Platforms: Nintendo 3DS (Ultra Moon reviewed)
Developer: Game Freak
Publishers: Nintendo, The Pokemon Company
Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are fantastic Pokemon games that are easily better than their predecessors from just a year ago. A year is a very short time, particularly in regards to game development, so it doesn’t end up being much of a surprise that a large portion of Ultra Sun and Moon have been left untouched, as trainers will find themselves playing predominantly the same game as before. Outside of a few new story beats, Trial twists, and a much larger number of Pokemon to catch from previous generations, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon don’t offer much that the previous games didn’t. They are meant for those who either have yet to dive into the Alola Region or hardcore fans that don’t mind jumping in for another go.
This isn’t the first time that Pokemon has gotten a half-step upgrade, as Ultra Sun and Moon are reflective of the jump from Red/Blue to Yellow, or Diamond/Pearl to Platinum than they are direct sequels. You’re still the new kid who has just moved from the Kanto Region, and a date with fate and the Melemele Island Guardian, Tapu Koko once again serve as inciting incident for your adventure. Lillie still hides a Cosmog named Nebby in her bag as she flees the Aether Foundation, and your rival Hau still jumps for joy at the thought of Malasada while not giving a crap about being curb stomped everytime you battle. However, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon quickly rewrite a lot of the protracted dialog that bogged the original games down, in favor of something that gets your starter of choice in the palm of your hands quicker than before.
Here’s what you need to know about Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon.
If you skipped Sun and Moon, these are the Pokemon games you need to be playing.
If someone who wasn’t a fan of the franchise, asked you what Pokemon games serve as the best jumping off point for the series, rest assured that you can point to Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon as the best option. Unless you go retro with the eShop re-releases Red, Blue, or Yellow, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are the easiest to recommend, as they represent the most visually realized region with small added details over Sun and Moon as well as the most prominent gateway into the competitive scene. Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon bring new Pokemon that are exclusive to the game, in the form of new Ultra Beasts, new Legendary forms, as well as a new form for the popular Lycanroc, so this is the place to rack up a complete Pokedex.
On top of that, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon feature far more Pokemon to catch across all of the generations. One of my favorite additions in the early part of the game was the ability to trade for a Hawlucha. It not only gives you a serious leg up on the first Totem Pokemon but also gives you what is one of (IMO) the best Pokemon there is as a building block that can stick with your team from beginning to end.
The additions made to the game feel more like edits than anything genuinely new.
This is par for the course with Pokemon games, as every generation since the beginning has seen some upgraded version. Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon feature a slight uptick in the visual front, with added details such as Pokemon flying overhead, and added flora surrounding the many battlefields where you face off against NPC trainers. Saving is also quicker from the pause menu, merely requiring the press of a single button, and the game suffers far fewer framerate drops on lower end 3DS’. The way you get your starter Pokemon is also more streamlined, getting either Rowlet, Litten, or Popplio into your hands in about half the time, even if it feels a great deal more random from a narrative point of view.
Also new to the game are discoverables called Totem Stickers which are strewn about the game world for players to find. Doing so allows you to receive an actual Totem Pokemon of your own to use in battle from Samson Oak, once you collect a specific number. So it’s worth it to partake in this side quest, solely for the sake of being a collectionist. Game Freak has also upgraded the way in which you travel between islands with an all-new Mantine Surfing mini-game. If this were any other game, the mode would be rather bland, as success revolves around building speed to hurl yourself into the air to pull off tricks for different amounts of points. This kind of thing has been done before, but its presence in the game is a nice change of pace from the typical array of activities.
The moral of the story is that Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are basically the same games, just with more stuff.
You’d be forgiven if you weren’t entirely hyped about the prospect of another set of Pokemon games just a year after the launch of an all-new generation. To be honest, a lot of the stuff that’s been added in, as the Ultra Recon Squad story beats, and the new Necrozma mechanics could have (and would have) been DLC if it were any company other than Nintendo. So the big question is, do these seemingly minor additions warrant a full purchase of a game you pretty much already own?
If you are a hardcore fan who values every little thing that Pokemon adds to its core games, then chances are you had this one on pre-order and won’t be disappointed. Also, if you only played one of the previous games, it’s worth it to check out the version you didn’t play, especially if you weren’t able to trade for the exclusive Pokemon you were missing, mainly the legendaries. But it’s important to know what you’re getting with Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, and that is the definitive version of games the world has already played.