Pokémon Sun & Moon has fixed many of the issues from previous titles that have evolved the series into what it is today. It started with the introduction of Z-Moves.
Pokemon on the 3DS saw several additions to mainline titles, including Mega Evolutions and Z-Moves, but Pokemon Sun and Moon Fixed many issues that needed to be fixed from previous titles. Whereas Pokemon X and Y was the next step in the main series when it was released on Nintendo 3DS, Pokemon Sun and Moon made even more progress, going so far as to experiment with a different approach to gyms. Island Trials replace Gyms in the sun and moon games, subjecting players to small tasks that test their Pokémon’s strength and intelligence before battling a Pokémon Totem.
In addition to the Island Trials, sun and moon introduced region-specific variations of Pokémon like Alolan Vulpix and Alolan Ninetails, which served as Ice-type variations of the Kantonian Fire-type fox. The introduction of Z-Moves in Gen 7 saw over-the-top animations that let players devastate opponents with silly but powerful attacks. In the previous generation, Mega Evolutions saw players’ favorite Pokémon grow even stronger than expected. This mega evolution in Pokemon Sun and Moon would change a Pokemon’s stats or even its type, providing alternate looks and playstyles. While similar in concept, these two different approaches to making Pokemon their absolute strongest aren’t created equal.
While a fantastic intro to add more flavor to the Pokemon battle system, the Mega Evolutions were quickly made inferior when the Z Moves were revealed. Z-Moves could be used on a wide range of Pokemon, providing the infamous “Splash” found on all Magikarp to have its niche as a Z-Move damage boost. The various effects exhibited by these new moves made Mega Evolutions feel second-class. Its position as the predecessor to a much better system is made more apparent with its limitations to very specific Pokémon.
How Z-Moves added versatility in Pokémon Sun and Moon
However, this new mechanism came with its limitations, like a Z-Move in Pokemon Sun and Moon would only be available if the Z crystal used and the move type were the same. This meant that if players had a Water Z crystal on Magikarp, but Magikarp had no water moves, they could not activate any Z moves. The second restriction was that they were once per battle, prompting the players to be aware of when they were using heavy attacks. Regardless of these restrictions, the Z-Moves variety outperforms Mega Evolutions and its fixed transformations.
Whether it’s the powerful transformation of Gen 6, the exceptional move variety and power of Gen 7, or the daunting Dynamax feature of Pokémon Sword and Shield, Game Freak isn’t afraid to experiment with new game mechanics that keep players on their toes. The move from Mega Evolutions to Z-Moves was a breakthrough that helped Pokemon continue to stay creative and keep players thinking. Following the switch from Mega Evolutions to Z-Moves in Pokemon Sun and Moon then to Dynamaxes, many expect Game Freak to bring a new combat mechanic into Pokémon Scarlet and Violet.