Hoping to cash in on the Pokémon Go craze, Nintendo is rolling out its latest pair of 3DS games. The hope is that lapsed players will jump back in and pay $40 a pop for something they’ve been getting for free on their smartphones. Nintendo and developer Game Freak aren’t content to regurgitate what has worked in the past. While the team does trot out its well-worn formula, it shakes things up by adding several appealing new tweaks. The “Gotta catch ’em all” mentality applies not only to the new games, but to the company’s strategy to capture its legion of new and lapsed fans of the franchise.
Games: Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon
Consoles: 3DS (reviewed)
Developer: Game Freak
Release Date: November 18
Pokémon has always thrived on appealing to kids, and both Sun and Moon take the same track. Cutesy visuals and whimsically-named creatures populate the sickly sweet realm of the game’s setting, the Hawaii-inspired Alola Region. Also as you’d expect, your task is to seek out, capture and train all the pocket monsters you can dig up, with the goal of becoming the society’s most renowned trainer. The welcome changes come from perspective and traversal. The perspective shifts from the traditional overhead view to behind-the-trainer third person perspective, and fast travel is available via the Pokémon Ride apparatus. These nods to modern gaming conventions make the new games feel more like current RPGs, while retaining the art style and feel that Pokémon has always thrived on.
After typing in your name and choosing your avatar, you roam around to get acquainted with the island paradise, meeting twerpy would-be friends and rivals as you get a feel for the environment. You also hook up with partner Pokémon who serve as your sidekicks, helping you out with travel and training as you rack up and manage your roster. Battles are typical rock-paper-scissors affairs, tasking you to learn the strengths and weaknesses of various classes to maximize your chances. Those skills serve you well in multiplayer, which can accommodate up to four players.
As is usually the case with Nintendo’s ingenious and somewhat devious marketing strategy, both games are mildly altered mirrors of one another. You’ll need both games to unlock and explore all the content that both have. That urge to fuel the mildly OCD need to collect everything plays into the mentality of the typical Pokémon fiend, and the company is counting on that to squeeze $80 from every serious player. Tons of new creatures are out there for the capture, including Rowlet, Litten and Popplio, as well as Legendary Pokemon Solgaleo and Lunala. If you’re more of a tourist who won’t take much pleasure in capturing the rarest creatures, you won’t miss much by springing for just one of the games and calling it a day.
It’s no surprise to anyone who has tracked the evolution of the series that Pokémon Sun and Moon are the fullest-featured, deepest and most accessible games in the series to date. The mentality of Game Freak has always been to build upon what has come before to evolve the series in the same way the creatures do, blossoming with new abilities and dimensions. For many 3DS players, Pokémon games are the primary reasons they still tote their systems around. For proud Pokémon nerds, the release of the new games is a cause for celebration, and these true believers won’t be disappointed by the spirited effort Nintendo put forth here. If the thought of coughing up $80 for a pair of handheld games makes you scoff, there is little here to convince you to do so. Those players shouldn’t stare up at Sun and Moon and should keep their eyes squarely focused down at Go.
Pokemon Sun and Moon Reviews Around The Web:
“From the off it’s clear that here’s been a tremendous level of effort from Game Freak to make Pokémon Sun and Moon another notable evolution of the Pokémon series.” –Nintendo Life
“The most interesting thing about my hands-on time with Sun & Moon is that it clearly stands a chance of being the best and most exciting slice of Pokemon this year.” –VG24/7
“The animated visuals may have dramatically improved and you can’t get Charmander as a Pokémon anymore, but pretty much every facet of what made this franchise a success is still here.” –Stuff
Pokemon Sun and Moon Screenshots
The publisher provided a review copy.
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