After 20 years of being a headstrong Pokemon fan, you can bet your a** I was in that line at midnight on November 18th, shoving through other sweaty 20-year-olds to get to that one game that was going to bring me right back to my childhood. Although I have already "finished" the story, I am still not putting it down. While on the path of completing my Pokedex, catching Ultra Beasts and Legendaries and Wonder Trading (fingers crossed to not get another damn Yungoos), I feel obliged to give my two cents about the wonders of the new game.
FOREWARNING: THIS REVIEW IS OBVIOUSLY BIASED.
You start out as an 11-year-old boy or girl who has recently moved with your mother and a Meowth from the Kanto region to the Alola region. This is not at all similar to Kanto. It is tropical, everyone is friendly, and you constantly receive the paradise vibe. Everyone is friendly for the most part, and it seems as if Pokemon fighting was more of a tradition through the ages rather than the goal to become the strongest trainer ever. Pokemon battling is portrayed as a cultural thing, with the people of the islands having a very close bond with their Pokemon. Outside of battling, the Pokemon are seen helping around towns such as construction work, police work, etc.
People of this region seem to have a much tighter bond with their Pokemon. You can clearly see that this game really leans on the bond with the added Pokemon Refresh, which gives you the ability to heal status conditions of your Pokemon as well as feed them beans and give them some affection. The Alola region is different because it is composed of four islands and one random research building in the middle of the ocean. The islands all have different environments and climates, which now means that those Pokemon you loved or hated (I'm looking at you, Rattata) now have different variations! The Meowth that used to be normal and yellow is now dark type with a shade of purple. And his evolution is absolutely awful (please never evolve your Alolan Meowth, I have no idea why they did this).
I adore the now ice type Vulpix and the ice and steel type Sandshrew. In addition to the beloved originals, you also get a heaping bucket of new and sometimes weird (the sandcastle Pokemon is killing me) Pokemon! Catching these Pokemon is no different than it was in the previous game. You go run around in bushes or caves and eventually hear the music that will make your heart skip with the hope of it being something other than a Zubat. The attention to detail in this game is exquisite. Hearing the Pokemon noises, seeing the rustling and running around in the bushes, and watching the trees shake makes the game come alive. One iffy thing about the game for me was that you really need to take the time to read the Pokedex entries to some of your Pokemon. For example, the Bewear, Gengar, Mimikyu, etc.
Although the game is centered around the usual turn-based battling, there are no more of the gyms and greatest trainer battling. It was nice to get a breath of fresh air and not follow the usual gym setup. This game is structured around trials that are scattered throughout the four islands. These trials can ask you to do anything before the actual battle begins, such as taking pictures of Pokemon or completing a quiz. The battles are also infinitely better structured. It was much more enjoyable to not expect what your opponent was going to do next (the most frustrating thing was when they used a full restore right before you killed their Pokemon).
With this no-gym method, you get to actually experience the town and all of its glory, instead of rushing through each town to get to the gym. Long gone are the days of gym badges, now you get something called Z-Moves that you can give to your Pokemon. Z-Moves are powerful but work the same way as regular moves. Meaning that, if your Pokemon fire Pokemon is fighting a water type, your Z-Move won't have too much damage. Plus, you get a zillion Z-Moves, which actually got a little bit overwhelming for me at times.
Another big plus is the HP Share that gave some HP to all of the Pokemon on your team, rather than just the ones you were fighting with. It makes you less focused on building up just one team or one or two Pokemon and helps you focus on other Pokemon in your box. You can see very clearly that this game stresses the bond between trainer and Pokemon. As cute as this function is, it can also be a little annoying. Some NPCs will not give you certain moves unless a Pokemon feels "friendly" towards you. So, if you really want that move or item, you better take the time to develop a bond with your beloved.
Furthermore, this game feels like it comes to life more than any other game. You bond with the characters instead of feeling like you have to win against them. You also find some monsters from another dimension, called the Ultra Beasts, and discover that your in-game best friend's mom is a crazy chick who wants to live among the Ultra Beasts. What fun.
With an awesome plot and definitely needed updates, I can confidently say that I greatly enjoyed the Pokemon Moon game. I adored the little differences they had in the Moon vs. Sun games, for example, the difference between night and day. The games were 12 hours apart, so if you are playing the Moon and someone next to you is playing Sun, you can see a noticeable difference. I enjoyed the closeness between the Pokemon and the people. Although I did not happily welcome some of the "updated" versions of Pokemon (like the fat Persian) or the new out-of-ideas Pokemon (like the sandcastle), it did not stop me from further continuing my career as a Pokemon trainer.