A year has passed since the release of “Pokémon Sun and Moon,” which introduced the 7th generation of the Pokémon franchise taking place in the Hawai‘i-based region of Alola. After much success, Game Freak has released “Pokémon Ultra Sun” and “Pokémon Ultra Moon” for the Nintendo 3DS as an expansion of its predecessor. But how do Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon stack up against their original titles?
Players should not expect the same story as Sun and Moon, as these versions take place in an alternate universe. Those who have played the previous titles will notice the small differences. The non-playable characters (NPCs) are charming and there are many side stories that give more personality to the people of Alola. The new story provides a different experience and a new Alolan adventure.
The graphics remain the same and the battle music has changed. The user interface during battles has altered, laying out a more sleek and colorful look that fits the Alola region. Pokémon are now interactive in the overworld, but they do not do much beyond playing peek-a-boo. The Alola region has new places to explore, including areas like the Pikachu Valley and additional beaches. These small new details are nice but add little to the main story.
Long-time fans of the series see Pokémon Sun and Moon as an “easy” way of catering to a more casual audience. In this installment, the difficulty of the game has been stepped up. The artificial intelligence (AI) of the trainers has improved, with their Pokémon having better move sets and strategies. The totem Pokémon are still a challenge with new totem Pokémon being added in a few trials. Depending on how trainers build their team, the battles can be either a breeze or an annihilation.
Surfing the new features
The Alola Pokédex is now larger, with 400 Pokémon to catch, and introducing new Ultra Beasts and Pokémon from previous regions. Players are given more options among their teams, and there are version-exclusive Pokémon depending on which version of the game players get. The trade feature, which has been a mainstay in the series, promotes interaction among trainers to make collecting Pokémon between versions easier.
A new mechanic of the game is the Mantine surfing mini-game, transporting players between different islands. Players can do tricks on the waves and earn Beach Points (BP), which they can spend on rare items and other collectibles. It is a fun feature but fails to provide any depth to the main story.
Another transportation mechanic is traveling through Ultra Space to different worlds where players can catch Pokémon not found in the Alola region. Traveling with Solgaleo or Lunala uses the Nintendo 3DS gyroscope function – however, it has a learning curve. Players may accidentally travel to worlds they did not want to enter. This may be a nuisance or a challenge to some.
New but not improved
In Sun and Moon, there was a lot that could have been added to the game. The small region has been expanded, however, battle and training mechanics still remain the same. Not much was added in terms of traditional gameplay, such as abilities, effort-value training and mega evolutions. Also, no new Alolan forms were introduced, the main staple of this generation. When battling trainers with three or more Pokémon, the frame-rates will lag. This was a problem in the previous versions and it still has not been fixed.
Festival Plaza was introduced in this generation, giving players the option to obtain items at facilities with Festival Points (FP) and interact with trainers over wi-fi. Many fans have had problems with Festival Plaza because of poor servers and long wait-times to access. These problems were not improved. Instead, the Battle Agency was added. The Battle Agency lets players rent Pokémon to battle other trainers to gain FP. It is a nice addition, but did not improve the Festival Plaza as a whole.
Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are the last games for the Pokémon series on the Nintendo 3DS system. Despite not a lot being improved, these versions stand out as a new adventure. These games are a good upgrade from Pokémon Sun and Moon with expanded areas, new features and small tweaks that make the game more enjoyable. For new and old Pokémon fans, these games are a fresh and new experience in the series.