So good it’s refreshing!

I have been busy with real life stuff in the last month but that hasn’t stopped me from playing Pokemon Sun/Moon in every opportunity I get. There is a simple beauty in getting a  continuous stream of daily bonuses from the Festival Plaza and Poke Pelago, which rate quite highly as far as simple “side activities” to grind items go. But in my mind, it’d be simply unfair to look at these distractions without devoting some time to praise Pokemon Refresh, the Gen VII replacement of Pokemon Amie.

If you are foreign to both activities, here is the crash course: you take one of your pokemon out of their pokeball and feed them/play with them to increase their affection towards you. This gives you access to some special cheese skills that randomly pop up when using your affectionate Poke and it provides special narration during battle. Cheese skills are pretty random and mostly benefitial, because of their nature they don’t apply to online battles or Battle Maison runs.

I tolerate the extra narrations and animations that come with high affection, but truth to be told, the cheese skills aren’t something I like to use at all (let alone abuse them!). The Pokemon games are simple enough that you often opt to make things more difficult into yourself in order to get a fair challenge. It’s not all that pleasing to have this bonus being entirely RNG based, which is something I’d like to have changed in future games. It’d be great if you got bonus like an improved catch rate or higher chances of a rare encounter when using an affectionate pokemon, instead of something that touches to the balance of the battle and is hard to appreciate. As it is, the bonus is a bend or break feature. Luckily, Pokemon Refresh is not truly about getting cheese skills, but about interacting with your Pokes and making the in-game universe more rich.

Pokemon Refresh is different from Amie because you actually get the choice of patching up your poke after a battle, effectively “refreshing them” from their status aliments and the substained damage. The idea is so simple that I’m bluffed that it wasn’t applied like this before. A trainer and his critters are a team, the former has the responsability of properly patching up his team which is shown by the mechanic of going to a Pokemon center. But being able to take care of a Pokemon that just fought a hard battle at your side just reflects the bond you’re meant to share with them. Even when I’m doing some grinding activities and there are no aliments to be removed, I jump to Pokemon Refresh on occasion to clean up my guys. It seems like a natural reflex to have (like saving your progression whenever you achieve something!). All this while I avoid getting the affection of my team too high so cheese skills don’t mess with my game.

This is a great feature because it just takes a few secondss, it’s a very simple mini-game and it looks pretty crisp with the great Pokemon models we have on the 3DS. It’s nice to see Pokemon outside battle to get a nice look at them in rest. I believe this is precisely the right kind of bonus you should get for engaging your team in Pokemon Refresh: more animations from your critters, move visibility and maybe some customizing when they enter the battlefield in combat would be great. Still, my kid loves to feed pokes using the feature and I thinks is a very visually appealing one enhancing how far these games have developped in the visual side.

The aesthetics are at the core of what Pokemon Refresh stands for, it communicates with minimal text the affection that both a trainer and a pokemon share, it makes the actions of the player affect directly how their relationship evolve. You need to see this, to make an experience out of it. It’s pretty important then to have Refresh being a proper follow up to a victory in combat, as if it was a logical step after a sportive prowess and not the equivalent of fixing something that got broken. You don’t see your Pokemon hurt or battered, they are just dirty or wet, like a kid would be after playing outside. You get them clean and polished, as if they were to shine like a brilliant trophy which communicates visually the satisfaction of taking care of them. In essence, with Pokemon Refresh you just aim to make the player happy in what becomes an extra reward after winning a battle.

Now, if you Affection helped you to participate in Contests to win Ribbons… It would be the ultimate feature for a pokemon fan such as I 😀