The Pokemon series is now 20 years old, and in all those years of success, 2016 is likely to go down as a highlight.
Pokemon Go took the world by storm, becoming a worldwide phenomenon and attracting widespread mainstream attention. There was a Pokemon commercial at the Super Bowl, celebrating two decades and millions of fans. And now, the latest games in the mainline series, Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon, have been released to critical acclaim and record sales. On the day of their release, The Pokemon Company announced that the games have shipped more than 10 million units worldwide — a 150 percent increase over the last games in the series.
The games are worth the attention and worth the wait. Sun and Moon are more than just great new Pokemon games that use the same beloved formula. They shake things up for old fans and introduce great new features that make the series more accessible than ever for new players.
Some things are the same: You're a kid (a boy or a girl, who you get to customize at the start of the game) who just moved into a new town. Before long you get your first Pokemon — a pet-like creature that you can train and use to battle other Pokemon, both in the wild and against other trainers — and are tasked with exploring the world in an effort to "catch 'em all."
The games are set on the Hawaii-like islands of Alola, which makes for a fun new location and offers an excuse to introduce Pokemon that the series has never seen before. As a Pokemon trainer, you will travel between the islands completing Island Challenges (these games' versions of gyms from the previous games) in an effort to become the very best, like no one ever was.
The story is surprisingly involved and the world is filled with colorful characters, but what really makes Sun and Moon great is the little gameplay additions that make simple tasks less laborious.
For example, all Pokemon have at least one "type" associated with them, and each type is weak or strong to certain other types. Fire is weak against water, for example, but is strong against grass. That's easy enough to remember, until you throw in types like "fighting" and "steel" and "fairy." Thankfully, the game will remember all that stuff so that you don't have to. As soon as you've used a move an found that it's ineffective against the Pokemon you're fighting, the game labels that move as ineffective so that you don't forget and try to use it again.
Another great addition: Riding Pokemon. That sounds great enough as it is, right? But the true greatness lies in how much it helps you get around. In previous games, you always had to keep Pokemon with you that knew moves like "Surf," even if that move is useless and you would rather teach the Pokemon to do something else. Sun and Moon simplify all that exploration and travel by letting you ride certain Pokemon and use them to get through tricky terrain.
If you're new to the series, these things might not matter to you. So just trust me when I say that you're getting the most streamlined and easiest to pick up Pokemon game yet.
It doesn't matter if you just got interested in Pokemon with Pokemon Go, or if that mobile hit re-ignited your excitement for the series, or if you've been playing Pokemon regularly for two decades. Pokemon Sun and Moon are great games, and it's well worth grabbing one of them.
The differences between 'Sun' and 'Moon'
Like all Pokemon games, this latest entry is sold in two different flavors: Sun and Moon. They are essentially the same game — you're meant to buy one or the other, not both. The point is that each version has slightly different creatures for you to catch, which encourages you to find a friend who has the other version so the two of you can trade Pokemon in an effort to complete your collections.
But Sun and Moon add a significant wrinkle: Time of day. Both games use the 3DS's system clock to affect gameplay, so that the Pokemon you can catch at 9 a.m. might be different than the ones you can catch at 9 p.m. In Pokemon Sun, if the sun is up in the real world, the sun is up in the game. So if you're playing in the afternoon, you can expect the in-game world to be sunny and bright. If you play after dark, the game will be dark, too.
In Pokemon Moon, however, that day-night cycle is reversed. If you play at noon, the in-game world will look like it's midnight. And vice versa.