New Pokemon game gets you over the moon

New Pokemon game gets you over the moon
As with any new generation of a Pokemon game, there are new Pokemon to catch in Sun And Moon, which takes place on the sunny islands of Alola, the Pokemon world's equivalent of Hawaii.
PHOTO: GAME FREAK

The Pokemon Go mobile app may be the biggest mainstream Pokemon game of 2016, but fans of the original Game Boy game have another Poke-treat this year too: the seventh generation of the hand- held game that started it all.

Pokemon Sun And Moon, the latest in a franchise which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, is bolder, far more creative and a bigger adventure than its predecessors.

Taking place on the sunny islands of Alola, the Pokemon world's equivalent of Hawaii, Pokemon Sun And Moon retains the core elements, which seasoned players will find nostalgic and comforting, and adds new twists to keep the franchise fresh and modern.

As with any new generation of a Pokemon game, there are new Pokemon to catch in Sun And Moon, which takes place on the sunny islands of Alola, the Pokemon world's equivalent of Hawaii.Photo: GAME FREAK

As with any new generation of a Pokemon game, there are new Pokemon to catch, cartoonish villains to defeat and a Champion's title to earn.

The addition of new Pokemon is always the main draw for players, and Sun And Moon doesn't disappoint. It has enough cute, weird and epic Pokemon for all kinds of players.

Some are plain cute, like the bee Pokemon Cutiefly. Some are a tad weird, like the animated sandcastle Pokemon Palossand. Sun And Moon also ups the ante on sheer over-the-top Pokemon with the introduction of Ultra Beasts - Pokemon from another dimension.

And this escalation doesn't stop at Pokemon. Sun And Moon's plot, which consists of mystical guardian Pokemon taking care of each Alolan island and Ultra Beasts threatening the safety of humanity, takes the franchise to new - and extra-dimensional - heights.

Even better, the storyline is one of the more compelling versions in the franchise, with a fine balance of character growth, plot twists and light-hearted moments.

It is more story-driven than the Pokemon games that came before it, which have always been about rehashing the tried-and-true formula of battling Gym Leaders and fighting your way to the top of the Pokemon Champions League.

With this game, its developer Game Freak did away with the Gym Leaders, and instead put in a system of "island challenges", which consists of some battling, as well as additional tasks like finding items or playing simple mini-games.

I was initially put off by the new challenges - 20 years of playing Pokemon has made me comfortable with the formulaic nature of the franchise - but the change in pace was actually quite enjoyable.

The game world is more immersive, too, with a host of new features and mini-games.

For instance, there's a photography mini-game that's a nostalgic throwback to the 1999 Pokemon Snap game, where you earn points by taking pictures of Pokemon, and this ends up being quite crucial to the plot.

Graphical improvements also make Sun And Moon feel like a polished Pokemon game that has evolved from the previous games in the franchise. Pokemon now have fresh animations, which breathe new life into these virtual creatures that many players would have grown up with.

It's the little details which make them seem more real than they are - like the erratic, creepy hand-twitching of Drowzee, a pig-like Pokemon which becomes creepier when you realise it nourishes itself by eating the dreams of young children.

New Pokemon, new gameplay mechanics and a more story-centric approach make Pokemon Sun And Moon stand out within the franchise. It took Game Freak 20 years, but this game marks the start of even more exciting changes for Pokemon fans.

lesterh@sph.com.sg

 

Verdict: Pokemon Sun And Moon marks a new high in the Pokemon franchise, successfully reinventing itself yet keeping true to its roots. It reconnects older players to the game with a sense of familiarity, while keeping the game modern and fresh for new players.

RATING: 9/10 

PRICE: $59 (Nintendo 3DS)

GENRE: Role-playing

 


This article was first published on Dec 21, 2016.
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