Return to the tropical Alola region for another epic journey. Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon might just be remixed versions of last year’s releases, but there’s enough new content here to keep even the most dedicated Pokémon Trainers satisfied.
Pokémon Sun and Moon were smash hits when they released on Nintendo 3DS late last year. Both quickly became some of the console’s bestselling games, even beating 2014’s Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Now, in traditional Pokémon fashion, Game Freak are back with remixed versions of the tropical adventure. While it will be a familiar journey for those who played the original games, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are packed with small changes and little additions to help keep players interested.
If you’ve played Sun and Moon, you’ll be well prepared for Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon’s basic story. After moving to Alola, a young Pokémon Trainer takes on the region’s Island Challenge with the hope of becoming a Pokémon Master. While there are tweaks throughout, the games are practically identical to their predecessors in terms of structure. There are a handful of new locations scattered across Alola that should help returning players avoid a sense of déjà vu and most of the trials have been rejigged slightly, but don’t expect to be blown away by what they have to offer in terms of new story outside of the post-game. That’s not to stay there aren’t some surprises towards the adventure’s climax, but fans of the originals will no doubt recognise the majority of the game’s story beats.
However, practically all of the new features added for Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are effective additions that enhance the base games. The roster of Pokémon that you’re able to catch across Alola has been massively expanded, so returning players should have no problem crafting a completely new team to journey with. Even Melemele Island’s early areas feature a smattering of returning Pokémon to catch; a trend continued throughout the entire game. While you’ll still be finding countless Rattata and Yungoos, there’s always a returning Pokémon to spice up each of the game’s routes. It’s admittedly an easy way for Game Freak to breathe some fresh air into the games, but it’s – pardon the pun – super effective. But these aren’t the only new Pokémon arriving in Alola either. As well as a handful of brand new Ultra Beasts, like the defensive UB Assembly and the strange looking UB Burst, Game Freak has made it possible to catch the majority of the franchise’s legendary Pokémon by exploring the Ultra Wormhole. This is an excellent addition, especially since Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are being touted as the definitive 3DS Pokémon games.
Another major addition is the Battle Agency. It’s an interesting concept based around battling using rented Pokémon. It first asks you to choose a Pokémon from a random group of three and then you’re assigned two more Pokémon from a player you’ve interacted with. These can be sourced from StreetPass, but can equally come from online battles or trades. While it won’t fill the Battle Frontier shaped hole in many fans’ hearts, it’s a great addition to Sun and Moon’s slightly underwhelming Festival Plaza.
All of Sun and Moon’s Ride Pokémon make a welcome return, but there is one notable addition. The newly added Mantine Surf allows players to take on a surfing mini game and traverse the previously inaccessible waters in between each island. It doesn’t play a massive role in the game’s larger story, but it’s a fun distraction to try and earn high scores. The Alola Photo Club is in a similar boat, as this new mode allows players to take photos with their Pokémon. Although it’s not the most engrossing feature, it’s a cute addition that some fans will love.
There’s also the new Totem Stickers scattered across Alola. If you’re a lover of collectables, and why wouldn’t you be after all those Korok Seeds and Power Moons from Nintendo’s critically acclaimed releases earlier this year, there are over 100 stickers hidden all over Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. They can then be exchanged for rare Totem Pokémon, the same ones you’ll be battling in each stage of the Island Challenge. Stickers are often incredibly well-hidden, so this is a neat addition for the completionists.
Continuing to push the limits of the aging 3DS, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon sadly suffer from many of the same technical problems as their predecessors. Lag is extremely common in more complicated battles, especially when there are more than two Pokémon onscreen. It’s a fabulous looking game, with many areas tweaked from their Sun and Moon counterparts, but it’s clear that Game Freak are pushing the handheld to its absolute limits. Musically, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon reuse the majority of the original games’ soundtrack. However, there are few new tracks that really stand out. Necrozma has an awesome battle theme that stands among the series’ best.
The Pokémon Company have officially announced that Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are the last mainline Pokémon games coming to Nintendo 3DS, so it’s fitting that they feel so fleshed out. While they’re far less ground-breaking than Pokémon Sun and Moon, they provide the definitive way of exploring Alola. If you’re hesitant about double dipping, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon might just have enough new content to get you hooked all over again.
Review based on Pokemon Ultra Sun.