Pokemon Ultra Sun and Moon Review
Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo of America
Thank You Nintendo for a Review Copy of this Game
Pokemon Sun and Moon revamped the structure of the series by doing away with the traditional gym challenge, and replacing it with the island challenge. The island challenge is a much more personal journey, where the player travels across Alola to clear trials from seven captains, and become the island challenge champion. Where this differs from gyms, is what you’re doing in each trial. Some trials involve defeating wild Pokemon to advance, solving puzzles, or even a simple memory game. At the end of each trial is a fearsome Totem Pokemon. A gargantuan version of a Pokemon that is related to that island. After every trial on an island is completed you fight the Kahuna, the strongest trainer on the Island. As a new trainer in the Alola region, can you conquer the Island challenge?
Ultra Sun and Moon offers a new take on the story of Alola, with the mysterious Necrozma as the star of the show. There are quite a number of improvements made to the writing that develops a lot of characters that were lacking in the original. Specifically Hau, who became one of my favorite rivals in the franchise. Don’t worry Guzma fans, he is much more fleshed out this time around too. Unfortunately, one of the best plot points of Sun and Moon was toned down in favor of the new additions brought by the threat of Necrozma. This means one of the most important characters in the game doesn’t complete their character arc, and it left an unfulfilling feeling. Though, due to those events not playing out, you get a lot more time with a character you never see again after the climax. Thankfully, the new story content revolving Necrozma is very interesting, and has one of the greatest boss fights in the franchise.
If you were hoping Ultra Sun and Moon were completely different games, sadly this is not the case. However, the wealth of new content is definitely worth a second look, or even a first look if you never experienced the original games. Many of the trials were changed to feature new puzzles, or even just remixed challenges. Not only are the levels of every trainer in the region higher, but many of the Totem Pokemon were changed to add more challenge, and they succeeded. As an example, Totem Salazzel was replaced by Totem Marowak, and Totem Marowak will summon a Salazzel for help. Totem Marowak is holding a thick club, which doubles its attack stat. That alone is enough for concern, but the Pokemon has a move set to counteract its weakness to rock type Pokemon. Salazzel will use poison gas, a move that poisons the opponent, and venoshock, which doubles in power if the opponent is poisoned. Totem Marowak knows hex, a move that doubles in power if the opponent has a status ailment. A fast Pokemon will not save you since Marowak’s speed doubles at the start of the battle. Most of the Totem Pokemon are like this and it’s very well thought out, a nice challenge is always welcome in a series known for being easy.
Later in the game you unlock the ability to warp between each island very quickly, but where’s the fun in that when now you can play a surfing mini game that nets you points towards the brand new move tutors. You’ll surf on Mantine to get to the next Island during the story, but during that process you will do tricks and flips on waves to rack up a score. The higher your score, the more beach points you’ll earn. The move tutors along with new breeding moves give Pokemon a second chance at being a good choice for your team. An example of this is Ribombee who now learns sticky webs and defog, making her a great leader of your team thanks to that excellent speed.
Unfortunately, the one area where I had hoped Ultra Sun and Moon improved upon is the festival plaza, only to find out nothing was improved, and only one cool feature was added. You have to play mini games to accumulate points, so you can upgrade your plaza, which allows you to get services that can give you items, and train your Pokemon. However, these mini games and how well you do are solely based on how many players participate, and sometimes you’re lucky to even see fifteen people joining in. It could potentially take you weeks to see the full potential of festival plaza, so instead I used it mostly for the multiplayer features such as trading and online battling. The new Battle agency is absolutely fun, allowing you to battle trainers using random pokemon online and then if you win you can use the opponent’s Pokemon to continue. You’ll get a lot of rare items with this, so brush up on the type chart, or else you’re in for a tough time. The Plaza is still unnecessarily grindy despite the fact the Poke Pelago offers the same rewards, but with more of a return.
Poke Pelgao is a set of islands that offers features such as a way to hatch Pokemon eggs faster, obtain rare pokemon, train up your pokemon, and find rare items. You can upgrade these islands by catching Pokemon, and collecting Pelago beans. Beans can shorten the time it takes for you to obtain items or extend the time of how often wild Pokemon visit your islands. To fully experience what Pelago has to offer, you will needs lots of beans, and lots of Pokemon. Unlike, festival plaza the reward is worth the effort, and has more use.
The real meat of what Ultra Sun and Moon added to the package was the post-game features. You’ll be able to ride Solgaleo or Lunala through Ultra Space to visit the realm of legendary Pokemon, or Ultra beasts. This by itself is hours upon hours of brand new content, something the original games lacked and were criticized for. The only issue is how heavily reliant on rng the feature is, so if you’re looking for something specific, you may be searching for a while.
The presentation is pretty much one to one with the previous games, but with added music tracks for the new content, and some new character designs. The framerate is also just as unstable as it was before, so expect very choppy double battles. It’s still a nice looking game and the soundtrack is even better, but it’s also unpolished so it would have been nice to see that fixed.
Overall, from a gameplay perspective this version of Alola is vastly superior to its predecessor. The story is weaker due to how the changed the climax of the game, important character moments don’t happen and it’s a real shame. The story is still very good for a Pokemon title and I’m happy I got to experience it. If the new features are not enough to pay full price again, well, you won’t find much else here that would be worth it.