So usually after I post a video game review, I just kind of leave it at that. I know no one else really cares as much as me and there’s not a huge demand for my in-depth thoughts on the complexities of Nioh’s combat system. But Pokemon is different, and, as I wrap up my Ultra Moon experience, I had to talk about one of the more unique challenges I’ve had in gaming recently: if you’re good at the game, the new Pokemon games are so easy it makes it harder.
First off, yes, I know these are supposed to be children’s games and I shouldn’t take them so seriously. Well if they weren’t meant to be taken so seriously, they wouldn’t have such an intricate metagame. But yeah, they’re kids’ games that adults like me still hold on to. Even still, the 3DS games are quite easy. And what I mean by easy is that there’s so many more ways to level Pokemon up faster than ever. You get EXP from catching Pokemon. EXP Share gives EXP to the whole party and you get it really early in the game. If you use Pokemon Refresh (or Pokemon Amie in X and Y), the more hearts your Pokemon has, the bigger boost in EXP you get. Then add in the fact that Super Training, a system of maxing out a Pokemon’s stats introduced in X and Y as a series of mini games, is now even easier (you don’t even have to do anything. You just put the desired Pokemon in the right section of the new Poke Pelago and wait until the training is done) (They totally stole the Poke Pelago idea from Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth) (Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is the most influential Japanese game of the last five years don’t @ me), and you’ve got an easy recipe for an overpowered team.
You probably think this is a lot of crying over nothing. “What’s so bad about having a powerful team? Just turn off EXP Share and don’t use the optional training aids.” I mean, yeah, I wound up turning EXP Share off for a while, but I’m like a dog with a treat on its nose. If you offer me a way to soup up my team, I’m going to take it without thinking twice. I can’t control myself. My brain won’t allow me to pass up any possible advantage. And literally the only reason any of this is a problem is that, for the first time, I actually felt the pressure of the level restrictions placed on you as you progress through the game. In the traditional 8 gym storyline of past games, every couple badges you earn unlocks the ability to control higher level Pokemon. In Sun and Moon and the sequels, there are only four such increases, and each one only bumps you up 15 levels, despite the fact that it’s easier to gain more than 15 levels than not as you progress through each island. For example, after you beat the third island you’re able to control Pokemon up to level 65. Well, in between beating the third island and beating the fourth, you have to do two separate events that are important to the story, one of which forces you to face about a million trainers. I spent the entire time actively trying not to level up my team. Then on the fourth island, I spent the entire time actively trying not to level up my team. When I beat the fourth island, three of my six Pokemon wound up being over level 65 and unusable. Yes, I easily could have remedied that by swapping them out for lower leveled Pokemon from the PC, thus adding more depth to my lineup, but who has time for that? Not me, apparently.
Listen, in the grand scheme of things, this is a pretty small complaint. The more I think about it, I actually don’t think it’s a complaint at all. I kind of enjoyed managing the levels of my Pokemon, because it was a different challenge and different experience than the typical Pokemon formula everyone is so accustomed to. Ultra Sun and Moon are still great. Sun and Moon are still great. I understand they were supposed to introduce a new generation of fans to the game, so more forgiving gameplay certainly makes sense. But maybe hold off on some of these advantages until the postgame next time? I don’t know. That’s why I don’t work at Game Freak, I guess.