Pokémon Sun/Moon 3DS Review

If I had to estimate, Pokémon is probably the video game series I’ve spent the most hours with in my entire life. From the moment I picked Bulbasaur all the way back on my 11th birthday in 1999 I knew I’d found the perfect game for me. The Pokémon series was the first RPGs I’d ever played and it’s a great introduction to the genre. The cartoon that had also started that year was also my first real exposure to anime, save for some badly dubbed 80s cartoons I may have seen. All of this combined into a perfect pokéstorm of new and exciting things and I’ve been on board ever since.

 

Moon and its counterpart Sun are the latest instalment in the main Pokémon series and while it does mark a bit of a departure to the Pokémon formula there’s still some familiar aspects to keep older fans interested.

 

I only played Pokémon Moon but Sun is effectively the same game just with a few version exclusive Pokémon and minor changes.

 

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You start off the game in pretty much the same way you always do. A nameless aspiring Pokémon trainer that moves to a new island/country with their mother. In this case you’re a new arrival in the Alola region which is basically Hawaii. Here you befriend the local professor who gives you your first Pokémon and sets up your whole journey. Your main goal is to collect and train a team of pocket monsters that are strong enough to defeat all rivals and help you eventually become the Pokémon League Champion. You do this by finding wild Pokémon in the plentiful tall grass and water of the Alolan region. Once you find a monster you like the look of you can catch it in a Pokéball then it becomes part of your team. You can then send it back out into battle to level up and eventually evolve into a stronger monster.

 

Right away I noticed some improvements from the older games in the presentation of the story moments. The camera angles and character animations are much more lively and charming than any of the previous games. The world overall feels a lot more alive. When you walk down a path you’ll hear the cries of Pokémon in the area, the various towns people will mill around instead of being motionless statues and sometimes Pokémon will randomly swoop down from the sky or jump out of a bush to battle you. All of this just really goes to show how far they’ve come since those early Gameboy days, it’s even a vast improvement from 2013’s X and Y games. All of these improvements to the world do have a cost though. I experienced a lot of slow down in any battle with more than 2 pokemon, in busy areas of the cities or when big special attacks were used. You can tell this game is really pushing the 3DS to its limits. Supposedly some of these issues can be mitigated by having one of the New Nintendo 3DS’s but I’m still rocking the 4 year old 3DS XL so I can’t personally confirm that.

 

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Speaking of special attacks that’s one of Sun/Moon’s new additions. Throughout your journey you’ll be faced with island challenges which take the place of the classic Pokémon gyms we’ve seen in other games. These challenges are quite different because instead of battling a gym leader at the end you’re attacked by an extra strong wild Totem Pokémon. At the start of the battle the Totem pokemon gets a beneficial stat boost and he can also call in some ally Pokémon making it a 2 on 1 fight. These battles became a refreshing challenge as the game went on because in previous games I’ve always felt pretty overpowered throughout. Once you defeat this boss you’re given a Z-Crystal which can power up a specific type of move letting you unleash a super attack once per battle. These Z-Attacks are pretty spectacular to watch (they’re almost as epic as a Final Fantasy summon) and can often let you easily take out a threat before they do any damage to your team.

 

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As with any good Pokémon game there is always a team of evil doers who try to thwart your progress at every turn and Sun/Moon introduces Team Skull. Normally these bad guy teams are pretty forgettable but Team Skull are beyond charming, they’re just so dumb and pathetic you can’t help but root for them.

 

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They’re basically the Pokémon world equivalent of Juggalos only a lot less gross. All of their lines of dialogue are spoken in rhyme and their appearance is always signalled by a goofy rap beat music track. The way they convey so much personality without any voice acting is a joy to experience and it’s head and shoulders above anything else in the series. There is a much bigger focus on story and characters in this game. It all flows together quite well too, you always know what you’re doing and very rarely stuck wondering where you need to go next. There are some fun twists and turns along the way but overall it felt like there was a bit too much of an anime influence and there were a lot of moments where things got a bit to ridiculous to take seriously.

 

Pokémon Sun/Moon are huge games and when you lay it all out it can seem a bit daunting especially now that we’re up to a total of 802 Pokémon as of this release. The amazing thing is that Pokémon games can be played at almost any level of complexity. You could really dig into the minutia and weigh up all the strengths and weaknesses of your Pokémon in every battle or you could probably just over level your starter Pokémon so that it outclasses everything you battle and ignore strategy altogether. It offers something to people of all skill levels which is probably why it’s been one of Nintendo’s most successful and enduring franchises. Whether you’re a returning Pokémon Super Nerd or a new fan brought in after the phenomenon of Pokémon GO I’m sure you’ll be able to find something to enjoy.

 

★★★★★

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What the Hell is the Nintendo Switch?

You may or may not have seen that Nintendo dropped a trailer for their new console set for March 2017, the Nintendo Switch!

There have been credible rumours circulating for what feels like forever about what this console is but this is the first time Nintendo has officially confirmed it. Thankfully the trailer wasn’t just a teaser, it does answer a lot of questions but also raises some new ones. 

What We Know

True to all of the rumors, the Nintendo Switch is basically a halfway point between a handheld and a home console. It’s like the DS and the Wii rolled into one. You can seemingly play full versions of all the games on your tv or on the go with very little interruption. This means no more rushing to finish a mission before you leave the house. You can just take it with you as long as you’ve got a bag because this doesn’t look like it’ll fit in many pockets. 

There hasn’t been any official dimensions revealed by Nintendo at the time of writing but Ars Technica has been doing some snooping and have figured out some rough dimensions. It looks as though the screen with the two controller parts (or Joy-Cons) attached is about 10 inches x 4.2 inches. It’s similar in width to an iPad or Kindle Fire HD 10 on its side but a little bit thinner vertically. I’m not sure if I’d feel comfortable taking this out to play on the bus, maybe if I had two seats to myself. I was definitely expecting the handheld part to be closer to a 3DS XL but Nintendo have their reasons for these dimensions.

All of the processing power of the console is contained in the tablet portion. People have been assuming that the dock that connects to the TV may handle some of the processing power when the Switch is docked allowing for increased performance. However, the day after it was announced Nintendo spoke IGN and told them that “The main unit of the Nintendo Switch is the unit that has the LCD screen”. This is a little worrying to me but Nintendo hasn’t tried to be the most powerful console on the market since the N64, their signature visual style can go a long way on underpowered hardware. 

Nvidia announced that they will be partnering with Nintendo on the console and the Switch will contain a new custom version of their Tegra chip that they use in their Nvidia Shield tablets. While this hardware may not be as powerful as a PS4 it’s certainly leaps and bounds above any Nintendo handheld. 

Cartridges are back! We see a quick shot in the trailer of someone inserting a little SD card looking game into the tablet. A move away from discs is quite exciting. Solid state storage is much more reliable and loads quicker than most disc based methods. Larger sized SD cards are becoming more affordable so you can easily match the storage capacity of the Blu-ray Discs PS4 and Xbox use. 

What We Don’t Know

Does the 3DS have any place in this Nintendo Switch future? I hope Nintendo just goes all in with the Switch. I want all of their awesome portable games like Pokémon, Animal Crossing, Monster Hunter, Dragon Quest and many more all available in glorious HD and ready to play anywhere. Sadly I could also totally see them running the 3DS along side the Switch because they’ve never been afraid of a little brand confusion. 

Nintendo have recently confirmed that the Switch won’t be able to play any physical versions of Wii U or 3DS games so they haven’t ruled out some kind of backwards compatibility in a digital sense. Speaking of digital, I really hope they don’t expect us to buy all of their Virtual Console games again. I think I’ve hit my limit for how many times I’ll re-buy Super Mario 64, Xbox One is an shining example of backwards compatibility done right and I hope Nintendo have taken notice.  

It will be interesting to see what kind of price this comes in at. At the time of writing Nintendo’s competitors Microsoft and Sony are selling their consoles at £250.00 – £300.00 depending on hard drive size and model. I’d expect the Switch to be in a similar price range, Nvidia Shield tablets are around £200.00 by themselves so with the controllers and the Nintendo Seal of Approval that seems reasonable. 

Hopefully some of these questions will be answered in the not too distant future. Gone are the dark days of the Wii U and motion control, it’s finally an exciting time to be a Nintendo fan again. The Nintendo Switch seems like the right step for them in this current console climate. Instead of trying to compete with Microsoft and Sony on power they are offering something that neither of them can provide at the moment. One thing I know for sure is that I’ll be there day one.