Amid all this existential dread and disaster, I think there's one thing we can all agree upon. We need a fucking vacation, man.
Pokémon Sun and Moon is, in every way, the game I need right now. A getaway from the world, set in the literal vacation paradise of the Alola Islands. Unlike Pokémon Go, it's a proper Pokémon game, with all the niceties of the X and Y generation intact, including the ability to pet and pamper your adorable monsters.
The premise hasn't changed much from the very first titles, 20 years ago. You capture cute, battle-ready critters, then (obviously) make them do battle against other people's critters, for honor, glory, and gym badges. Sure, there's a story—which sees you traveling the world and beating the gym masters (or Kahunas) of the world, but it's just an excuse to give you fun battles and the opportunity to fight—and capture—new Pokémon. There's a bit of a shakeup in the new game, with "trials" on each of the main islands, but each still ends in a tougher-than-usual battle.
I came very late to Pokémon—my first game was actually Alpha Sapphire in 2014, which I put something like 120 hours into, and immediately rolled into X, which I sunk another 90 hours into. They are everything I like in a handheld game: a light RPG framework with zero grinding, cute, weird aesthetics (Pokémon creature design is second to none), and mechanics that actually support the flexibility of gaming on the go.
There are no twitch-y movements, so I have successfully played and enjoyed Pokémon on planes, trains, and automobiles. I've played it while working out, waiting for appointments, even (don't tell my Captain!) on the back of my ambulance between jobs.
Sun and Moon is all of those things, with a few light twists. The biggest change here is the setting: Instead of the fantasy France of X and Y, you are battling and building your army of critters on the lush, tropical Alola Islands. Everything in the game has a warm, breezy South Pacific flair: including your mentor professor Kukui, who runs around in board shorts and an open lab coat, showing his glorious little pixel abs.
There are special Alola versions of beloved creatures you've seen before:
And brand new Pokémon that bring the flavor of the fictional islands:
And, of course, there are three new starters: adorable Rowlet, fierce Litten, sweet Popplio. I chose Popplio, by the way, because he looks a lot like my real-life puppy, and also because my girlfriend, playing the Sun version next to me, took Litten.
[For the record, Waypoint is a pro-Popplio publication. 2016 has been a rough year, and it's time for us all to open our hearts to the joy of this precious dog-seal. Anti-Popplio squad, please, look into yourselves. Look deep. You'll find a little Popplio there, waiting to be loved. -Austin]
Pokémon Sun and Moon is a well-built Pokémon game, with just enough new bits and pieces to freshen the formula, and a very appealing new setting that makes it appropriate for comfort gaming here in the waning days of 2016.
So yeah, take Litten's paw, or Rowlet's claw, or Popplio's little fin, and step unto the Alola Islands for a bit. The time away will do you some good.