Pikachu Projects / Warner Bros.
Pokemon is one of those things I keep waiting to outgrow. Not that I’m looking forward to leaving those adorable little pocket monsters behind, but … it’s been 20 years. Twenty goddamn years! Two decades of Pikachu’s mug crafted into every variety of plush pillow and fruit-flavored gummy snack, of spherical metal objects hastily lobbed at the foreheads of wounded animals, of elementary schoolers being introduced to a very perplexing interpretation of evolution (sometimes involving magic rocks or the power of friendship).
Last week saw the worldwide release of the newest pair of titles in the core series, Pokemon Sun and Moon. Bolstered by the frenzied madness of Pokemon GO, the series’ first foray into the smartphone realm earlier this year, these latest two games are racking up the sales and cementing themselves as a solid entrance into its seventh generation.
Seventh generation. Yeesh. There are more than 800 of the little bastards now for those who dropped the count at 150 sometime before the turn of the century. But what does a new entry in a series like Pokemon really mean? The game has such an established and winning formula that each new iteration doesn’t need to do much to draw in the sales figures. It usually means a new region, 70 to 100 new monsters, and a few quality-of-life alterations to remove some of the game-lengthening mundanity that RPGs in the ’90s were so hell-bent on including.
Sun and Moon hit all those nails, but Nintendo has made a bigger attempt to shake out the staleness this time around. Fixtures like themed Pokemon gyms (essentially eight boss battles that the player progresses through linearly as the game advances) have been done away with, and in their place are so-called trials, which are … pretty much themed boss battles that the player progresses through linearly as the game advances.
It’s a start! The shell has changed a bit, but the gooey chocolate center remains the same. And new mechanics actually make these trials somewhat of a challenge compared to the older games, so it’s a definite step in the right direction that manages to not anger the hordes of Pokemon devotees.
Sun and Moon have their share of new accessory distractions as well. I’m not too keen on these because minigames of any variety tend to be a mixed bag for me, where a desire for progress and reward can get so intermingled with trying to “have fun” that I don’t know what sort of satisfaction to feel anymore, usually stirring up an internal crisis and another inevitable public blow-up on the bus. But they’re there for anyone who wants them.
Considering how iterative the base series is, I’m actually surprised it hasn’t worn out its welcome for me just yet. Not even the part when the game loudly announces the player protagonist is 11 years old did much to hint that maybe I’m getting too old for this shit. Maybe that realization will only dawn once I’m ancient, infirm and struggling to decide whether my colostomy bag should be shaped like a Jigglypuff or a Pikachu.
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