Opinion: Sun and Moon Makes Me Want to Play Pokemon Again

By | 5 months ago 

Pokemon has some very dedicated fans. One writer who bailed on the series years ago, however, is coming back for Pokemon Sun and Moon specifically, and shares his reasoning.

I can remember exactly when I had given up on the Pokemon series. I had just beaten Volkner, the final gym leader in the Pokemon Pearl & Diamond releases, snuffing out the spark of most of his Electric-types with my carefully cultivated lineup of creatures. I had spent many hours of the game, as is the custom in Pokemon, trudging through tall grass in search of specific additions to my ever-growing team. I made sure my ragtag bunch of anime critters were diverse, and prepared for any potential match-up. Volkner was a push over.

Why was I playing this game again? That eighth badge didn’t feel special – I’d gotten it in Pokemon RedPokemon Gold, and Pokemon Ruby before, although in each of them it looked a little different and took different super effective move chains to obtain. I’d long since fallen out of love with Pokemon character design, as the addition of shiny Pokemon felt shoe-horned in and the beasts became increasingly absurd or abstract takes on random real world inspirations – one Pokemon, released in the games that followed Pearl & Diamond, was literally garbage.

I closed the lid of my Nintendo DS. I didn’t save the game. That was the last time I’ve played Pokemon in any capacity.

Hopefully, then, after hearing about my odd break-up with Nintendo’s immensely popular creature-catching franchise, readers will forgive me for initially being apathetic about the reveal of the Pokemon Sun and Moon starters and legendaries. After all, this is a series that has recently featured a condescending plant lizard, a weird clown otter, and a Fire-type pig who doesn’t even look related to flame at all until its final evolution. My hopes weren’t particularly high, as I expected developer Game Freak to come up with even worse designs this time.

Then I met Litten and Rowlet. Yeah, okay, there was a weird clown seal this time too, and that one lived up to expectation. The other two, however, captured something I just hadn’t felt in a very long time. We at Game Rant could likely write a series of articles delving even deeper into why Rowlet is the greatest Pokemon of all time, but I think at its core it comes down to the feeling the grassy owl and its kitten compatriot inspire in gamers.

pokemon sun and moon starters litten rowlet popplio

When I look at Litten, who is obviously significantly better than Rowlet in my humble opinion, I remember the hours I spent during class in elementary school writing out comparison lists for Pokemon Red and Blue. I had been promised the games for my birthday and, having already decided Bulbasaur would be my starter companion, I immediately set to work to determine which game had the cooler exclusive Pokemon. Eventually, I chose Red, and Growlithe became my favorite Pokemon of all time (for a few years, anyways).

It isn’t just the fact that Litten and Rowlet are the first starters in a long time to capture the quintessential essence of curiosity and charm that has come to define the Pokemon series, either. Nintendo and Game Freak have clearly made a conscious decision to shake things up with Pokemon Sun and Moon, and that decision has inexplicably made the newest games appear to be the closest to Red and Blue in a long time.

For those skeptical of that claim, the Japanese Pokemon Sun and Moon commercial should be mandatory viewing. Nintendo nailed it with this video, which gets across some of the basic tenants of Pokemon that has helped mold it into a global phenomenon. The commercial touches on the way that the Pokemon franchise has transcended things like language barriers and cultural differences, uniting kids and adults alike under the simple concept of collecting adorable monsters and battling them against each other. It’s a beautiful sentiment in an industry that too often finds itself under fire for depictions of violence or indulgent behaviors.

While that might not be relevant to the gamers who grew up with Pokemon Red and Blue, it’s important to young gamers now. I remember how difficult it could be to convince my parents that video games were a worthwhile purchase, and the carefully constructed “safeness” of Pokemon made that a lot easier in my earlier years as a gamer. Pokemon Sun and Moon, and the commercial as well, help make that a reality for younger fans once more.

That being said, however, the cultural niche that Pokemon Sun and Moon has found for kids isn’t the reason that I, as an adult male, have suddenly decided to give the series a second chance. While I’ve touched on how the newest entries into the Pokemon series “feel” new while evoking the nostalgia of the earlier titles, it’s also important to remember that the details of Pokemon Sun and Moon are a breath of fresh air as well.

For too long, the Pokemon series, to me, has felt like Game Freak just reskinning the same continent while making changes to the aesthetics of each city the protagonist visits. Sure, this time a village is built entirely in trees, or a city is blanketed in snow – the fine details of each Pokemon game might change, but they all feel pretty similar once a series has reached the age Pokemon has. The continent of Alola, however, feels like a brand new location. The palm tree and blue sky aesthetic may have already been done in the series, but it has never been the dominant visual choice, and that paired with the clothing, mannerisms, and diversity of the characters presented in the first trailer makes Pokemon Sun and Moon feel like a whole new world.

pokemon alola setting tropical nintendo game freak

The return of trainer customization is also an enticing prospect. I hated the feeling of playing a pre-made clone in a world that’s supposed to be as dynamic and colorful as Pokemon, so small changes like that are more than welcome. Being able to leave my mark on the world of Alola as a 3D sprite that at least partially looks like I do makes it much more fun, and even a little frightening – even an avatar of me wouldn’t be caught dead with a Popplio, so hopefully no one produces a picture of me with one while playing.

While the Pokemon leaks from Pokemon Sun and Moon so far are extremely promising, I’m well aware we’re a few Bidoofs away from having an underwhelming roster as well. The thing is, though, that this is the strongest debut reveal that Pokemon has had in over a decade, and every indication so far points to the fact that Nintendo and Game Freak have a renewed vigor and creativity both are infusing into the newest Pokemon game.

While it has been about ten years since I last plodded through a Pokemon game, I can genuinely say I’m excited about the next installment. That’s something I never thought I would say again, and it’s likely a sentiment Nintendo hopes will be echoed by gamers in similar situations – Pokemon Sun and Moon looks like a blend of something new with something that has been sorely missed, and I’m excited to see if that remains true once the game finally releases.

Pokemon Sun and Moon will be available exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS on November 18, 2016.