Ever since the release of Pokémon Platinum back in 2008, I’ve been playing Pokémon games in a very specific way. I’ve played through all subsequent Pokémon games by only relying on my starter Pokémon, and maybe one or two extra low-level Pokémon whose only role is to hold onto HM moves I need to get around obstacles to progression. I intended to play Pokémon Moon the same way, but it has proven to be much more challenging.
There are two big system changes that made it harder for me: totem Pokémon and Z-moves.
Totem Pokémon are boss Pokémon you fight at set points in the story, and what makes them different from any other battle is that a few of their stats are buffed by 1.5x or 2x. On top of that, they can call on one of two ally Pokémon to join them in battle, making the fight a 2-on-1 battle.
Z-moves are new moves that can only be used once per battle. A Pokémon can hold a Z-crystal for a specific type, and then any of that type’s attacks can be modified into a Z-move. That attack’s raw power is then multiplied by a factor between 1.7x and 2x, and the move has no numerical accuracy, so it cannot miss.
Both of these mechanics can lead to devastating damage when paired up with a type advantage. Not only is the base Pokémon or move buffed significantly, but adding a 2x or 4x type effectiveness multiplier on that is the icing on the cake. Unfortunately though, it can mean death to people playing the same way I am. Despite having a 20 level stat advantage on the Pokémon currently giving me trouble, they can absolutely destroy me with a single Z-move, and it’s a race against the clock to take down the opposing Pokémon before they use it.
While it’s not impossible on paper for me to overcome this obstacle, it is frustrating enough that it made me give up on the idea of a starter-only run for Pokémon Moon. I don’t expect games to be designed around edge cases like me who play the game in odd ways, and I even understand why they would want the punishment from opponents with a type advantage to be more severe given how in your face they are about type effectiveness this version. It’s just a bit disappointing to get two thirds of the way through the game and then realize there’s this massive obstacle in your path that you feel completely powerless again and no amount of grinding appears to be sufficient in overcoming it.