Price: £29.99 Developer: Game Freak Publisher: Nintendo Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
While this review is for Sun & Moon, we've only put extensive time into Sun. The differences between the two games are merely exclusive Pokémon and an offset day-night cycle, so although I'm going to refer to the game in my review as Sun, you go ahead and buy whichever one you prefer from the legendary Pokémon on the cover.
Ever since I first got my hands on a copy of Pokémon Blue when it launched in the UK in 1999, it's been something of a presence in my life. Each generation brought with it the familiar routine of picking your starter, capturing and levelling your A-team of Pokémon up and then charging from gym to gym hoping to triumph and snag your next badge, yet this familiarity hasn't prevented it from being consistently compelling.
But, after nearly two decades of trying to Catch 'Em All, Game Freak has taken its most drastic moves yet and created a landmark release with the duo of Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon, a high point the rest of the series will be judged by from this point on.
It's a perfect time for a Poké-renaissance, too. Pokémon fever has gripped the western world somewhat after Pokémon Go spent the summer dominating the mobile game conversation, and the newest generation of Pokémon titles is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the fandom, releasing just as interest in the mobile AR game starts to wane and also by being, you know, actually quite good.
The basic structure of what makes a Pokémon game has been fundamentally altered here. For a start, you've been dropped onto the game's Hawaii-inspired Alola islands; there's no more gyms to try to get badges from and a shirtless scientist is trying to encourage you to take 'the island challenge', which will see you venture from island to island completing trials for different captains before you can fight each island's Kahuna.
The entire game seems to have been remixed, with Game Freak adding various knowing touches. It's the best Pokémon has ever looked, although I had a tiny bit of slowdown and jagged edges on my original era Nintendo 3DS. I haven't been able to confirm if this is the case on the New 3DS range, but it's a minor problem, mostly just showing up in the game's numerous cutscenes.
Battles are now much easier because once you've battled a Pokémon once your trainer remembers those skills and weaknesses and explains to you which moves will be effective, super effective or next to useless. This was useful for learning as Pokémon don't always look the same as their type, but it does make the game much easier and it was 30 hours or so before I started to feel anything approaching difficulty.
Some of this comes from the addition of extra battle types - wild Pokémon will sometimes call for help, meaning you'll have to fight a pair of wild Pokémon at once, and new four-way battles dubbed the Battle Royale have four separate trainers locked into combat. These don't come up all of the time, but they punctuate the game nicely and keep things interesting.