As Lillie boarded a ship bound for Kanto to become a Pokémon Trainer at the end of Pokemon Sun and Moon, all I could think was, "No! Take me with you!" When she was gone, all I could do was tweet in frustration.
It was probably too much to hope for a brand new trip to Kanto (or any other region for that matter). But with Red and Blue making their triumphant return, and all the other nods to the previous games, plus the fact that it's the franchise's 20th anniversary, I was kind of hoping that the devs would have a present for longtime fans. No such luck.
Instead, Pokémon Sun and Moon more or less follows the pattern established by the last couple Pokemon games. Here's some of what's available after you finish the main quest:
- The Battle Tree: Alola's Battle Tower equivalent awaits on the other half of Poni Island, which serves as Sun and Moon's postgame section. After battling through a thicket of powerful trainers, you can take on either Red or Blue, who are apparently on a retirement tour following their adventures in Kanto (this is presumably before Red retires to his mountaintop in Gold and Silver). They subsequently move to the Battle Tree and are joined by a couple other familiar faces from previous games, which you can find over the course of beating a long line of randomly generated trainers. As always, your goal is to win as many battles in a row as possible without dying, with your reward being battle points that can be used on important items. Overall, a nice bit of nostalgia in a feature that's otherwise par for the course.
- The Battle Royal: Pokémon Sun and Moon's novelty format: essentially, you fight three other opponents and try to be the last trainer standing. It features a number of ranks culminating in Master Rank, and winning gets you all-important BP. In a way, Battle Royal is a Battle Frontier event that has been dropped in the middle of Alola. It's a fun change of pace, if not quite as novel as past events like the contests in Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire or the filmmaking in Black 2/White 2. It's also a reminder that the Battle Frontier needs to actually come back, dammit.
- The Ultra Beasts: The other big, meaty bit of postgame content features the return of Looker, who is on a quest to capture the Ultra Beasts that have invaded Alola. What follows is a scavenger hunt of sorts as you head to Looker's suggested locations and try to find the Ultra Beast in question through a random battle. You can actually use an Ultra Beast in your team after capturing it, making this essentially a legendary Pokémon hunt.
Champion challenges: A neat but ultimately under-developed idea. Basically, if you run through the Elite 4 again after finishing the game, you will fight a random trainer who has come to challenge you for Alola Champion status. I like it a lot, but I'd like to see Game Freak take this a little further in the third version.
- The Zygarde collect-a-thon: You can pick up Zygarde cells and cores, which will ultimately enable you to build up the legendary Kalos Pokémon that has for whatever reason been dropped into the middle of Alola.
Beyond these structured sidequests, Pokémon Sun and Moon has its customary array of legendary monsters to find, most notably the Tapus: island guardians that lurk in the ruins scattered around the Alolan Islands. There are also lots of little secrets (hint: go talk to the people at the Aether Foundation) and daily events, as well as items to find. As with every Pokémon game, it becomes an MMORPG of sorts as you make sorties to capture legendaries, breed new monsters, and pursue your individual objectives.
With that, I suspect that everyone will fall into their usual niches: breeders will breed, battlers will start training for the VGCs or simply battle online, and collectors will try and fill out their Pokédexes and capture shinies. If you really get into the overall metagame, there's hundreds of hours of gameplay to be found in Pokémon Sun and Moon. But if you're looking for really good solo content, you may be a bit disappointed.
So how does it stack up to previous games?
Pokémon is known for its novel postgame content, from the Battle Frontier theme park to the nostalgia-heavy Pokémon World Tournament to surprise trips to older regions. Most of the time, though, the best postgame content shows up in third versions like Crystal, Emerald, and Platinum as an incentive for hardcore players to double dip. Initial releases lean much more heavily on the novelty of new systems, new regions, and new monsters, and will rarely knock your socks off with high-quality postgame content.
In that light, Pokémon Sun and Moon is pretty much as expected, with a few twists like the cameos by Red and Blue nudging it above what was on offer in Pokémon X and Y. The postgame content is nothing special by Pokémon's standards, but it's still worth a healthy 30 to 40 hours of gameplay, plus whatever the metagame affords you. On that note, though, I'm holding off on really getting serious about the Battle Tree and such until I can transfer all of my previous monsters. Unfortunately, that won't be until January, so I'm going to have to wait a bit.
One more thing to keep in mind: A third version appears to be on the way for the Switch, and it could be launching much sooner than expected. If that's the case, then the best solo postgame content should be in Stars, including (hopefully) the return of the Battle Frontier.
For me, such content would be extremely welcome, as it's ultimately what keeps me playing these days. Black 2/White 2 was my favorite game in the series because it was so much fun to fight old gym leaders in a tournament setting, follow scripts to make my monsters into movie stars, and hunt for in-game achievements. In Emerald, meanwhile, I loved building out my secret base, taking on contests, and battling through the ultra-difficult Battle Frontier-the aforementioned theme park that essentially featured eight gyms with wild new rules.
As it stands, Sun and Moon's current postgame content exists mostly in the service of the existing metagame, with competitive battlers grinding the Battle Tower to get items, and collectors hitting the Ultra Beast and Zygarde quests to get all the monsters. That's fine, but if you're not invested in those goals, then it's all apt to ring slightly hollow. The best Pokémon postgame content is able to stand on its own, whether its the pure satisfaction of collecting all of the emblems in the Battle Frontier or figuring out how to get back into N's castle in Black 2/White 2.
I suspect most of this will be in Pokémon Stars, which will make the additional purchase more than worth it (along with the fact that it will be on the Switch). But for now, Pokemon Sun and Moon's postgame does what it needs to do to get the game's social scene on track for the seventh generation.