Editor’s Note: I actually finished the game almost two weeks ago, but for various reasons never got around to finishing this blog post until now. I will leave the content of this post as based on my game progress on Dec. 9th, when I intended to have the post go up, but I have since made more progress on the game.
I did it. I beat the game.
I still have all the post-game stuff to go through, and after that I will post my thoughts on this game in something that is kind of like a review. For now, though, here is what I have been up to.
Warning: spoilers after the jump, particularly in the Story Thoughts section.
A Difficult Road
Throughout the final island and Pokémon League challenge, the game provided a surprisingly good challenge. From the fourth kahuna, the Vast Poni Canyon, the final trial and Totem Kommo-o, and especially the Pokémon League, I continually had to consider various strategies and think carefully about who to send out and which move to use, and overall my Pokémon got knocked out far more often than in any other Pokémon game I’ve played. Much of this is because my Pokémon were underleveled, due to not using the Exp. Share and running from most wild Pokémon battles.
The Pokémon League was definitely the hardest challenge I have had yet. In fact, for the first time in a longtime, I had to take a full loss: all Pokémon knocked out, no reset, pay the other trainer the prize money and try the whole thing again. That has not happened to me since… I think I let it happen once during LeafGreen? Needless to say, finding out that one of the Elite Four was a Flying-type specialist, and then finding that my team had three Pokémon weak to Flying and none strong against them, was pretty much the sign that I was doomed. I had to train up a replacement Pokémon to improve my matchup and then challenge the League again.
Granted, I knew I would have an uphill battle the moment I turned the Exp. Share off, since doing so effectively puts the player on the game’s Hard Mode. Also, I try to limit my usage of healing items, as well as avoid reviving Pokémon after they’re fainted (unless I’m facing the resident evil team). Even then, Pokémon is not exactly a game series I associate with challenge, at least as far as the main games are concerned. Past games have definitely had their moments of difficulty, but there were oftentimes long stretches of easy adventuring, and X/Y in particular was pretty much a cakewalk the entire game. In contrast, Sun and Moon felt like I was really working for my adventure. Anytime the game felt like it was going easy on me, it would not be long before I was thrown into another difficult trial/kahuna battle, and even random Trainers sometimes kept me on my toes.
I’m not complaining, though; I’m definitely glad to have a good challenge in a Pokémon game for once. I greatly appreciate how these games are actually making me think about strategy for much of the game, even forcing me to re-think plans when one Pokémon I expected to pull more weight goes down early. It may not be the intricate strategizing in competitive Pokémon battling, but for someone like me who prefers to stay more on the casual side of things but still wants to exercise his brain, this kind of challenge level is perfect.
Filling the Pokédex
One thing I knew I wanted to do with Pokémon Sun was to eventually complete the game’s National Dex and catch all the near-800 non-event Pokémon currently available. Obviously, with Pokémon Bank support currently still locked away, that is not going to be possible until later, but for now, filling the Alola Pokédex is a great intermediary goal. As you can see, I have already caught all the Pokémon native to the first island, which seems like it would be easy enough, but there are still plenty of rarer Pokémon to find and catch, and lots of leveling, befriending, and trading for evolution. Thankfully, features such as the Poké Pelago (more on that later) and the GTS make this easier, as does belonging to a few communities that also have Pokémon players that I can hit up for a trade. I’ve also made quite a bit of progress on the other islands already, though I can foresee a few of the Pokémon being troublesome to get.
One thing I only learned about during this last week was all of the various intricacies revolving around SOS battles, the mechanic where wild Pokémon called for help, suddenly making a one-on-one into a two-against-one fight. Before, this was largely just an annoying mechanic, as it made my attempts to catch Pokémon normally much longer than they needed to as a weakened Pokémon would continually summon help (and you cannot throw any Poké Balls when two wild Pokémon are on the field). However, learning about how they can spawn Pokémon with hidden abilities, or even spawn completely new Pokémon, among other things, made me learn how to make the most of this feature. Catching a Snow Warning Vulpix and a Goomy certainly took a long time but was definitely worthwhile. (Happiny, Mareanie, and Sableye thankfully took nowhere near as long.)
The Poké Pelago
Few things have been as helpful to me in this game as the Poké Pelago. The main island where you can attract Pokémon has given me a few free Pokedex entries, but is otherwise there to provide me with the beans for improving the other islands and doing more things there. The cave of exploring for items gives me some cool stuff, which is always nice, and it means that I have all the evolution stones I need to evolve all of Alola’s Pokémon, including ones I can’t otherwise buy.
The berry-growing island is the first really helpful island. I always had trouble with growing berries in past games; the berry patches in Hoenn and Sinnoh were so scattered about that going around to tend to all of them, if you could remember to do so, took a lot of time. HeartGold/SoulSilver’s portable Berry pots were better, but you could only grow four Berries at a time and you had to remember to open them up to check on them/water them, which was easy to forget. Gen V tied the whole thing to the Dream World which had all sorts of issues, and while Kalos’s single berry field was nice, even then I did not always remember to go and check on it.
Poké Pelago makes things easier in many ways. Your Pokémon would do all the watering for you, so you only had to check to harvest the Berries; not only that, but because it is in the same place as a number of other features that were worth regularly checking, it is very easy to remember to check your Berries. In addition, the harvests themselves are great as far as getting more berries for each one planted, and the large numbers of Sitrus, Leppa, and Lum Berries I’ve been able to amass have definitely helped my adventure.
When it comes to completing the Pokédex, though, the other two islands were the real lifesavers. One island allowed me to level up my Pokémon without having to train them in battles, and the hot springs island lets me raise the friendship levels of Pokémon without having to walk all over the place (or in circles). Both features use real-world time to determine how much experience/friendship you gain, which helps me a lot since that means I can get my Pokémon closer to evolution even while I’m at work or asleep. (You can also hatch Eggs in the hot springs, which is nice.)
One last really nice thing about Poké Pelago is how it feels like all those Pokémon you’ve left in your box are actually doing something still, or at least are relaxing and having fun. Given that I often catch a lot of Pokémon I never plan to use, it always felt a little bad to just leave them in the PC to just do nothing. This way, though, at least it feels like my PC Pokémon are still helping me out with stuff like growing berries and finding items, or at least are relaxing, playing, and having a good time. It reminds me of the anime, where all of Ash’s non-party Pokémon were shown romping around in Professor Oak’s lab. I’m sure my Alolan Muk is giving plenty of love to Mohn while I’m gone.
Here is the team that finally brought me through the Pokémon League. Uzuki the Kommo-o was my first new addition, replacing the traded Primarina from last time. Her overall high stats made her a valuable battling teammate, though her somewhat slow speed and various weaknesses kept her from carrying my team on her own, which is fine.
As I mentioned, I needed to find someone to help my team with the Flying specialist of the Elite Four. While before this I had a fairly strict “only new Pokémon or Alolan Forms” rule, for this spot I decided to bring in the one Pokémon I was willing to break that rule for: my all-time favorite Pokémon, Lanturn. Water/Electric with Volt Absorb is hilarious in the amount of stuff it resists, and with Lanturn’s high HP and some investment into his Defense, he quickly became an invaluable defensive backbone for my team. There’s a good reason why this guy is my favorite Pokémon.
While I’m here, here’s a rundown of all my team members’ nicknames:
Byron (Decidueye): Named after Twitch streamer and all-around cool guy “OwlRemember”, whom I first started following for his Love Live! School idol festival streams.
Miki (Alolan Dugtrio): Named after Miki Hoshii from The iDOLM@STER, because of that brilliant gold hair.
MegaSurskit (Araquanid): Before Gen VII, Surskit was the only Water/Bug-type Pokémon, and considering it was a pre-evolution that lost its otherwise unique typing upon evolving to the much less interesting Bug/Flying-type, was considered a lost opportunity. Now, we actually have two good Water/Bug-types, with this one looking like it could be a proper “Mega Surskit”.
Nina (Mimikyu): Named after Nina Ichihara from The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls, a girl that also wore costumes (mostly animal costumes) to make friends. (Never mind that my Mimikyu is male…)
Uzuki (Kommo-o): Named after Uzuki Shimamura from The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls. Uzuki was the last girl left at her idol training school, after all the other girls either got hired as idols or quit. Likewise, Kommo-o (or rather, Jangmo-o, the first form), could not be found until well into the fourth island, making her one of my last additions to my team (though, as it turned out, not the very last).
You (Lanturn): Named after You Watanabe from Love Live! Sunshine!!, noted for being a skilled diver. Note that her name is supposed to be pronounced “yo” with a long “o”, but if you pronounce it like “yu” with a long “u” (as in the pronoun), it sounds like the Chinese word for “fish”.
WARNING: MAJOR STORY SPOILERS AHEAD
Spoilerrific Story Thoughts
First of all, I must mention how nice it was to see Hapu becoming Kahuna of Poni Island. Hapu is one of the more underrated characters in the game, and while I figured she would end up as the last island’s kahuna, seeing her actually get appointed that title by the local Tapu was a nice touch. (Plus, her team definitely gave me a run for my money.)
Of course, the big story surprise here is how Nebby, the Cosmog that Lillie’s been looking after, ultimately ends up evolving into the game’s main legendary, Solgaleo (or Lunala in Moon). Alas, I got spoiled on this bit when I looked up some info on Solgaleo’s stats, so that part lost the surprise factor. That aside, though, for a Legendary Pokémon to actually be one of your companions throughout the game is really neat. It definitely allows for a more personal connection to the Legendary, rather than just being some kind of super-monster that you encounter on your way or is connected to the fate of the world. It meant that, for the first time in a long time, I felt motivated to put the main legendary in my party, something I usually avoid doing because the legendary is usually absurdly powerful and makes most of the game too easy. Granted, I only used Solgaleo-Nebby for some training on wild Pokémon, but that is still more than I usually use main legendaries for.
The final showdown with Lusamine was definitely menacing, albeit somewhat easier than her first battle. Even though all her Pokémon had a stat boosted, that also meant that she never switched Pokémon, which made it easier to bring in and keep pressing with an advantageous Pokémon choice of my own. Maybe Nihilego’s neurotoxins also made her more stubborn? Certainly, seeing her regain some sense of humanity after being freed from Nihilego’s possession is good; it doesn’t excuse her behavior since later information tells us that Nihilego’s neurotoxins only remove inhibitions, so much of her behavior is based on unchecked selfish desire. But at least that means that Lillie’s epic rant against her wasn’t completely wasted.
Overall, Lillie has definitely become my favorite character in the game. Her growth over the story is easy to see, and all the more powerful given all the time you spend with her. It really does highlight how this game is a much more personal game, with the main villain actually being directly related to one of your close companions. Seeing her leave for Kanto at the end of the story was definitely sad, although she had good reasons for doing so. Who knows, maybe we will see her again in a later game, possibly a sequel to Sun/Moon or even a revisit to Kanto (not a re-remake of Red/Blue, but a completely new story in the Kanto region).
So I am definitely happy with how the story has turned out, with the only remaining piece left being to finish up the Ultra Beast storyline. Stay tuned for something of a review coming after that!