Pocketful of Sunshine Monsters: Pokémon Sun

I may not have owned any consoles as a kid (read about that here), but even I knew about Pokémon. Growing up late ‘90s early 2000s Pokémon had a part in kid culture. There were trading cards, a tv show, and then there were the video games. I only saw a handful of episodes on Cartoon Network. It looked cool, if not odd. 

Later on, I had forgotten about it. I was a busy college student. However, a few of my friends started talking about the new Pokémon Sun and Moon games coming out. It made me remember the series and I decided to finally try it out. I bought myself a used 2DS and got the game when it was released. Pokémon Sun became the first Pokémon game I ever played. 

Verdict

Pokémon Sun (2DS/3DS): ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Nostalgia Bonus, Pokémon Sun (2DS/3DS): ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

The Pokémon video games series is well known for being formulaic. Add some new pokémon, create a new region, and make new characters then recreate the story of an 11-year-old becoming a pokémon trainer. While graphically, the games improved over time, the gameplay and overall story were repeated over and over with little changes. To be fair, the newest games Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee/Pikachu and Pokémon Sword/Shield made significant improvements in gameplay with how random encounters worked, but the story is relatively the same. It’s not a complaint, just an observation. After all, I enjoyed playing Let’s Go Eevee and Shield. 

Pokémon Sun at least provides a more logical reason for the entire journey. The island challenge is a well-known cultural coming-of-age ceremony. Normally there isn’t much of a reason for your journey, it’s just what you do as the main character. I also got invested in the sci-fi elements of Pokémon Sun. The fact that another dimension exists in this game was really interesting to me. Out of the three Pokémon games, I have played, this is the one that has the best story. This is why I think Pokémon Sun is still worth playing. Not for the gameplay, but for the story and setting. 

You would like this game if

  • You like animals. 
  • Want the gameplay of rock, paper, scissors taken to the extreme.
  • Are a collector at heart
  • Want to play a chill game that doesn’t require much effort or brainpower.
  • You have played so many Pokémon games, now you just want that sweet, sweet nostalgia. Ahhhh….. So comfy….

Story

Like all Pokémon games, this is a coming-of-age story. The main character and their mom move to Melemele Island, one of the Alola region islands. Alola is Pokémon’s version of Hawaii. When you get there you learn of the island challenge, a series of challenges set by the trial captains throughout all of the islands. You and a local boy named Hau, decide to undertake the challenge together. After all, no Pokémon game is complete without a rival. The two of you meet a girl named Lillie and her pokémon Nebby. Nebby is a unique pokémon that is often targeted by kidnappers looking to exploit him. Naturally, you help her out and become friends. 

Along the way, you encounter the local gang, Team Skull. This gang is made up of the people who quit the island challenge and now exist to cause trouble. They aren’t the only group you come across. While completing the island challenge, you are introduced to the Aether Foundation and its president Lusamine. The Aether Foundation aims to shelter pokémon when they are threatened. When visiting the Foundation’s base a strange dimensional wormhole appears and an unknown pokémon emerges from it. Despite your best efforts it retreats before you can defeat or capture it. This event adds a new layer of intrigue to your quest. What exactly are these extra-dimensional pokémon? Why are they appearing? Continue your journey to find out!

Gameplay

The gameplay of Pokémon Sun is very simple. It’s like the game was designed for kids instead of the twenty to thirty-somethings that make up the bulk of the players. Weird huh? You play as a spunky 11-year-old girl or boy starting their journey to become the very best like no one ever was♩. You travel along the paths to get to new towns and islands. In towns, there are Pokémon Centers and Poké-Marts. You can buy items at the Poké-Mart. Pokémon Centers are where you can get your pokémon healed. As you travel and defeat trial captains you progress through the story. You can freely interact with the environment and the people in the world. People will always talk to you and at times give you gifts. There are hidden items scattered about so it’s important to explore. Sometimes you will encounter an obstacle in the environment. Later on, you will acquire a skill that will enable you to get past these obstacles.

On the paths between towns, you encounter wild pokémon and pokémon trainers. The wild pokémon are in the patches of tall grass along the trail. When you enter the tall grass you can see rustling where there is pokémon. Once you walk around in the tall grass for a few seconds you will encounter a wild pokémon! You can either defeat the pokémon for EXP or try to catch it. There are other trainers along the trails. As soon as they see you they will challenge you to a pokémon fight. You can try to avoid them by walking around them but it doesn’t always work. Beating trainers in combat is how you earn money. I know it doesn’t make sense. Video game logic… don’t question it too much. 

The combat in this game is turn-based. Every time you encounter wild pokémon, trainers on the paths between cities, or do a trial challenge you will enter combat. You can have a total of six pokémon on your team. The pokémon in the first row will be the one that you start the battle with (by default that is your starter pokémon). Once the battle starts there are several things you can do: attack with one of your pokémon’s skills, use an item, switch your current pokémon for a different one on your team, and when facing a wild pokémon throw a pokéball to attempt to catch it. After your turn, the opponent has their turn. Most of the time they choose to attack. Sometimes trainers will use an item or switch pokemon but not very often. 

This battle system is easy to abuse. Every pokémon has a type or combination of types. Each type deals extra damage to certain types and takes heavy damage from particular types. For example, a fire-type pokémon is “super effective” against grass-type pokémon and is weak to water-type pokémon. If you abuse this system and constantly hit enemies with their weaknesses it makes battles a cakewalk. Note: if you are trying to catch a wild pokémon you don’t want to defeat it. Instead, you should try to lower its health then try to catch it with a pokéball. 

Worst Parts

  • Random Encounters. It would have been nice to know what pokémon was in the grass before running into it. At least you have the option to run past most areas where they spawn to save time. Not a bad mechanic but it does get tedious. 
  • It was easy to beat the game. I know, it’s a kid game. But still for the most part it was easy to breeze through challenges by picking out the optimal team then abusing the type matchup system. I’d like a little more challenge. I think Pokémon should add a hard mode.
  • All of the dang trainers along the paths. I just want to get to point A to point B. Can’t we do this later? I want to explore right now, not grind. 

Best Parts

  • Catching and naming pokémon. Some of them are so cute! There’s also that collector’s drive that makes it very satisfying. 
  • Poking fun at the logic of the world. Ah yes, I am 11, time to start my journey! Navigating dangerous wild areas, traveling to new cities, and taking down the local gang are all things that I, an unsupervised child, am capable of. All to become a master in animal fighting rings. 
  • Customizing your character’s style. 
  • Z-moves. They are flashy extreme anime moments of the game. 
  • Trading pokémon with friends. It was always interesting to see how they named the ones they caught. 

*Image does not belong to me. It belongs to the Pokémon Company, Game Freak, and Nintendo.

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