned off, the moves still involve over-long summoning sequences.

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Z-moves are an addition you can ignore, but unfortunately Sun and Moon's biggest weakness is something you can't: the story. Sun and Moon starts out fantastically, and the changes to the established formula with Trials and Kahunas instead of Gyms lends the journey a bit of unpredictability. As with other modern Pokemon games, you have to take some time out to capture a Legendary Pokemon and save the world before you can finish your journey to become the local Pokemon master. But this detour you take to save the world before the end of the game lacks the same originality and tight pacing as the opening hours. The antagonistic Team Skull enemies you face along the way are one-dimensional and directionless, and the motivations of the central antagonist (who's revealed in a twist you see coming a mile away) are just nonsensical. The final battle in this side confrontation shifts from a confusing diatribe about cleansing the world to your enemy hating their children for not being "beautiful." This side story comes to an abrupt, unfulfilling conclusion, and you're then whisked along to the "real" game, battling the Pokemon League and becoming the greatest Pokemon trainer in Alola.

The story is boring, but it's the core collecting and battling gameplay where Sun and Moon shines anyway. And as is standard in all Pokemon games, once the credits roll, there's still a world left to explore and new Pokemon to catch. In particular, I'm intrigued by the setup of the game's Ultra Beasts--creatures that are glossed over in the main campaign, even though they play an outsized role in the side story's narrative. Sun and Moon's greatest strength is that I want to stay in Alola and see how (and if) the game's other mysteries unfold.

For better and worse, Sun and Moon is essentially the same Pokemon experience that comes out every few years, just with enhancements to make it feel more modern. But this an entry that should appeal to more than just the series' devoted fanbase who'll notice those details. For players who have loved or been interested in the franchise before, but who felt that the growing roster and feature set made it too unapproachable, Sun and Moon is like meeting a long-lost friend again. And for everyone else, Sun and Moon is the perfect game for understanding what makes Pokemon so popular.

Justin Haywald on Google+
Back To Top
The Good
HMs are replaced with the more efficient Pokemon Pager system
Trials and Kahunas provide a fresh twist on the standard gym battle formula
Graphical upgrades make trainers and Pokemon look better than ever before
Ability effectiveness now appears on the move select screen
A map on the bottom screen shows where you're at and where your next objective lies
The Bad
Z-move animations are way too long
The story is nonsensical and uninteresting
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

After around 30 hours, Justin became the Pokemon Master of Alola. A copy of Pokemon Sun and Moon were provided for this review by Nintendo.
121 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Gelugon_baat

One of the YouTubers I follow describes the main plot as practically being XenoSaga Chapter 1 - this is not exactly praises for the game's writing, as XenoSaga's story is considered ridiculously convoluted by some.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

The protagonist could have benefited from more facial expressions. Dude's/Dudette's face seems to be atrophied.

Avatar image for anurag2305
Anurag2305

WHEN WILL TEAM ROCKET USE THEIR DARKENIUM Z CRYSTAL?

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ninboxstation

Pokemon have never looked better (Art & Animations).., the pacing, areas (structures) and "unexpected" moments (and items) are done better than any other Pokemon before... and "backtracking" (for the unexpected), before the endgame, is now almost on a level of other RPGs (not normal for Pokemon games), and doing it while riding Pokemon is fun as ever... ,

8/10 is seriously the lowest the game could have gotten...

Pokemon Go wins mobile videogame of the year, but is leagues worse then this Pokemon.. (imo Sun/Moon is possibly the best Pokemon in 3D ever...)

besides Dark Souls 3, Pokemon Sun/Moon is RPG of the year

(wouldn't say that to every new Gen Pokemon)

EDIT:

recommend to watch the first few episodes of the new Pokemon Sun/Moon anime (at least till you get to see/know all the starter pokemon in the anime.... or a bit more),.. to get a deeper feeling of the Pokemon (and NPC) "characters/behaviours"... giving the game more depth and fun xD..., somewhat like watching the FFXV anime episodes and the FFXV film before playing FFXV..

(I can't hold thru many Pokemon episodes at a time.. but just the first few of the new season offers like more depth to the new Pokemon and NPCs in the game..., and it's easy to play Pokemon parallel while watching them episodes..)

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ebv2406

This review wasn't spoiler free

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Junior_AIN

Good to see water in a right amount.

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ebv2406

@Junior_AIN: This is gamespot not ign

Avatar image for ninboxstation
ninboxstation

imo it's Pokemon, it's like Call of Duty... you know what you get and it still adds new flavour...., if they were to totally change it, it would be a different franchise...

and they did a good job on Sun/Moon, imo 8/10 is a bit low-ish... (but fits to gamespots new score politic of "lets give it +/- a score lower than the rest".. dunno if t gamespot is really trying to be more "criticle" .. or just trying to attract more clicks/stand out a bit..)

I'd personally give it 8.5-(9)/10, but I'm a bit of a Pokemon fan/biased.., still believe 8/10 is the lowest possible Sun/Moon could have gotten.. (deserves a tick more.. even if they didn't risk too much, it's still massive and cute as ever..)

the ONE thing they could do imo, with Pokemon, is add a hard mode or just make it in general more challenging.., BUT you can play at you're own pace / in you're own way

(making it more challenging.. like being underleveled at gyms or/and not caring about the type/element advantages when making a team etc. etc. etc..)

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Bashy935

I love Pokemon Sun :D (version I got) but doesn't there seem to be a TON of water? :S

Avatar image for smokeless_0225
smokeless_0225

I just read the last part but it seems like a fair review...although I don't totally agree with one of the negative comments...I've only completed the first 2 islands but so far I think the story is mildly interesting....still 8/10 is very fair for the game

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ninboxstation

a pity that the ingame battle music (against wild pokemon) is so "boring" this time...

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Boogeyman64

You seem to have misunderstood a context of the plot.

The "villain" wasn't actually bad.

It's heavily implied the Ultra Beasts did this to them, it's not fully confirmed because said person is in a coma

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

Do any of you think that a game like Dragon's Dogma but with Pokémon (and no trainers) would be a good idea?

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

Critters hiding in flipping tall grasses and ambushing complete strangers still amuse the heck out of me. This is so silly. :P

Also, that music for regular battle victories - it's been recycled so many times since the original GameBoy titles.

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AndreasRufus

@Gelugon_baat: same can be said about the music for battle victories in almost every Final Fantasy, etc... So?

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@AndreasRufus: So I would say the same about those in Final Fantasy too. :\

I am not a fan of Final Fantasy and I don't have double standards regarding Final Fantasy'smusic, if that's what you are trying to imply.

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AndreasRufus

@Gelugon_baat: I was pointing at something, not implying.

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DoomSky

@Gelugon_baat: Also the fact that in the originals the professor stops you when you attempt to walk into the long grass outside your house without any pokemon in your party because "wild pokemon are there! It could be dangerous!"

Apparently the threat of being viciously attacked by wood pidgeons and small rodents is very real.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@DoomSky: Well, as weak as those pigeon and rat critters are compared to the others, any Pokémon can f*** up kids like Red and Kris.

Avatar image for Chico86_basic
Chico86_basic

Pokémon games never had a great story to begin with. They were all about the actual region in the sense that how you traverse the world and the pacing of the main quest affect your experience that much more, or rather how well designed they are (I'm looking at you Hoenn). On the other hand I can't deny a good story can only add value to a game, specially in single-player RPGs. Anyway, the reviewer seems to miss the point when it comes to the core of the game even if he acknowledges the nature of Pokémon lies in collecting, battling and to a lesser extend the social aspect. What I would really like to know, and of course that I speak for myself, is for example wether Z moves have an high or low impact in the actual gameplay when you're fighting an equal and worthy opponent. Not the sort of battles you can find in the main quest because we know quite well that, shortly after the beginning of any Pokémon game, your team will always be overpowered in comparison with NPCs. The same can be said about Ultra Beasts, that are briefly mentioned, and how they weigh in. There is no mention about mega evolutions or how they're introduced in the 7th gen. No mention about the hypothetic online changes or if the effectiveness cues remain there as well. In other words, no clue about anything a competitive Pokémon player would be concerned at all. Then again, I guess if you're that type of gamer Gamespot's review hardly matters and you're probably looking for something else entirely. Although, even from a casual standpoint the review is very poor. Is the new battle royal any good? What about the RotomDex and the overall interface aside from the map? I heard you can take pictures of Pokémon now, but does it serve for any real purpose in game? Did Justin like the new Pokémon? I don't wanna sound picky but I truly believe this series deserved a little bit more attention. He seemed to have only scratched the surface when most of us, long time fans - the ones who will actually pick this up instead of following the Pokémon Go bandwagon - start enjoying more on the post game.

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dctcool

@Chico86_basic: What a crock of shit, this whole comment literally comes down to "Oh you didn't enjoy it the same way I'm enjoying it"

Avatar image for Chico86_basic
Chico86_basic

@dctcool: I was talking about the written review itself. Didn't even start playing by then, but whatever floats your boat. The abbreviation you quoted there can be thrown both ways really. That's not the point at all though!

Avatar image for Donut0389
Donut0389

Yeah. My friends who have the game aren't impressed so far. They're complaining the game is too handholdy, the battles are too easy, your "rival" is a pushover (he even picks the starter your starter is STRONG against), and the NPCs have lost their edge (instead of "My bugs are gonna beat you! Let's battle!" it's now "Well even if I lose at least we'll have fun!").

What happened to the Nintendo that published games like Jet Force Gemini and Turok 2? The Nintendo that published Battalion Wars and Advance Wars? The Nintendo at wasn't afraid to challenge you?

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ninboxstation

@Donut0389:

Pokemon games have been toooo easy for a while.. would really appreciate more challenging versions or a "hard" mode (and kids are clever, they can handle more difficult games too...)

in the meantime I chose Pokemon in my team, if I like them and theyre strong (for VS battles later on), but without regard of the elements/types. meaning I might und up with 3 dark and and 2 metal pokemon in my team.. (until I fight against other real players..),. meaning it becomes automaticly more difficult.. (I don't try to balance the elements/types, don't take that into consideration at all, chose Pokemon purely If I like them style or/and character-wise and they're promising..)

and I tend to fight wild or other ingame pokemon only if they give me the EVs I want.., which can make it more difficult again... (even if the elements are not ideal for the fight. like when leveling a Geodude for Str. EVs... even if it means fighting metal or fight pokemon that give Str EVs....)

that way the game stays "challenging"...

edit: and tend to be "underleveled" towards arenas or at the end of the game (since I keep experimenting with different Pokemon ,switching them in and out), so the end doesn't feel tooo easy anymore either

edit II: not sure if they're "IV's" or "EV's" in English..

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AndreasRufus

@Donut0389: why bkame nintendo if there are no such titles to publish

Avatar image for Itzsfo0
Itzsfo0

@Donut0389: What happened to the Nintendo ? well to me New Super Mario Bros U, Luigi U, Super Mario 3D Land, Super Mario 3D World, Super Mario Maker, Xenoblade Chronicles & Xenoblade Chronicles X, Bayonetta & Bayonetta 2, The Wonderful 101, Splatoon, Mario Kart 7, Mario Kart 8, & the upcoming Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and previous recent Zelda entries like Wind Waker remaster (which was really a great new upgrade to the Game Cube classic) - and others like Skyward Sword, and of course the 3DS/3DS XL lineup of: Fire Emblem: Fates/Awakening, Bravely Default, Bravely Second, a few decent Resident Evil: Revelation titles, a load of Etrian Odyssey & Breath of Fire remakes, Dragon Quest (a handful of titles), among other games - and a contender for GOTY was 2014's great Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds - which I also enjoyed thoroughly, so as for "challenge" I have been a gamer for 30 years and honestly while challenge is part of what makes a game fun/enjoyable. It's only a part, theres many other factors, like: replay value, soundtrack, graphics, story/lore, game mechanics (combat, leveling, questing, exploration, controls) - and Nintendo still puts out high quality (upon day 1 release WELL RUNNING) ready out of the box exclusives. Be it Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze (a now-cult hit that many say is one of the best platformers in recent memory) - and I would agree (having just finished it) THAT game can present some serious challenges / almost rage-inducing in late game. Turok 2 ? I haven't played Turok since N64, nor do I care to. But I guess that is opinion/taste - all this talk is subjective. I understand that, no hate here - no argument just saying - your looking at it very 1-sided, 1 "unimpressive" Pokemon game doesn't qualify Nintendo as being on a downward trajectory, I've heard this before "oh where has Nintendo gone" um...nowhere, they are right here, still dominating the handheld market, releasing a new system, whether it does well or not (time shall tell) Wii U may have been a flop in TERMS of sales, but for me its been quite enjoyable...it runs well, no issues, no game crashes, and for 3 years (and the fact that I bought mine used for $179.99 3 years ago when the Black 32gb Internal Wii U system was fairly new). The system has been out since 2012, so nearly 4 years, and I've had the system for 3 of those years and I've enjoyed about 12-15 exclusive's for the system, 1 after another. Same could be said for the previous system (the Wii = the best selling device OF that 7th generation 2005/2006 ~ 2015 give or take). So honestly for me, I understand what you are saying & where you are coming from but....the way your looking at it - it can cut both ways. I think Nintendo is still here very much & I'm looking forward to 1-2 big releases in the next year, so thats something if you ask me. As for challenge, it isn't just Nintendo that has alot of hand-holding type games, easy combat/battles, and fairly straightforward/casual gaming. Hell thats half the industry. Want a challenge, play Dark Souls or any of its sequens on New game + lol. But challenge doesn't always equate to "fun" - some of the best games I've ever played weren't all that challenging, but they had amazing stories, or memorable characters, or great cool-looking hand-crafted enviroments that I actually enjoyed exploring. Awesome soundtracks, ambient & memorable (like alot of those retro-inspired 2D platformers coming out) many of which are great, we are seeing a renaissance in retro inspired platformers/sand box type games. I could name dozens - many of which are on the Wii/Wii U for download. Not to mention I like the simple setup of the Wii U's interface when it comes to using the net, or Nintendo eShop, etc. Works well for me, my only complaint is MORE classics, I mean where the hell is Secret of Mana, or Chrono Trigger, those were games from my childhood - the early 90s. I've been a dedicated Nintendo Power subscriber for many years (well I was) and a life-long gamer, but I'm not selective, nor do I do fanboyism. I can play PC/console/handheld. Be it Sony's devices, or Nintendos...but I have enjoyed Nintendo from NES to Wii U and from Game Boy Pocket to New 3DS XL. Everyone talks nostalgia, "glory days" as if theres nothing good nowdays, THAT is opinion and if that is your opinion that I feel bad for you - because that is just a negative/nancy way of looking, total "everything is shit" mentality. Its not good enough, or challenging enough...trust me I can name plenty of games nowadays that will throw you quite a chalenge - we could further discuss that if you are interested in actually hearing some of the titles (like Super Meat Boy, Kerbal Space Program, Souls games, etc). But I guess to each their own, hope you find some quality content you enjoy that provides a stimulating challenge. Good day.

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Donut0389

@Itzsfo0: Defensive much? There's no excusing Sun and Moons insultingly easy difficulty. Like I'm hearing things like many trainers having only ONE Pokemon at the mid game. Then you have the zones basically being straight lines with extra paths blocked by NPCs. Not even NPCs with some creative reason to be there. Just "Nope. Go the way we want you to.". Also your Pokedex telling you where to go all the time. Like even casual players are saying it's too easy.

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DoomSky

@Donut0389: You just reminded me there has not been a advance wars since the DS, curses now I'm sad.

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Donut0389

@DoomSky: I'm sad right along with you. Played AW 1 and 2 plus DoR and BW. I miss the series. Also miss Custom Robo.

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DoomSky

@Donut0389: Yeah, I din't get the chance to play Battalion Wars looked pretty fun though. I heard Advance Wars was not very popular in Japan which might be why we got 2 Fire Emblem games on the 3DS and no AW. :(

Think I might go start up a quick battle on Dark Conflict! (They changed the name of Days of Ruin in Europe for some reason)

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Jasurim

I have to agree with the story point of view. It was very dull and because this game seems to focus on the story even more, it makes the game drag on a bit at certain points. Specifically the start, I really wish they just let us get on with it.

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Deseo1990

More copy paste shit with more crappy pokemon that people wont use and another quick buck lol swear i want me some digimon after the same shit every year

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RoachRush

@deseo1990: Digimon? You mean the franchise that failed? Have fun with that.

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JSusie

The call for help "feature" is the absolute worst part of the game for me.

Nearly everything else is better.

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Boogeyman64

Yo Justin, I respect your review and opinion, but I can't help but disagree with the Story Argument.

Unlike past games, the story isn't pushing you forward, the characters are, i absolutely loved these guys and overall theme of "Family" was great.

Yes it did follow tropes but I felt the reasoning towards it was much better executed and made you care about these characters.

Compare this to Black and White, the story was definitely great, but the only character that benefited was N, compared to almost everyone involved in Sun and Moon.

Granted, this is my opinion just like this review is your side and I like have clashing opinions. I just feel that the characters overall were really enjoyable instead of just waiting to see what the story does.

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FBohler

Looks like a solid Pokémon game, very interesting. I don't own any Nintendo platform atm, and I'm not into handhelds, any chance the Switch is getting a game like this?

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timemasheen

@FBohler: Yes. Look at "Pokemon Stars" .

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FBohler

@timemasheen: Thank you for the info! I'll keep my eye on it, maybe grabbing a Switch when its lineup is packed with good games.

Pokemon Sun / Moon More Info

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  • First Released Nov 18, 2016
    released
    • 3DS
    As we celebrate 20 years since the launch of Pokemon Red and Pokemon Green in Japan, the next era of Pokemon games is being announced! Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon are coming out for systems in the Nintendo 3DS family in holiday 2016, with a new world, new Pokemon, and new adventures to discover!
    8.2
    Average Rating85 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Pokemon Sun / Moon
    Developed by:
    Game Freak
    Published by:
    Nintendo
    Genre(s):
    Role-Playing, Management
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Everyone
    Mild Cartoon Violence