Burkey’s waiting patiently for a Pokémon game where you don’t have to talk to anyone

Pokémon Sun and Moon (2016)

No psychiatrist has ever managed to catch me and pin me to their long sofa yet, and if I valued my continued liberty to live my life outside of an asylum, then I’d better keep it that way. I will give you one psychological nugget (surprisingly not the best type of nugget out there) though. Not because I’m terribly arrogant enough to believe you really care what’s going on in my head, not at all. It’s just to give the police a bit of a clue if ever I’m wanted for murder.

Simply put, I am introverted to an incredible degree. Anyone with any level of introversion will recognise at once the idea of recharging one’s batteries after social interactions. Being introverted doesn’t mean you have to be a shrinking wallflower, a strong and silent type or even, God forbid, a boring prat. You can be the life and soul of the party if you like, but you better believe you’ll need that recharge period, that blessed bit of alone time when it comes.

Finding yourself a partner who can understand your need for alone time, without them questioning their own insecurities and wondering why you hate them, that’s the most wonderful thing in the world. Caring for your introvert is a nuanced talent, a bit like caring for your cat or your particularly precocious dog really. You mustn’t expect an introvert to make the first move, to lead the charge among the extraverts, or to “put themselves out there” as they say. Neither should you expect to find us in sales, the performing arts. And you can forget about seeing us going at it in a court of law – or at the local funfair, whichever of those two houses more clowns.

Where you might find us is behind the scenes, bate into a computer, well away from any schmoozing, handshakes and the worst of all, networking. I don’t even know what networking is. It strongly brings LinkedIn to mind, and we all know how awful that site is. This is why working from home was like manna from heaven to me, the Secret of Mana even, and if they ever try to bring me back into the office then they shall have to forcibly pull me away from my bedroom, screaming like crazy.

You know how fishes will sometimes suck and clamp themselves onto the glass of their fishtank? That’s me, and I always cling on pretty stubbornly whenever somebody tries to make me leave the house. I don’t want to be out there, do I, the world out there is full of bottom feeders. I’m aware that the world and its boardrooms and podiums belong to the extraverts, but they can have it. After all, it’s a cruel world, and I’d rather stay in my ivory tower for as long as possible.

But it wasn’t ivory or any other kind of colour, gem or even material that provided the subtitle for the seventh generation of Pokémon games. We’ve gone loftier this time, travelling from the Sun to the Moon. It really is just a case of picking some general, iconic duo for game names, isn’t it? I can’t wait for Pokémon Laurel & Hardy, Pokémon Penn & Teller or even Pokémon Mulder & Scully.

All I can say is that this isn’t the game for introverts, because you’ll barely get a chance to get your breath back, much less recharge your batteries. This is all because Game Freak really have let their Pokémon titles get to the stage where you cannot even get five feet down the road without your character coming across another group of bores, before the screen heartbreakingly fades to black and, oh no, another social interaction is about to begin. If it’s not a social greeting or some other useless story development, then it’s some forced tutorial text, not even a hint of it being optional or skippable.

Every child in the world knows how to catch a Pokémon, for goodness sake. It’s become an inbuilt instinctive trait like rooting. You don’t have to explain every little thing via the characters of the week who you’d much rather do without. Even the Pokédex has a voice now, a cheeky Rotom that butts in incessantly. And keen anime watchers will know how bad that thing is.

It is fair to say that a number of things genuinely have changed for this outing of Pokémon, most notably the setting which brings you to the tropical archipelago (a word I learned from Pokémon, that) of Alola, which is obviously meant to be a send-up of Hawaii. Although it also reminds me of the Greek Islands – now there’s a beautiful place for an introvert to go to. You won’t be visiting regular Pokémon gyms either but rather challenging trials, although really it boils down to the same thing in the end.

The graphics, as you might expect, are a continuation of the 3D stuff placed into X and Y, but I think it all looks really good, especially for the 3DS. We know that not much extra work went into the eighth generation from here, but that’s another story. I should imagine though that, while you’re playing Sun and Moon, the 3DS is secretly creaking under the hood, not because the console itself lacks grunt but moreso because Game Freak aren’t the most gifted of programmers.

You have to chuckle at how they almost entirely disregarded the 3D feature. You can use that 3D slider all you want, but you won’t get a result. And no way can I get sanctimonious about that, because I show a similar apathy towards 3D myself, as did most other customers and Nintendo themselves, hence the 2DS. Amazing how they managed to take a dimension away and make it a selling point, isn’t it?

Anyway, back to the Sun, the Moon, but curiously never the Stars – some of the bells, whistles, windchimes, tutus and steel drums have changed, sure, and there’s a bit of story,. But it’s still the same old derivative Pokémon. Not automatically a bad thing, they still haven’t reinvented the wheel after all, but I doubt these games will knock your socks off. It’ll never get above “good”, or maybe “quite good”.

It is definitely worthwhile to note that these games and their subsequent expansion sequels, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, represent the crest of the Pokémon wave in terms of the number of monsters you can collect, before that all came crashing down and Gen 8 only gave us 400, plus a few more polygonated rejects in the DLC. What I’m saying is, Sun and Moon will represent the trickiest games to catch ‘em all in, over 800 in total, and the Alolan islands aren’t big enough to house them all.

Hence you’ll be catching, trading, evolving, getting gifts, getting fed up, looking up trees, looking down the backs of sofas and collecting crisp packets to get them all. You’ll even have to spend honest-to-God money to transfer your precious bytes of data over from earlier generations. I do sometimes wonder why these ransomware attackers don’t target something like Pokémon Bank instead. Charge an absolutely extortionate fee, have Game Freak tell everyone they need crowdfunding to cover it and suddenly everyone’s dropping mad paps to rescue their non-hacked, competitively bred, shiny Blastoise.

If that sounds fiendish, then there’s an even more egregious way of obtaining Pokémon here – scanning QR codes. Well, I used to make a living in retail, scanning items on the till, and that wasn’t one iota of fun either – apart from that one occasion when the most impossibly proportioned Polish lady I’d ever seen was buying vodka and condoms together, and little else. I was more self-conscious about it than she was. Anyway, it’s just one of those silly features that Game Freak always come up with, and probably half-programmed in an afternoon, just so they could fill out the pause menu a bit more, before removing it for future games.

Apart from QR Codes, there are all manner of social features included. But ew, yuck, not for me thanks. Leave that one for the extraverts, who probably won’t be playing this anyway. For us introverts, there’s a perfectly playable game here, so long as you have a strong enough thumb to skip through the mountains of text. Really though, if you’re after a Pokémon adventure where you can do your own thing, you’ll probably be looking at least four Pokémon generations earlier than this, back to the old Game Boys. Just make sure you get some rechargeable batteries for whenever you need to switch off, eh?

24 June 2022

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