Welcome to the region of Alola. The newest home for the Pokémon series as once again trainers of all ages take up the challenge to become the very best. Pokémonn Sun and Moon brings a lot to the table both new and old for gamers to lose themselves in. In truth it has been a long time since I last played a Pokémon game. The last one I played was Pokémon White back on the Nintendo DS. Roll forward to today and I’m sat with too many hours put into Pokémon Sun on the Nintendo 3DS and I can’t help but say I love it. With so much being different though just how has Pokémon evolved to be so solid and enjoyable in it’s latest instalment?

In short, what allows Pokémon Sun to be so enjoyable from a gameplay sense is that it breaks the traditional formula to a point that it’s new and exciting, but at the same time being largely familiar. The core design fundamentals of Pokémon are still present within Pokémon Sun but their slight adjustments make for some of the most engaging gameplay in a Pokémon game to date.

For example the normal path of working through a number of Pokémon gyms and their respected leaders is no more in Pokémon Sun and Moon. Now in the Alola region you will be undertaking the Island Trails across the four different islands. This includes one main trial per island along with a number of smaller trails hosted by trial captains. Each one of these is different and offers a change of pace to game by giving you a small mini game or a little challenge to complete.

Of course no matter how different the Pokémon formula may have been changed in the latest iteration the battles remaining the core focus. You will still be taking your beloved Pokémon into battles and uses them to overcome your foe. With new attacks, Pokémon and a host of new matchups to take into account. Pokémon battles in Pokémon Sun and Moon are challenging, engaging and give such a rush. The new Z-Crystal moves work to give you a serious edge in battle and often in style as well. It’s important to really look at the meta this time around as Pokémon Sun and Moon really ups the quality of the battles, and Pokémon, to give you more options than ever before.

You will even face up against super strong Pokémon known as totem Pokémon which can be found during some of the island trails. These ‘boss’ Pokémon as it were, will make sure to keep you on your toes and test your skills. They also make good use, along with many other Pokémon, of the new feature that allows them to call for help. The call for help feature in battles however is somewhat annoying and over time gets to be the cause of some headaches. Having a wild Pokémon call for help only for yet another one to turn up and start taking the damage is a pain. More so when all you want to do is capture that one Pokémon and move forward with your adventure. That said it can be rather funny, and a bit sad, when a Pokémon does cry for help and none of their buddies turn up.

Another little annoyances that you will encounter along the way include, as odd as it sounds, the difficulty of the game. Unlike past Pokémon games Pokémon Sun and Moon really does want to challenge you and keep you on your toes. With a strong focus on story this time around as well it all works together to make the experience more coherent and structured. I personally found that it was key to have the Exp. Share onto make levelling up my team quicker and easier. Of course this is down to personal preference if you want to use it or not. The good news is that it does not feel like it is breaking the game.

Sadly though it is a shame that during some intense moments and double battles that performance drops with a noticeable frame rate difference, especially on the old Nintendo 3DS system. Though it is only for a few moments, if that, the drop does catch your eye. It is also interesting as it might be a reason why there is now a lack of three on three battles. Other than these small performance drops, Pokémon Sun and Moon hold up surprisingly well on the Nintendo 3DS. The full 3D environments and models bring the world of Pokémon to life like never before. With character’s and Pokémon’s emotions being delivered with a greater level of detail allowing for a richer story experience.

This time around developer Game Freak has really pushed to deliver a native experience unlike any seen in a Pokémon game before. Thankfully it works better than you would expect given the more story driven focus in Pokemon Sun and Moon. Cutscenes and key events might seem odd at first but within no time you’ll find yourself lost in the unfolding story. As you adventure to become the island champion and solve the mystery of some key Pokémon. You will also need to help fellow trainers and Pokémon along the way. All at the same time as learning what it means to be a trainer in the Alola region. That and deal with Team Skull of course.

Team Skull of course being the most relatable team of any Pokémon game as well. They are a group of misfits, those who choose to throw caution to the wind and try to steal Pokémon. They are, at their roots, a gang of trouble makers but that is what makes them so great. They stand out, cause a scene and want to be in the limelight. Given the Alola region is so different than before it all works out and honestly Team Skull at just the tip of the iceberg of story that you will discover in Pokémon Sun and Moon.

As a matter of fact Pokémon Sun and Moon is a love letter not just to the fans of the series but also to Pokémon themselves. You see in the Alola region people and Pokémonn live and work side by side as never seen before in a Pokémon game. It’s this relationship that allows for a unique story experience and a world that is alive and breathing. It’s hard to detail it without giving away elements of the story but honestly I would never had thought that such a strong native focus would work in a Pokemon game but it really does work well.

This is then aided further by the fantastic sound design and music that fills Pokémon Sun and Moon. Each island has a score to aid in selling the theme of said island and the high quality of music continuous across the whole game. Pokémon have cries that make for more loveable moments and the soundtrack of each route, battle and moment are memorable and great. Pokémon Sun and Moon also includes the fantastic Team Skull theme which you can not help but love for it’s brilliantly crazy tone. That said however all sounds and music within Pokémon Sun and Moon are above the standard we are used to and really go above and beyond what you would experience for a Pokémon game let alone a Nintendo 3DS title.

At the end of the day Pokémon Sun and Moon is a change in the core structure of Pokémon. It breaks the formula in a way that gives new life to the series and keeps it engaging for both old fans and new. With so many features and elements in place that help to expand the world of Pokémon like never before. Pokémon Sun and Moon is easily the best Pokémon game to date and developer Game Freak have outdone themselves.

Why are you still reading? Go and play some Pokémon Sun and Moon and lose yourself in one of the best Pokémon adventures ever.

This review is based on a Nintendo 3DS copy of the product purchased by the reviewer

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