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Planet Pokémon: Gamefreak reaches for the stars with Pokémon Sun and Moon

Not content to close out 2016 relaxing in their billowing piles of Pokémon Go cash, Gamefreak have just released two new Nintendo handheld rpgs, Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon. Joseph Harper took them for a spin.

It’s been a massive year for Pokémon. Celebrating 20 years since their first generation handheld games, the company has unleashed a hydro-pump-like torrent of downloadable mythic Pokémon, as well as various rare candies and treats into the hands and consoles of Pokémaniacs the world over (I missed out on Shaymin and seriously can someone please give me that gorgeous hedgehog baby?).

The biggest splash was their first foray into the mobile market. Pokémon Go was downloaded by millions and enjoyed by at least some of them. Now they’ve capped off the year with the release of Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon, the seventh generation of Pokemon rpgs for Nintendo handhelds.

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The two versions have the usual exclusive Pokémon species, but the main difference is that the in-game clock of Pokémon Moon has been leveled up by twelve hours. I guess that’s so that people who play mostly at night will be able to catch daytime Pokémon. There are probably other reasons for the time warp, but I’m yet to encounter them.

With the new island setting of Alola, Gamefreak have also made a number of pretty big changes to the Pokemon formula. Several of the original Kanto creatures have been given “Alola forms”. Wise-cracking, beige as anything Meowth has been transformed into a sexy wee silver number with curly whiskers and a curvy evolution. Sandshrew and Vulpix are looking glacial, and Exeggutor has been given a massive erection. I like ’em.

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The time tested Gym battle system has also been replaced by a pretty weird new format. On each island you complete a series of trials for that island’s Captain, before being able to battle the Kahuna, who functions kind of like a gym leader. Random battles now come with a ‘call for help’ feature, where the Pokémon you’re fighting can get a friend of the same type to come join the battle. This can lead to long af battles that can get a bit annoying, especially when you’re trying to catch one of them. It would probably however allow for nice shiny hunting possibilities.

As in the preceding Pokémon installments, you receive an Exp. Share pretty early. I’m sure some will feel this makes the game too easy, but honestly, grinding out experience has never been fun, so I welcome it. I love the starter Pokémon, and the limited number of NPCs you regularly interact with leads to a story that feels a bit more weighty than other generations.

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Honestly, I’m loving playing this game. It’s fricking great. Whether it’s the breezy new setting, or the overhauls in challenge mechanics, these Pokémon games feel very fresh. It’s a brave new Pokémon world that is a thrill to adventure through.


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