Warning: If you consider game mechanics as spoilers, then spoilers ahead.
Now that Pokémon Sun & Moon have been out for a while, I feel it’s a good time to talk about my feelings regarding this generation. Namely, I definitely would not rank these games as one of my favorite Pokémon games.
So let’s begin with a little bit of backstory for myself so people can understand a bit better the position I’m coming from. I got into Pokémon with Red & Blue and was super in love with the franchise. I watched the anime, bought merchandise, and even made my mom wait with me in a line at Toys R Us so I could get Mew. For about a year or two, this was my ultimate gaming franchise. Unfortunately, before the 2nd generation was released, I moved and suffered some problems with bullying because of liking Pokémon. Consequently, my love for it was killed during that time. Consequently, I did not play the 2nd or 3rd generation games of Pokémon, nor have I played any of the remakes. However, come Diamond & Pearl, I did pick the franchise back up and have been once again playing.
The point of this anecdote is to show that, while I do have some gaps, I have been a fan of the franchise for quite a number of years. Hence forth, my opinion comes from a place of comparison.
Like every entry in the franchise, the game mechanics, while at the core idea the same, are altered. In some cases for this particular generation the alterations have been good. For example, the fact HMs are replaced by Ride Pokémon is a fantastic choice. It still allows for the game to have secret area elements by requiring the player to have access to a plot received item that fits in with the Pokémon theme. Even better, though, players now do not need to waste move slots on Pokémon to have the HMs. Rather, players can focus fully on picking actual battle moves that will give them the most strategic advantage. This takes battle strategy to a new level of greatness that the series really did need. There are many more excellent changes like this, but the gist is this generation did make positive changes that make the Pokémon experience easier and more concentrated.
Yet, for all the great alterations to the mechanics, one mechanic alteration was such a horrid choice that there were several times I flat out rage quitted the game. What mechanic was that, you ask? None other than wild Pokémon being able to call for help. Now, I understand the logic for the choice; double battles have been in the franchise for a while, and the developers wanted to spice up the idea. Their answer to spicing up this time old classic was wild Pokémon calling for help. Unfortunately, while interesting in theory, their execution of the mechanic was utterly flawed.
The part that makes this mechanic so terrible is that it has no limitations that balance it with trying to catch Pokémon. From my experience, the Pokémon can call for help endlessly, only limited by whatever background mechanic controls the chances of them calling for help and the chances of that call succeeding. This is not to mention that these wild Pokémon are able to call for help in the same turn that you knock out one of the two Pokémon present. Now, as far as defeating the Pokémon goes, it is manageable, especially if you have an attack that can target multiple Pokémon. Catching a Pokémon is a different, trifling story.
The game’s catching mechanic does not allow you to capture a Pokémon when there are multiple Pokémon present. As such, the help mechanic makes catching Pokémon a nightmare. When this mechanic comes into play, it becomes near impossible to get the Pokémon of your choice alone, and you have to be willing to have a long, drawn out battle in order to succeed. This is due to the fact that whenever you get one Pokémon alone, it calls for help again before you even have your turn. Inevitably, it turns catching Pokémon into even more of a game of chance and patience, only this time you could have your entire team knocked out before you succeed in getting that rare Pokémon you wanted and spent an hour searching for.
Part of the reason this change is so frustrating ties back into the original Pokémon slogan: “Gotta catch ‘em all.” For those who aren’t big on collecting Pokémon, this mechanic may not draw any ire. I am not one of those people. Rather, I will spend extra time in certain areas to catch Pokémon just for the sake of collecting. Having a mechanic that is counter intuitive to a theme that has been part of the franchise since the beginning is frustrating to say the least. I found myself, after a point at least, not even bothering to catch Pokémon, as the experience was just too infuriating and too time consuming. I also found that this mechanic was counter intuitive for those who like to breed. Outside of catching a Ditto, you generally need a female version of the Pokémon you want. However, because of the execution of this mechanic, trying to be too picky about the Pokémon you’re catching will lead to even more of a headache.
Overall, wild Pokémon calling for help could’ve been an interesting idea, but it simply lacked the polish other ideas in the game received. It could have been an easy fix, whether it be by allowing players to catch Pokémon even when multiples are present or by limiting “help” to once per battle. Yet, neither choice was made, resulting in a mechanic that ruined, frankly, ruined catching Pokémon completely.
Of course, if you love this particular entry into the franchise, by all means don’t let me spoil for you. To be fair, I would not say I disliked Pokémon Sun & Moon, as there are lots of excellent facets about the game I really liked. As I said at the introduction, however, I would definitely not rank this as one of my favorites either, since parts of it are just too frustrating to a level none of the other entries I’ve played has caused. Games are supposed to be fun, and this Pokémon game just was not when it came to this core part of the series.
All in all, I’m going to sit here and hope the next entry is better, and that they consider the consequences of their mechanics a bit more.
Pokémon is © to GAME FREAK, The Pokémon Company, Nintendo, and all other affiliated parties.
Images: Featured- Boxart from the official website. Screenshot- From the pre-release marketing.