This generation's villainous organisation is Team Skull, nu-metal rejects that speak in awful rhymes and with no-one really taking them seriously. They're desperate for you to be scared, but they come off as a joke, but it's a self-aware one and their melodrama whenever you encounter them is endearing. Team Skull is emblematic of the quality of the characterisation and writing in the game, which is uniformly strong. You'll meet a variety of interesting characters and it's an enjoyable romp, and good background noise as you try to finish your Pokédex. Also, your Pokédex talks now, as a Pokémon lives inside it.
I laughed at the game several times, and the story is much more hands on, often giving you little waypoint markers on your bottom screen mini-map so that if you come back to game for a quick 15-minute burst you still have a sense of where you're going. The more involved story and increased amount of cut-scenes hits the pacing somewhat, and most of your time initially is spent trudging through tutorials as information is thrown at you. It's 10 minutes or so before you choose the starter Pokémon you want, and the game didn't fully open up for me for a couple of hours.
Part of this is probably down to gaming's proclivity for tutorials becoming much more pronounced in the last eight years, but it makes the game quite slow to start and it wasn't until I left the game's first island, after between eight and 10 hours of Pokémon Sun, that I felt like I was starting to get into the game's rhythm.
Once you're settled in, however, the positive changes are numerous - the game has finally gotten rid of the HM system and replaced it with a small in-game button, similar in appearance to an Amazon Dash button. This little gadget summons a variety of Pokémon to do your bidding in PETA-baiting ways, whether it's breaking rocks with a Tauros or riding the waves on the back of a Lapras.
This means you don't have to fill your team with utility Pokémon you hate but took care of your need for cut, fly or surf. This is handy, because there are also some genuinely interesting Pokémon in this iteration, for a change. The series was starting to be bloated with some pretty pants additions
to the Pokémon canon,
but here the additions are fairly decent, with Alolan variants of popular original generation Pokémon bringing new twists: Vulpix, the fire fox Pokémon, is now Vulpix the ice fox Pokémon; Rattata has a hipster moustache now.
Pokémon Sun isn't a total reimagining: Locking eyes with another trainer will drop you guys into battle, the caves are still full of Zubats flitting and flapping around the place and you'll still be walking through long grass swearing as you get interrupted by another bug Pokémon you've already caught, but there's a lot of new stuff here and all of it is polished and comes off well, despite the slight technical issues and more sedate pace. Some players might even find themselves annoyed with the game's obsession with accessibility and explaining everything you're up to, preferring to uncover some of the mystery for themselves, but all of those high-end hidden systems like EV training and breeding your way to the most difficult of Pokémon are still tucked away in there for the die-hards to pick back up.
I'm not suggesting anyone buy a 3DS for the game, unless you're already a big fan, but it's a solid RPG and, due to its central mechanic, quite a unique proposition. I'd thought myself feeling burnt out on the cutesy hairstyles and general tweeness of Japanese RPGs, but Pokémon has seen me carrying my 3DS around the house, dipping into it whenever I can spare a moment, much to my partner's annoyance.
If that's not a strong recommendation, I don't know what is.