With the sixth generation of Pokémon, the main series had, at last, broken into the third dimension. The series’ signature gameplay remained familiar to veterans, albeit with some significant tweaks, and Pokémon X and Y were immense successes, soon becoming some of the bestselling titles for the Nintendo 3DS.
When it came time to develop games to signify the seventh generation, the team decided to go in a new direction with the series. Shigeru Ohmori, who had been with the series since Ruby and Sapphire as the premier game and map designer, now found himself in the director’s chair. Continuing with the precedent X and Y set, these games would not be named after colors, but rather another symbolic dyad. To this end, the team looked to the sky, and chose the classic pairing of the sun and the moon, inspired by the celestial bodies’ representation of human relationships. As for the setting, the Pokémon franchise would, for the second time in the main series, go to the United States for inspiration. However, in contrast to the industrialized New York City, these new set of games were to take place in a land heavily inspired by the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaii was so chosen for its clear nights and plentiful sunshine thereby allowing its central themes to shine through.
Development began immediately after the release of the third-generation remakes Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Despite wanting to retain the series’ gameplay, these entries, Pokémon Sun and Moon, were made from scratch. The idea was to celebrate the series’ upcoming twenty-year anniversary by applying greater changes than what the sixth generation brought to the table.
Pokémon Sun and Moon took around three years to develop with a team consisting of 120 people before seeing their worldwide release in November of 2016. Like X and Y, Sun and Moon met with critical acclaim. Coupled with the success of the mobile game Pokémon Go, the series was back in the mainstream limelight for the first time since 1998. Several critics praised the story of Sun and Moon alongside the new mechanics, which Alex Olney writing for Nintendo Life considered the most engaging to date. Were Sun and Moon able to provide an experience worthy of celebrating the series’ twenty-year anniversary?