The Best (and Worst!) Changes of Pokemon Sun and Moon

Pokemon Sun and Moon is arguably the best generation of Pokemon yet. Todd and I played the game, raved about it, and are still enjoying it three weeks after its initial release. The game hits some astounding highs thanks to smart tweaks to the traditional Pokemon formula. Unfortunately, some easily avoidable minor issues prevent it from achieving gaming nirvana. These are just a few of our favorite and most hated changes made in Pokemon Sun and Moon.

WARNING: Major Pokemon Sun and Moon spoilers ahead!

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High: Interesting Ways To Catch Pokemon (Todd)

Despite living in a Pokemon World, it often seems at times that we have a limited way of catching Pokemon. Mainly, you walk through grass, walk through caves, swim through water, or fish with Rods. But with Sun/Moon, that gets opened up a bit.

Now, there are not only those classic options, but other, more “realistic” ones as well. There are special grass areas that have a “high-level” Pokemon that roaming around it. There are bird Pokemon that can drop out of the sky, or out of tress, to attack you. Pokemon can jump out of certain bushes or shrubs to attack you. Or in the case of a Wimpod, it’ll be out in the open, and you have to run around in the right way to catch it. While this isn’t as plentiful as I would hope, it is a big step in the right direction.

Low: S.O.S. Battles (Tyler)

I’ll put it bluntly: no one likes the annoying S.O.S. feature in Sun and Moon. If you’ve played the game you’ve doubtlessly experienced the struggle of not being able to catch a Pokemon because it keeps calling and receiving help from nearby Pokemon of the same species. It’s incredibly annoying, especially when the wild Pokemon spam status moves like Sand Attack or Confuse Ray.

Alright, this one was cool though. I won't spoil it for you.

Alright, this one was cool though. I won’t spoil it for you.

These battles are a pain in the butt during the story line, but I’ve found they get even worse in the post game. If you start trying to EV and IV train your Pokemon you’ll see exactly what I mean. In order to catch a four IV Pokemon in the wild, you need to make one get help 40 times! That takes on average about 30 minutes per encounter, if you’re lucky. EV training is the same way, although it’s a bit less tedious if you can catch the Pokerus. Regardless, these battles are super annoying and have no place in such a great game. If Game Freak gave players a way to lower the odds of a Pokemon calling for help the whole debacle could have been avoided.

High: Interesting Take On The Legendaries (Todd)

nebby-get-in-the-bagArguably the most important part of a Pokemon game, since Johto at least, is the story involving the Legendary Pokemon of the region. Often, the main villains of the game are after the Legendaries for one reason or another, and thus you have to stop them, and then catch the Legendary that’s headlined on the cover of the game.

With Sun and Moon though, that’s not the case. In fact, the villain isn’t after them at all, but instead after the Ultra Beasts. And in fact, you need the Legendary to enter the realm of the Ultra Beasts. The big twist though is that Cosmog, aka Nebby, IS the Legendary Pokemon, after a few evolutions that is. This is an unprecedented change on the legendaries. As they are NEVER a final evolved form. So for Nebby (get in the bag Nebby!!!!) to be the Legendary the whole time? And to have him right there with no clue as what he truly is? Brilliant.

Low: Battle Royal/BP Prices (Tyler)

One of the strangest parts of my playthrough was the random Battle Royal that Professor Ku… err… I mean The Masked Royal… had you take part in. You, Gladion, Hau and The Masked Royal throw down in the Battle Dome and learn how the whole mode works. Then, you can enter battles whenever you want! Save for the fact that your Pokemon need to be Level 50 to stand a chance because every opponent has a team full of Level 50 mon! This wouldn’t be a big deal if the mode was introduced late game, but it’s not. It’s introduced probably about 25% of the way through when your team is full of level 20-25 Pokemon.

Not only is it strange that they introduce the mode to you only to make it unplayable, but also a huge waste of time. The mode is straight up not fun. You can bring 3 Pokemon into battle and the winner is determined by who gets the most KOs in a four man free-for-all. You don’t even get to see what Pokemon your opponents will be using, so if you bring the wrong 3 team members, sorry, but you’re getting last. The free-for-all nature of the mode also really discourages using fragile Pokemon like Raichu. One shot and they’re dead, and the AI is annoying smart. If they know they can kill you, they will all attack you until you lose. Winning requires a bulky/defensive team, which can make battles last for 15 minutes. It’s just not fun.

If only they were all as short as the first one...

If only they were all as short as the first one…

Sure, it’s just an optional mode… but is it really? For someone trying to learn/develop competitive Pokemon is absolutely isn’t. You need to suffer through this mode to earn Battle Points which are the primary method of getting useful competitive items including Leftovers, Focus Sashes and Mega Evolution stones! This is only compounded by the fact that these items cost an absurd amount of BP. One Mega Stone will run you 64 BP. Each battle Royal gives you between 1-5 BP, depending on your placement. If each Battle takes about 15 minutes and you win all of them (which is literally not possible, given how luck based the mode is) you’ll need to play for over 3 hours for one stone. And I promise you you’ll only win about 50% of your Battle Royals even if you are a complete master at them.

You can also earn BP at the Battle Tree, but as far as I know it’s only 1 point for every win. That mode is actually fun, 3-on-3 against a computer in a traditional Pokemon battle, but it’s also really difficult! I usually will win about 8 battles before losing, and it takes around 45 minutes for a run like that. Doing the math, it would take me about 6 hours of battle tree for just one stinking mega stone. And there are like 15 on sale. It’s absolutely nuts how expensive these things are. Incase you couldn’t tell, this is easily my biggest complaint about Pokemon Sun and Moon.

WRITER’S NOTE: Since the writing of this, I’ve actually conquered the battle tree and found that it unlocks a harder mode that grants 2 BP per victory (maybe more once you get past 10 wins). Still, the point stands. Just not quite as much…

High: The Ultra Beasts (Todd)

One of the biggest changes no doubt for Pokemon Sun and Moon was the arrival of the Ultra Beasts. Now yes, this could’ve been a HUGE risk, and a “desperate” ploy for something “unique”. But instead, through good use of story, and unique design, they became something more.

The Mighty Pheromosa Photo: Nintendo

The Mighty Pheromosa Photo: Nintendo

It’s very clear from the beginning that Ultra Beasts are not like Pokemon. Even in their look, they’re much more extravagant, and elegant…and horrifying… In fact, only one I would say could be confused with a Pokemon, while the others are so vastly different that only the Ultra Beasts title will do.

Furthermore, the Ultra Beasts missions after the game (hi Looker!) are a perfect way to get the trainers to them. Now I’ll admit, not all the missions are good (do I really need 4 Kartana’s?), but the effort that went into them is appreciated. I don’t know if they should return for the next game, but I am glad they made Sun and Moon their home.

Low: Catch Rates on the Tapu (Tyler)

tapu_leleOkay, this one might be a bit of a nitpick. But I’ve gotta be honest with you it’s incredibly annoying. At this point I’ve caught both Tapu Koko and Tapu Lele, and each time it took me about a half hour to finally get the stinking guardians into a damn Pokeball. I knocked each of their health down to 1 using False Swipe, put them to sleep with Hypnosis, and started lobbing Ultra Balls. Then Dusk Balls. Then Timer Balls. Tapu Koko caused me to reset because I had wasted so many balls, but Tapu Lele was even worse. I went through 41 Ultra Balls, four Great Balls and 15 Dusk Balls before that stupid Tapu gave in. AND I DON’T EVEN WANT IT IN MY PARTY. I just wanted to fill out the damn Pokedex!

Tapu Lele does have a super cool design at least, but did Game Freak really have to do this to us? I looked up the capture rates and saw that the capture rate is the same as it was for Deoxys in ORAS, so maybe I’m just having bad luck this time around. Still, would it really hurt them to make them a tinsy bit easier to catch? Traditionalists might not like it, but it’s just not fun sitting there throwing Pokeballs only to have them fail for 30 minutes straight.

High: A True Island Experience (Todd)

The island challenge was a BIG risk for Sun and Moon. Because it did away with the standard Gym Battles to deliver a more unique flavor. While I admit, not all the challenges were…well…challenging, the Captains, Kahunas, and the islands themselves made up for whatever faults there were.

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Why? Because through these Captains and Kahunas, we got to experience the islands in a fun way. Each of them, just like the islands was unique. And they had their own personality. Now yes, the Gym Leaders were similar, but how much did we really know about them? I mean, seriously, how much do we know about certain Gym Leaders? With the Captains and Kahunas though, we got to see a lot more of their lives, as well as how they feel about the islands.

As we traveled around Alola, we got to see these unique individuals bring the islands to life, and it only grew through their challenges. We got to see the culture of the islands, the friendships the Captain’s had to one another, and the histories they shared. Story has been a part of Pokemon in the beginning, but you could argue that this was one was the best on all levels of story.

High: Shockingly Complex Story/Characters (Tyler)

Now this was definitely a pleasant surprise, and it goes hand-in-hand with Todd’s last point. Sure, this is still a Pokemon game. The story isn’t the most radical and innovative thing I’ve ever experienced. But it was definitely not at story I’ll forget, like nearly every other Pokemon plot. The characters your trainer meets in Alola are full of color and life. They’re rarely one dimensional, and all convey the sense that they have a complicated life that is unique to them. 

lillies-famLillie, the professor’s assistant with a mysterious Pokemon, stands out as the best of the bunch. She grows from a meek, lonely, and sensitive girl into a stronger character. Sure, that happens in just about every game, but Lillie is unique in the way she matures. She doesn’t battle alongside the player and grow with them. She simply watches, while doing her best to help her Cosmog, and finds strength through her admiration for your Trainer and your Pokemon. Ultimately, she doesn’t save the day as you’d expect her to. But she does grow strong enough to start an adventure of her own, and by the end of the story she does just that. 

There are plenty of other stand-outs. Like Todd, I really have developed a curiosity about the lives of many Island Captains. Lana, Mallow, Ilima… even Old Hala. These characters aren’t just NPCs you beat and take a prize from. They have lives of their own, and I sorta wish I could actually control and play as them to experience their lives! The story and characters in Pokemon Sun and Moon are the best in the series by far, and that’s great to see.

Low: Too Many Weird Pokemon Evolution Requirements (Todd)

Ok, it’s no secret that Pokemon can evolve in a variety of ways, in fact, it’s what makes the series so special! But…it can come at a cost.

Standard evolutions aside (stones, trades), it seems like Sun and Moon really has some odd requirements at times to evolve Pokemon. A lot of them seem to require being happy. Now while happiness evolutions isn’t new, as Eevee had two such evolutions, it seems more abundant here, and for Pokemon that you wouldn’t expect it to be a requirement for, like Alola Meowth, or Type: Null.

vikavoltThen there’s Pokemon like Charjabug, or Crabrawler, who have to be leveled up in very specific areas in order to evolve. This isn’t a problem in theory, but when you can get both these Pokemon early on? And the areas that you have to go to in order to evolve them come very late in the game? It can ruin your desire to train them. That’s what happened with me and Charjabug, I WANTED him and Vikavolt on my team, but I knew I couldn’t evolve him until later, so I swapped for another Pokemon.

Or how about Salandit? Who can only evolve if its female? Yes, it does have a funny backstory to accompany it, but it seems kind of odd. Especially when you consider that Snorunt had a different evolved form for both its male and female forms.

Now thanks to the beauty of the internet, you can easily learn now how to evolve everything. But for those who prefer a “no guide experience”? It may hamper the love of some Pokemon.

High: Alola Forms (Tyler)

The seventh generation of new Pokemon could have been much worse. There are a few new standouts, like Lycanroc, Decidueye and Oricorio, but all in all this generation’s new Pokemon are just all right. That being said, I actually found myself loving searching for wild Pokemon more than ever thanks to the Alola forms of Gen I Pokemon. These classic Pokemon have been given new life through new moves and designs.

The Beauty

Game Freak did a perfect job of restraining themselves as well. Alola Forms could have been an easy cop out to avoid making a whole bunch of new Pokemon, but they limited themselves to just 10 (final forms). Not all of them are great, we can’t all be Alola Ninetales or Alola Marowak, but I genuinely like all of them. Yes, even Alola Mewoth/Persian! In fact, I love Alolan Persian! Game Freak providing an explanation for the changes in each Mon also added to the lore of Alola. I’m not sure how I’ll go back to my original Fire-type Ninetales now, but I sure am glad to have gotten to wander Alola with a new form of my favorite Pokemon. 

Low: No Strong Rival (Todd)

blueThis is a big one for me, because some of the best Pokemon games have some of the best rivals to accompany you. Blue, Silver, May, all were great. But then in X&Y, we got Serena…and she was lame. Sadly, that doesn’t really improve here with Sun/Moon.

Yes, we have Hau, and we have Gladion technically. But the first one is WAY too lighthearted to be considered a rival. Sure, he battles you a lot, but does he push you like Blue or Silver did? He didn’t to me. At times, he seemed more concerned with eating than battling Pokemon. As for Gladion, he had the look, but he didn’t appear a lot until the end. And while he was a challenge at times, he just wasn’t there enough for me.

Hopefully, we’ll get a better rival next round, cause we need one.

Low: Avatar’s Blank Face (Todd)

I LOVED the companion characters in Sun and Moon, but I HATED how the Avatar never seemed to show emotion except for one time. One time!

This face makes sense when grabbing a pokeball... not so much when the world is ending!

This face makes sense when grabbing a pokeball… not so much when the world is ending!

Small gripe? Maybe, but consider this. They focus on the characters with the camera ALL THE TIME! So many scenes show the trainers, Captains, Kahunas, and their various emotions. And it’s great! Until you get to the Avatar, who has that same smile every time but one. Even in the serious/tense situations, it’s the same! Now, I understand there are several models of trainer we can choose from, but is it really that hard to animate them to look how they should in certain scenes?

Low: Dang You Magikarp! (Todd, with Tyler vigorously nodding in agreement)

Ok, fishing is a BIG part of the Pokemon experience. And the Rods are the way to get them. Well in Sun/Moon, you only get one rod, and are told to fish in areas that have ripples so that you can get better Pokemon. BUT…I ONLY GET MAGIKARP!!!

Could I be doing something wrong? Sure! But I find it dang ironic that no matter where I am, and no matter whether it’s still water or rippling, I ALWAYS get Magikarp!!! How is that possible?

pokeball

Those are our favorite and least favorite changes in Pokemon Sun and Moon! We’ve both sank over 60 hours into the game so far, but I’m sure we’ve still left some big changes off! Let us know yours in the comments below. Thanks for reading, and Happy Training!

About The Author

Tyler Kelbaugh
Nintendo Writer

Tyler Kelbaugh is a Nintendo writer for The Outerhaven Productions. He fell in love with gaming at the ripe young age of 4, a passion born from years of consistently failing to survive Marble Zone. If you mention the words "Fire Emblem" around him he'll talk your ear off. He's also a pretty competent Smash Bros. player, and a passionate sports fan.