Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are not new games but a reworking or “definitive edition” of the games released last year. While there were plenty of fresh design and gameplay choices for the original Sun and Moon releases, there were parts of it that I didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I might, and this prevented me from playing much beyond the main story. As such, I wasn’t sure if Ultra versions would be enough to hook me back in for a return visit, but I’m pleased to say there’s definitely some worthwhile content to be experienced here. All of the significant changes and upgrades are the same across both games, too, so it’s just the legendarys and ultra-beasts that differ as per normal.
As far as new content goes, there’s more than it seems from the outset. Some Pokémon show up earlier and with more frequency than the last game, but the first inkling as to the more considerable changes comes from the new bad guys that appear early on. As usual, you don’t know much about them or their agenda, but it’s a positive sign that something is different from the early stages. The elaborated storyline centres around Necrozma, a Pokémon who didn’t even exist as far as some experiences went in the last game. I stumbled upon his hiding place and had him at the front of my party from then on, and aside from being a cool Pokémon, he didn’t get mentioned. This time he’s a more prominent part of the arc and even merges with Lunala and Solgaleo, making for a satisfying endgame.
The Pokémon exclusive to each of the original games haven’t changed, but instead, there have been new game-specific additions. There are several new Ultra Beasts available, but even better than those are the nine legendaries per game, which can are found with some light wormhole travel. An odd, yet highly collectable addition is the gigantic Pokémon, which you receive as a reward for collecting golden stickers hidden throughout the game. I thought I was doing well with the stickers, but after checking an online guide, I found out a massive portion of them are in devilish places. I’m not going to pretend I wouldn’t collect things just for the sake of it, but getting these ridiculously sized Pokémon as a payoff is quite fun. And FYI, the gigantism can’t be passed on through breeding, I tried.
The new minigame Mantine Surf is ok but nothing particularly noteworthy. It involves riding mantines and doing tricks, which is ultimately rewarded with battle points. As someone who almost never cashes in BP, I played the minigame twice and never went back. What is worth checking out, however, is the festival plaza’s new attraction: Battle Agency. I know this isn’t a new idea for a Pokémon game, but again I started late, so it’s the first time I had the chance to use the rental system. On offer is an array of Pokémon, both supplied by the game and by visiting trainers, so you can test out a new team before you put all the effort into breeding and training someone who might not be a good fit. I know people who haven’t changed their team in ten years, but it’s a feature I enjoyed.
A positive thing to also see is Alola having its first gym. While I enjoyed Sun and Moon, they’re a bit different from the three previous Pokémon games I’ve played, so I missed the gyms and preferred them to captains. Ultra Sun and Moon offers a gym with four trainers to defeat and a decent challenge level, but the best part is you can play it every day, and it refreshes. The lack of challenge in the original games seems to have been addressed here, not only adding the gym, but a new island after the main story and a whole postgame addition. From what I’ve experienced, the new content is both engaging and challenging at times. At first, I thought I was in for a simple fetch quest, but then I then landed myself in some serious battles and encountered a whole new supergroup enemy which kept things interesting.
While there’s plenty to enjoy in Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, I still can’t help but feel frustrated at having some things handed to me, as was the case in the original Sun and Moon. Another glaring sad point for me is something I’ve heard from Pokémon fans for years: why isn’t there an option for “I’ve played this game for 20 years, please let me skip the tutorials.” Yes, learning is a part of the story, but as someone who has only been playing for three years, I already feel my eyes roll to the back of my head when the game explains how to throw a damn Pokéball. Regardless, the game overall is still a lot of fun and includes a solid amount of new postgame content that’s worth experiencing. It probably didn’t need to be released as a whole new game, but I’ve had a good time and feel it justifies a second visit.