*Feature Image art by blackurn789
Developer: Game Freak
Platform: Nintendo 3DS Family Systems
Category: RPG & Adventure
Release Date: 17th of November, 2017 (Worldwide)
Last year, everything Pokémon related changed thanks to the likes of Pokémon GO and Pokémon Sun & Pokémon Moon, as the later really shook up the established formula for the RPG Pokémon games and now Game Freak are back at it again with Pokémon Ultra Sun and Pokémon Ultra Moon.
Once again the time has come to make the trip to the Alola region, but instead of Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon being the sequels some players prayed and hoped they would be, they’re not. Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are essentially enhanced ports of the games we got last year, developed by a younger team and released on exactly the same platform as the previous games released on, instead of on the Nintendo Switch, which quite frankly, they would have better suited for.
Nevertheless though, there is no changing what has already been done, so instead this review will focus entirely on what Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon has to offer in comparison to last year’s offerings, as opposed to giving you a play by play account of how everything plays out, so let’s begin!
Story & Setting:
Much like with last year’s Sun and Moon, the events of Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon unfold in the Alola region and plays out in a similar fashion. You are a young Trainer who has just moved to a new region, but old enough to participate in the Island Challenge, a series of Trials that take place across Alola’s 4 islands, only there’s more to it than just that. You see while Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon pretty much start of the same way as Sun and Moon, save for some minor differences like the members of the Ultra Recon Squad making a number of appearances and the fact that new side-missions are now available and then about halfway through the game, everything changes.
Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon dives off the deep end and begins its mission of truly establishing itself as a different game, with a story of its one, which includes a much larger threat in the form of the Legendary Pokémon Necrozma that comes from a different universe that has pretty much embarked on a mission to destroy everything and everyone you can see around you. Only, it’s not the Necrozma we’ve seen before as Necrozoma has plenty of new forms this time around thanks to Ultra Sun’s Dusk Mane Necrozma, which is the result of a fusion between Solgaleo and Necrozma using the N-Solarizer, Ultra Moon’s Dawn Wings Necrozma, which is a Lunala N-Lunarizer fusion and then there’s Ultra Necrozma, which can only be obtained after Dawn Wings, or Dusk Mane Necrozma uses Ultra Burst.
But because there is more to Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon than just a new threat, there is also a new world to visit, Ultra Wormholes to explore and an Ultra Megalopolis to explore, which is a city in the Ultra Space, whose world’s light has been stolen by Necrozma. It’s also a place where the Ultra Recon Squad can be encountered and for what it’s worth, Lusamine and Guzma are not the villains they once was and if I had to put a number on how much of the original game is still at play, it’s somewhere around the 80% mark, so there is more than enough new content to make it fresh, but more on that later.
In terms of visuals, everything is pretty much the same as before, just a little more refined, as things like the game’s menu screens are still set-up the same way, but feature a different design, much like how the playable trainers are visually the same ones as the pair we got in Sun and Moon, but are more customisable and much better presented, which is fair, since the previous games were lovingly designed anyway.
More Pokémon, More Z-Moves & New Forms:
Being the larger and enhanced games that Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are, while a National Pokédex is still missing, there are more Pokémon to catch this time around what with there being 403 and some of those Pokémon that couldn’t previously be caught in the last games, are new as Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon introduces 3 new Ultra Beasts and an evolved form of 1 of the 3 Ultra Beasts, but there’s also a Pokémon called Zeraora, which has yet to officially be revealed or released, but is number #807 in a National Pokédex.
As for the new Ultra Beasts, they are Stakataka, Blacephalon and Poipole, who can evolve into Nagandel provided the move Dragon Pulse has been learned and because they alone aren’t the only things you can encounter when exploring as the likes of Mewtwo and other Legendary Pokémon aren’t afraid to show their face, as the likes of Raikou, Ho-oh, Heatran and Reshiram represent team Ultra Sun thanks to version exclusivity, whereas Ultra Moon has Entei, Lugia, Kyogre and even Zekrom. They also have even more Pokemon than that each and as for some non version exclusives, there’s Moltres and friends, Rayquaza and Landorus and except for Zygarde, the 4 Tapus, Necrozma, Magearna, Marshadow, Zeraora and the entire Cosmog evolutionary line, none of the legendries are shiny locked. Now I don’t know about you, but that’s great news in itself, especially when you consider the fact that there is a high success rate of encountering shiny Pokémon and just in case it needed a mention, Island Scan is also making a return and with it comes the means to find even more Pokémon that were previously unavailable in Sun and Moon.
Not to be outdone by powerful Pokémon and Ultra Beasts though, in addition to new Totem Pokémon, there is a new form of Lycanroc available called Dusk Lycanroc, which just so happens to be the form Ash’s Rockruff evolved into in the anime, and is a mix of both Midnight and Midday forms, but better and you can get your own, provided you buy a copy of either game claim it via Mystery Gift before the distribution ends on the 10th January and you’ll want to get it, since this Rockruff is guaranteed to evolve into Dusk Lycanroc.
But because even then that is not all, there are plenty of new Z-Moves to go around and new Z-Crystals, like Ultranecrozium, Z, which when used can turn Necrozma’s Photon Geyser move into Light That Burns the Sky. Not to be outdone though, Lycanroc can go on to use the Z-Move Splintered Stormshards and Kommo-o can use Clangorous Soulblaze., but only if Kommo-o is holding Kommonium Z and knows Clanging Scales.
Mantine Surf: For the players who couldn’t get enough of PokéRide, the same ridable Pokémon are back to serve in the same capacity as before, except now Mantine is joining the ranks and not only can you see surf on Mantine, but you can pull off stunts and earns points for it. As for where it can be accessed, the Big Wave Beach on Melemele Island or even Heahea Beach on Akala Island are as good as any place to start, but Mantine Surf is available on every island.
Just don’t go expecting an easy ride, because as well as large waves and points that can be obtained due to pulling off and landing dastardly tricks, there are obstacles in your path and they need to be navigated around, unless you desire to lose momentum, or be taken out by the Sharpedo that charges right at all. As for a reason why to go through it all and try to beat the high scores in all areas of the Mantine Surf courses, other than doing it because it’s fun, is because doing so will actually earn you a Lv. 40 Pikachu that knows Surf!
Also, Mantine isn’t the only new Pokémon you can ride, as even Solgaleo and Lunala are willing to let you mount them as you fly off to different locations when using Ultra Wormholes to track down new common, rare and ultra rare Pokémon & Ultra Beasts, or are just heading to Ultra Megalopolis and yeah, I can see the appeal of traversing universes on the back of Solgaleo looks more enticing, but Lunala is a Pokémon with feelings too and is just as good in my own opinion!
Alola Photo Club: Much like how you could take photos in Sun and Moon, photo snapping is back, only this time there’s the Alola Photo Club feature that allows you and your Pokemon to strike a pose, including Z-Move poses if that is what you desire and select the environment for your photo. Only these particular snaps can only happen at the Alola Photo Club buildings in either Hau’oli City and Konikoni City and the background environments will need to be visited, in order for you to use them, or for one example, use a Pokémon from Unova to get the Skynarrow Bridge Backdrop.
Once your picture is then taken, you can choose to save it to your SD card, which will allow you to then alter it via a special Photo Album option and allows you to add things like sticks and frames to further decorate your picture and yes, stickers can also be earned via natural game progression like clearing trials and battling Team Rainbow Rocket.
Team Rainbow Rocket: In a bid for more post-game content, once the main game has been beaten, there is even more to do thanks to a side campaign that will see players go head to head against some of the most notorious villains in Pokémon history from the last 20 years, who are led by Team Rocket’s very own Giovanni. Only known of them are the ones we have beaten before as these versions of Maxie, Cyrus, Ghetsis, Lysandre and Giovanni all hail from universes where they were victorious with their plans, so although they haven’t technically been beaten by players before in the universes we know them from, there is a first time for everything, again.
Totem Stickers: Remember in Sun and Moon how Samson Oak, cousin to the Kanto based Professor Sam Oak, had very little to do? Well, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon’s developers remember that and decided this time would be different thanks to the likes of Totem Stickers. Totem Stickers are a new kind of collectable that can be encountered all throughout the Alola region and by enough of them, you will actually be able to cash them in by giving them to Samson Oak, so that you can get a Totem Pokémon to join your team.
Yes, that’s right, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon actually gives you the means to have your very own Totem-sized Pokémon and use them as you see fit, only they are version exclusive, so if it’s a Totem-sized Salazzle you are after than Pokémon Ultra Moon is your game of choice.
Ultra Space and Ultra Wormholes: Although I have already covered Ultra Wormholes quite extensively, here’s me spending a bit more time talking about them. After first dipping our toe in Ultra Space thanks to Sun and Moon, Ultra Sun and Moon, drags our entire body kicking and screaming and riding on Lunala/Solgaelo into a dimension so vast that it offers the means to enter other worlds. Now you don’t get to see the full extent of each world as you merely get to see a singular area of them, but it’s all well and good, when you consider the fact that the further you fly in Ultra Space, the more likely you will encounter a White Wormhole. Or you know, go visit Megalopolis.
Festival Plaza introduces the Battle Agency: Despite the Festival Plaza having a lot to offer already, in a decision to add to it, a new facility is available and it is called the Battle Agency. With the help of other players that can be recruited to your team by linking them to your Festival Plaza, you can then each rent a Pokémon and go into battle with your established team, in a bid to level up your Grade (of which there are 50,) earn prizes, compete in Boss Battles and really prove your worth of being a Pokémon Master by mastering Pokémon that are not your own, as they are all rented. This mode however, is not without its challenges and might not appeal to everyone playing the games, but if you’re a die-hard battle fan, you will lose a lot of time here.
Rotom Reborn: As someone who isn’t particularly a fan of the Pokémon Rotom, I didn’t welcome the fact that my Pokédex in Sun and Moon, just so happened to have one living in it and often talks, but I put up with it, but now Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon has taken it to a whole new level. Rotom is more talkative than ever as it will ask you questions, which by answering, allows you to actually bond with him, which will then affect your relationship with Romo, but also earn you gifts.
Gifts such as being able to use 2 Z-Moves in a single battle, or use the Roto Loto a slot-machine-like mini-game that you can play at any time and earn yourself new items that have some great effects like increasing the amount of money and experience you earn for a period of time, or makes hatching eggs a whole lot faster and if you’re a breeder, less time per egg hatch means more Pokémon can breed in the same amount of time.
In addition to the new features extensively covered above, there are more side-quests than in the previous games, a handy autosave feature that the previous Gen 7 games missed out on, Mina has a new trial and even new customisation options in the form of new clothing. Oh and there’s also a valley just for Pikachus because apparently they really needed one, but aside from everything above, they are still very much so the games we feel in love with last year. The games that told the story of a Trainer in Alola, who made friends with the likes of Hau, Lillie, Gladion and the ever topless Professor Kukui. (Would it have killed him to put on a shirt this time around?)
The games in which saw Gyms, HM’s, Gym Badges and more, ripped out of its core so that it could be replaced with the Island Challenge, a new way of battling thanks to Z-Moves and an incredible location filled with excitingly wondrous new and old Pokémon to capture, in-between doing things over at the Festival Plaza, like earning more FC or chilling with your trusted Pokémon at the Pokémon Pelago. So it really is just a case of more of the same, but never before has it quite been to the scale of what Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon offers the Pokemon series, as even though they are not sequels like Black and White 2, they are the same, if not better.
While Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are enhanced ports, they are much more than that. They are everything Sun and Moon could have been, which is saying something since Sun and Moon are already fantastic games in their own right and truly encompass what a handheld Pokémon could be. So even if you did invest a hundred hours into the original games, there is plenty of new content and easter eggs (like a loving tribute to the departed Satoru Iwata) that do justify buying Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon and giving them the attention they deserve because they do deserve a second dip, or at the very least, a first time dive.
THE VERDICT: 9/10
*Review Key Provided by Nintendo