A revisit to the Alolan archipelago
Much like previous Pokémon games, Pokémon Sun and Moon have received Game Freak’s traditional “definitive edition” treatment. It happened with Pokémon Gold and Silver, which got the enhanced Pokémon Crystal. Pokémon Red and Blue received a deluxe Yellow version, Pokémon Diamond and Pearl got the Platinum edition, and so on. There is one significant change this time around though: you have two definitive versions to choose from. Say hello to Pokémon Ultra Sun and Pokémon Ultra Moon.
Let me make one thing clear right from the top—Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are incremental updates. They take the foundation established in last year’s Sun and Moon and build upon them with all-new content. New story content, new areas to explore, new Pokémon to catch, those are just some of the many new features. Does all this extra content warrant a victory lap through the rich, vibrant region of Alola? Read on to find out.
Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
The best Pokémon games yet
Since I’m stating things up front, let me also say Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are my new personal favourites. These enhanced versions retain everything great about last year’s games and add a wealth of exciting new content. The end result is not only a better experience, but arguably the best Pokémon games in the series to date.
If you somehow missed last year’s incredible Pokémon Sun and Moon, I encourage you to read my review. I called them “phenomenal” and said “fans of the series should not hesitate to pick up one, or both.” The majority of Sun and Moon‘s content carry over to the Ultra versions, so the review offers a good summary. For this review I’ll mostly be discussing what’s new in Ultra Sun and Moon.
New story elements
Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon introduces quite a few new story elements both big and small. Right off the bat there are subtle refinements, such as an introductory tutorial that feels snappier and better thought out. That’s a huge plus considering the tremendous slog Sun and Moon was before the full game opened up. Mind you it still takes a couple hours before Ultra Sun and Moon really gets going, but it’s more streamlined.
For the first half of the game, don’t expect too many alterations story-wise. Dialogue has been cleaned up and polished, but it’s mostly the same story you remember from last year’s iterations. The latter half of the game is where things start getting mighty interesting.
It’s here you’ll meet the Ultra Recon Squad, a mysterious group connected to Ultra Wormholes that keep appearing around Alola. They’re immediately intriguing with their usual theme music, sci-fi looks, and bizarre, almost hypnotic movements. As well, the Ultra Recon Squad impact the story numerous times, giving you new insights on familiar events. What results is a remixed version of the Sun and Moon story with new plot twists and turns.
Furthermore, in an interesting twist, different Recon members appear in each game. Ultra Sun features Dulse and Zossie, while Ultra Moon has a totally different pair, Soliera and Phyco. Depending on which version you chose, the story unfolds in slightly different ways. This is an important factor when deciding what version to get, and helps make a case for playing both games.
Go Mantine surfing
Pokémon Sun and Moon introduced us to Pokémon rides, and the pair of Ultra games take it one step further. Rides, for those who don’t know, essentially replace HMs and let you use Pokémon skills while on the field. Ultra Sun and Moon adds Mantine surfing, and it just so happens to be my favourite Pokémon ride yet.
Mantine’s are a water/flying Pokémon from the second-generation series and in this game are used to surf between islands. At designated spots you can initiate a surfing minigame where you guide the Mantine over waves to score Beach Points. These BPs can be traded in for a variety of items, and pretty valuable one at that. Not only is the minigame a lot of fun, it sure beats the boring boat rides from last year’s version.
Visit the Battle Agency
One of my favourite additions in Sun and Moon was the all-new Festival Plaza, and it’s back better than ever. This is a place where you can connect with other players from around the world to trade and battle Pokémon. New in Ultra Sun and Moon is the Battle Agency, a facility used to “rent” powerful Pokémon to take on opponents. Having the opportunity to sample new Pokémon is fun, and also helps you decide which Pokémon to go hunting for. With over 400 Pokémon in this edition’s Pokédex, there are tons to locate and catch too.
Battle Team Rainbow Rocket
Perhaps the coolest addition in Ultra Sun and Moon is Team Rainbow Rocket, a brand new villainous team. It’s comprised of team leaders from previous generations, including its leader Giovanni and subordinates like Cyrus and Lysandre. Long-time fans are sure to love battling old rivals from Team Rocket, Team Plasma, Team Galactic, Team Flare, and more. Don’t worry, the misfits from Team Skull also return, giving you two entirely different groups to do battle with.
Collect Totem Stickers
For those like me who love collecting, Pokémon Ultra Sun and Moon features all-new Totem Stickers. These golden stickers are found all over the Alolan region and can be traded to Samson Oak for Totem Pokémon. These larger, Totem-sized Pokémon variants can be more powerful and are surrounded by a special aura. Totem Stickers are great because they encourage and reward you for exploring every inch of the vast Alolan islands.
As if all this new content weren’t enough, Ultra Sun and Moon also includes nearly every Legendary Pokémon from past generations. The only exclusions are ultra-rare mythical Pokémon, like say Mew, Darkrai, and Arceus. And yes, all these Legendary Pokémon are catchable. Most of them you’ll find in the various coloured Ultra Wormholes scattered around the islands.
With all previous Legendary Pokémon and Team Leaders included in Ultra Sun and Moon, you get the sense this is one gigantic farewell swan song. We know the next mainline Pokémon is headed to Nintendo Switch, so this could very well be the last for 3DS. If it is, what an amazing title to cap off a truly exception run on Nintendo’s latest handheld console.
Pokémon Ultra Sun and Pokémon Ultra Moon represent the culmination of this 21-year-old and it shows. All the knowledge Game Freak learned over these years has been applied, resulting in the greatest Pokémon games yet. There are just too many positives to list—this is Pokémon perfected to an absolute tee. Take the already exceptional Pokémon Sun and Moon, add in a plethora of exciting new features, and you have quite literally Pokémon in its definitive form. That’s Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon in a nutshell.
+ Great new Pokémon to catch
+ Remixed story
+ Fun to collect Totem Stickers
+ Mantine surfing is a blast
+ Some nice graphical upgrades
+ So much fan service
– First half too similar to Sun and Moon
– Tutorial is streamlined but still long
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 5/5