Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are the last handheld Pokémon games in the series and they may not be worth it [This Week in Gaming]

Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are Game Freak’s last entry in the main series of Pokémon games for the Nintendo 3DS, and the games are mostly a let down.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Pokémon Ultra Sun — the variant I reviewed — but it feels like it was released too soon after the original Sun and Moon games.

Ultra Sun‘s gameplay mechanics, storyline, the number of Pokémon and other key parts of the game are far too similar to the previous games.

All that being said, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon is one of my favourite Pokemon games, likely due to Sun and Moon being among my favourite games in the series.

The Pokemon Experience

For the most part Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are aesthetically more pleasing than any other game in the series.

The user interface is brighter and more vivid in comparison to its predecessor, everything is clearer and battles — which we’ll speak about later — look the best they’ve ever been. The new dusk setting within the game shades the world in an orange hue and is definitely beautiful in certain parts of the game, such as ‘Mantine Surf,’ which I’ll talk about later on as well.

The game’s overworld is also filled with more Pokemon than ever before. Pokémon are everywhere and players can interact with them, play peek-a-boo and and make them spin around. The game also has other Pokemon just hanging about in the background, which makes the experience more lively than in past games.

At one of the locations in the game, there was a Magmar just walking around in the background, and while I couldn’t interact with the Magmar, it made the game more alive than ever.

The only thing that could have added to that experience is if a trainer’s own Pokemon followed them around throughout the world, a feature first introduced in Pokémon Yellow and brought back with HeartGold and SoulSilver.

Interestingly enough, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon‘s rival character Hau’s starter Pokémon follow him around throughout the game and it definitely made me a bit jealous.

Ultra Storyline

Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon‘s story varies from Sun and Moon a bit, but not enough to make the games feel all that different. The game starts off with subtle differences (slight spoiler alert) such as the starters saving your trainer from a wild Yungoos, instead of being given to you by the Kahuna Hala.

Other differences in the story include the Ultra Recon Squad — a duo of travellers from another dimension — and the lack of Team Skull. While Team Skull is quite present within the game, I found that their impact was significantly less than the previous game. While some players might prefer the lack of Team Skull in the game, I missed their goofy gestures and attitude.

What is new about the story made it a bit better and and was a lot more comprehensive than in Sun and Moon, with everyone — including the main character — having clear goals. Game Freak definitely overdid it on the dialogue, however. Characters talk endlessly throughout the game, and it got to the point where I would repeatedly stop paying attention because of how long-winded I found all of the conversations.

While most of Ultra Sun felt the same as Sun and Moon, when the game did finally diverge, the change was worth it. I couldn’t stop smiling at the uncanny references to previous games and there was a great feeling of nostalgia.

The main game took me about 19 hours, though that might be because of all of the dialogue I started to ignore.

It’s battle time

While most of the game chugged along smoothly, I found battles to move mostly slowly.

I played Ultra Sun on a newer 2DS and an older 3DS. On the 2DS, battles moved quickly until a certain Pokémon would perform an attack, in most cases my Salazzle.

During Salazzle’s attack, I found that the game would drop a couple of frame rates. This also occasionally happened during Z-Moves  — a powerful type of attack that was first introduced in Sun and Moon — that had a lot going on, such as Lycanroc’s new Z-Move, which shows a bunch of stones pointing towards the enemy before all attacking at once.

The game also had weird pauses before the action began. It felt like the game was trying to calculate which Pokémon should attack first, though I doubt that was actually the cause of the slow down.

The 2DS on the other hand, definitely suffers from a frame drop throughout almost all battles, and while it’s fine in the overworld part of the game, what’s the point of a Pokémon game if battles are going to take forever?

So What’s New?

Other than the Ultra Recon Squad — who originate from an Ultra Wormhole — there wasn’t enough new content to merit two additional games.

Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon added new forms to Pokemon, like Dusk Mane and Dawn Wings Necrozma, as well as a new Lycanroc form that evolves at dusk. In addition to new forms, there are also new Pokemon and more of the old loveable Pokémon from other regions.

Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon also feature a couple of new gameplay mechanics, such as Mantine Surf which helps players collect Beach/Battle Points which can be use to pay for moves taught by Move Tutors.

The actual process of Mantine Surfing is enjoyable and very easy as it doesn’t require very much strategy. During a Mantine Surf, players ride on the manta ray-looking Pokémon and surf across the ocean. Mantine Surf is also a new way to get from one island to another. Players have to perform tricks on waves and avoid getting bumped by Pokémon like Sharpedo, Wailmer and Wailord.

Another functionality added to the game is the Alola Photo Club, which allows the player to dress up their characters and their Pokemon, and add frames to their pictures.

The player can now also travel through Ultra Wormholes and visit other dimensions. This process, however, is very annoying and uses the Nintendo 2DS’ gyroscope to travel through the Ultra wormhole. It would have been more preferable, however, if the game allowed us to continue and use the handheld console’s joystick.

While not affecting the story, the game also updated some of the Trials and while those weren’t difficult in any way at all, I found some of them equally as fun — especially the new, and final, eighth trial.

Leveling up

Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are incredibly fun games, but it’s questionable if they’re worth spending any money on. I’d say the games are definitely worth your time if you’ve skipped the previous games, or if you’re reading this review a year or two after Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon‘s release and you miss Pokemon. However, it’s difficult to suggest this game to people who recently spent $49.99 on the previous game.

Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are definitely beautiful; offer a more comprehensive story line than the previous game; and, once the player gets to the point where things start changing, everything feels worth it. Getting through around 19 hours of familiar story and neverending dialogue might not be worth it, though, as it felt like the enjoyable parts could have been added through downloadable content.

What I can say about Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon is that I had a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I can’t wait until the Nintendo Switch’s very first main series Pokemon game.