Recently, though, I had kinda felt like the series was falling into a rut. I mean, sure, I played X and Y, Alpha and Omega, but I just didn't find myself replaying them over and over like I continued to do with previous iterations of the Pokémon games.
That's when Pokémon Sun and Moon came out. I can't say for sure what changed, if it was something with the games or something in me, but I found myself having a lot more fun with my copy of Pokémon Moon than I'd had with this series in a long time.
I found myself legitimately enjoying the designs of the new Pokémon introduced, much more widely so than in any of the previous three generations. After the designs of the starters were finally revealed, it took me until the games' release for me to finally decide on Popplio. Pikipek quickly became one of my favorite early-game birds, and Cosmog is now one of my all-time favorite Pokémon.
The Poké Ride was one of my favorite features ever introduced. After clearing certain parts of the game, you are given access to new Pokémon you can call with a Ride Pager, which- in turn- gives you access to new areas. For example, the first Pokémon you are able to call is Tauros, who is faster than your running speed and is able to smash boulders that are in your way.
The best part of the Poké Rides is that they take the place of HMs. Surf, Fly, Strength, and Rock Smash- these previously difficult-to-forget moves have been 'downgraded' to TM status, and can now be just as easily replaced as any other move. One particular Pokémon even takes the place of the Item-Finder. The Pokémon you have access to can be set to the control pad for quick use, like registering items in previous 3DS Pokémon games.
Some people seemed to take issue with the amount of exposition in the game. I can see where they're coming from, especially in comparison with the earlier games; when characters start talking in Sun and Moon, it can sometimes take a while for them to get to the point. I didn't find it all that irritating, though. In fact, I actually found myself caring about the characters more than I had since Black and White Versions.
I also found it a nice touch that Team Skull wasn't the Big Bad of the game. Barring one member in-particular, all they were really trying to do was be petty criminals and- for the most part- failing. They actually reminded me of Team Rocket from the anime. They try so hard, but can't move forward with their plans for being thwarted by a ten-year-old. Kind of sad, really.
One of my favorite parts of the game comes at the end of the main story. Unlike in previous versions, the Pokémon League in the Alola Region has just newly been established, and has no true Champion yet. When you win your way through the League and win the final battle, you become the new League Champion.
Rather than giving up your position after the credits roll, however, you will still hold the title. After battling your way through the Elite Four again, you'll find yourself defending your title against a single trainer from a pool of people who can challenge you for your position.
One of the few critiques I have of the game comes from the post-game. The Battle-Tree, which takes the place of the Battle Tower and Battle Frontier from previous games, can be overly difficult. After many, many battles here, it thoroughly feels as if the game is tailoring your opponents' teams specifically to make it difficult for your Pokémon team. Without competitive-level stats, move and item-sets, it can be hard to win here.
Another problem I had came from the Island Challenges. Barring the Ghost-Type Challenge, I didn't think any of them felt particularly unique or interesting. They weren't hard, most of them feeling like they were there to eat up time more than anything. I never really found myself getting excited for the Challenges themselves, but more about what new Poké Rides I would unlock, and what new areas and available Pokémon they would open up for me in the process.
Sun and Moon are some of the most fun Pokémon games I have played in a long time. I enjoy the refreshing direction the series seems to be taking, and look forward to what it has to offer in the future.