Turning on Pokémon Moon for the first time was one of those times with games where pure excitement was at the forefront. I’d been waiting well over a year for it, and I was more than ready to dive into a whole new region in the world of Pokémon. There were awesome updates to the graphics, the gameplay, and we could even totally customize our trainer now!
All that had me hyped up for the release of the game. Like most people in their twenties, I grew up playing Pokémon, and I’ve been a huge fan for most of my life. Not only that, but games have always been a way to step into another world and effectively take a breather from everyday life, and Moon was certainly that.
The timing of the game’s release couldn’t have been more perfect. I was in my last few semesters of college and super stressed. It came out around my birthday, so I had preordered it over the summer as a gift to myself. Coming home from class one day to the newest game waiting for me had me feeling a little like a kid again for a bit! It was a relief to drop my books and notes for several hours of exploring Alola and catching new Pokémon.
Moon introduced us to a new region based on the Hawaiian islands, and a new cast of characters that I totally fell in love with. For me, Alola really worked as a setting. It captured the island setting perfectly, with tropical music and an emphasis on the culture of the region. Whenever I turned my game on to play, I just felt refreshed by Alola. It was so fun and different from any other Pokémon game before, and one of the best parts was getting to see the culture of Alola unfold, from characters waving and saying “Alola” in greeting to the replacement of the gyms with island trials.
In games past, it was cool to see elements of Japanese and other cultures incorporated into games. To see Hawaiian culture worked in was especially awesome because it brought new elements to the game we hadn’t seen before and gave a sense of life to Alola. Not only that, but characters like Hau have a lot more behind them when they have such awesome cultural elements tied into their personality and story. I loved seeing the relationship between Hau and my trainer start out with him sharing parts of his culture with her as they started on their journeys together!
Your companions in the game are one of my favorite parts. Hau is the overly optimistic, (and sometimes too) happy kid you meet first. Lillie is shy but ready to do anything to get Nebby home, and Gladion is the cutest edgelord ever. And Nebby, as annoying as it is when he constantly escapes, is really adorable! All three of them helped make the game for me.
You spend so much time with them on your adventures that I really felt invested in the story and seeing where my trainer and them would go. I can’t really say that I love one over the others because they were all really great in their own right. I loved getting to see Hau deal with wanting to beat his grandfather, and Gladion move from being muscle for Team Skull to being a more independent person for himself and his Pokémon.
And like every review will say, Lillie had the best character arc of the game! She matured and grew throughout your journey, and it was a well developed friendship that my trainer built with her!
I feel like, out of all the companions and rivals in the series, this trio stood out the most to me. It was just so much fun seeing the story progress with these characters, and they helped to give the game a really immersive narrative. One of the best parts of games is when you get to see the characters you play alongside grow and change, and with this trio, it just felt easy to follow along and just play as my trainer.
I wanted to keep playing to see what would happen, advance my team, and explore even further, and beyond that, there were plenty of moments when I was emotionally invested and able to just take a step out of my stressful day and be in the moment of the story! From Hau advancing on his journey to Lillie finally being able to confront her mother, it was nice to see all of the companions get satisfying ends to their stories.
For me, Pokémon Moon’s entire repertoire of gameplay, narrative, and characters just made it something I could look forward to playing. Amidst tests, studying, writing papers, and generally being a giant ball of stress for months at a time, the game really let me focus on something that wasn’t draining and let me relax!
Video games are always fun, but Moon was a game I could drag to school with me and play in between classes when I had two hours to kill. I could take a break from editing my writing workshop pieces and my essay on the hybridization of science fiction as a genre. It was easy to jump in and out of and didn’t require me to keep laser-focus track of what was happening at all times to be immersed. It offered me much-needed breathing room in stressful semesters.
While Moon starts out as a familiar story of setting out as a new Pokémon trainer and having to build up a team, it came at the best time for me. I love the game for a multitude of reasons, but the simplest reason is that it made me happy. It sprinkled a little touch of joy into my day whenever I’d play it, and that’s what really made the game a bit of magic for me.
Much in the way that the island setting conveys a sense of fresh air, Moon allowed me to take a step back from life for a little while and just chill.
Paige Lyman is a geeky writer with a focus on fiction and a serious love for pop culture. When she’s not buried in her latest writing projects, she’s hunkered down with her Playstation 4, re-watching Lilo and Stitch for the 1,000th time, and is an avid fan of Star Wars.
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