Nintendo Blends New Mechanics into the Beautiful Alola Landscape
By: Brenton Mitchell
With the immense success of “Pokemon Go,” Nintendo created an unprecedented surge in popularity for the hit series. As a result, it is no surprise that all eyes are on “Sun & Moon,” the recently released 7th generation of Pokémon that takes players to the beautiful region of Alola.
Pokémon hasn’t changed much over the years, with the themes of exploration, catching, and battling being core to the gameplay experience. “Sun & Moon” follows the same path; players take the role of a prospective Pokémon trainer and go on their quest to catch-em-all.
This quest involves capturing their favorite pokemon, forming teams, and battling other trainers to increase their strength and effectiveness. Though what truly separates “Sun & Moon” from its predecessors are the things that happen outside of the usual formula.
While the tried-and-true methods of gameplay have the benefit of making each generation of Pokémon a consistent experience, a side-effect is the feeling that each iteration is just another collection-simulator. “Sun & Moon” takes a different route by putting in an impressive effort to make the game feel alive.
The Alola region, based off Hawaii, is incredibly detailed and visually stunning. The various sections of the region have their own atmosphere and identity, something that is reflected into the gameplay with Pokémon transforming their types based on climate.
As players venture through the game, they can see Pokémon moving around and hear them chittering about. This results in a very engaging experience.
Pokémon has never been a game that was known for its story, an aspect that Nintendo has made an effort to dispel.
The story of “Sun & Moon” is more than just a backdrop for Pokémon collection. It’s well crafted and thought out, providing a solid foundation for the actions and motivations of the player character.
The relationship between a trainer and their Pokémon also takes precedence as well, the introduction of new gameplay tools allow trainers to clean and pet their Pokémon.
This keeps up their happiness and in turn allows them to perform better in battle while trainers advance their journey.
In an effort to increase the influence of these changes, “Sun & Moon” takes a brave step by removing a core element of Pokémon gameplay since its first inception: Gyms.
In previous games, gyms and their leaders were the sub-bosses that players had to beat in order to progress to the next portion of the game. The main purpose of training pokemon was to beat these gyms and get their respective badges, aiming to collect all of them in the region.
“Sun & Moon” replaces them with the Island Challenge, a rite of passage of the Alola region that tasks trainers with completing Island Trials on each of its four islands.
The benefit of Island Trials is that it provides a clear purpose for the actions of the game by grounding it in the history and tradition of the region, something that Gyms never could accomplish.
Island Trials also open up opportunity for more enjoyable aspects of progression, for even though battles are always involved in some aspect different tasks also contribute to completion of that island’s trial.
The result is gameplay that retains the usual progression of difficulty and challenge, while keeping the player thoroughly engrossed in the game’s world.
The transition between exploration and battle being seamless to the game’s progression, Alola feels like a unified place instead of obvious re-skinned zones for the player to complete.
“Sun & Moon” is the Pokémon game we wanted for the next generation, its effective blend of new and recurring elements reflect its resurging fan base. From starter Pokémon to the Final Four, the islands of Alola provide many conquests, but all are eclipsed by the timeless fun that is Pokémon.