November 21, 2016 | by Rose
Pokémon Sun and Moon’s Balancing is Kinda Messy

With last Friday’s release of Pokémon Sun and Moon, players were finally able to get some hands-on time with the Alolan experience. While there’s the standard changes we’ve come to expect between generations from Pokémon, there are a couple of odd features and adjustments for our lil’ Poké-buddies that you probably wouldn’t expect. Now, there’s nothing completely game-breaking about anything I’ll address here, but rather a collection of odd choices that just left me baffled.

Alolan Marowak is a neat concept: as a Ghost and Fire type Pokémon, it expands on its kinship with the afterlife and adds a little bit of fire dancer flair. Since it loses its Ground typing, it makes sense that you wouldn’t want to use its signature Ground move “Bonemerang” anymore. Obviously Game Freak thought about this, and created a Ghost version of Bonemerang called “Shadow Bone,” a perfect fill for that now vacant bone hole. Alolan Marowak learns Shadow Bone at level 26, which seems like a pretty good level for such a useful move.

The problem? Cubone can’t evolve into Alolan Marowak until level 28, meaning that it won’t be able to gain access to its signature move unless you go to the Move Tutor to learn it. Shadow Bone isn’t the only move affected either: Will-O-Wisp, Hex, and Flame Wheel are all moves Alolan Marowak learns long before it evolves. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but it becomes a larger problem when you realize that Alolan Marowak will only learn one Fire move through leveling up normally, and not a single Ghost move. Alolan Marowak, despite a complete change in typing, will learn far more Ground and Normal moves than it will the moves suitable for its type. These issues are easily fixed by going to the Move Tutor, but since the tutor is placed just before the Elite Four, it’s a lot of odd hassle for no real reason.

Marowak is not the only Pokémon to suffer from odd design choices, nor are they the only Alolan form to have this problem. Alolan Raichu’s overall aesthetic and new ability are based around the concept of it being a “Surge Surfer,” which doubles its speed when on electric terrain. Electric terrain is an environmental effect caused by a move cleverly named “Electric Terrain.” Alolan Raichu can only learn Electric Terrain if it was bred from another Pokémon that knows it, meaning that most players who have spent a majority of the game raising a Pichu to see that cool new Alolan Raichu won’t be able to utilize the main gameplay conceit of its new form.

An argument could be made that Alolan Raichu was made for double battles, or with a more dynamic team composition in mind. It’d make sense: let one of your other Pokémon set the stage and have Raichu play the part, but there’s a major issue with that as well. Electric Terrain can only be learned by a literal handful of other Pokémon, all of which are Electric type, meaning you’d be double-dipping into the Electric pool. Doing so ultimately weakens your team’s variety and forces you into dedicating two of your six team slots to making one Pokémon viable.

He deserved better.

He deserved better.

It’s easy to dismiss these issues as being minor, especially with the sheer number of Pokémon that have to be balanced and tweaked in this particular generation. Unfortunately, as more and more people are discovering, this isn’t just a small-scale issue. New Dragon/Fighting Pokémon Jangmo-o follows Marowak’s path by not learning a single Fighting move unless you go to the Move Tutor, making its gimmick as a fighting dragon feel oddly placed. This generation’s electric rodent, Togedemaru, is an Electric/Steel type, but it won’t learn a single Steel  move unless you use the TM for “Gyro Ball” on it. The ability to teach it this isn’t even useful in the end, since Gyro Ball becomes stronger the less speed you have, and Togedemaru is a quick little porcupine, not a lumbering hunk of metal.

Certain Pokémon have the ability to learn moves you wouldn’t expect, while the ones that should be learning them are left wishing. Grubbin is a tiny little electric worm Pokémon that can learn the powerful “Acrobatics” Flying move, while Toucannon, the flagship bird of the seventh generation, cannot. There are other more conflicting reports of Pokémon like Kadabra being unable to learn certain moves. Kadabra usually makes up for the weak Abra’s slow start with the decently powerful “Confusion” right out of the gate at level 16, but several people are reporting no actual offensive moves until the mid 20s, and some even claiming mid 30s.

Poorly considered mechanics in a Pokémon game are nothing new or crazy. In older games all sorts of issues like this would happen, but they’ve never been so prevalent and obvious. Since X and Y have shown that Game Freak isn’t averse to putting out patches for modern Pokémon games, these issues can hopefully be resolved post-launch. With Sun and Moon being so focused on improving the quality of life for so many features, it’s odd to find just as many little issues.

Rose is a video games player, video games writer, and video games thinker from MA. She has a lot of opinions.

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