A kinda different Alola.
Pokemon Ultra Moon on 3DS
Perhaps the biggest criticism I have to offer Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon is that they’ve rendered last year’s Sun and Moon releases completely redundant and irrelevant. Despite the slow start in this year’s re-releases, especially if you’d already dipped into Game Freak’s pocket monster adventure from last year, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon really do bring a lot to the table this time around, and, if nothing else, they also serve as the perfect nostalgic goodbye to the 3DS as Nintendo brings the Pokemon franchise to the next generation of consoles.
For the uninitiated, Pokemon Ultra Moon starts off like any typical Pokemon game. You’re playing as a youngster who gets his or her first Pokemon in a starting town, and you’ll travel across a new region to get stronger before eventually fighting the Elite Four and becoming a Pokemon Champion. Much of the base content and story are still very much intact here, and we praised Sun and Moon as the most refreshing and innovative entries we’d seen from the series in years. With how the game is structured around different island trials and kahunas, accompanied by a story that can actually get you invested in the emotional well-being of the characters, Sun and Moon are definite must-plays for fans of the series, and they even serve as good entry points for newcomers.
So, all of that good stuff is still present in Ultra Moon, but Game Freak has made a few tweaks and changes to polish the experience further. For instance, you’re introduced to the three starter Pokemon a little earlier than before, allowing you to get into the animal-fighting action that much quicker. There’s also a nice quality of life improvement in the form of a quick save function, where you can open up your menu and tap the Y button to immediately open up the save screen and save your progress. It’s a small but important addition that lets you spend more time within the game itself than in menu screens. There are also several new side quests sprinkled around Alola, such as an entertaining thread where a policeman discovers that a Ditto has been impersonating his partner, and tasks you with combing Konikoni City for other notorious, ‘wanted’ Dittos who have disguised themselves as humans.
If you’re a fan of the inconsequential side content Sun and Moon had to offer, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s even more of that available in Ultra Sun and Moon. Mantine Surf is a cute little surfing minigame that lets you rack up high scores and earn Battle Points to exchange for valuable items, the Festival Plaza comes with a new battle mode for you to try out new Pokemon, and the photo mode is packed with new poses, frames, and stickers for those who are obsessed with making their Pokemon look as cute as possible.
As you make your way through Alola, completing your island trials, you’ll occasionally bump into the Ultra Recon Squad, which also clues you into the whole Ultra Beast storyline a little earlier than in Sun and Moon. Aside from that, your first 15 to 20 hours with Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are gonna be more or less the same, which is a huge bummer because if you’ve already played Sun and Moon, there’s very little here to incentivize you to continue playing.
But then, as you reach the game’s climax and conclusion, things change rather drastically. The appearance of a brand new legendary Pokemon, Necrozma, means that the main threat in Ultra Moon isn’t quite the same as before. With new characters, quests, and so much post game content to get into, the Alola region is fleshed out so much more, and the overall story just feels much more coherent in Ultra Moon. That’s not to say that the original Sun and Moon story was bad; there’s just a lot more to consider this time around, and it feels like a definitive, Director’s Cut version of the plot, which is great.
The post game content in Ultra Moon feels far more generous and overwhelming than the original releases, which weren’t slouches in that department either. Team Rocket makes a return in a particularly nostalgic sequence, and takes you down a plot rabbit hole of wormholes and parallel universes where you get to revisit your favorite villains from past games in the series. It’s handled tastefully as well, and Ultra Moon’s post game is just full of all these little quips and Easter eggs that are sure to please longtime fans.
Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon also amp up the exploration aspect quite a bit with the introduction of Ultra Wormholes, which are essentially a way for you to start grinding for rare and powerful Pokemon in Alola. The appeal of the Wormholes is that you never know what you might encounter on the other side, but that’s what makes it so exciting. When you take into consideration the fact that every legendary Pokemon is available in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, not to mention the few new additions and Z-Powers, completionists or Pokemon collectors are going to have their work cut out for them here.
There are still a few niggles in the game, such as the frame rate getting an atrocious dip whenever you’re in 2v2 battles, or the fact that you still have to slog through most of the early game tutorials before things start getting good. Ultimately, the question of whether you should pick up Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon depends on how you felt about the original games, if you’ve already played them. As tiring as it is to have to play through the first 15 hours with very minimal changes to gameplay and story, the wait is worth it, and the game continuously gets better as you keep going. And if you’ve yet to check out Sun and Moon for whatever reason, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are indeed the definitive versions of those games, and you won’t be disappointed with the results.
Score: 4/5 – Great
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