The early stages of my exploration of Sun, however, were not that glorious: in fact, my initial feelings about the Alolan entries were lukewarm at best. The excessive linearity, constant hand-holding and abundance of cutscenes were a shock to my system, and I think the only reason I was able to soldier through the first hours of the game without ditching it entirely before writing a scathing review was because my levels of energy were still quite low at the time and could thus accommodate an overbearing game. And that's all for the best, because once I managed to accept that this was the newest Pokemon fashion and got fully used to it, I fell head over heels in love with Alola. I love the rural insular setting of that new region and the fact that it sports no huge and confusing city like entries from generations V and VI. I love the fact that Alola is so cosy and welcoming, with a nice variety of pint-sized landscapes that don't take hours to explore. I love the gentle atmosphere and the fact that the locals are so hell-bent on collaborating and welcoming a complete stranger like me. Feeling like a foreigner and being routinely challenged by locals in a slightly antagonistic way in former Pokemon entries was a thrilling experience, but I definitely prefer the comfy, heartwarming and welcoming vibe of Sun and Moon, in which every NPC treats me as an important part of the community. (Of course, it certainly doesn't hurt that one of the local Guardian Deities entrusted me with a Sparkling Stone that let me use D-moves five minutes after I set foot on Alola, thus making me a kahuna in all but name, now does it?) I love this friendliness so much that I simply cannot help but go out of my way to chat with every single NPC in Alola.
The resident villain team was also treated to a much-needed makeover. Let's face it: although they are initially designed to be threatening, villain teams always come across as foolish and slightly pathetic. Game Freak seem to have noticed this pattern and taken it in their stride; this time around, they created a team of villains that were very blatantly designed as laughing stocks, with hilarious behaviours and one-liners that bring a lot of humour into the game. On the other hand, they introduced a villain team in disguise in the shape of the Aether Foundation employees, whose rigid ethos and self-righteous behaviours, constant meddling and too pristine outfits are bound to elicit unease and suspicion—which turn out to be totally justified. It is later revealed that the two teams work hand in hand for very mundane reasons; and although they do some harm over the course of the game, neither of them are as inherently evil and rotten as teams from former entries, which is a welcome change of tone.
—and that's obviously a job for your trainer, along with many helpers. I was very fond of that simple yet well-constructed story, although I could have done with slightly less cutscenes and hand-holding along the way, as well as a trifle less linearity. This is the first Pokemon entry in which the story moves you forward instead of the opposite, and I cannot help but feel a bit sorry for all the players whose primary purpose is the hunting and breeding of 'Mons and who must endure heavy amounts of narrative to reach the next area in line.
I can't avoid mentioning the biggest change of them all, namely the ousting of Gyms. The streamlined and compact Gym structure with its unmovable eight milestones has been replaced by the much looser Trial structure. The core goal is still the same, i.e. fighting strong Trainers and 'Mons and ultimately getting the upper hand as well as an item that will prove your victory beyond any doubt; however, Trials have a much more roundabout way to lead you towards that goal. They come in all shapes and sizes, involve a wide variety of endeavours and are scattered around the islands in uneven numbers. All this makes them much more unpredictable than the Gyms of old and thus quite refreshing for veteran players. Although I slightly miss the thrill of taking one Gym after the other in an neat and orderly fashion, I have to admit that the Trial structure is a stimulating change of pace that's perfectly suited to the more rural and insular nature of the Alolan region to boot.
—and a bit anxious, I admit—to see where this brand-new direction will lead them; although this could bring some welcome innovations to the fold, I fervently hope that I won't ever have to suffer through an open-world Pokemon instalment.
These were my overall feelings about Sun and Moon, but I'm far from being done with these games, both in playing and writing. I'll see you very soon with more Alolan goodness, dear fellow gamers! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!